28 Oct 2019

The Open Ears Project - Week Two

From Upbeat, 10:00 am on 28 October 2019

Each episode of The Open Ears Project offers a brief and soulful glimpse into another human life, helping us to hear their favorite music - and each other - differently.

This week guests Director Sam Mendes, Violinist Nicola Benedetti, and  Comedienne Rachel Strauss-Muniz are among those who join Clemmie Burton-Hill of New York public radio station WQXR to share the music they love:

8. On Catharsis

Broadcast: 10am Tuesday 29 October 2020 on RNZ Concert

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Photo: illustrator Tsjisse Talsma

Opera singer Jamie Barton talks about how Chopin's Nocturne No. 21 helped her find her place in the world.

“It transports me back into this bedroom that I had as a kid. Sitting in my bay window, overlooking the field, leading up to the forest. There's nothing else out there.”

Jamie Barton grew up in an isolated rural community in northwest Georgia, USA. Her first listen to Chopin's Nocturne No. 21 in C Minor — found on a CD titled Chopin and Champagne — began an obsession with classical music that turned her teenage alienation into a powerful sense of belonging to music and connection with its listeners, whoever they are and wherever they come from.

9. On Challenging Expectations

Broadcast: 10am Wednesday 30 October 2020 on RNZ Concert

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Photo: illustrator Tsjisse Talsma

Bandleader Jon Batiste talks about how Mickey Mouse sold him on Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring.

“It's more just about feeling the wealth of greatness and the depth of humanity that these things that I love really harbor.”

Musician, composer, and bandleader Jon Batiste talks about revisiting Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring. When he first heard the piece it seemed like cacophony, but repeat listenings (and seeing it used in Disney's Fantasia) gave him an understanding of how the composer was playing with form and narrative and upsetting expectations — ideas Jon would go on to incorporate into his own music.

10. On Happiness

Broadcast: 10am Thursday 31 October 2020 on RNZ Concert

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Photo: illustrator Tsjisse Talsma

Comedienne Rachel Strauss-Muniz discusses how she finds happiness through Mozart's Piano Sonata No. 1.

“Great music transcends time... everything. No matter where this came from, happiness is happiness.”

Actor, comedienne, and podcaster Rachel “La Loca” Strauss-Muñiz talks about sharing Mozart’s First Piano Sonata with her babies, and reflects on how their joy at hearing Mozart reminds her of how so much of the music we listen to is rooted in classical music — and how music connects us all.

11. On American Beauty

Broadcast: 10am Friday 1 November 2020 on RNZ Concert

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Photo: illustrator Tsjisse Talsma

Director Sam Mendes explains how Carl Orff’s Gassenhauer helped him establish the mood for his first film, American Beauty.

“Music defies language in so many ways. One of its joys is that it takes words and direct meaning and narrative out of the equation.”

Sam Mendes talks about how, when he was looking for music to capture the emotional dissonances of the opening sequence of American Beauty, he found the perfect mood with Carl Orff’s Gassenhauer (which, in turn, inspired Thomas Newman’s Oscar-nominated score). Today the music still reminds Sam of this happy, creative period in his life, and of the collision of American and European culture in his work.

12. On Finding Your Truth

Broadcast: 10am Saturday 2 November 2020 on RNZ Concert

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Photo: illustrator Tsjisse Talsma

WNYC's Lee Hill shares a memory about "Little's Theme" from Nicholas Britell's score for Moonlight.

“For me, this is a melody of truth.”

Lee Hill, Director of Public Engagement at New York Public Radio, talks about how “Little's Theme”, from Nicholas Britell’s score for Moonlight, let him find a way to stand in his own truth.

Hill connected with the film like few other works of art he’d experienced, and the score voiced feelings he had never been able to put into words, centering him in his own experience and building a connection with other listeners.

13. On Empathy

Broadcast: 10am Sunday 3 November 2020 on RNZ Concert

Violinist Nicola Benedetti reveals what Beethoven’s Violin Concerto taught her about empathy.

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Photo: illustrator Tsjisse Talsma

“The possibility for you as a listener is to open yourself up enough be taken somewhere that seems far from you.”

As a 10-year-old Nicola Benedetti first heard the second movement of Beethoven’s Violin Concerto, and without knowing what “this thing from heaven” was, the sound resonated with her in a way she couldn't quite yet understand. 

Over 20 years later, having played it in concert halls around the world, she reflects on the concerto's ability to capture the full range of human emotion that can connect to any listener.

The Open Ears Project is produced by WQXR and WNYC Studios - Thanks for sharing!