Gorgeous-voiced singer/violinist Christina Courtin is a New York City-based artist who sings with a rapturous glory. She has worked with Osvaldo Golijov, Yo-Yo Ma, Paula Robison, and Dawn Upshaw, to name a few. "Mulberries," from her 2006 release Christina Courtin's Running Kicks, has a melody so beguiling it almost hurts. She is the real thing. Currently touring: Go catch her.
Modern composer Igor Stravinsky is a colossus of the 20th century, with a career spanning more than six decades. Stravinsky was born in 1882 in Oranienbaum (now Lomonosov), Russia, the son of an opera-singing father. He originally studied to become a lawyer but became smitten with the arts. Some of his collaborators include Pablo Picasso (Pulcinella), Sergei Diaghilev's Ballet Russes, George Balanchine (Apollon Musagete), and Jean Cocteau (Oedipus Rex). Some of his masterworks include Petrushka, The Rake's Progress, Agon, and The Rite of Spring, which debuted in turmoil in 1913 at Paris' Theatre des Champs-Elysees (Time magazine described the evening as one of great drama. Acclaimed composer Camille Saint-Saens stomped out of the performance, pontificating on Stravinsky's "misuse" of the bassoon; the audience raised such a ruckus with fights and protests that the dancers could not hear their cues). Stravinsky left Russia before the end of WWI and lived in Switzerland, then Paris. Fleeing WWII for the U.S. in 1939, he made his home in Hollywood for nearly 30 years, eventually landing in New York City in 1969. "The Rite of Spring: IV. Spring Rounds" performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Seiji Ozawa, from the 1972 album Stravinsky: The Rite of Spring, should definitely be in your music library.
Artist: Igor Stravinsky
Song: The Rite of Spring: IV. Spring Rounds
Album: Stravinsky: The Rite of Spring
Bonnie "Prince" Billy
Singer/songwriter Bonnie "Prince" Billy (a.k.a. Will Oldham) is from Louisville, Kentucky. In the late '80s and early '90s, he worked as an actor, starring in John Sayles's 1987 film Matewan, in the 1989 TV movie Everybody's Baby: The Rescue of Jessica McClure, and the 1991 big-screen film Thousand Pieces of Gold. His music exudes an old-fashioned vulnerability. Melodies and atmosphere are captivating. "You Remind Me of Something (The Glory Goes)," from the 2008 album Lie Down in the Light, has an uncluttered, natural dignity. Currently touring.
Jack Bruce and Robin Trower
Songwriter/bassist Jack Bruce is a founding member of the legendary rock trio Cream, along with Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker. Bruce was born in 1943 in Glasgow, Scotland, and grew up in a musical household that was always on the road. As a result, the young Jack attended roughly fourteen different schools before ending up at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music on a scholarship for cello and composition. Some of Bruce's works include "I Feel Free," "White Room," "Politician," and "Sunshine of Your Love," which also featured him as lead singer. Bruce found his distinctive bass voice on the unique short-scale Gibson EB3; he also fancied the DanElectro Longhorn. The title "The Last Door," from Seven Moons, his 2008 co-release with Robin Trower, is righteous, unfailing rock and roll.
Artist: Jack Bruce and Robin Trower
Song: The Last Door
Album: Seven Moons
Erik Friedlander is a cellist and composer from New York City who grew up in an artistic home in Rockland County, New York (his father is the legendary photographer Lee Friedlander). His childhood, according to his Website, "was filled with the sounds of Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, McCoy Tyner, Ornette Coleman, and John Coltrane." Friedlander has worked with Laurie Anderson, Courtney Love's grrl band Hole, and John Zorn, to name a few. He has a distinctive style all his own, playing the cello in a multi-dimensional way, at times making the instrument sound like a mandolin or guitar. His album Block Ice & Propane is elegant, with rushes of genius. Start with "Airstream Envy."
Artist: Erik Friedlander
Song: Airstream Envy
Album: Block Ice & Propane
Melpo Mene is Erik Mattiason, born and raised in Stockholm, Sweden. Melpo Mene is named after the Greek muse of tragedy, who in mythology is the daughter of Zeus and Mnemosyne (the Titaness who rules memory). "I Adore You," from the new release Bring the Lions Out, currently featured in a Volvo ad, is sung with an abiding sweetness.
Artist: Melpo Mene
Song: I Adore You
Album: Bring the Lions Out