Cartoons and classical music go together like Bugs Bunny and Richard Wagner (Kill da wabbit, kill da wabbit). But now, the Ensemble ACWJ has taken a step further by mashing 43 cartoon theme songs into a five-minute masterpiece. Whether you’re a lover of classic cartoons like “The Jetsons”, 80s cheesiness like “He-Man”, or the off-color “Family Guy”, you’re sure to enjoy the video below. And make sure you watch closely… Papa Smurf makes a cameo appearance.

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When the New York Phil covers the Game of Thrones theme song, it must mean the show has really hit the big time, right? Here are eight covers of the show’s theme song. And for even more versions of the song, you can check out my 2013 and 2011 posts.

1. Game of Thrones Season 4: New York Philharmonic

Ramin Djawadi, the composer of the Game of Thrones theme, led members of the New York Philharmonic in a performance at Lincoln Center on March 18. As you would expect, it’s gorgeous.

2. Game of Thrones Theme – The “Smooth” Version ft. Dave Koz

Still traumatized by the Red Wedding? Then mellow out with a smooth jazz version by Scott Bradlee’s band, featuring nine time Grammy-nominated sax star Dave Koz. They get into a cool jam session in the middle.

3. Game of Thrones: The Musical

GoT cast members including Maisie Williams (Arya Stark), Isaac Hempstead-Wright (Bran Stark), and John Bradley (Samwell Tarly) attempt their best versions of the tune.  They should never quit their day jobs.

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4. Game of Thrones Theme – A Cappella Cover by 2For6

This a cappella sounds great, and they make some astounding percussive effects with their voices. The video was shot in several gorgeous locales across Israel.

5. Youth Orchestra Covers ‘Game of Thrones’ Theme for Flash Mob

An orchestra from the Collegium Musicum La Rioja pulled off a powerful flash mob version of the theme song in a Spanish plaza. I especially love the enthusiastic drum section.

6. Game of Thrones Metal Version with Vocals

Orion’s Reign adds some symphonic metal oomph with powerful vocals and blast beats. They change up the time signature in a cool way, too.

7. Game of Thrones Epic Cover

The title of KawlumPlaysGuitar’s cover speaks for itself. I guarantee you’ve never heard anything like this before.

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Spektral Press Photo 2012 smallThe Spektral Quartet has come up with the cure for the common ringtone – the Mobile Miniatures Project, in which the ensemble has commissioned 47 composers from the world of classical, pop, and jazz music to write ringtones, alarms, and alerts for cell phones. The quartet premiered these works on March 29 during an innovative release party at Constellation.

So how do you present a suite of tiny tunes which vary in length from one second text message alerts to 40 second ringtones? With multimedia presentations and a scavenger hunt, of course. The Spektral Quartet (J Austin Wulliman and  Aurelien Penderzoli violins, Doyle Armbrust, viola, and Russell Rolen, cello) performed the works in several sets throughout the evening. During the sets, the ensemble told anecdotes about themselves, the music, and the composers.  My favorite story was about Shulamit Ran, who created a series of 13 pieces even though the quartet only requested one submission from each composer.  Ran (who was sitting right next to me in the audience!) said that writing the ringtones was like eating potato chips.  She couldn’t stop herself after just one.

An audio curated phoneIn between performances, audience members were encouraged to explore iPad listening stations and audio curated phones. The iPads displayed the Mobile Miniatures website where people could sample the music and explore the biographies of the composers. There were about eight audio curated phones of the “vintage” landline sort, like a lips phone which was stylish in the 80s, and some with rotary dials which dinosaurs like me used back in the Stone Age.  The folks who created the audio masterpieces included Naomi Beckwith, who is the Marilyn and Larry Fields Curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago; Idris Goodwin, a playwright and co- founder of the “Louder Than a Bomb” teen poetry slam; and Sumanth Gopinath, who wrote the book The Ringtone Dialectic, which explores ringtones and their effect on cultural production.  Each of the phones played different tidbits of music and sound effects. Unfortunately, it was difficult to hear some of the audio due to the  crowd noise.

Another unique component of the event was the “Composers be Composin’” table manned by Chicago composers Marcos Balter and Chris Fisher-Lochhead. Audience members were invited to write ideas for ringtones on bits of paper and toss them into a bucket . Each composer chose an idea and wrote a new original ringtone which the quartet performed at the end of the evening. A particularly entertaining one was a ringtone for when your ex calls and you know you shouldn’t answer the phone.

Audience members explore the listening stationsThe thread that tied the event together was the scavenger hunt. Each audience member received a sheet of paper with fun questions and activities such as “Name a ringtone composer who has won a Pulitzer Prize” and “Introduce yourself to a Spektral Quartet board member. Get his/her initials.” Some activities encouraged social media engagement, like taking a selfie with a stranger and sharing it on Twitter or Facebook. Points were earned for each  correct answer, and the winners received prizes such as a free download of the Mobile Miniatures and the Spektral Quartet’s recent debut album, Chambers. The game was an entertaining way to connect the audience with each other, the music, the composers in attendance, and the quartet members. The hard-working winner earned about 67 points, which put my meager 37 score attempt to shame.

As for the Mobile Miniatures themselves, they really are tiny masterpieces. I love Shulamit Ran’s “Rite of Ring” which is a cheeky nod to Stravinsky’s similarly titled work , and Tomàs Gueglio’s “1799″ , which the composer aptly described as Bugs Bunny’s take on Haydn. There’s also Matt Marks’s “Wake the F__k Up”, which features some vicious riffs and the Spektral guys shouting exactly what the title hints at. I’ve had that one stuck in my head for days.

The whole Mobile Miniatures concept is a bit of brilliance. As the quartet mentioned to the audience, it’s a way to have mini concerts all over the place. Not to mention that it’s some free promotion for the quartet and the composers. Maybe someone is standing at a crowded bus stop, and her phone busts out with Dominic Johnson’s “Tsar Bomba”. Everyone there will hear the music, and maybe one of those people might even want to know what that cool ringtone is. Score a new fan for contemporary classical music and the Spektral Quartet.

You can check out the extremely cool promo video for the Mobile Miniatures below and explore even more information about the project here.

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I recently saw an ignorant Facebook comment about cellist Alisa Weilerstein which infuriated me. Decca Classics had shared news about Weilerstein’s latest album, Dvořák. The cover art featured the following image:

Weilerstein_Dvorak

Here’s what an ignorant guy wrote in response:

New generation of classical music players began to look more like a country-music pop singer rather than a classic musician.

Did this guy think that Weilerstein looked like a country artist because she posed outside in a fancy dress with her hair down? Even if she was dressed like a country singer, what’s wrong with that?

The days when classical musicians dress exclusively in penguin suits or severe black dresses are over. Much has been made about the decreasing size of classical audiences. Musicians have taken action by cultivating new fans in untraditional venues such as bars and clubs where it wouldn’t make any sense to wear a tie and tails. For example, Cleveland Orchestra members donned T-shirts to perform chamber music at their local watering-hole, the Happy Dog.  The Spektral Quartet, a resident chamber ensemble at the University Of Chicago, wears jeans when they perform during their concert series at the Empty Bottle club.  Itzhak Perlman’s protégé Amadeus Leopold (a.k.a. Hahn-Bin), has performed everywhere from Alice Tulley Hall to MoMA in outfits which would make Lady Gaga proud.

Does a musician’s caliber change if he wears a T-shirt instead of a tux? Of course not.

In case anyone is wondering, Alisa Weilerstein is a classical musician of the highest caliber. I can say that for a fact because we attended the Cleveland Institute of Music at the same time, and I heard several of her performances.  What’s more, she has a dazzling array of honors and accomplishments on her resume. She has soloed with all of the major orchestras in the United States and Europe, she was named a MacArthur foundation Fellow in 2010, and she was the first cellist to be signed by Decca Classics in over 30 years.

The bottom line is that in the ever-evolving realm of classical music, we shouldn’t be judging a musician by what she is or isn’t wearing (like Lara St. John clad in nothing but her violin) on her album cover. Instead, take a moment to look the artist up on YouTube or SoundCloud.

If you’d like to enjoy a sample of Alisa Weilerstein’s talents, please check out the video below.

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Red Bull Flying Back

For regular readers of our blog, you know we love odd combinations and combining breakdancing, ballet and classical music is without a doubt an odd combination. After three seasons of sold out performances around the world, the celebrated and distinguished dance crew The Flying Steps will bring Red Bull Flying Bach to Chicago, making its debut in an exclusive U.S. engagement for six performances only downtown at the historic Civic Opera House, 20 N. Wacker Drive, June 20 – 29, 2014.

Based on the promotional video, it looks beautiful.  Artistic, well-choreographed and performed to a great selection of music.  With their interpretation of Johann Sebastian Bach’s The Well-Tempered Clavier, the four-time breakdance world champions The Flying Steps and opera director Christoph Hagel have cross cultural boundaries proving this blend of urban dance coupled with baroque music is a sublime combination in Red Bull Flying Bach. By combining Bach’s classical masterpiece with modern electronic beats and clever choreography, the audience of each performance truly experiences a powerhouse production invoking visual amusement with delightful sound.

In addition, Swedish ballerina Anna Holmström joins the seven male break-dancers of The Flying Steps, fusing key elements of urban dance culture with precision ballet.

Red Bull Flying Bach has sold out theaters around the world, such as Sweden, Australia, Germany, Iceland, Chile, Russia, Japan and Austria. The show itself is a beautiful blend of the minds of Artistic Directors Vartan Bassil (choreography) and Christoph Hagel (piano, musical director). The Civic Opera house, playing host to this one-of-a-kind performance, is eager to have the show debut on its famed stage later this year.

“We’re really excited to host Flying Bach for their U.S. premiere this June,” said Rich Regan, Director of Facilities at the Civic Opera House.  “It’s a groundbreaking blend of traditional and contemporary entertainment that will be completely new to Chicago audiences.”

Tickets, ranging from $24 – $88, are now on sale by visiting  Ticketmaster  or by visiting the Civic Opera House box office. Red Bull Flying Bach will be performed over two weekends only:  Friday and Saturday evenings, June 20, 21, 27 & 28, at 7:30pm, and Sunday afternoons, June 22 & 29, at 2pm.

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Guitarists Weep; Legendary Flamenco Guitarist Paco de Lucia Dies

February 27, 2014

Yesterday was a sad day for the guitar community. While on vacation in Mexico, legendary flamenco guitarist Paco de Lucia died of a sudden heart attack.  He was 66.  A spokesman for the city hall in Algeciras, where de Lucia was born, confirmed his death on Wednesday and said the city had decreed two days […]

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Satisfy Your ‘Sherlock’ Withdrawal with the Sherlock Fan Orchestra

February 24, 2014

Alas and alack, the oh-too-short third season of Sherlock has finished. So what’s a devoted fan to do? Why, check out a video by the Sherlock Fan Orchestra (SFO), of course. Founded in January of 2012, the SFO is an online ensemble which performs arrangements of music from Sherlock. The orchestra came to fruition thanks […]

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Dream Theater’s Mike Mangini Endorses New Tempo Advance 2.0 App for Advanced Musicians

February 20, 2014

Mike Mangini knows rhythm. If you’ve never seen or heard of Mangini, he’s awesome (Watch this), and is the drummer for Dream Theater. When I heard that Mangini had endorsed and was involved in the second generation of this app, it definitely caught our attention. Tempo Advance 2.0 is a metronome app available on iOS […]

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Playlist of the Most Romantic Songs from Movie Soundtracks

February 13, 2014

Depending on your style, movies and music are often at the heart of a perfect Valentine’s Day date. So my other half and I put our heads together to think of a list of iconic songs that might help make the perfect Valentine’s Day.  We thought of many of our favorite romantic comedies and movies […]

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Most Romantic Albums of All Time?

February 13, 2014

Giving the gift of music to a significant other is a beautiful way to celebrate the holiday devoted to love.  Apparently, Valentine’s Day is one of the top holidays of the year for music gift-giving, according to the Music Business Association (formally NARM and digitalmusic.org). Last month the organization released a list of the “Most […]

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