Tune in every night at 6 for a two-minute listening adventure packed with fun facts and stories about great classical music! Have questions, comments or ideas? Email the Explore Music host, Lisa Bergman.
SEPTEMBER 1 - Gus Painter, John S. Brook, and Fred Sour Cream
Bedrich Smetana: My Country: II. The Moldau
Some composers' names might be hard to pronounce, but they sure sound better than they would in English. Giuseppe Verdi’s name, for example, would be Joe Green; Gustav Mahler would be Gus Painter; and Johann S. Bach would be John S. Brook. And in this same alternate universe, Czech composer Bedrich Smetana’s name is Fred Sour Cream! In Fred’s honor, here is an excerpt from his famous “Moldau,” a piece inspired by the Czech river running through hundreds of miles of dairyland.
AUGUST 31 - The Triangle
Igor Stravinsky: The Firebird: Finale, "General Rejoicing"
The percussion section has an entire treasure trove of weird instruments at its disposal. The triangle, for example, produces a handful of different noises depending on how forcefully or quickly a musician strikes it. Listen for its magisterial bell-like noise at the end of Stravinsky’s “Firebird” finale.
Learn more about the triangle, and hear a rendition of the Nutcracker Suite played exclusively on bicycle parts.
AUGUST 30 - Creepy Crawly Sound Effects
Ralph Vaughan Williams: The Wasps: Overture
Does the sound of this piece make your skin crawl? That’s because Vaughan Williams composed it to replicate the buzzing noise a swarm of wasps makes. Listeners who can make it all the way through this movement are rewarded with a satisfying swat! noise at the end.
AUGUST 29 - Catgut Strings
Erich Korngold: Violin Concerto in D, Op.35: II. Romance
Though most stringed musicians today use strings made of steel or synthetic polymer, some contemporary musicians swear by catgut strings. No, “catgut” strings aren’t actually made of cats’ guts—they’re actually from intestines of other animals, including sheep and cows. If you can stomach that, you’ll be rewarded with a rounder, sweeter instrumental tone.
AUGUST 28 - Henry Miller's Freakout
Alexander Scriabin: Symphony No. 4, Op. 54 "The Poem of Ecstasy"
Scriabin composed a piece so powerful, so emotional, so hair-raising, that even controversial writer Henry Miller said he “flipped out” when he first heard it. “For weeks, I was in a trance,” he said. “It was like a bath of ice and rainbows.” Pretty crazy stuff! Anyone can hear what Henry Miller tried to describe at the end of the piece, which positively explodes with sound.