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Staff Picks: Music

Song of the Day--Pavane for Dead Princess

Today’s song of the day, which can downloaded for free at Freegal or streamed through Hoopla is Maurice Ravel’s beautiful Pavane pour une infante defunte or (Pavane for Dead Princess). One of France’s best known classical composers, Ravel’s classic piece was written in 1899 then again for orchestra in 1910. It was later adapted into a popular standard during the 1930’s called The Lamp Is Low. You can find it in our music collection within the compilation In Memory of...classics for funerals

Ryuichi Sakamoto

I stumbled across the Japanese composer, actor, activist and record producer Ryuichi Sakamoto's work through his haunting score for the film The Revenent. Over the years, in addition to his work with filmmakers, he's pioneered and championed various styles of electronic music and worked on an assortment of projects with a wide range of artists including David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Laurie Anderson, Aztec Camera, and David Byrne. Arguably is his most popular piece of music is titled Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence, a work from the 1983 film of the same title that starred David Bowie.

The Revenant

Though I haven’t seen the recently released film The Revenant, the haunting, atmospheric soundtrack is now available to stream at Hoopla. Written and performed by Ryuichi Sakamoto, Alva Noto, and Bryce Dessner, the music’s somber timbres and minimalist approach provide an eerie soundscape to the film’s powerful imagery.

Best of British

The words 'pastoral', 'lyrical', 'buoyant', and 'tranquil' are often used to describe the brand of classical music that emerged in England, certainly the sort that was composed during the later part of the 19th century into the early 20th. Inspired by the beautiful, rustic landscape of England, composers like Ralph Vaughan Williams made music that emphasized big, soaring melodies and romantic tones. Best of British is a multi-disc set that introduces listeners to the colorful works of such composers as Williams, Elgar, Karl Jenkins, Handel, Gustav Holst and William Walton.

Soundtrack of Life

What does a life sound like? This question along with a conversation about their favorite pieces of music were the genesis of cellist Yo Yo Ma and pianist Kathryn Stott's exquisite new album Songs from the Arc of Life, a soaring, beautiful collection of canonical works such as Ave Maria, The Swan, Gershwin's Prelude No. 1.

"For years, Kathy and I have talked about making an album of pieces that we absolutely love, pieces that express the context of a life, of our lives. Childhood, adolescence, young adulthood, middle age and old age--What do they sound like? Songs from the Arc of Life is our invitation to our audience to join us as we imagine the soundtrack of life."--Yo Yo Ma

Stream or Download via Freegal

Freegal is your access to free downloaded music from the Sony Music catalog. A streaming option has now been added to their catalog. Download 5 of your favorite songs each week or listen to a full album by streaming (5 hours/week). Visit our Download page on the KPL site for more information and helpful links to our other digital services.

One of the most buzzed about jazz albums of the year is Miles Davis at Newport: 1955-1975, the Bootleg Series Volume 4. Our compact disc copy will be here soon but if you don't want to wait, stream this extraordinary portrait of one of jazz's most important innovators which includes performances with legendary collaborators John Coltrane, Paul Chambers, Bill Evans, Thelonious Monk and Julien "Cannonball" Adderley. 

Nina Simone

A new Netflix documentary titled What Happened, Miss Simone? has recently generated interest from film and music critics. Simone was a true original in every sense of the term. Her resume includes being a classically trained musician who attended Julliard, a vocal civil rights firebrand who wrote songs memorializing MLK and the young victims of a church bombing in Mississippi (Mississippi Goddamn), and an innovative Jazz vocalist who often mixed her classical training into her renditions of Jazz and Blues standards. She was also a complex human being who suffered from mental illness and butted heads with the music industry throughout much of her career. She’s widely considered one of the great musicians of the 20th century. Check out her music from the library’s music collection or stream the albums through Hoopla and Freegal.

Two Johns

Two of the hardest working contemporary composers are named John Luther. There’s the Pulitzer Prize winning John Coolidge Luther whose saxophone concerto City Noir has found its way on many year-end lists. You can check out much of his previous work, often characterized as part of the minimalist tradition, through Hoopla’s streaming platform or from one of our compact discs. Become Ocean (winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for music) is the stunning new piece from John Luther Adams. Hauntingly beautiful, it’s the kind of music that envelops the attentive listener with its gentle but powerful lyricism.

The Power of Mahler

There’s a wonderful scene in the early part of Jean-Luc Godard’s 1985 film Hail Mary, where a young girl whirls around her living room, performing a kind of modern dance to Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 9 (the Adagio portion). The scene reminded me of how much I enjoy this particular work of the Bohemian (then part of the Austrian Empire) composer as well as his masterful Symphony No. 5. Mahler’s works are impressively evocative and possess an intensity of emotion like few others of his era. His innovative contributions and forward thinking approach to his symphonies represent a transitory bridge from 19th Century Romantic music to that of the Modernist period and its emphasis upon atonality.

A Rainy Day Playlist

Oh rainy day, what should I play? If you’re anything like me and you appreciate the ocassional dark skies and leisurely fall of rain, your playlist is probably a reflective collection of moody and somewhat somber tunes. On days like today, Classical, Film Scores and Jazz reign (pun intended).

How about a little music from the film Magnolia’s soundtrack:

Keeping with film scores, nobody does gloomy and melodic better than Philip Glass:


Often lumped in with the French Impressionism of Maurice Ravel and Claude Debussy, Erik Satie's hauntingly simple music evokes nostalgia and memory:


In her heyday, Billie Holiday's singular style was unmatched in expressing the depth of human emotion:

Two titans of modern music, Aaron Copland and Benny Goodman:

And lastly, the beauty and simplicity of The Beatitudes as performed by The Kronos Quartet and featured in the film The Great Beauty:



Piano Works Satie