5 Incredible Online Music Resources to Explore

1. The Groundbreaking Educational Apps of Amphio (formerly called Touchpress)

The renowned team responsible for some of the most innovative educational apps such as “The Elements” (2010), “Barefoot World Atlas” (2012), and “Disney Animated” (2013) have created a collection of classical music apps that are interactive and beautifully designed, and full of unique features and expert commentary. I just downloaded “The Orchestra” which features Esa-Pekka Salonen conducting excerpts from 8 pieces covering the entire span of Western concert music, “Beethoven’s 9th Symphony”, which dives deep into the composer’s symphonic masterwork, and “Juilliard String Quartet”, which illuminates the interplay between the instruments in a legendary chamber work by Schubert. I’m extremely excited to dive into each app and experience some of my favorite classical pieces in a new way!

2. Explore the Score

I was lucky to find this hidden gem when looking for information about Musica Ricercata, an intriguing series of short piano pieces by the great 20th century composer György Ligeti. Turns out it that it was way more than I bargained for – a FREE interactive online resource on a set of modern works by Ligeti, Pierre Boulez, and Stravinsky. The site doesn’t have the best or sleekest design, but it more than makes up for it in content. You can follow along with scores, listen to commentary by A-list classical performers and read historical notes to put the compositions in context.

3. Syntorial

I’m really looking forward to demoing this acclaimed synthesizer-teaching software by Audible Genius. Through interactive lessons, videos, and quizzes, Syntorial aims to help composers and sound designers understand synthesis on a musical, practical level. It’s this fact that attracted me to the software – I really like that it emphasizes pragmatic skills and ear-training rather than focusing solely on theoretical knowledge.

4. Association for Cultural Equity Online Archive

Folklorist Alan Lomax’s massive collection of field recordings, folk songs, and interviews was digitized and archived online several years ago, and incredibly it is completely free. According to an NPR report, this was all part of Lomax’s plan even before the internet was invented. “Lomax recorded a staggering amount of folk music. He worked from the 1930s to the ’90s, and traveled from the Deep South to the mountains of West Virginia, all the way to Europe, the Caribbean and Asia” Lomax founded the nonprofit organization Association for Cultural Equity (ACE) in the ’80s, and since then “[executive director Don] Fleming and a small staff made up mostly of volunteers have digitized and posted some 17,000 sound recordings. ‘For the first time, everything that we’ve digitized of Alan’s field recording trips are online, on our website,” says Fleming. “It’s every take, all the way through. False takes, interviews, music.'”

5. The Smithsonian Jazz Oral History Program

As we lose more and more of great Jazz masters of the 20th century – Paul Bley, Toots Thielemans, Bobby Hutcherson, and Clark Terry in the last couple years alone – this sizable archive of Jazz oral histories becomes increasingly precious each year. Containing complete transcripts of interviews up to 6 hours long, and hundreds of mp3 audio clips as well, the Smithsonian archive captures priceless anecdotes and stories from Jazz legends like Ron Carter, Chick Corea, Benny Golson, Jimmy Heath, Shirley Horn, Elvin Jones, Sonny Rollins and many more. It’s a veritable treasure to any Jazz musician or enthusiast, as well as a fascinating historical look at 20th century America through the point of view of some of its most original and innovative artists.


Music and Spirituality, in the Words of Three Masters

I’ve long been interested in the connections between music and spirituality – however you choose to define it. I don’t pretend to have any spiritual answers, or even any concrete beliefs. However, I do find that in my own experience, it’s impossible for me to separate music from life. Issues and questions I have outside of music inevitably find their expression in my composition or improvisation. In fact, I think music can serve as the perfect laboratory for observing and learning about oneself, and an excellent and worthwhile way to practice living a spiritually-fulfilled life. Through studying and making music, it’s possible to also learn about the creative process, perseverance and discipline, ego and fear, ethics and integrity, collaboration and altruism, and the quest for meaning.

If music were a spiritual university, stage-fright and career-jealousy could be the introductory courses “Ego 101/102”. Your teacher could mark you down a whole letter grade in “Basic Decency in the Contemporary Rock Band” if you didn’t help the drummer pack up after the gig. And your GPA would be based not on how well you play your instrument but on how how pure your relationship to it remained…the day you learned to play like it like a complete beginner, you would graduate.

Anyway, here are few gems I’ve found online – some clips of a few of my favorite musicians sharing their own thoughts on music and spirituality. Hope you find some inspiration in these clips, and feel free to ignore the parts that don’t appeal to you and reinterpret the parts that do.  Continue reading

March ’17 Mix


  1. Blues March / Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers
  2. Na Baixa do Sapateiro / Banda Black Rio
  3. I Feel For You / Prince
  4. Don’t Touch My Hair / Solange, Sampha
  5. Rob Roy / Bill Frisell
  6. A Woman (Una Mujer) / João Gilberto
  7. Home Is Where The Hatred Is / Gil Scott-Heron
  8. American Tune / Paul Simon
  9. Suite de Danzas Criollas, Op. 15: Allegretto Cantabile / Alberto Ginastera, Barbara Nissman
  10. Les Fleurs / Minnie Riperton

February ’17 Mix

  1. Jazz Suite No. 1: 1. Waltz / Dmitri Shostakovich
  2. I Wonder U / Prince
  3. Chunari Chunari / Abhijeet and Anuradha Shriram
  4. But Not For Me / Ahmad Jamal
  5. Can’t She Tell – feat. Sly Stone / Billy Preston
  6. Armellodie / Chilly Gonzales
  7. Please Don’t Go / Stevie Wonder
  8. Running Away / Friendly Fires
  9. What’s New / Helen Merrill, Clifford Brown
  10. Expresso 2222 / Gilberto Gil

A Day in the Life of a Film Composer

On of the biggest challenges I’ve faced as a composer is dealing with the lack of structure of freelance work. I’m engaged in a never-ending battle to impose a daily schedule on my life, which tends to swing between the poles of overwhelming monsoons of work and anxiety-ridden droughts. But maybe for this matter, just like for musical inspiration, we can all look to the great masters for a little guidance. Here is infamous daily schedule of the legendary composer Erik Satie:

A Day in the Life of a Musician
by Erik Satie

An artist must regulate his life.

Here is a time-table of my daily acts. I rise at 7.18; am inspired from 10.23 to 11.47. I lunch at 12.11 and leave the table at 12.14. A healthy ride on horse-back round my domain follows from 1.19 pm to 2.53 pm. Another bout of inspiration from 3.12 to 4.7 pm. From 5 to 6.47 pm various occupations (fencing, reflection, immobility, visits, contemplation, dexterity, natation, etc.)

Dinner is served at 7.16 and finished at 7.20 pm. From 8.9 to 9.59 pm symphonic readings (out loud). I go to bed regularly at 10.37 pm. Once a week (on Tuesdays) I awake with a start at 3.14 am.

My only nourishment consists of food that is white: eggs, sugar, shredded bones, the fat of dead animals, veal, salt, coco-nuts, chicken cooked in white water, mouldy fruit, rice, turnips, sausages in camphor, pastry, cheese (white varieties), cotton salad, and certain kinds of fish (without their skin). I boil my wine and drink it cold mixed with the juice of the Fuschia. I have a good appetite but never talk when eating for fear of strangling myself.

I breathe carefully (a little at a time) and dance very rarely. When walking I hold my ribs and look steadily behind me.

My expression is very serious; when I laugh it is unintentional, and I always apologise very politely.

I sleep with only one eye closed, very profoundly. My bed is round with a hole in it for my head to go through. Every hour a servant takes my temperature and gives me another.


And here is a Spotify playlist for those unacquainted with Satie’s eccentric music, from the famous Gymnopedies and Gnossiennes to some deeper cuts.


January ’17 Mix

  1. Hard Times / John Legend, The Roots
  2. BTSTU / Jai Paul
  3. Love Has Come Around / Donald Byrd
  4. Only Memories Remain / My Morning Jacket
  5. Cooking Up Something Good / Mac Demarco
  6. This Must Be The Place / Talking Heads
  7. Realize / Benny Sings
  8. FDT / YG, Nipsey Hussle
  9. Mexican Chef / Xenia Rubinos
  10. Original Faubus Fables / Charles Mingus

Indian-American Jazz Musicians Vijay Iyer and Rudresh Mahanthappa on Identity, Community, and Belonging

I’ve been following the careers of Vijay Iyer and Rudresh Mahanthappa for a while. What inspires me about them, even more than their music, is their continuing determination to place their art within a larger context, to relate it to current events and pressing questions, and to use their success to shine light on vital issues. Iyer, in collaboration with poet and hip-hop artist Mike Ladd, has created large-scale works investigating fear and surveillance in airports post-9/11, critiquing and satirizing the 24-hour mainstream news cycle, and expressing the dreams of young veterans of color. Mahanthappa has released albums addressing stereotypes of Indians, exploring the ways that modern technology affects communication, and relating the history of Britain’s “South Asian Middle Passage” that enslaved South Asians for labor in the plantation economies of the Caribbean.

What also strikes me about Iyer and Mahanthappa is their commitment to grappling with their unusual and complicated place within jazz’s racial landscape: from encountering racism from critics, to confronting their own privilege as non-Black artists within a Black medium, to navigating the pitfalls of self-exoticization and inauthenticity. The road they continue to travel on is difficult and requires a lot of reflection and often humility. It’s actually a good microcosm of the situation that we as Indian Americans find ourselves in today, in a country where, as Vijay Iyer puts it, “to succeed in America is, somehow, to be complicit with the idea of America—which means that at some level you’ve made peace with its rather ugly past.”

Here are a couple articles where Iyer and Mahanthappa discuss these issues at length, and talk about their friendship and their seamless chemistry as musical collaborators:
1) Dual Identities: A Conversation with Jazz Soulmates Vijay Iyer and Rudresh Mahanthappa (Pitchfork)
2) Sangha: Collaborative Improvisations on Community (Critical Improv)

Some excerpts: Continue reading

December ’16 Mix

  1. Someday at Christmas / Stevie Wonder
  2. Frosti / Bjork
  3. Aurora / Bjork
  4. Urge for Going / Joni Mitchell
  5. White Winter Hymnal / Fleet Foxes
  6. Christmas in L.A. / Vulfpeck
  7. Greensleeves / John Coltrane
  8. Sugar Rum Cherry / Duke Ellington
  9. Come Ye Disconsolate / Roberta Flack, Donny Hathaway
  10. A Hazy Shade of Winter / Simon & Garfunkel
  11. Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening / Susan Graham, Ned Rorem

Copland’s “Appalachian Spring” and Manifest Destiny

I’m currently reading An Indigenous People’s History of the US by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, and one of the main takeaways is that settler-colonialism is an ongoing process in the US, not a relic from our past. The conflict over the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), which infringes on the sovereignty of Indians in the Standing Rock reservation and threatens their water supply, demonstrates that fact dramatically. And as families all over the country sat down to commemorate a holiday celebrating a fantasy of Pilgrim-Indian collaboration, the world was stunned by the spectacle of non-violent protesters being brutally repressed with tear gas, rubber bullets, dogs, concussion grenades, batons, and water cannons in subzero temperatures. The ideology of Manifest Destiny has to go. The problem is – what to do we do about all of the groundbreaking, masterful works of art that served to justify, celebrate or shape this genocidal ideology?

I’ve loved Appalachian Spring, Aaron Copland’s landmark Pulitzer-Prize winning ballet, for years. It’s an extremely influential and popular piece, and its impact can be felt in popular film scores, classic and modern, from Elmer Bernstein’s To Kill a Mockingbird to Thomas Newman’s Little Women, and especially John Williams’ Lincoln. I was studying and analyzing Appalachian Spring this month when my growing awareness of the #NoDAPL Movement prompted me to think about the piece in a completely different way.

Continue reading