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Hidden treasure: perusing the Other Minds radio archive

I have been bellyaching a lot about the paucity of classical music over the airwaves recently (bellyache one here; bellyache two here). It seems to me that I ought to be evangelizing great resources for classical music lovers instead. So here’s the top item on my list: the Other Minds RadiOM radio archives.

We are talking about a collection of absolutely gorgeous radio broadcasts, just pleading with you to register and listen. Right now I am enjoying a recording of a 1975 Oakland Symphony Youth Orchestra concert. They’re performing Richard Strauss’ Serenade, Brahms’ Gesang der Parzen, and Le Chant des Chemins der Fer by Berlioz. I can just see these kids playing their hearts out as the music streams—it’s that beautiful.

The RadiOM archives is a by-product of the Other Minds Foundation, the brainchild of composer, teacher, and impresario Charles Amirkhanian.

“My lifelong specialty has been the showcasing, via radio, concert, and commercial recording production, the careers of originals and outsiders in avant-garde music,” Amirkhanian explains.

That’s pretty much what Other Minds does. This may intrigue you. It also may intimidate you a bit. You may be, like me, someone who enjoys some “outside” and “avant-garde” classical fare from time to time—an occasional visit with John Cage now and then, but not much more. You may be (like me, again) someone who really just wants a selection of the classics that is expansive and diverse, that doesn’t clip the first 300 years and last fifty off the timeline, that doesn’t censor music with the human voice, that isn’t afraid of a dose of well deployed dissonance, and that craves sounds from beyond Western and Central Europe.

If that’s you, RadiOM is a must stop. Many of these recordings hail from the days when Amirkhanian served as music director at listener supported station KPFA-FM in the 1970s.

Consider these goodies at your disposal (all free, by the way):

• The Bay Area Women’s Philharmonic performing three great compositions: the overture to Ethel Smyth’s 1911 opera The Wreckers, Peggy Glanville Hicks’ Concerto Romantico for viola, and Diane Thome’s Golden Messengers suite. The concert concludes with a rendition of Paul Hindemith’s Symphonic Metamorphosis on a Theme by Carl Maria Von Weber, but the Glanville Hicks’ piece is the go to composition on this tape. It’s stunning.

• Luciano Berio and Bruno Madera’s delightfully baroque, funny Divertimento for Orchestra. The piece is in three movements, the first two by Maderna: “Dark Rapture Crawl” and “Scat Bag,” the last by Berio: “Rhumba-Ramble.” It’s wild.

• A wonderful 1971 live retrospective of the music of the French composer Darius Milhaud, performed in 1971 at Mills College, where Milhaud taught. “The first selection heard, ‘La muse ménagère’, was played as people were still entering the music hall,” the program notes explain, “and therefore there is a bit of crowd noise, and the actual performer is uncertain.”

• A rehearsal of Roger Sessions’ Second String Quartet. It may be practicing, but the Griller String Quartet plays the hell out of this haunting piece, one of Sessions’ best.

I could go on and on—tons of music by American masters like Henry Cowell, Colin McPhee, Lou Harrison, and Alan Hovhaness; interviews with composers like Carlos Chavez and Dane Rudhyar (plus: Pauline Oliveros playing her flute over a second story window in the Osaka Prefecture, Japan!).

But you really have to check out the RadiOM archives yourself to discover the bottom line: an amazing trove of beautiful live classical broadcasts. What a gift to anyone who takes the time to listen.


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2 Responses to Hidden treasure: perusing the Other Minds radio archive

  1. Gill Stoker July 16, 2011 at 4:52 am #

    Hello — just to mention that Ethel Smyth’s opera, The Wreckers, was first performed in Leipzig in 1906. It was given a concert performance at the Queen’s Hall in London in 1908 (a shortened version), then a full production at His Majesty’s Theatre, London, in 1909. Not sure where your date of 1911 came from?

  2. Matthew Lasar July 16, 2011 at 8:25 am #

    It comes from the RadiOM link to the piece in the article.

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