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Classical Notes: December 3, 2006 Archive

Erl (Hines) könig?

Posted at 11:44 AM on December 3, 2006 by Valerie Kahler
Filed under: The blog

Heard a great piece on PRI's "The World" a few days ago. Lisa Mullins and smoky-voiced jazz singer Patricia Barber had a groovy conversation/playing session, with Barber at the piano illustrating some of her musical points. Her latest album is called Mythologies and is based on characters from Ovid's Metamorphoses.

It captures the attention for a number of reasons. First, Time magazine describes Barber as Diana Krall crossed with Susan Sontag. ! Doesn't that make you at least a little curious to hear what she sounds like? Second, a jazz song-cycle. What a concept! She said that looking for similar cyclic material always brought her back to the realm of classical music. Of particular interest was the music of Franz Schubert.

"I studied Schubert, harmonic progressions, and I studied the great poets in order to find some different rhyme schemes for songwriting. And I was hoping to enrich the language of jazz."

She was able to dive into the serious study of Ovid's mythology and Schubert's song-writing thanks to the Guggenheim Foundation, which awarded her a fellowship in 2003. (Previous winners include e.e. cummings and Aaron Copland.)

"I used the time to study the great poets and the great classical composers, especially Chopin, some Verdi. And Schubert! His meter. His song. I would play them on the piano and I have notebooks charting the harmonies. Sometimes you’ll hear in opera how a melodic line can float over a harmony – justify an unusual harmonic change."

She says studying Schubert (and other classical composers) so intimately has made her a better musician.

Hear, hear! Hear Patricia demonstrate by following the "to listen click here" link about halfway down the page.