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Enchanting Stravinsky Recordings.

Classical music critic Lloyd Schwartz reviews new recordings of some of Stravinsky's early vocal music: Natalie Dessay singing Stravinsky's The Nightingale (EMI), and Stravinsky Conducts Stravinsky (box set on Sony).



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Other segments from the episode on February 28, 2000

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, February 28, 2000: Interview with Robert Moog; Review of the albums "The Nightingale and "Stravinsky Conducts Stravinsky."


Date: FEBRUARY 28, 2000
Time: 12:00
Tran: 022801np.217
Head: Interview With Robert Moog
Sect: Entertainment
Time: 12:06

This is a rush transcript. This copy may not
be in its final form and may be updated.

TERRY GROSS, HOST: From WHYY in Philadelphia, I'm Terry Gross with FRESH AIR.


That ethereal instrument is a theremin. On today's FRESH AIR, we get a demonstration of the instrument from electronic music pioneer Robert Moog. He didn't invent the theremin, but he's been making them since he was a teenager. He'll also demonstrate the instrument he did invent back in the mid-'60s, the Moog synthesizer, which caught on with the avant-garde and in pop music and led the way for many of the other electronic instruments that followed.

Also today, classical music critic Lloyd Schwartz reviews two new recordings of Stravinsky's early vocal music.

That's all coming up on FRESH AIR.

First, the news.


GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

Electronic music is so pervasive now, we take it for granted. But it was a new concept in the mid-'60s when my guest, Robert Moog, created his first synthesizer. The Moog synthesizer generated sound electronically. It caught on in all forms of music, from the avant-garde to rock and novelty.


GROSS: The synthesizer became more accessible to musicians and composers after Robert Moog made his first portable, the mini-Moog, in the early '70s. Now Robert Moog lives in Asheville (ph), North Carolina, where he heads his company, Big Briar, which manufactures Moogs and theremins.

The theremin is an electronic instrument that produces ethereal, otherworldly sounds and has been used on many science fiction sound tracks. Moog didn't invent the theremin, but he's been making them since he was a teenager. He brought a theremin and a mini-Moog to the studio with him.

I asked what the Moog synthesizer could do that couldn't be done before.

ROBERT MOOG: The very first electronic music modules that I made could make dynamically varying sounds, sounds that moved in musically interesting ways -- sirens, trills, whistles, effects that modern composers had been trying to get for a while with conventional instruments, but really responded to when they could get them electronically.

GROSS: Demonstrate what you mean.

MOOG: OK. So here's a plain sound. (plays a plain tone on the synthesizer) This is a pure electronic pitch. Now I'll modul -- I will frequency modulate it. By that, I mean that I will vary the pitch of its tone periodically. (plays frequency-modulated tone on the synthesizer) So most people would say that was a different sound than just this. (plays plain tone again)

Or I can speed up and slow down the modulation. (plays increasingly faster modulation) Or make it a different shape. (plays different-shaped modulation) Here's what we call a square wave. It makes the tone sound like a trill. (plays square wave)

So that's just one example of how we can use one electronic circuit to periodically or even aperiodically change the operation of another one and make musically interesting sounds in the process.

GROSS: Now, what were you using to adjust the sounds that you just made? Was it a keyboard, knobs, buttons?

MOOG: Here, let me describe the instrument that I'm using here. It's called a mini-Moog. It has a keyboard. That's just one control device. But the most important control devices are a panel full of 27 knobs, and there are what we call left-hand controllers, wheels on the left-hand side of the keyboard that we can also play in a live performance musical situation. But in a demonstration like this, I'm using it just as if it were a knob.

GROSS: Now, you know, regular instruments, acoustic instruments, operate through physically doing something to the instrument. You pound it, you press it, strum it, bow it, blow air into it. Compare that with the principles of an electronic music instrument like the Moog.

MOOG: The energy to make the sound is there, it comes out of the wall.

GROSS: Electricity.

MOOG: So the sound -- Yes. So the -- what I'm doing is controlling the sound. It's as if I'm driving a car rather than pulling a wagon. I'm steering the sound with my hands.

GROSS: So what you're doing is actually like changing the shape of the sound wave as opposed to pressing on a drum, pounding on a drum or something.

MOOG: That's right.

GROSS: And so your knobs allow you to just change the shape of the sound wave.

MOOG: Yes...

GROSS: The amplitude, the shape of it.

MOOG: (inaudible) -- and -- Yes, and we can increase the complexity of the sound. For instance -- (plays a tone) there's one tone, now we can add a second tone. (adds a second tone) Here's one (plays one tone), the other (plays the other tone), together (plays both together). They form a richer third tone.

So we can add sounds and wave forms together. We can use one wave form to shape what we hear from another circuit. And we can also filter out the overtones, the harmonics, that are made by these wave forms.

GROSS: Want to give me an example of that?

MOOG: Here's (plays tone) -- let's get a brighter sound. (plays tone) There. (plays tone) This is called a low-pass filter. Originally it was a technical term, but musicians these days, at least ones who plug in, understand what that means. So I'll close the filter and we'll cut out first the higher overtones and then all of them. (plays tone, cutting out overtones)

Now, when I vary the filter slowly like that, you can hear what's happening, that the sound is getting more mellow and less bright as I turn down the knob here labeled Cutoff Frequency. But if instead of my turning the knob, I use a wave form that goes up and then down every time I hit a key, we'll get a sound like this. (plays a tone) Now, that opening and closing of the filter was done not by me but by the envelope generator.

Now I'll make it faster, and you'll see what effect that has on the sound. (plays a tone) And still faster. (plays a tone) Now, that happened so fast that we -- if I had to do that with my hand, I couldn't possibly, because my hand can't move that fast. But electronics can move that fast. So now I have a different sort of sound. I have a plucked string-like sound, (plays plucked string-like sounds) because I set up a sound here that's bright and with lots of harmonics at the beginning, and then within, say, I don't know, 30 or 40 thousands of a second, it dies down and our ear identifies that as a stringlike sound.

GROSS: So through this kind of principle that you're able to mimic the sounds of many instruments.

MOOG: Yes. Not only can we mimic the sounds of many instruments, but we can make many new sounds. Now, for instance, I'll change the operation of the filter a little bit with the knob called Emphasis here, which now emphasizes one harmonic or overtone as it -- at a time, and we'll get -- (plays sound with changing harmonic emphasis) we'll get that sort of sound, which is more vocal than stringlike.

Turn up the emphasis a little bit. (plays tone with whistling overtone) So now we're getting such strong emphasis that it's actually a separate whistle from the sound.

GROSS: Now, your Moog synthesizer was designed to do things that a piano could never do. Yet you gave it a piano keyboard.

MOOG: (laughs)

GROSS: Did you ever consider an alternate design, since you were creating a new system altogether?

MOOG: We considered a lot of alternate designs, and in fact the first synthesizer systems that we built in the mid-'60s had a wide variety of control devices. Besides the keyboard, we had a device called a ribbon controller that you run your finger along as if it were a violin string. We had drum controllers, we even had doorbells, you know. We experimented with everything, joysticks.

And we arrived at a keyboard because, A, musicians were familiar with it; B, at that time, they were readily and cheaply available, so that we didn't have to spend a lot of money on tooling. And B, it did serve a musical purpose that at least some of our customers wanted served, not all, but some of our customers were interested in playing conventional melodies and harmonic content from a keyboard.

GROSS: Right, exactly. I mean, you know, on the one hand you had, like, Walter Carlos, later Wendy Carlos, performing Switched-On Bach using the Moog to play a kind of newfangled-sounding version of Bach. And at the same time, you had a lot of avant-garde composers and musicians using the Moog synthesizer to create a kind of avant-garde music that hadn't been possible before.

MOOG: That's right. One of our first customers was Vladimir Usachevsky (ph), who at that time was the head of the Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center. He was -- he's sort of the grandfather of tape music in this country. And he was interested in getting away from the keyboard. He bought quite a few electronic modules from us, but he never bought a keyboard from us.

GROSS: Are there records from the '60s, when you were first -- and the early '70s, when the Moog was first catching on, that you think sound almost embarrassingly dated today?

MOOG: (laughs) Ah. Well, you know, the first use of Moog synthesizer on the West Coast sounds embarrassingly dated. It's a record called "Zodiac Cosmic Sounds."

GROSS: Now, how can that not sound dated?


MOOG: Well, what happened is, this was in 1967, and we were wondering whether we could stay in business, because, you know, we weren't making any money, and nobody understood our products. We were invited to exhibit our new synthesizers at the Audio Engineering Society on the West Coast.

So at that exhibit, we were then invited to bring this one instrument that nobody had ever seen out there to a recording session of "Zodiac Cosmic Sounds." And the synthesizer was used to make some distinctly novel electronic effects, one of which begins the album.

But what the album is, it starts off with very conventional-sounding Hollywood movie music -- (singing) bum ba-pa bum, ba-pa ba, ba-pa ba, ba-pa ba, ba-pa bum, ba-pa bam. It was a mono record too. Imagine how dated that is now! It was 1967, it was a mono record.

So it starts off that way, and then with a low organ tone, the narrator comes on. He had a voice as deep as crude oil. And he said, "Nine times the color red explodes like heated blood. The battle's on." And (singing) ba ba-pa ba, ba-pa ba, ba-pa ba, ba-pa bum, ba-pa bam, ba-pa bum -- like that.

The producers at the time were very impressed with themselves, about how in this was and how hip, and how many they were going to sell. Now when you play it, people just break out laughing.

GROSS: So it's the bum ba-bums that you were doing on the synthesizer?

MOOG: No. They were done more or less conventionally...

GROSS: Where did the synthesizer come in?

MOOG: The synthesizer came in making -- just dropping sounds. Let's see if I can set one up. The mini-Moog is really not big enough to do all the sounds that we did. But let's, for instance, start with one sound. (plays tone) Play another sound. (plays octave tone, then dissonant tone) OK, so that's about a whole tone apart. (plays two tones a whole tone apart) I'll add a third sound. Now, that's the general sort of sound that they liked. (plays weird low sound) And we just glide up a little bit here. (weird low sound glides up) That sort of sound.

GROSS: Great, yes.

MOOG: Now, with a large synthesizer that we had back then at the studio in Los Angeles, you could glide more slowly, you could add more frequencies, you could make a sound that was fairly striking for those times.

GROSS: My guest is Robert Moog. He's the creator of the Moog synthesizer and a pioneer of electronic instruments.

Let's take a short break here, and then we'll talk some more.

This is FRESH AIR.


GROSS: My guest is Robert Moog, a pioneer of electronic instruments, creator of the Moog synthesizer.

What are the early records, the first records that you think really helped the Moog synthesizer catch on?

MOOG: The biggie was "Switched-On Bach." In light of that, everything else pales. "Switched-On Bach" came out at the end of 1968. I can remember playing a cut from it at an Audio Engineering Society convention in New York City about a month in advance of its release. And I can remember all those cynical, experienced recording engineers listening to this and being so overjoyed that a piece of -- a work so innovative and of such high quality was being done that they gave Carlos a standing ovation.

GROSS: Did you like "Switched-On Bach"?

MOOG: Oh, yes. Yes, in fact, I visited Carlos several times while Carlos and his associates were working on the piece. And I was just bowled over. Every time I came, something new was there to be heard.

GROSS: Well, why don't we hear some music from "Switched-On Bach," and it was Walter Carlos back then, wasn't it?

MOOG: Yes.

GROSS: Yes, so this is Walter Carlos at the Moog synthesizer.


GROSS: That's Walter Carlos playing "Switched-On Bach," the record that helped really establish commercially the Moog synthesizer. My guest is Robert Moog, the creator of the Moog synthesizer and the related synthesizers that he's since created. He's a pioneer of electronic instruments.

Is there a kind of retro thing going on now in music where people are looking for vintage Moog synthesizers, the early ones that you designed and built?

MOOG: Yes, the market for instruments of ours that were made in the '60s and '70s is rapidly rising. Because the supply is limited, approximately 12,000 mini-Moogs were made over a 10-year period, and maybe one-tenth that many modular systems were made, and they're all very highly prized now. Ten years ago they wouldn't have been that highly prized because people were more focused on the new bells and whistles coming out of digital technology.

But, you know, fashions change, people's tastes are capricious. And now there is the emerging realization that, yes, these sounds are musically good, and yes, these instruments are fun to play.

GROSS: What can the early instruments do that the new ones can't?

MOOG: A typical digital instrument doesn't have a panel for knobs. A typical digital instrument has a few buttons that you can enter numbers with, and store those numbers. And if you want to be analytical and precise, that's an interesting way of setting up a complex sound the way you want it.

However, if you just want to play it, to reach out and change one part of it spontaneously, you really can't do that by incrementing numbers. You need to be able to have something to put your fingers on right then in a small fraction of a second, turn the knob, turn the switch, and change the sound.

So that's one thing. The other thing is that these sounds, you can emulate them by digital means. You can come close. There are digital emulations of the mini-Moog, for instance, now that are on sale so that you can turn the screen of your computer, of your home computer, into a control panel of a mini-Moog. But however, the sounds that it produces, to a musician with experienced ears, doesn't sound as good as the real thing.

GROSS: When you created the first Moog synthesizer, was it out of an interest in electronics or music or both?

MOOG: I had been building electronic musical instruments since I was a kid. It was always a hobby of mine, and I always approached it as an electronics person, you know, somebody who liked to work with a soldering iron and a pair of pliers, who also had some musical training. By the time I got to building synthesizers, I had, you know, perhaps 20 years' experience building electronic musical instruments.

GROSS: Now, I know you built theremins, and we'll get to that in a couple of minutes. What else did you build?

MOOG: Well, back in the '40s and early '50s, building simple electronic projects was a popular hobby for many people. Back then you could buy, you know, a few parts and with tubes and build something on your kitchen table, and it would actually work.

So there were magazines describing all sorts of hobby projects. And I can remember building one-note organs, two-note organs, radios, phonograph, you know, amplifiers. And that was my life. That's what I did back then. Other kids went out and beat each other up or played baseball, and I built electronics.

GROSS: I think your father was an amateur radio operator?

MOOG: Yes, he was. He was a professional engineer. He worked for Consolidated Edison in New York City.

GROSS: That's the electric company.

MOOG: Yes, it is. And he worked for them all his life, and he was also an amateur radio operator.

GROSS: So this was ham radio?

MOOG: Yes.

GROSS: So do you think your father's ham radio stuff had an impact on you?

MOOG: Why, sure. He was the one who taught me how to do electronics. He taught me how to use a soldering iron. My father had a very complete hobby basement with machine tools and all sorts of electronic stuff. I used to love to go down and just be with him and work with him.

GROSS: Was it a real guy thing for you? (laughs)

MOOG: I think so, yes, yes. It was a dad and son thing, (inaudible).

GROSS: Did Mom ever go down to the basement?


GROSS: (laughs)

MOOG: No, my -- Mom had the rest of the house.

GROSS: Robert Moog invented the Moog synthesizer. His company, Big Briar, manufactures Moogs and theremins. He'll be back in the second half of the show.

I'm Terry Gross, and this is FRESH AIR.




GROSS: Coming up, more with Robert Moog about the Moog synthesizer, which he invented, and the theremin, which he manufactures.

And Lloyd Schwartz reviews two new recordings of Stravinsky's early vocal works.


GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross, back with electronic music pioneer Robert Moog, the inventor of the Moog synthesizer. He now lives in Asheville, North Carolina, where his company, Big Briar, manufactures Moogs as well as theremins.

Now, before you started inventing your own instruments, you built theremins. So let's start with what a theremin is. You've brought one with you. I imagine this is one that you built.

MOOG: Yes, it is. Well, it's one that my company built.

GROSS: Right, that's good enough. (laughs)

MOOG: (laughs) Close enough.

GROSS: Give us a taste of the basic sound of the theremin. Our listeners will recognize it from lots of science fiction movies.

MOOG: OK, let me describe what I'm doing. I'm not touching the instrument when I'm playing it, now. I'm moving my hands around it to control the volume and the pitch of the sound. I'll just make a very quick sound, and then maybe later I can actually try and play a melody. (plays rising, then falling, screeching sound)

MOOG: So when you wave your hands around the theremin, that's the sort of sound you get. It's not particularly musical, but it certainly sounds different from a piano or even a synthesizer.

A theremin is an electronic musical instrument with two metal antennas. One is a vertical rod on the right-hand side of the instrument. The closer you get your right hand to that rod, the higher the pitch goes. So if you imagine a violin string in the air between your shoulder and the pitch antenna, and by moving my hand along that string, you can imagine the sort of gestures I make.

GROSS: But it's an imaginary string.

MOOG: It's an imaginary string. I'm not touching anything when I play.

On the left hand of the instrument there is a loop, a metal loop which controls the volume. And the closer I get my hand to that loop, the softer the sound gets. So my gestures consist of moving my right hand back and forth from my right shoulder to the pitch antenna to make the notes, and you -- moving my left hand up and down as if I'm conducting an imaginary orchestra out there to control the volume and articulate the sound.

GROSS: A famous example of a theremin is on the break of "Good Vibrations," the Beach Boys' bit hit.

MOOG: Yes. (laughs)

GROSS: Was that you playing on it?

MOOG: No, it wasn't me playing. And it might not even have been one of our instruments. But the Beach Boys did have one our instruments on which you could play theremin-like sounds. And if you were to look at the video of "Good Vibrations," you would see our instrument there on it.

GROSS: Well, why don't we listen to that break from "Good Vibrations"?


GROSS: That's the Beach Boys, and that weird, eerie-sounding instrument is a theremin. My guest is Robert Moog, who builds theremins and also is the creator of the Moog synthesizer.

Well, would you play us a science fiction effect on the theremin? You could even play something from one of the movies that the theremin -- one of the movies -- scores that the theremin was used in.

MOOG: Science fiction, if I -- I'll try. (plays theremin)

GROSS: Do you get that little vibrato by wiggling your hand back and forth?

MOOG: Yes. I move my right hand from my wrist rapidly back and forth, just as a violinist does.

GROSS: Do you want to do a melody for us?

MOOG: Oh, well, I -- yes, I'd like to try. I'll have to tune up here for just a minute. (plays "Besame Mucho" on theremin)

GROSS: The ever-popular "Besame Mucho."

MOOG: Oh, no, that was "Irish Eyes Are Smiling." You didn't recognize it?


GROSS: Now, I think, you know, inadvertently, maybe, that the theremin -- that that demonstration points out how difficult it is to get the tone precise on a theremin, because there's no guides for your hand.

MOOG: You have to have a very good ear, and you have to practice, just like being a very good singer.

GROSS: Right, right. So how did you build your first theremin? How did you first hear about what a theremin was?

MOOG: I built my first theremin from an article in a hobbyist magazine when I was 14 years old. And at that time, I really had no idea of what it sounded like. I'd never heard one. This was 1949. The cold war was in effect.

The inventor, Leon Theremin, had been taken back to the Soviet Union, and actually was assumed dead by a lot of people at that point. And almost no theremin records were available. So I could only imagine from things that I read what it sounded like.

GROSS: But it intrigued you when you saw this in the hobby magazine.

MOOG: The whole idea, A, of building this with my own two hands, and B, of playing it without touching it intrigued me.

GROSS: What was the first thing you played on it?

MOOG: (laughs) I think the first thing I played on it must have come 20 or 30 years later. It took a long time to learn how to play things on it.

GROSS: (laughs) So what -- after you'd built your first theremin, you were about 14 years old. Did you take it around and show it off to everybody?

MOOG: I took it to school. I was going to Bronx Science at the time, and appeared in the -- you know, in the assembly with the whole school in attendance. And at the end, my physics teacher said to me, "Moog," he said, "that was damn good!" Which amazed me, because I was so frightened that I couldn't hear what I was playing.

GROSS: My guest is Robert Moog, the inventor of the Moog synthesizer. We'll talk more after a break.

This is FRESH AIR.


GROSS: My guest, Robert Moog, is a pioneer of electronic music. He invented the Moog synthesizer. His company, Big Briar, manufactures Moogs and theremins.

So was it the theremin that got you started on the road to building electronic instruments?

MOOG: Yes. Yes, I had been building theremins longer than I'd been doing anything else, first one when I was 14, and I'm still building them now.

GROSS: Why are you still building theremins now?

MOOG: Well, by this time, I'm pretty good at it, if I do say so. Leon Theremin invented his instrument, and built some very fine ones, all within a very few year period. He was a real genius, a real innovator back then in the 1920s. It took me several decades to understand why he did everything that he did and to be able to come close to duplicating his achievements.

GROSS: Did you need permission from him to build your own theremins?

MOOG: No. The patents had run out even before the Second World War, and people were building theremins both as a hobby effort and for profit, since I can remember.

GROSS: What's your favorite recording that uses a theremin?

MOOG: There is a CD out called "The Art of the Theremin" by -- the thereminist is Clara Rockmore (ph). Clara was a fellow countryman of Leon Theremin, a brilliant violinist and musician and a collaborator of Theremin. She began concertizing with major symphony orchestras, as a soloist with major symphony orchestras, in the 1930s and remained active right through the '50s and '60s.

I was privileged to participate in producing a recording of her playing in the mid-'70s, and that's the music that's on "The Art of the Theremin."

GROSS: Why don't we hear some music from that?


GROSS: That's Clara Rockmore playing the theremin. This was a theremin that Leon Theremin designed, not you? Or is it one of yours?

MOOG: No, that's one that Theremin designed and built, and not only built but hot-rodded, you know, fine-tuned it for Clara back in the early 30s.

GROSS: Is the theremin used a lot now? I mean, I can't say that I think I hear it a lot in pop music or on sound tracks.

MOOG: It's used quite a bit as -- for effects in pop music. There's a group called Portus Hader (ph), a group called Phish, there's John Spencer Blues Explosion.

And now one of our very good theremin customers is Pamalia Kirsten (ph), who, like Clara Rockmore, is a trained violinist. Pamalia is a bass player and thereminist. And she and her husband, Greg, are playing quite a bit out now. And in addition to playing beautiful melodies on the theremin, Pamalia also can play real walking bass lines on the theremin, which is even trickier, I think, than playing melodies.

GROSS: What are some of the most unusual requests from composers and musicians that you've gotten over the years, people who come to you, say, There's something I need an instrument to do. Could you make it for me?

MOOG: Well, I'm sure you could imagine that over the years, I've had a lot of interesting composers, and they've had some interesting requests. One of the more common interesting requests is to do away with everything mechanical, no keyboards, no knobs, no switches, and just be able to go straight from the concept to the completed music.

Attempts to do this with, you know, picking up brain waves and converting those into music have not been terribly interesting, because by the time the brain waves get through your skull, there's not much left of them, and you certainly can't play Paganini Variations by that kind of information flow.

GROSS: It sounds like you're talking from experience. I mean, have you actually tried to harness brain waves to make music?

MOOG: On behalf of a couple of our customers back in the '60s, yes, we did try it, we did fool around. It was interesting to see how much you could get. How much you could get is very little, because the very rapid variations that you need to make interesting music, such as, you know, rapid finger movements on a keyboard or rapid breath changes if you're playing a wind instrument, those rapid changes in brain waves don't come through the skull. What come through are the slow ones. And those slow waves don't change that quickly.

So you can use them, for instance, for things like reinforcing a mood by thinking about something, and then picking up -- you're thinking about this -- effect on the brain by using the brain waves to change a sound, responding to that sound to see how you can increase or decrease your brain's activity. But that's different than making music.

GROSS: Think we'll ever see brain waves harnessed to make music, or is that very unlikely?

MOOG: I read "Wired" every now and then, and some of the ideas in there seem pretty outlandish to me, I mean, that anybody would want to do this seems outlandish. You know, there's talk now of doing away with the skull, basically, going right into the brain, you know, going right from the biological system to the electronic system. I suppose in theory you could do that to make music, but as someone who's learned to play the piano, I'm not primarily a musician, but I can tell you that it feels good to play the piano. Why would anybody want to not do that?

And even synthesizer players today will tell you, if they're any good, it feels good to turn those knobs, that there's a visceral connection with the sound when you do that.

GROSS: Good point.

Would you like to leave us with some music on the Moog synthesizer?

MOOG: Let's see. (plays "Summertime" on the synthesizer)

Well, that's some music. I don't know how much, but it's some.

GROSS: Robert Moog, it's been a real pleasure to talk with you. Thank you so much.

MOOG: Thank you, Terry, I'm glad to have the opportunity.

GROSS: Robert Moog invented the Moog synthesizer. He lives in Asheville, North Carolina. His company, Big Briar, manufactures Moogs and theremins. The theremin has been used on many science fiction sound tracks, like this classic, "The Day the Earth Stood Still."


MICHAEL RENNIE, ACTOR: It is no concern of ours how you run your own planet. But if you threaten to extend your violence, this earth of yours will be reduced to a burned-out cinder. Your choice is simple. Join us and live in peace, or pursue your present course and face obliteration. We shall be waiting for your answer. The decision rests with you.



GROSS: Coming up, a new recording of Stravinsky's early vocal works.

This is FRESH AIR.


Dateline: Terry Gross, Philadelphia, PA
Guest: Robert Moog
High: Robert Moog is the inventor of the Moog synthesizer, an electronic keyboard which makes unworldly sounding electronic music. He invented it in 1965. Moog didn't invent, but he does manufacture the Theremin, the first electronic instrument. It was invented 70 years ago by a Russian, and it's been used on many science-fiction films because of it's eerie, wavering tones.
Spec: Robert Moog; Music Industry; Entertainment

Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 2000 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 2000 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
End-Story: Interview With Robert Moog

Date: FEBRUARY 28, 2000
Time: 12:00
Tran: 022802NP.217
Head: Lloyd Schwartz Reviews New Recordings of Igor Stravinsky
Sect: Entertainment
Time: 12:52

This is a rush transcript. This copy may not
be in its final form and may be updated.

TERRY GROSS, HOST: Igor Stravinsky is so thoroughly associated with modern music, we forget that his roots were in the 19th century. Classical music critic Lloyd Schwartz reviews two new recordings of Stravinsky's early vocal music, including his first opera.


LLOYD SCHWARTZ, MUSIC CRITIC: The early compositions of Stravinsky are now as far away from us as Beethoven was from Stravinsky. If some people are still wary of Stravinsky's unsettling modernism, if they want something more soothing or tuneful, a new CD includes two of his most appealing earlier works, pieces that should charm even music lovers with the most conservative taste.

His first opera, "La Rossignol," is a fairy tale opera based on Hans Christian Andersen's satirical story, "The Emperor and the Nightingale." Stravinsky started working on the first act in 1908 while he was still very much under the influence of his mentor, Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov, as well as Tchaikovsky and an exciting contemporary French composer, Claude Debussy.

It's full of folklike tunes and mysterious, dreamy sonorities. He put the score away for six years, working on other pieces like "The Firebird," which owes some of its own magical qualities to "La Rossignol." When Stravinsky finally went back to this opera, he was much more a 20th century composer, with not only "Firebird" but also "Petrouchka" and "The Rite of Spring" under his belt.

His rhythms and harmonies were more complex, his tone more ironic. This opera is not exactly stylistically coherent, but it remains enchanting. A new recording has one of today's most captivating singers in the title role, the French coloratura soprano Natalie Dessay. I saw her recently on stage, and she stole the show. She's an adorable comedienne, a diminutive firecracker, utterly uninhibited, and with a dazzling voice that can do practically anything, and with real character.

Here's Dessay as the Nightingale, singing to persuade Death to allow the Emperor to live.


SCHWARTZ: This disk also includes Stravinsky's rambunctious, tragicomic barnyard fable, "Renard." John Conlon (ph) leads the orchestra and chorus of the Paris National Opera with refined panache.

There's also a new boxed set of Stravinsky recordings of his own music, with the original jacket art and liner notes. Most of these disks have been available before, but if you don't have them, they're a treasure.

I'd like to play you another one of Stravinsky's early vocal works, t Russian Maiden's song, an aria from his little-known one-act comic opera, "Mavra," but in Stravinsky's transcription for violin and piano. The performers are Stravinsky himself and the great Hungarian violinist Josef Segetti (ph) practically singing the soprano part. It's on a special bonus disk with several other historic recordings that have never been available on CD before.


SCHWARTZ: Stravinsky was the greatest composer of the last century. If you're one of the holdouts who still haven't caught up with this marvelous music, what are you waiting for?

GROSS: Lloyd Schwartz is classical music editor of "The Boston Phoenix."

FRESH AIR's interviews and reviews are produced by Amy Salit, Phyllis Myers, and Naomi Person, with Monique Nazareth, Ann Marie Baldonado, and Patty Leswing, research assistance from Brendan Noonam. Roberta Shorrock directs the show.

I'm Terry Gross.

Dateline: Terry Gross, Philadelphia, PA
Guest: Lloyd Schwartz
High: Classical music critic Lloyd Schwartz reviews new recordings of some of Igor Stravinsky's early vocal music: Natalie Dessay singing Stravinsky's The Nightingale, and Stravinsky Conducts Stravinsky.
Spec: Igor Stravinsky; Music Industry; Entertainment

Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 2000 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 2000 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
End-Story: Lloyd Schwartz Reviews New Recordings of Igor Stravinsky
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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