For musicians and listeners alike, the definition of the word "song" has become more of a litmus test than an answer: If a piece of music is indeed a "song," it should have the ability to be expressed by a lone instrument or voice, without the bells and whistles of elaborate orchestration.
For centuries, composers have used folk songs, lullabies and hymns, whether as the raw material for ambitious orchestration, or as inspiration for intimate song cycles. Pianist and composer Steve Nieve has embraced the ancient ritual of song for much of his career. Trained at the Royal College of Music, he worked for decades as a session musician, with Elvis Costello and others. A few years ago, Nieve and collaborator Muriel Teodori created an opera called Welcome to the Voice, whose art songs exude the kind of raw honesty and intense focus that songwriters strive for.
This week, we listen to Nieve's Grand Grand Freedom, and to other composers who nourish their music with the nutrients of song, including the likes of Robert Schumann, Zhou Long and Charles Ives.
Scherzo in A Minor, Op. 81/2
Quatre Chansons pour enfants (Four songs for children)
Michel Senechal, tenor; Dalton Baldwin, piano
Grand Grand Freedom
Sting, as Dionysos; Robert Wyatt, The Friend
Don Byron, clarinet & bass clarinet; Uri Caine, piano
Renee Feming, Soprano
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Three Songs Without Words
Steven R. Gerber
Kurt Nikkanen, violin
Leaving Home (Chinese Folk Song)
Shanghai String Quartet
Variations on "Home on the Range" for String Quartet
Borealis String Quartet
The Magic Knot Waltz
Terry Riley, Piano
Songs My Mother Taught Me
Theo Bleckmann, voice, live electronics
Stabat Mater (There Stands the Mother)
Lynne Dawson, soprano