The National Conversation

Music + Radio

In this section we feature musicians and radio in the news. Find more music news in the Music Notes section. 

A sketch portrait of Deb Borda A sketch portrait of Joan Tower A sketch portrait of Jason Moon


If you genuinely want neighbors who have never been to your house to drop by, you have to make a point
of inviting them. This simple act of courtesy is the mission of Phil the Hall, the New York Philharmonic’s new initiative to reach out to a wide array of dedicated New Yorkers, including emergency medical workers, public service professionals and volunteers, and welcome them to special programs offering five dollar tickets and general-admission seating.

The Philharmonic contacted some 30 organizations, including Coalition for the Homeless, El Centro
del Inmigrante, the Bowery Mission, New Women New Yorkers, God’s Love We Deliver, and Queens Public
Library. So David Geffen Hall was packed for the first concert. The New York City Fire Department alone requested more than 1,000 tickets for the combined four performances. In her opening remarks, Deborah Borda, the Philharmonic’s president, welcomed everyone “to our house.” Yet, “from now on,” she said, hopefully, “you feel that this is your house, too.”

—An excerpt of THE NEW YORK TIMES review of the opening season of the New York Philharmonic, led by Deborah Borda ’71


When the composer Joan Tower went to Bennington College to study music, her teachers told her she needed to compose something. “So I wrote a piece,” she recalled recently, laughing, “and it was a disaster from beginning to end. I said, ‘I know I can do better than that.’ So I did that for the next 40 years, trying to create a piece that wasn’t a disaster.”

THE NEW YORK TIMES spoke to renowned composer Joan Tower ’61 as she celebrated her 80th birthday about this milestone and her lifelong career in music.


The Best Podcast of 2018
Bear Brook

The true-crime genre is crowded with podcasts, but Bear Brook, from New Hampshire Public Radio, stands out for its ambition, complexity, and thoughtful tone.... With remarkable sensitivity and a knack for scene-setting, Moon guides us through a thicket of grisly story lines spanning several decades, characters, aliases, and states, in a narrative that culminates in an investigator’s discovery of a revolutionary, controversial DNA technique, which both solved the case of the Golden State Killer and brings Bear
Brook ever closer to a resolution.

THE NEW YORKER reviewing Jason Moon’s ’13 new podcast miniseries, Bear Brook, which was recently counted among The New Yorker’s best podcasts of 2018.

A sketch portrait of Alexandra Sauser-Monnig A sketch portrait of Molly Sarle A sketch portrait of Jackson Emmer


The music of Mountain Man revolves around three gorgeous voices that combine and harmonize in wonderful ways. But singers Amelia Meath ’10, Molly Sarlé ’12 and Alexandra Sauser-Monnig ’09 have individual artistic identities worth exploring, as well: Sarlé just released a dynamite solo single, Meath is playing to packed festival crowds with Sylvan Esso, and Sauser-Monnig is re-branding herself as Daughter of Swords en route to the release of her debut album, Dawnbreaker, on June 28. The first single from Dawnbreaker, the appropriately titled "Gem," came out earlier this year, and it’s already one of the year’s most dreamily approachable mood-lifters. Now, Daughter of Swords is releasing Dawnbreaker’s sweet acoustic title track, a soft swoon of a song that goes down like a cup of hot cocoa laced with CBD oil.



The songs on Karaoke Angel buzz with naturalistic sounds, and have a ghostly quality that reflects where they were recorded. But the otherworldliness is interwoven with direct moments that come from her own observations.

VANITY FAIR ran a profile feature of singer Molly Sarlé ’12. They discussed the making of her debut album, Karaoke Angel.


Americana songwriters are a dime a dozen these days, but few are writing songs like Jackson Emmer. The Colorado-based artist expanded his following with his 2015 album Last Known Photograph of Jackson
, which showed him to be a talented wordsmith with a way around a traditional country arrangement. Those talents are only amplified on his recent release Jukebox, which marries the conversational delivery of Hayes Carll and John Prine with the arrangements of Eddy Arnold and Joshua Hedley.

ROLLING STONE reviewing Denver singer-songwriter Jackson Emmer ’09; after the release of his second album, Jukebox. They included him on the list of one of the “10 new country artists you need to know.”

The three women of Mountain man sitting with two llamas for the Magic Ship album cover


(Amelia Meath ’10, Molly Sarlé ’12 and Alexandra Sauser-Monnig ’09)

Where does a sense of quiet fit within indie folk these days? During the last decade, some of the genre’s new staples—Iron & Wine, Hiss Golden Messenger, Amanda Shires—have turned up the amplifiers as they’ve turned toward more elaborate production. But for Mountain Man—the hushed, harmony-drenched trio of Amelia Meath, Molly Erin Sarlé, and Alexandra Sauser-Monnig, rarely accompanied by more than six strings and a tapped foot—it’s less about finding a quiet place than forging one. They started carving out their space on their lovingly ramshackle debut, 2010’s Made the Harbor, but an unintentional eight-year hiatus halted the headway. They’ve now reemerged with Magic Ship, a capricious turn through Appalachian,
American, and British folk. Quiet? Perhaps. Subdued? Never.