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.
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.
AUGUST 27 - Mozart's Unusual Instruments
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Adagio and Rondo in C minor, K.617
Sometimes, composers feel like venturing outside the traditional realm of classical music. Even those who typically wrote music for standard instruments—strings, woodwinds, brass, piano—liked to experiment every now and then. In this piece, Mozart spices things up with a glass harmonica, which produces a sound akin to a set of tuned wine glasses!
Watch more glass harmonica performances here and here.
Giacomo Antonio Domenico Michele Secondo Maria Puccini (whew!) has to have the longest name of all the famous composers—and that’s saying something! But when it came to composing, Puccini seemed to know that the simplest melodies made for the most unforgettable music. Just listen to the tenor aria “Nessun Dorma” from his opera “Turandot,” familiar to nearly everyone in the world. The soloist moves audiences to tears just by singing the same note in different octaves in the first two phrases.