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by Seth Colter Walls

July 8, 2014

Radio: 1-Track New Symphonic Jams

by Seth Colter Walls  |  July 8, 2014

If you've ever listened to streaming-radio classical stations, you've encountered the following frustration: Some symphony is really turning out a composer's music. A big walloping climax is just around the corner, you can feel it. Should be awesome. And then, right at the edge of something dramatic — it's time to skip to the next track, and some other completely different piece of music pops up on the shuffle.

Classical releases, with their track indexes and such, aren't often built to play nice with online radio stations, it's true. But we've programmed around that annoying fact with this station: Every piece here is a self-contained orchestral work that plays complete in one track, whether it's a couple minutes long (say, an Ives miniature) or a half-hour essay by Varese or Debussy.

We're calling them "new" symphonic jams, because, in the overall history of classical music, most of these cuts are fairly new, hailing from the 20th or 21st centuries. Before then, symphonic works almost always came in "movements," which don't work so well for our shuffling radio purposes. (But we do also include some older grand opera preludes, as they're still played as stand-alone works at today's orchestral concerts.)

Because modern and contemporary orchestra music tends to be a calling card of the great classical musicians of our age, we've got some heavy hitters in here. James Levine conducting some Wagner preludes, as well as orchestra pieces by John Cage and Elliott Carter. Esa-Pekka Salonen conducting his own exciting orchestra works, plus the symphonies of Witold Lutoslawski. And Pierre Boulez surveying everything from Ravel and Debussy to Messiaen and Stockhausen. Minimalism comes into play with some early works by John Adams. And we couldn't leave Strauss' tone poems off this station, either. So click play, stretch your attention span, and let the orchestral rush continue, uninterrupted.

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