Steve Seel

Steve Seel possesses a broad knowledge of many musical genres, having hosted radio programs ranging from classical to jazz and even avant-garde music at public radio stations around the country. Steve came to Minnesota Public Radio in 1999 to be a part of its nationally-syndicated classical music programming. In 2005, he became one of the founding voices on MPR's eclectic station The Current, and has hosted various time slots from mornings to late nights, and conducted in-depth interviews with pop music luminaries ranging from Brian Eno to David Byrne to Tori Amos. Steve is an avid reader of political and social commentary as well, and he emcees The Current's popular Policy and a Pint community series, featuring discussions with noted scholars, politicians, community leaders, authors and big thinkers on important issues of the day. Steve is also a basement composer obsessed with all things both minimalist and slow, and might actually be incapable of writing anything that exceeds 75 beats-per-minute.

Stories

Extra Eclectic: Rivers and Oceans

A century ago, Debussy showed us that the sea was a subject with infinite possibilities for musical exploration. While in some ways La Mer is still the quintessential piece of music about water, it actually laid the groundwork for many composers to go exploring above and below the waves (and along its shores) in the years since. In conjunction with MPR's observation of Water Month, Steve features water-themed works by John Luther Adams, Sarah Kirkland Snider, Kate Moore, and many others.

Extra Eclectic: American Voices, American Themes

On this eve of Independence Day, contemporary American composers are the focus - with some nods to uniquely American subject matter, too. We'll hear selections including John Adams' opera "Doctor Atomic" about the scientists who worked at Los Alamos on the first atomic bomb, and Stanley Grill's "American Landscapes," which the composer describes as being about the "idealized" America we hold in our imaginations. Plus, works from Missy Mazzoli, Sarah Kirkland Snider, and many others. Valerie Kahler guest hosts.

Extra Eclectic: Theme, Variations, and an Asteroid Named Eno

It's been a staple of classical music for centuries: writing a set of variations on a theme by another composer. We'll hear some contemporary examples, including Thomas Canning's "Variations on a Hymn Tune by Justin Morgan," Noam Sivan's "Improvisations on Bach's Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring," and even a "Paraphrase on Themes of Brian Eno" by Timo Andres - a timely inclusion given this week's announcement that Eno has had an asteroid named in his honor.

Extra Eclectic: Paths to Enlightenment

There are multiple ways humankind finds its path to wisdom and enlightenment - be they physical, philosophical, scientific, or religious means - and Steve explores several of them this week. Michael Torke's "Four Proverbs" takes a trove of Old Testament wisdom and fractures it into an irresistibly bouncy, pulsating work for soprano, winds and strings, while Paul Gibson's "Ritual Dances of the Divine Trinity" echoes the liturgical music of the Benedictine monks he heard at an abbey while growing up in France. The spiritual is balanced by the physical in works such as Nico Muhly's "Fast Dances" and Henrik Schwarz's "Walk Music," and the program culminates with the suite from Johann Johannssen's score to "The Theory of Everything."

Extra Eclectic: All the Colors of Sound

"Synesthesia" is name for experiencing one of the five senses as another sense. For example, if you "hear" the color red as sounding a particular way, or conversely, "see" certain sounds as "red." Steve Seel has a sampling of contemporary classical works that describe different colors as music - including Lou Harrison's "Rhymes With Silver," the percussion work "Red" by Marc Mellits, and selections from the "Synesthesia Suite" by Andy Akiho. In the second hour, Steve features works from the cold climate countries of Scandinavia and the Baltic states, including Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Estonia.

Extra Eclectic: Extra Elegiac

Sometimes, what we all need more than anything is to slow down. It seems to be vibe that a lot of contemporary classical composers have picked up on, since if there's one prevailing atmosphere to the classical music of the 21st century in particular, it's contemplation. It's not all that way of course, but on this edition of Extra Eclectic, Steve puts a focus on the more reflective and slower-paced modern classical works - many of which just so happen to be quite moving.

Extra Eclectic: Jennifer Higdon, Kenneth Fuchs, and More

When you hear some of the selections on this week's show, you won't be surprised that their composers have received so much praise for their work. Jennifer Higdon has a devoted following and avid fanbase, and her work "blue cathedral" is always a gorgeous show stopper. We'll also hear a bouncy and infectious chamber music piece by Kenneth Fuchs, who's music has received four Grammy nominations and one Grammy award so far, as well as Jonny Greenwood's score to the film "There Will Be Blood," plus music by Sarah Kirkland Snider, Caleb Burhans, and more.

Extra Eclectic: American Idioms

John Adams' early work "Shaker Loops" helped put him on the map - a piece referencing both the "shaking and trembling" of the worship practices of this American religious sect and the act of "looping" a musical phrase (usually by mechanical means, such as with a tape recorder) to create a repeating motif. Steve features Adams' seminal work as the centerpiece of an hour of works inspired by American folk traditions and musical idioms, such as Bryce Dessner's "Murder Ballads" and Carl Schimmel's "Roadshow for Otto." In the second hour, it's a roundup of contemplative pieces from Anna Thorvaldsdottir, Julia Kent, Michael Kurth and others.

Extra Eclectic: New Works from West to East

Composer Michael Kurth took up the bass in the fourth grade. One of his early inspirations was Donald "Duck" Dunn of Booker T. & The MGs, the Stax Records studio band that backed up Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett and Sam and Dave. Today, he's not only a double bassist with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, but a composer as well -- and Steve plays one of his compositions whose title was inspired by a piece of graffiti art he spied on the way to work. In the second hour, it's a survey of composers from non-Western countries, such as Syria (Kinan Azmeh and Dia Succari) and Georgia (Giya Kancheli).

Extra Eclectic: Is It Only Rock N' Roll?

The language and instruments of rock increasingly play a part in new classical music, to the point where some classically-trained musicians are making music that wouldn't be out of place at all on a rock record. And yet, the experience of such music lends itself not to the rock club, but to more classically-oriented spaces like theaters or concert halls. This week Steve plays some examples - from Caleb Burhans' achingly gorgeous "A Moment for Jason Molina" to music by Aidan O'Rourke, Wim Mertens, Howard Skempton and more.

Extra Eclectic: The Distant Past Meets the Present

It might surprise you that more than a few composers working today have a strong affinity for early music, dating from the Renaissance, Baroque, or even earlier. Why is that? Steve features music by Arvo Part -- a composer whose inspirations sometimes reach back as far as the middle ages -- as well as a piece by Michael Nyman written for the early music group Fretwork and the music of Philip Glass performed by the baroque group The King's Violins and countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo.

Extra Eclectic: The Expanding Palette of Sound

In pop music, "sampling" has become almost as commonplace as the rock n' roll backbeat itself. The practice of basing a piece of music on a short snippet of previously-recorded music or sound is everywhere these days in pop ... but does it ever occur in modern classical music? Steve Seel features a number of pieces that incorporate recorded sound-samples into their score as part of the musical texture, such as Mason Bates' work called "The B Sides" and Paula Mathusen's "On the Attraction for Felicitous Amplitude." Also, modern rock continues its influence on the music of Philip Glass, in his "Heroes" Symphony, inspired by the music of David Bowie and Brian Eno.

Extra Eclectic: Women Define the Moment

As recently as 20 years ago, the phrase "female composer" brought to mind a short-list of familiar names -- a handful of women who had managed to smash the gates of what had been a male-dominated fortress for centuries. While the contributions of the likes of Amy Beach, Joan Tower, and Libby Larsen have been immense toward putting cracks in the classical glass ceiling, the burgeoning number of women composers today have created an exponentially growing world of musical discovery - to the point when unfamiliar names are happily becoming the norm. Steve Seel samples a handful of them this week as our observation of Women's History Month continues.