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The sun's season became official this past weekend — so what do you want to hear? Rooftop bops? Windows-down coasters? Sweated-through squall?

Back at the beginning of time, the human voice was the very first instrument. Probably close in second place were folks banging on stuff – in other words, percussionists. The quartet of gentlemen who form the Chicago-based Third Coast Percussion takes primordial pounding into a completely distinctive new league. To be sure, in this Tiny Desk performance, they'll play their sophisticated, modern marimbas and vibraphones, but be on the lookout for the subtleties of tuned cowbells and 3/4" galvanized steel pipes, like those found at the local hardware store.

The #MeToo movement has been a cultural reckoning across industries, from Hollywood to restaurants — but one of the oldest that's been affected is classical music. In March, James Levine, a longtime conductor of the Metropolitan Opera in New York City, was fired for allegations of sexual misconduct. And now, centuries-old works from Carmen to Don Giovanni are being challenged for misogynistic plots and themes.

Don't call Thea Musgrave a "woman composer."

"When I'm composing, I'm a human being," she insists. "It's not a question of sexuality."

In a suit filed Friday by the Metropolitan Opera, five men have made newly public accusations against conductor and pianist James Levine, who was closely associated with the Met for four decades. In total, nine men have now come forward, either by name or anonymously, with accusations against Levine.

The myriad stories about Swedish soprano Birgit Nilsson usually fall into two groups: the ones about her enormous, laser-focused voice and those about her rapier-sharp wit.

Call it a percussionist's answer to Flight of the Bumblebee — with a twist. "Filigree," by composer Robert Honstein, is a rapid-fire workout for solo vibraphone. The instrument's bars, however, are partly covered in tinfoil, which adds a unique layer of color to the music.

Matt Marks, a young composer, musician and founding member of the contemporary music ensemble Alarm Will Sound, died suddenly Friday, May 11. The group made an announcement Saturday on Twitter, with no cause of death given. Marks was 38.

Aspiring orchestral musicians have long known that the road to a professional career is arduous and paved with risks. But new research from the U.K. shows that even attaining the brass ring of an orchestral job does not necessarily provide financial security. In fact, even with salaried, full-time employment, many British orchestral musicians are struggling to pay their bills.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify or Apple Music playlist at the bottom of the page.

Arvo Pärt is one of the most popular, most performed living composers. He's beloved worldwide for his signature sound – a spacious, meditative music that tends to sound timeless.

But there's a lesser-known side to the 82-year-old Estonian's career. It's a story that can be traced in a new recording of Pärt's four Symphonies. The album is a musical journey spanning 45 years in fervently detailed performances by the NFM Wrocław Philharmonic, conducted by fellow Estonian Tõnu Kaljuste.

Stephanie Richards' trumpet sounds like deep space wrapped around your head, a flood in the endless void.

All Songs Considered's Robin Hilton chats with NPR Music's Lars Gotrich, Tom Huizenga, Marissa Lorusso, Sidney Madden and Ann Powers about some of the best new albums dropping on Apr. 6, from the scorching punk of Norway's Dark Times to the mesmerizing cello drones of Clarice Jensen, rap phenom Cardi B, dance pop singer Kylie Minogue's country turn and much more.

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Vespers, the traditional late afternoon prayer service, gets an enigmatic twist in a new video by director James Darrah, premiered here, with music from Missy Mazzoli, performed by the spirited violinist Olivia De Prato. The track is from her new album, Streya.

The experiences of black men in America today are making their way onto the classical concert stage, thanks to internationally acclaimed tenor Lawrence Brownlee. Brownlee enlisted the help of two other prominent African-American artists, composer Tyshawn Sorey and poet Terrance Hayes.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify or Apple Music playlist at the bottom of the page.


Cellist Clarice Jensen says the music on her debut solo album solicits "meditation and disorientation" — two words that, while not mutually exclusive, seem to suggest both a remedy for, and the reality of, a complicated world.

When Johann Sebastian Bach compiled the first book of the Well-Tempered Clavier in 1722, he wrote that the 24 preludes and fugues were "for the profit and use of musical youth desirous of learning, and especially for the pastime of those already skilled in this study."

The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire of 1911 was an industrial disaster that killed 146 garment workers in New York City. The fire became a touchstone for the labor movement of the 20th century. An opera inspired by the disaster tells the story from a different point of view and it's getting a special type of New York debut.

When it comes to heavyweight game-changers like Claude Debussy, super fans even celebrate death anniversaries. It was 100 years ago, March 25, 1918, that the visionary composer lost his battle with cancer and died in Paris at age 56.

To mark the occasion, Warner Classics has issued a handsome 33-CD box containing what the label says is "the most complete collection ever made" of Debussy's music.

The National Library of Congress has shared its latest batch of musical inductees to the National Recording Registry. The 25 works — a mix of singles, field recordings, albums and soundtracks — represent myriad genres and time periods, and bring the Registry's overall catalog up to 500 entries.

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