SoundcheckAuthor: WNYC Studios
14 Nov 2018


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Live performances and conversations in which artists talk about their work, their process, and themselves. Genre-blind but open-eared. Hosted by John Schaefer.

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    Zen Ritual Groove Music by Nik Bärtsch's Ronin

    Swiss pianist and composer Nik Bärtsch creates playful and carefully balanced works containing both space and riffs. There might be as much listening going on as there is playing, which points to a spiritual focus, trust, and discipline that comes from Bärtsch's avid practice of the Japanese martial art Aikido. In his electric group, Nik Bärtsch’s Ronin (after the freelance Japanese warriors who served no master), there is slow-building, ever-shifting, sensual groove reductionism.

    With newfound freedom and flexibility, Nik Bärtsch’s Ronin, now a quartet, meditates on repeating patterns, or “Moduls” as he dubs his works, in what he describes as “Zen-funk” and “ritual groove.” Those repeating patterns have also earned the label “minimalist”, but the quartet wanders freely between funk, jazz, new music, or Japanese ritual music. Pianist Bärtsch, reedsman Sha, bassist Thomy Jordi, and drummer Kaspar Rast play at all kinds of accents and subtle syncopations, shifting downbeats, interlocking rhythms, and hypnotic motifs which slowly evolve and build to dramatic effect.

    Nik Bärtsch’s Ronin perform music from their latest, Awase (a term from Aikido which means “moving together, coming together”), in-studio. - Caryn Havlik

    Watch the session here:



  • Posted on 12 Nov 2018

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    Glimmery Electro Art-Pop by Arthur Moon

    Arthur Moon is the moniker of composer/singer/multi-instrumentalist Lora-Faye Åshuvud. As Arthur Moon, she is the anchor who has gathered collaborators- including Cale Hawkins (Quincy Jones, Bilal, Wyclef Jean) and Martin D. Fowler (a composer for This American Life) and other folks. They trade demos and build on musical perspectives, which she then arranges and composes by way of experimentation and improvisation. The result is dazzling music that feels beautiful, affecting, and strange.

    Arthur Moon’s electronic experimental pop takes advantage of all available sonic space, teasing around all kinds of textures and timbres: here a fat-bottomed synth bass, there some minimal sampled percussion, perhaps a sneaky guitar effect to connect them, all dancing around swooping vocal lines, combined with vocoder action – in something of a multi-layered collaborative musical collage. Yet, the grand thing is that this assemblage of electronic pop never feels heavy, or over-crowded, or falls into any traps of formulaic synth pop, rather – it’s what Åshuvud calls “incorrect music” and it as perplexing as it is marvelous. Arthur Moon - Lora-Faye Åshuvud and her collaborators - join us in-studio to play some of these new tunes. - Caryn Havlik



  • Posted on 08 Nov 2018

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    Michael Feinstein on Oscar Levant

    In the mid-20th century, pianist Oscar Levant (1906 –1972) was a pre-digital version of a social media star – a ubiquitous, witty presence on American TV and radio, and films. He was also a bestselling author, radio game show panelist, and a talk show host. As a concert pianist, his Gershwin performances, especially a 1945 version of the “Rhapsody in Blue”, were the best-selling classical records in America. But, Levant was a troubled figure off-camera and out of the limelight. He’s the subject of a mammoth eight-volume box set called Rhapsody in Blue: The Extraordinary Life of Oscar Levant, which features never-before-heard recordings and an essay by Michael Feinstein, perhaps our leading curator of the American songbook.

    Michael Feinstein joins John Schaefer to present “hors d’oeuvres” from both his personal archives and the box set, everything from Gershwin, to J.S. Bach, to Levant’s own compositions and trippy songs with subversive dissonances. Feinstein also tells tales from Oscar Levant’s career, full of admiration for his acerbic wit and his many fascination with the way he could be taken seriously as both a classical pianist and a film star. Despite debilitating eccentricities and addictions, and the loss of coordination in his hands, Levant was able to regularly appear as a game show panelist on TV shows, publish as an author and host a talk show. Feinstein concludes by saying that there is likely five or six more hours of these never-before-heard recordings of acerbic comedian and real-life piano prodigy Oscar Levant.  -Caryn Havlik



  • Posted on 05 Nov 2018

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    Composer and Drummer Tyshawn Sorey Explores Time

    Newark-born composer, multi-instrumentalist, collaborator, and 2017 MacArthur Fellow Tyshawn Sorey, is also the Assistant Professor of Composition and Creative Music at Wesleyan University.

    A recent Instagram post (Sept. 2018) of the day’s listening ranges from Nigerian King Sunny Adé and a record by legendary drummer Tony Allen to Frank Zappa with Joseph Jarman (Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, Art Ensemble of Chicago), Steve Reich, and Karlheinz Stockhausen in between. One might conclude that he is informed by all kinds of music in his work, which often combines composition and improvisation. His latest record, Pillars (Firehouse 12 Records), is about time, and on it, “Sorey thinks of the large-scale, and deeper, means of how music defines and describes time itself”, (George Grella, Brooklyn Rail). The music that comes from this personal exploration continues to stretch boundaries and defies casual listening. 

    Sorey heads a newly-formed ensemble that incorporates turntablism, electronics, and spontaneous composition. Tyshawn Sorey and collaborators Graham Haynes (trumpet), Val-Inc (electronics, percussion, and turntables), and Brandon Ross (guitar) join us in-studio. -Caryn Havlik


  • Posted on 01 Nov 2018

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    Richard Reed Parry's 'Quiet River of Dust'

    Richard Reed Parry is perhaps best known as the really tall, really redheaded guy playing half a dozen instruments in the Grammy-winning band Arcade Fire. But he’s also a founder of the instrumental group Bell Orchestre, and a composer of contemporary classical music. His latest project is called Quiet River of Dust, and it was at least partly inspired by the psychedelic folk/rock scene in Britain in the late 1960's. He and Quiet River of Dust perform some of the musical meditations live in-studio. 

    Watch the session here

  • Posted on 29 Oct 2018


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