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WNYC American Music Festival

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» WNYC's all-time favorite recordings of American music

In 1940, the contrast between extensive censorship in Nazi Germany and America's myriad freedoms inspired the launch of the American Music Festival. The Festival has continued to be broadcast each year between Lincoln's and Washington's birthdays.

Benny Goodman - photo courtesy Irving S. Gilmore Music Library, Yale University
The American Music Festival has showcased an unprecedented range of composers, performers and selections. Greats who have appeared as guests during the Festival have included Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, Laurie Anderson, Earl Robinson, Leonard Bernstein, Lukas Foss and Virgil Thomson.

In the 65 years since the American Music Festival was first established, American classical music has risen to global prominence and taken its rightful place as a staple of the repertoire. WNYC consistently champions American music throughout the year. The Festival gives the WNYC community the chance to celebrate the range, freedom, and unique character of our musical heritage.

Throughout the Festival of 2005 WNYC regular music programs Evening Music, Overnight Music and New Sounds will delve into the vast and varied music of this land.

As another highlight of the 2005 American Music Festival, WNYC hosts and producers will also choose their all-time favorite recordings of American music, which will be listed here and played on our music programs.

» Read a history of the American Music Festival


1 Plum Sq. logo and photo of Amy KohnSpinning on Air
Friday, February 18 at 9PM on 93.9 FM
In the continuing spirit of introducing new American works as part of the Festival, WNYC's Spinning On Air, produced and hosted by David Garland, will present the world broadcast premiere of a new American opera by Amy Kohn entitled 1 Plum Sq..This 80-minute music theater piece for four voices and instrumental ensemble tackles the theme of construction versus destruction in architecture, in creativity, in relationships and in the mind. Composer Kohn describes the music of 1 Plum Sq. as “rhythmic, post-minimalist, baroque and jazz influenced.”

Soundcheck will celebrate the American Music Festival through conversations with musical innovator Laurie Anderson, rising young singer-songwriter Laura Veirs, and Maggie and Suzzy Roche, two of the trio of sisters who blend influences from church choir music, traditional Irish folk, contemporary folk, rock, country, and pop.

New Sounds
February 12
Guitarist John Schneider performs contemporary works for retuned guitar in the WNYC studio.

February 14.
American eccentrics. Harry Partch: And on the Seventh Day Petals Fell in Petaluma; Ensemble Modern plays Frank Zappa; Henry Kaiser reinvents Stephen Foster; and music by La Monte Young.

February 15
Theme and Variations: Wayfaring Stranger. Untraditional and inventive arrangements of the traditional American folk hymn; arrangements for vocal ensemble, jazz/bluegrass band, Indonesian-style gamelan, and computer.

February 16
New music for guitar. Forastiere: Hidden 7; Dominic Frasca: Deviations; Benjamin Verdery: Ellis Island; John Fahey: The Best Of, Vol. 2.

February 17
Music from Azerbaijani composer Franghiz Ali-Zadeh, known as a pianist who first brought the music of John Cage, Arnold Schoenberg and George Crumb to Azerbaijan. Speaking of Crumb, hear a mix of the ancient and modern with his seminal work “Makrokosmos," and more...

February 18
Ingram Marshall: Soepa, featuring guitarist Ben Verdery. Also, Ben Verdery and fellow guitarist Andy Summers, recorded live at Joe's Pub during the annual NY Guitar Festival.

February 19
Music for electric violin, viola, and cello. Works by Daniel Bernard Roumain, Joby Talbot, Michael Gordon, Evan Ziporyn, and more.

February 20
Tod Machover, composer and head of the MIT Media Lab, drops by to discuss his latest computer-assisted works and hyper-instruments.

February 21
New Music New York, 1979. Music from the archives of The Kitchen, featuring live performances from their historic 1979 concert series with Philip Glass, Meredith Monk, Michael Nyman, Pauline Oliveros, and more.