Here are five of my “outside-the-industry” favorites—unranked.
The Venezuelan Youth Orchestra
…playing its theme song—a blistering, up-tempo syncopated local dance. This orchestra is the pinnacle of a vast network of state-sponsored string orchestras that reaches even into the remotest villages of the rain forest, a phenomenon that has had wonderful social consequences.
Anything by the great saxophonist James Carter
…but with special attention, for now, to his amazing circular breathing, as witnessed, for example, a few weeks ago in L.A. when he held a note without the least interruption (the E-flat a tenth above middle C) for about eight minutes while multiple choruses of a Billie Holiday blues mounted up beneath him. As expected, the explosion that followed this note was hair-raising.
The woodthrush, which has a propensity for inversionIts long, florid songs frequently incorporate the “prime” form of its favorite motif (doo-wo-DEE-woo) together with its inversion (doo-DEE-wo-woo), sometimes adding a little “flutter-tongue” effect on the last note.
The music of Helen Hopekirk
The Scottish-born, Leipzig-trained American pianist and composer who taught at the New England Conservatory around the turn of the 20th century. Her music is badly neglected among the recent cascade of badly neglected women composers.
The nagasvaram (the world’s loudest non-brass wind instrument)
A South Indian double reed instrument associated with weddings and festivals and other “non-concert” venues. It has a large flaring bell, sometimes made of metal, and stuns with both its intensity and its capacity for insinuating sensuality.