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.


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.

Extra Eclectic: From John Cage the Jesse Montgomery

Guest host: Melissa Ousley Melissa Ousley brings her expansive knowledge of music to the program this week, and her sensitive ear and attention to the details for all of her selections comes through. John Cage's "In a Landscape" serves as an example of how Cage perhaps had a greater impact on music of the 20th century than any other composer, through his emphasis on silence, space, and Eastern philosophies. John Adams' "Hallelujah Junction" for two pianos takes the contrapuntal minimalism of the 1970s to dizzying new heights, and Jesse Montgomery's "Coincident Dances" depicts what the composer calls the "profoundly multicultural experience" of living in New York City.

Extra Eclectic: Thaw and Flow

Guest host: Ward Jacobsen The official beginning of spring is right around the corner, and this week on Extra Eclectic, things are beginning to thaw -- and the water is flowing again. We hear James Stephenson's "Liquid Melancholy," selections from "Rivers" by Ann Southam, and Mason Bates' celebrated work for orchestra and electronics, "Liquid Interface." Ward Jacobsen guest hosts this week, and he also features music by John Tavener, Keith Jarret, and more.

Extra Eclectic: John Adams, Jazz, and Dance

When John Adams decided to write a saxophone concerto, he first listened to some that previous composers had written, but he found that they didn't speak to him. Instead, he decided he'd get out his favorite jazz records for inspiration - from Charlie Parker and Eric Dophy to Wayne Shorter. The result was a concerto that was influenced more by jazz than classical music. Steve plays Adams' work and some others that have prominent rhythmic elements or "dance" themes in this week's episode (beginning the program with a piece by Andre Previn, who died this week at the age of 89).

Extra Eclectic: Light and Darkness

Steve Seel showcases the play between light and shadow, with contemporary classical works on those themes. Nocturnes and night travels contrast with works like "The Light" by Philip Glass, and he's even got a piece called "Shadow Light" by Elena Rhuer that touches on both ideas. Plus, does the phrase "desert island" conjure up images of sunlight and palm trees in your imagination? Well, what does it feel like to be stranded on a desert island ... at night? Erkki-Sven Tuur's "Insula Deserta" suggests what it might be like to be shipwrecked after the sun goes down.

Extra Eclectic: Star Gazing

Oftentimes, when the air is chilly, the sky is clear. And so it can be possible to enjoy some good star-gazing ... as long as your skin can take the cold. On this episode, Steve Seel features modern classical works on themes of stars and heavenly observation ... from "Polaris" by Thomas Ades to Joel Pucket's "The Shadow of Sirius" to the gorgeous "Musica Celestis" by Aaron Jay Kernis and more. In the second hour, Steve explores new classical works on the subject of love, in honor of Valentine's Day.