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On Being with Krista Tippett is a public radio project delving into the human side of news stories + issues. Curated + edited by senior editor Trent Gilliss.

We publish guest contributions. We edit long; we scrapbook. We do big ideas + deep meaning. We answer questions.

We've even won a couple of Webbys + a Peabody Award.
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Tuesday Evening Melody: “Aria da Capo” from Glenn Gould 1981 Goldberg Variations

by Nancy Rosenbaum, producer

Glenn GouldThis week’s Tuesday evening melody is inspired by a listener question’s about last week’s show. On the heels of hearing "Autism and Humanity," Chase Fairfax posted this comment on our blog:

"I wonder what the orchestra music was that punctuated this story from time to time."

We think Chase is referring to Glenn Gould’s 1981 version of the “Aria da Capo” of Bach’s Goldberg Variations.

Some of Gould’s biographers have speculated that he may have had Asperger’s syndrome. Gould was sensitive to noise and temperature; he hated the sound of clapping and wore a hat, coat, and gloves, even in warm weather. He was also known for rocking and humming when he played. He stopped giving public concerts at the age of 32.

Gould preferred his 1981 rendition rather than his earlier recording from 1955. According to music critic Tim Page who interviewed Gould about the two versions, the 1981 recording “has a certain sadness and sense of reflectiveness… an autumnal quality.” As it turns out, Gould was in the autumn of his own life as these later recordings were being produced; he died of a stroke at the age of 50, just before the 1981 recording was released.

If you want to compare the two versions, check out the show’s playlist for the 1955 version. Which one do you prefer?

Photo courtesy of Library and Archives Canada.

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Tuesday Evening Melody: “I Know” by Cynthia Hopkins

by Nancy Rosenbaum, producer

Cynthia Hopkins in The Truth: A Tragedy(photo: Paula Court)

Cynthia Hopkins is a Brooklyn-based musician and performer whose voice taps a quiet, deep well of emotion. If you’re looking for catharsis, find a private chamber and and try belting out one of her songs when no one else can hear you.

"I Know" comes from her most recent play, The Truth: A Tragedy, an exploration of her relationship with her ailing father:

"It’s an homage to him. It’s a portrait of him. And it’s also an attempt to make peace with him and to portray the evolution of my perspective on him from anger and frustration to celebration."

In this song, Hopkins suggests that we don’t really know our parents in their fullness. Like the bigger cosmos, these people who reared us are beautiful mysteries. No longer saddled by anger or disappointment, Hopkins makes peace with her father’s indirect expressions of love. There are other lovely songs to explore from her play, including “”Love,” “Resist the Tide,” and “The Answer” — all of which can be downloaded for free from Gloria Deluxe, the website of Hopkins’ band.

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Tuesday Evening Melody: “One Day You’ll Dance for Me, New York City”

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

Oh my… (sigh)

Thomas Dybdahl’s mellifluous voice and silk-ridden lyrics are so crashinglybeautiful. This week’s unexpected Tuesday evening melody.

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Tuesday Evening Melody: “The Sound of Sunshine” by Michael Franti

by Chris Heagle, technical director/producer

They say that miracles are never ceasing, and every little soul needs a little releasing…

As the first day of summer came and went last week, I found myself raising my fist to the sky and shouting La Niña! Please pardon the blatent regionalism, but here in the Twin Cities, where On Being is produced, it’s been a pretty slow start to summer. Tons of rain for an already soaked landscape and temps that have been about 20 degrees below average.

In this part of the country, knowing the details of the weather are not just a staple of small talk. It borders on obsession. Normally, I would include myself in that camp (after all, I’m blogging about it now!), but these days, I just want a couple weeks of uneventful summer sun.

This Michael Franti track, which came out last fall, is definitely more pop and less political than his previous releases. That might be too much of a departure for diehard Franti fans, but I can’t help putting this hopeful song near the top of my summer playlist.

What’s on your summer playlist? And more importantly, why? Send us your Tuesday Evening Melody and we just might publish it next Tuesday.

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Tuesday Evening Melody: Philip Glass “The Play of the Wrathful and Peaceful Deities”

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

There’s no other composer quite like him. Philip Glass summons the inner strength — the power and majesty — and the vulnerable adult who is always a child inside. His music stirs something primal; he reminds of us of our vulnerability. His music compels us to remember how profound we all can be, even when we can’t feel or say one remarkable word.

I’ve been moved by “Mad Rush” on several occasions, but I had no idea of the back story until now. It was originally written for the organ, which I encourage you to listen to, but the reason it was written is just as interesting. Glass tells the story this way:

"In 1979, most of us didn’t really know very much about His Holiness the Dalai Lama. We weren’t sure exactly when he would arrive, though there was a time specified. I was asked to compose a piece of somewhat indefinite length. Not actually a problem for me. I played in the organ; I’ve become very comfortable with this as a piano piece.

It eventually acquired the name “Mad Rush,” which had nothing to do with its original purpose but… For those who are interested in the Tibetan iconography of Tibetan Buddhism, you might think of it as the play of the wrathful and peaceful deities.”

You can watch Glass’ performance of “Mad Rush” at the Garrison Institute on April 13, 2008 at the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine in New York City.

(Hats off to findout for reminding me of this exquisite piece!)

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Tuesday Evening Melody: “The Birth and Death of the Day” by Explosions in the Sky

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

The Wedding Couple in the Wind and the Rain

This evening’s melody is recommended by Mila Vecore, a listener who heard our call-out for song suggestions on the radio and made her way to our submissions form. This is exactly the kind of story we were looking for:

Wedding March"My mind (and soul) went straight to a song by an instrumental band, Explosions in the Sky, called "The Birth and Death of the Day." It is amazing how much emotion it evokes without a single word being expressed. In fact, I chose this as our wedding march and, as if the weather seemed to conspire with the music, an unexpected and very temporary rainstorm hit our outdoor ceremony, only to dissipate shortly thereafter with beautiful sunshine.

Wedding Attendees Run from the RainThis song captured that moment, but every time I listen to it I can tell it would be memorable for many others, for their own reasons, if they just were exposed to it.”

I hadn’t heard this track before. But, after listening to it, you’ll madly long to have attended Mila’s wedding!

A big thanks to exposing us to this album! We’re glad you wrote.

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Tuesday Evening Melody: Bobby McFerrin + Esperanza Spalding Jam at the Grammys

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

Next week we release our show with Bobby McFerrin for Father’s Day. I guarantee you’ll want to download it. It’s a magical, somewhat unexpected conversation. One of the ideas he and Krista dig into is the importance of improvisation — and how he finds great meaning in the mystery of the moment, even embracing the fear of unexpectedness.

This duet with Esperanza (yeah, we’re on a first-name basis) is out of this world. Take a few minutes to pay witness and enjoy.

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Tuesday Evening Melody: “North Dakota” by Chris Knight

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

Missouri River Aerial 6-1-11  03Yeah, I’m a day late — partly due to the Memorial Day holiday but more so for the fact that I’m back in North Dakota taking some sandbagging vacation days. This sorrow song from Chris Knight is my homage to the great prairie state and the Missouri River, which is reclaiming its banks and swallowing up homes and lands it hasn’t said hello to since the Big Muddy was dammed nearly 60 years ago.

The effort may be futile and nature may remind us that flood control is never foolproof. But to try to salvage what remains is noble, whether it mitigates disaster or not. And the way that catastrophe galvanizes a community is one positive I’ll take from these days in the sun with shovel in hand, and lower back in tow.

About the image: The Missouri River waters near Bismarck and Mandan can be seen spreading to areas rarely touched due to the increased releases from the Garrison Dam. (photo: Bill Prokopyk/North Dakota National Guard Public Affairs Office)

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