First Listen: Typhoon, 'Offerings'

Typhoon’s Offerings comes out Jan. 12.

Jeremy Hernandez/Courtesy of the artist

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Jeremy Hernandez/Courtesy of the artist

The fourth album Offerings, the most ominous and sonically dramatic record from Typhoon, opens with this line: “Listen — of all the things that you are about to lose, this will be the most painful.” And for the next 70 minutes, bandleader, singer, guitarist and songwriter Kyle Morton weaves a tale of a man losing his memory and with it, his identity. Kyle says that he’s “preoccupied with memory, losing memory, and trying to recapture memory.” He told me in an email that for this album, the band’s first since 2013, that he wanted to explore “the dual theme of (1) what it means to be a person stripped of all memory and (2) what happens to a world that loses all sense of history (read: modern America). In a nutshell, neither outlook is good, though hope is offered here in small doses.”

Typhoon, Offerings

The album is divided into four parts: “Floodplains,” “Flood,” “Reckoning,” and “Afterparty.” Each is a representation of the mental state of the main character realizing something is wrong, then experiencing the stress and strife that ensues, and accepting before yielding to the final horrifying fate. The tale parallels the state of our times — an age of endless information and a loss of meaning. “There’s no future, there’s no lighthouse on the lake,” Kyle Morton sings. “You’re just rambling through endless corridors — a mouse lost in a maze.”

Had this album come out even a dozen years ago, many of us might have spent the coming year dissecting and poring over the density and meaning buried in this record. The irony here is that coming off a year where there was an absolute avalanche of new music — which for me made 2017 a difficult time to dive deep into any one record — this album, stocked with literary references and political parallels, may become the victim of its own subject. Kyle raises this question early on, on the second song called “Rorschach”: “We have all the information now, but what does it mean?”

I hope that Offerings doesn’t become a casualty of its own tale. This album of brilliant storytelling, clocking in at almost 2300 words, is worth dissecting and poring over. Unlike previous music from Typhoon, where roughly a dozen musicians normally includes big and uplifting brass, this one is more guitar-centric, with dark string arrangements. After listening to it, I texted my All Songs Considered co-host Robin Hilton the following: “good lord this Typhoon album is brilliant … haven’t cried listening to a record since [Sufjan Stevens’] Carrie And Lowell.” Offerings is truly a wise and ruminative record.

Typhoon, Offerings

First Listen: Typhoon, ‘Offerings’





























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                              Intel Acknowledges Chip-Level Security Vulnerability In Processors

                              A laptop that uses Intel’s sixth-generation Core chip known as Skylake, at the Intel booth during CES International in Las Vegas, in Jan. 2016.

                              John Locher/AP

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                              John Locher/AP

                              Security researchers have found serious vulnerabilities in chips made by Intel and other companies that if exploited could leave passwords and other sensitive data exposed.

                              “Several researchers, including a member of Google’s Project Zero team, found that a design technique used in chips from Intel, Arm and others could allow hackers to access data from the memory on your device. The problem impacts processors going back more than two decades and could let hackers access passwords, encryption keys or sensitive information open in applications,” according to CNET.

                              The discovery comes shortly after the chipmaker said it was working on a patch.

                              In a statement released Wednesday, Intel acknowledged the problem, saying that it is “working closely with many other technology companies, including AMD, ARM Holdings and several operating system vendors, to develop an industry-wide approach to resolve this issue promptly and constructively. Intel has begun providing software and firmware updates to mitigate these exploits.”

                              Wired explains that the bug “… allows low-privilege processes to access memory in the computer’s kernel, the machine’s most privileged inner sanctum. Theoretical attacks that exploit that bug, based on quirks in shortcuts Intel has implemented for faster processing, could allow malicious software to spy deeply into other processes and data on the target computer or smartphone.”

                              According to The Associated Press:

                              “Tech companies typically withhold details about security problems until fixes are available so that hackers wouldn’t have a roadmap to exploit the flaws.

                              But in this case, Intel was forced to disclose the problem Wednesday after British technology site The Register reported it, causing Intel’s stock to fall.”

                              The Register reports that “Programmers are scrambling to overhaul the open-source Linux kernel’s virtual memory system. Meanwhile, Microsoft is expected to publicly introduce the necessary changes to its Windows operating system in an upcoming Patch Tuesday: these changes were seeded to beta testers running fast-ring Windows Insider builds in November and December.”

                              The tech site added that, “Crucially, these updates to both Linux and Windows will incur a performance hit on Intel products.”

                              However, that is a claim that Intel disputes: “… any performance impacts are workload-dependent, and, for the average computer user, should not be significant and will be mitigated over time,” the company says.

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                              Winter Storm Rakes East Coast, Bringing Snow To Florida, Georgia, Carolinas

                              People attend to their vehicle on Interstate 26, near Savannah, Ga., on Wednesday.

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                              Robert Ray/AP

                              Snow fell as far south as Florida on Wednesday as a major winter storm — being called a bomb cyclone by forecasters — ran up the U.S. East Coast, bringing frigid temperatures to parts of the country that normally do not experience such conditions.

                              States of emergency have been declared by the governors of Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia. In the northeast, trucks were being loaded with rock salt ahead of the storm’s arrival.

                              The cold has been blamed for more than a dozen deaths over the past few days, including two homeless people in Houston, according to Reuters.

                              The Miami Herald says it has been three years since people in South Florida experienced cold like this. “We are expecting some really cold temperatures and wind chills,” Andrew Hagen, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Miami said Wednesday night.

                              The state capital, Tallahassee, got a bit of snow.

                              Snow on my grapefruit tree in Tallahassee this morning!

                              — Jared Woolstenhulme (@jaredwool) January 3, 2018

                              Parts of Georgia have seen more than 3 inches of snow.

                              The airport at Savannah got 1.2 inches – the most the city had experienced in 28 years.

                              Charleston, S.C., experienced near-record snowfall, with more than five inches. South Carolina Public Radio’s Victoria Hansen says, “The last time Charleston saw so much snow was Dec. 23, 1989 — a white Christmas just months after Hurricane Hugo caused so much damage. Then, the city got six inches.”

                              Sen. Tim Scott decided to have some fun with the weather, tweeting video of himself being pulled along in the snow behind a vehicle while he knelt on a boogie board. It didn’t last long before he lost his grip and tumbled backward.

                              My Weather Channel audition.

                              — Tim Scott (@SenatorTimScott) January 3, 2018

                              Flights from Charleston to D.C. cancelled. Alternative transportation methods unsuccessful.

                              — Tim Scott (@SenatorTimScott) January 3, 2018

                              National Weather Service offices in Raleigh and Morehead City, N.C., continued to up the amount of snow forecast throughout Wednesday, adjusting the forecast to take into account heavy snowfall to the west, The News Observer reported.

                              By early Thursday morning, snow was falling in Virginia and the District of Columbia.

                              The city of Boston — nearly three years after its record snowfall — was taking no chances.

                              “We are going to be ready for the storm,” Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said. “We have 40,000 tons of rock salt ready to be loaded and spread throughout the city of Boston. We are going to have 700 pieces of equipment.”

                              Governor Charlie Baker says utility workers are already deployed around the state, spending the night in hotels, so they are ready to deal with power outages, NPR’s Tovia Smith reports from Boston.

                              American Airlines suspended all departures from Boston on Thursday due to the expected snow and high winds, CNN reports.

                              And, according to Weather Underground, “By the time Friday is here, people along the length of North America’s East Coast will be recuperating from a punishing round of heavy snow, high winds, and bitter cold. This nor’easter … will rank among the most impressive of recent decades in its fast development, deep low pressure, and fierce winds. Various models agreed that [the storm’s] surface low would deepen by an astounding 30-40 millibars or more from late Wednesday to late Thursday, more than qualifying the midlatitude cyclone as a meteorological “bomb” (defined as 24 millibars of deepening in 24 hours). The deepening rate could be among the strongest observed off the East Coast in the last several decades of records, according to [the National Weather Service’s] David Roth.

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                              Trump Dissolves Controversial Election Commission

                              President Trump, flanked by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach and Vice President Pence, speaks during the first meeting of his Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity in July.

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                              Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

                              The White House announced Wednesday that President Trump’s controversial Advisory Commission on Election Integrity — which was mired in lawsuits and had received pushback from states over voter data requests — has been dissolved.

                              “Despite substantial evidence of voter fraud, many states have refused to provide the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity with basic information relevant to its inquiry,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement. “Rather than engage in endless legal battles at taxpayer expense, today President Donald J. Trump signed an executive order to dissolve the Commission, and he has asked the Department of Homeland Security to review these issues and determine next courses of action.”

                              Trump created the commission in May 2017 after he continued to insist that as many as 5 million votes were cast illegally in the November 2016 presidential election where he bested Democratic rival Hillary Clinton. But there has been no evidence to back up that claim, and the president’s assertions have been dismissed by election officials and experts. Trump won the Electoral College, giving him the White House, but he lost the popular vote to Clinton by almost 3 million votes.

                              Multiple lawsuits were filed against the group, which some Republicans on the panel last fall complained ultimately hobbled its work.

                              Democrats and voting rights groups were quick to cheer the panel’s demise. In a statement, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said that it was nothing more than “a front to suppress the vote, perpetrate dangerous and baseless claims, and was ridiculed from one end of the country to the other. This shows that ill-founded proposals that just appeal to a narrow group of people won’t work, and we hope they’ll learn this lesson elsewhere.”

                              The commission was touted by the White House as bipartisan but was led by Vice President Pence and Kansas Republican Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who has long claimed there is widespread voter fraud by noncitizens despite providing no evidence of any such improprieties and only prosecuting a few fraud cases in Kansas.

                              The group’s first action was to ask states for detailed voter data, including the names, addresses, birthdates, partial Social Security numbers, party affiliation, felon status and other data for every registered voter. But several states expressed concern over how such information might be used by the administration.

                              “I’m not going to risk sensitive information for 3.2 million Kentuckians getting in the wrong hands, into the public domain and possibly for the wrong reasons, to keep people away from the ballot box,” Kentucky Democratic Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes told NPR’s Ari Shapiro during an interview on All Things Considered in June.

                              It wasn’t just Democrats who were resisting. Mississippi Republican Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann said that when he received the data request, his response would be to tell the commission to “go jump in the Gulf of Mexico and Mississippi is a great State to launch from.”

                              Ultimately, the panel held only two meetings, and Democrats on the commission complained they weren’t being kept up to date about the group’s actions.

                              In October, Maine Democratic Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap wrote in a letter to the commission’s executive director that he had “received utterly no information or updates from Commission staff or leadership about ongoing active research, inquiries for research requests, documents for consideration during future meetings, or indeed any information about whether or not the Chair has plans on convening another meeting.”

                              One of the five Democratic members died in October as well, and a researcher for the commission was arrested on charges of possessing child pornography.

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                              Confusion Follows Trump's Tweeted Threat To Cut Aid To Palestinians

                              A Palestinian paints a picture showing President Trump and the sole of a shoe in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday.

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                              The Middle East is a region that is used to diplo-speak. When U.S. officials talk about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, they usually parse their words carefully. President Trump, though, is changing that, and it is causing confusion.

                              Last month, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley explained to the world that although the administration decided to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, its final status is still up for negotiation.

                              “The president took great care not to prejudge final-status negotiations in any way, including the specific boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem,” Haley told the U.N. Security Council. “That remains a subject to be negotiated only by the parties.”

                              …peace treaty with Israel. We have taken Jerusalem, the toughest part of the negotiation, off the table, but Israel, for that, would have had to pay more. But with the Palestinians no longer willing to talk peace, why should we make any of these massive future payments to them?

                              — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 2, 2018

                              But President Trump said Tuesday via Twitter that he has “taken Jerusalem, the toughest part of the negotiation, off the table.” He threatened to cut “massive future payments” of aid to Palestinians if they don’t start peace talks with the Israelis. And he tweeted that because of the Jerusalem decision, the Israelis “would have had to pay more.”

                              That last part confused Israeli lawmaker Avi Dichter, who told Israeli radio, “Only the devil knows what the president meant by that.”

                              On Tuesday, Haley warned of a possible cut to U.S. support for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, which helps Palestinian refugees, unless the Palestinians come back to the negotiating table. The U.S. is the largest donor to the agency.

                              Palestinians who are seeking East Jerusalem as their future capital are furious about what they call Trump’s attempts at “blackmail.”

                              Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, told Reuters his government is not opposed to re-entering peace talks, as long as they are on the basis of creating a Palestinian state along the border that existed before Israel captured land in the 1967 war.

                              “It used to be the State Department spokesman would have carefully crafted statements, but now people are saying, ‘What should I believe? Should I believe those officials or should I believe what the president says from his gut?’ ” said David Makovsky of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Makovsky, who has tracked Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts for years as a journalist and a former State Department official, says the issue of Jerusalem is so emotional that the White House is going to have to clarify this.

                              “Both of these ideas cannot be true at the same time,” he said of the December remarks that Jerusalem’s boundaries are up for negotiation and this month’s tweet that Jerusalem is off the table. “What’s then to negotiate if you just took Jerusalem off the table?”

                              A U.S. official tried to play this down, arguing that the president has only taken off the table that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital — not Palestinian claims to the eastern part of the city. Separately, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the administration is still committed to an Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

                              But Tamara Cofman Wittes of the Brookings Institution says the “carefully drafted staff verbiage cannot hold up against the assault of the president’s impulsive announcements.”

                              Leaders around the world have gotten used to this “bluster,” Wittes says, but they should not discount it.

                              “Even when mitigated or tempered by post facto staff work,” she says, “these pronouncements tend to hold up in one form or another.”

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                              Companies In Iceland Now Required To Demonstrate They Pay Men, Women Fairly

                              In 2016, people gather at Iceland’s parliament, the Althing, in Reykjavik. Iceland is the first country in the world to make employers prove they offer equal pay regardless of gender, ethnicity, sexuality or nationality.

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                              Frank Augstein/AP

                              Starting this week, companies in Iceland are required to demonstrate that they pay male and female employees fairly — without gender discrimination — or face daily fines.

                              The law, which was passed last year and went into effect on Monday, is believed to be the first of its kind in the world, and covers both the private and public sectors.

                              Some headlines have claimed that the new law makes it illegal to pay men more than women. That’s not exactly what happened. In Iceland — as in many countries, including the U.S. — it was already illegal to pay men and women differently on the basis of their gender. (And, to be clear, it was and is legal to pay a man more than a woman, or vice versa, provided there’s a valid reason.)

                              As the Icelandic Women’s Rights Association notes, equal pay for equal work has been mandated by Icelandic laws since 1963.

                              What’s remarkable about the new law in Iceland is how it enforcesequal pay standards. It does not rely on an employee to prove she was discriminated against. Instead, the burden is on companies to prove that their pay practices are fair.

                              The policy change comes after years of discussion and pilot testing, based on frustration with the fact that several gender-equity laws were not budging the actual pay gap.

                              Out of all the countries on earth, Iceland has the best track record on gender equality, according to the World Economic Forum. But the country still had a persistent pay gap just over 16 percent as of last year. The gap is present across all occupational groups. According to the Nordic Labour Journal, figures from 2010 showed about 8 percent of that year’s gap remained “unexplained” after factoring in possible justifications.

                              Iceland’s new law applies to companies with 25 employees or more. Every three years, the companies will need to confirm that they are paying men and women equally for jobs of equal value. If they aren’t certified, a daily fine will stack up.

                              Nordic Information on Gender explains how the process works:

                              “[T]he employer must determine which work tasks each position entails and then assign a value. The salary must be decided based on the position and not the person carrying out the work. The idea is that this will eliminate salary discrimination.

                              ” ‘The standard makes employers pay a fixed salary for a certain type of work. However, there is some room for an upward adjustment for example if a worker adds extra value to the work, but such exceptions must be decided in accordance with the standard and justified in writing,’ says Maríanna Traustadóttir [from the Icelandic Confederation of Labour].

                              “She points out that the standard makes the setting of salaries more clear and transparent, which benefits both the employers and the employee.”

                              Those equal-pay standards have been suggested to companies since 2012, but this is the first time they will be mandatory.

                              The focus of the law is specifically on gender equity. However, as Iceland’s welfare office notes, the standard “can be used to prevent and eradicate all sorts of discrimination.” Functionally, the law will also block pay discrimination on “race, religion, disability, occupational disability, age and sexual orientation grounds,” the BBC noted last year.

                              The new law was passed — perhaps not coincidentally — a year after female candidates won nearly half the seats in Iceland’s parliament.

                              As NPR’s Bill Chappell reports, the country is a leader on gender issues:

                              “Iceland is also pushing other European countries to close the wage gap — the country’s Social Affairs and Equality Minister Thorsteinn Viglundsson called pay equity a matter of necessity Thursday, during a panel discussion on the topic in Brussels, where the European Union is based.

                              “Iceland is one of several countries that have stepped up their contributions to groups that work on behalf of women’s reproductive and sexual health, such as the U.N. Population Fund and She Decides.”

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                              Sweeping New Music Law Expedites A $1.6 Billion Lawsuit Against Spotify

                              The introduction of the Music Modernization Act had the effect of prompting Wixin, a music publishing company, to file legal action against Spotify before the beginning of the new year.

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                              Mark Wilson/Getty Images

                              When it comes to reporting on Spotify and the company’s strained relationship to songwriters and publishers, it’s beginning to sound like a broken… system. But a possible fix is in.

                              Just two days before New Year’s Eve, the music publishing company Wixin, which manages the compositions of a wide cross section of artists from Neil Young to Rage Against The Machine, filed a lawsuit against Spotify over its failure to properly license those works before making them available to stream.

                              The new lawsuit is not the first (or the second or the third) brought against the world’s most popular streaming service over compositions, which are legally discrete from recordings and require a separate license (a “mechanical”). In fact, Wixin’s action is directly related to a $43 million settlement that Spotify struck six months ago over a largely identical suit against it that it hoped would sunset further court battles.

                              “Unfortunately, the Ferrick settlement,” reads Wixin’s complaint, referring to the $43 million agreement struck last year, “is still grossly insufficient to compensate songwriters and publishers for Spotify’s actions, as well as procedurally unjust.” It’s seeking a “total statutory award of at least $1.6 billion.” That language closely mirrors that of another legal action, brought against Spotify one month after the Ferrick settlement was announced.

                              The timing of the suit is inauspicious for Spotify — today it reportedly filed papers with the SEC for an initial listing on the stock exchange some time in the first half of this year.

                              While the reason for the suit isn’t new, the reason for its as-late-in-the-year-as-you-can-get filing is. If that settlement didn’t quite protect Spotify against lawsuits like Wixin’s (songwriters and publishers can opt out of the Ferrick deal) then a new piece of legislation will — and it’s the reason the company is going after Spotify now.

                              On Dec. 21, Republican Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia introduced that new piece of bipartisan legislation, which makes sweeping changes to the labyrinthine licensing system for compositions that has left many songwriters in the lurch and tech companies on the hook. It would also prevent lawsuits like Wixin’s from being filed.

                              “It’s the Music Modernization Act and the January 1 deadline it imposes forced our clients’ hands,” Daniel Schacht of Donahue Fitzgerald LLP, the firm handling Wixin’s case, tell NPR of the Dec. 29 filing.

                              “We’ve been working on this now for a little over four-and-a-half years,” Collins said in an interview with NPR conducted on Dec. 20. “We’re trying to provide a way so that [digital services] can provide the music they want to, have a safe haven where they can match the royalties, where the songwriters can also benefit — that they can get fairly compensated. It’s really is a product of a lot of hard work to reach a consensus. I have to admit, there were times during the journey that I would have that I’d just throw up my hands and not find the answer.”

                              The Music Modernization Act establishes, among many other things, what tech companies, songwriters and publishers have needed but failed to create for some time: a central database that identifies which songwriter and/or publisher controls which composition. (A bill introduced late last summer by Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wisc., also attempted to address the database issue, but was not taken seriously by the stakeholders involved.)

                              That database, while long needed, has never been created (or really even come close), mostly due to its cost and disagreements about control of the proprietary information that would have to be held within it.

                              “It allows the digital service providers to have a central place to go for not only paying royalties,” Collins says, “but protects songwriters from them using things they shouldn’t be. But also, to give songwriters a place where they can be confident that they’re going to be compensated as well.”

                              To accomplish this, tech companies would foot the bill for its creation in exchange for a blanket license that would cover the compositions within it, help them pay the songwriters who control those works.

                              Digital services “will basically be indemnified, where they will not be able to be sued, which is something that songwriters and publishers had to give them — with all these things, it’s all quid pro quo,” Michael Eames, president of the Association of Independent Music Publishers, tells NPR. Eames says that organizations like his, which represent smaller music publishers, could benefit from the bill. “We’re having to monitor and police our data in multiple databases through multiple vendors in order to get paid. It’s difficult, to say the least.”

                              The bill was drafted after consultation with industry groups that represent the major stakeholders involved, including the National Music Publishers Association, the Digital Media Association (which represents services like Spotify), ASCAP and BMI (the two leading performance-rights organizations) and the Nashville Songwriters Association International, among others. All are support its passage.

                              However, Songwriters Guild of America President Rick Carnes issued a letter the day of its introduction on his organization’s doubts around the new law. Among his concerns:

                              … serious fairness, transparency and practical issues related to the proposed processes of setting up the licensing collective, the distributing of unidentified monies on a market share basis and the need to better protect music creator economic rights in that context, the vague nature of any opt-out mechanisms, the granting of relief from statutory damages liability to prior willful infringers, the scope of the musical composition database (including songwriter/composer information), the provisions concerning shortfall and other funding aspects of the collective, the absence of direct distribution of royalties by the collective to songwriters and composers, the vague nature of the audit activities to be optionally conducted by the collective, and the complications in that and other regards raised by obvious conflicts of interest issues.

                              Spotify declined to comment on both the Music Modernization Act and Wixin’s lawsuit. But considering its forthcoming public listing, it will have to assuage investors’ worries over a seemingly endless parade of litigation. (Apple was sued on Dec. 28 over the same issue.)

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                              Robert Mann, A Founder Of The Julliard String Quartet, Has Died

                              Violinist Robert Mann, accepting a Recording Academy Lifetime Achievement award on behalf of the Juilliard String Quartet in Los Angeles in 2011 .

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                              Noel Vasquez/Getty Images

                              Robert Mann, a violinist and one of the founders of the Juilliard String Quartet, died on Monday at home in Manhattan. He was 97 years old.

                              When he was a youngster in Portland, Oregon, Mann dreamed of being a forest ranger. But destiny apparently had other plans for him: instead, he became a legendary musician.

                              Robert Mann went to Juilliard to teach after serving in the Army during World War II, starting his group with other returned GIs in 1946. He told the NPR program Performance Today in 1993 about how he’d talked Juilliard’s then-president, the composer William Schuman, into creating a resident quartet, for which he would play first violin.

                              “I told him,” Mann recalled, “that I hoped our quartet would play the classical music as if it had been just composed, and the contemporary music as if it were classical.”

                              And that is just what the Juilliard String Quartet did. The ensemble recorded everything from Bach to the string quartets of Bela Bartok. Along the way, they became one of the world’s premier chamber ensembles, winning four Grammy Awards for their work, plus a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Recording Academy — the first classical group to win that prize.

                              For more than 50 years, Robert Mann remained the constant in the Juilliard String Quartet, while other musicians came and went. He was a performer, composer, educator, conductor — and an institution. Mann mentored generations of musicians who followed in his footsteps; among them were the Emerson and Brentano string quartets.

                              In a 2014 documentary film about him, Mann threw out a rough estimate of how many performances he’d given with his group. “I’ve played only about six thousand concerts with the quartet — six thousand! And you learn not from the people’s praise, but from the people, the critics and the people in the audience’s criticism, you learn over the years what works and what doesn’t work.”

                              And like the Juilliiard String Quartet itself, Mann became an institution.

                              Accentus MusicYouTube

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