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Friday, December 17, 2010

Running Down a Dream - Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers





Listen to the song and fill the blanks. Use the tab key to move to the next input field.

It was a beautiful day, the sun
I had the radio on, I was
Trees flew by, me and Del were singin' “Little Runaway”
I was

Yeah runnin' down a dream
That never would come to me
Workin' on a , goin' wherever it leads
Runnin' down a dream.

I felt so good, like anything was possible.
I hit and my
The last three days the rain was unstoppable.
It was always cold, no sunshine.

Yeah runnin' down a dream
That never would come to me
Workin' on a , goin' wherever it leads
Runnin' down a dream.

I rolled on as the sky dark.
I put the down to make some time.
There's something good waitin' down this
I'm pickin' up whatever's mine.

I’m runnin' down a dream
That never would come to me.
Workin' on a , goin' wherever it leads,
Runnin' down a dream.

Yeah, I’m runnin' down a dream
That never would come to me.
Workin' on a , goin' wherever it leads
Runnin' down a dream.

Good Times, Bad Times by Led Zeppelin





Cloze exercise. Listen to the song, then fill the blanks.

In the days of my youth, I was what it means to be a ,
Now I've reached that age, I've tried to do all those things I can.
No matter how I , I find my way into the same old jam.

*Good Times, Bad , you know I had my share;
When my woman left home for a brown eyed man,
Well, I still don't seem to .

Sixteen, I fell in love with a as sweet as could be,
Only took a couple of 'til she was rid of me.
She that she would be all mine and love me till the end,
But when I in her ear, I lost another friend, oooh.

*Good Times, Bad , you know I had my share;
When my woman left home for a brown eyed man,
Well, I still don't seem to .

*Good Times, Bad , you know I had my share;
When my woman left home for a brown eyed man,
Well, I still don't seem to .

I know what it to be alone, I sure do wish I was at home.
I don't care what the say, I'm gonna love you each and every day.
You can feel the beat within my heart.
Realize, sweet babe, we ain't ever gonna .

Led Zeppelin was one of the greatest rock music groups. Read about them in Wikipedia

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Polar Express - With Tom Hanks













 

Tom Hanks plays most of the characters in this splendid animated feature. A boy who doubts the reality of Santa Claus sees a passenger train out his window at night just after he goes to bed. The train is The Polar Express. It's going to the North Pole and picking up kids on its way. The trip through the cold country is full of adventure. Also, the city at the North Pole where Santa and his elves live and work is equally scary and fun. We're going to watch this feature on our final two days of Fall Semester. If you can't be here because you are very busy or because you live in another country, you'll find it at your local video store or cable TV network. It's a very well conceived and designed animation film.



Read and Listen to this article about "The Polar Express"


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Are EV and Plug-in Hybrids the Cars of the Future?




SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: I’m Shirley Griffith.

STEVE EMBER: And I’m Steve Ember with EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English. Starting this Friday, the auto industry will show off more than nine hundred of its latest vehicles at the LA Auto Show in Los Angeles, California. The event provides a look at about fifty hybrid, electric and alternative fuel cars that could soon be available in the United States.

Join us as we discuss the new kinds of cars, and what this means for the future of driving in America.

(MUSIC)

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: At the beginning of the nineteen hundreds, the automobile was rare. Many early models ran on electric batteries. It was not until Henry Ford’s gas-powered Model T that the internal combustion engine and the car became inseparable.

Henry Ford had wanted to develop an electric car. But the technology of the time was not ready. Today, the same problems faced by early automobile pioneers remain. But materials are available to overcome the old problems. The result is that electric batteries and motors may finally power cars of the future. Some experts predict that five to ten percent of cars on the road in twenty twenty will be electric.

STEVE EMBER: The heart of any electric car is its battery. A battery stores electricity and makes it available for use by the motor. Partly electric cars are already common in many countries, including the United States and Japan.

Hybrid vehicles run on both electric power and gasoline. The Toyota Prius is the top selling hybrid car in the American market today. Most current hybrid cars use an internal combustion engine to drive the car and to help provide electric power that is stored in a battery. The battery then uses its stored energy to run the car at low speeds.

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: The race to develop electric cars and other fuel-efficient models took on greater urgency earlier this year. The Obama administration set new rules in the United States. They require two thousand sixteen model vehicles to get an average of fifteen kilometers to a liter of gasoline.

One way to raise the average fuel economy is to increase the number of electric cars on the road. And manufacturers are rushing to get electric vehicles and hybrids on the market. At this year's LA Auto Show, many models will be on display.

STEVE EMBER: No car in recent years has been as important to a manufacturer as the Chevy Volt is to General Motors. The electric hybrid car is set to be released next year.

GM plans to sell stock to the public soon -- possibly raising as much as seventeen billion dollars. GM has reported over four billion dollars in profit this year. The company suffered huge losses during the economic crisis of two thousand eight and two thousand nine. The Volt could change all that. It could be a sign that GM has recovered from the bankruptcy and restructuring it went through last year.

GM started taking orders for the Volt in July. The General Electric company has promised to buy twenty-five thousand electric vehicles. This includes one thousand Chevy Volts next year and thousands more to come.

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: The Volt is designed to run as an electric car for more than sixty kilometers. After that, a gasoline engine powers the car. The battery and the gas generator let the Volt travel a total of about five hundred sixty kilometers on one charge and tank of gasoline.

What is different about the Volt is that its electric motor always runs the car. Gasoline is used only to generate electricity. GM engineers say they chose this design because it is ten to fifteen percent more efficient. They also used a new, lithium-ion battery that is expected to last longer than batteries in current hybrid cars.

GM is selling the Volt for about forty-one thousand dollars. This is more than two times the cost of other small GM cars. But buyers can get a seven thousand five hundred dollar tax credit from the government for buying a Volt.

In the past, fuel-efficient cars have been small cars that Americans have rejected -- at least when gasoline prices are low. High school and college students are a big market for such vehicles. But a change has taken place in the world of environmentally friendly cars. Several are sports cars.

(SOUND)

STEVE EMBER: Tesla is a new carmaker based in Palo Alto, California. The company's chief executive is Elon Musk. He is also known for leading SpaceX, a space travel company. Tesla's goal is to make more affordable all-electric cars. The Tesla Roadster, however, has attracted a lot of attention for being a fast sports car that costs over one hundred thousand dollars.

The Tesla Roadster
teslamotors.com
The Tesla Roadster

Tesla cars were first offered for sale in two thousand eight. The company says there are now one thousand three hundred Roadsters being driven around the world.

The Roadster can reach speeds up to about two hundred kilometers an hour. And it releases zero pollution. It can travel almost four hundred kilometers before it needs recharging, depending on how fast it is driven.

Fisker Automotive is a new carmaker based in Irvine, California. Its costly sports car is called the Karma. Like the Chevy Volt, the Karma runs on electricity at first. Then it uses gas to power an electric motor. It also has solar panels on the roof. The company says the panels collect enough energy to extend the life of the battery charge. Fisker says the Karma travels about twenty-nine kilometers on a liter of gas and a full electric charge.

(MUSIC)

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: Not all new, fuel-efficient cars are electric or hybrid. Diesel engines have long been used in trucks and buses that travel long distances. Diesel fuel is more dense than gasoline. It produces more energy when it burns. High levels of sulfur in diesel made from petroleum have meant diesel engines produce a strong smell. Newer, more refined diesel solves this problem.

Don Hillebrand is the director of transportation research at the Energy Department's Argonne National Laboratory near Chicago, Illinois. His team of engineers works on new diesel technology. He says until recently, American car makers have not offered many diesel cars in the United States.

DON HILLEBRAND: "Many of the American-based companies make outstanding diesel engines, but they only sell them overseas. They don't actually sell them in North America."

Don Hillebrand also says diesel can help in lowering the use of carbon-based fuels.

DON HILLEBRAND: "The diesel can give you an extra thirty percent fuel economy, which is a substantial amount of carbon reduction and a substantial amount of cost savings."

The Ford Motor Company makes diesel vehicles for the European market and could sell them in the United States. And GM has said it will manufacture a diesel passenger vehicle for the American market soon.

STEVE EMBER: Yet, gasoline engines remain the most common in passenger vehicles in the United States and are expected to remain so. Some manufacturers are pushing cars to new levels of fuel efficiency.

GM is offering the Chevrolet Cruz Eco. It has a gas-powered engine that is more fuel efficient than most hybrid models. The car travels about seventeen kilometers on a liter of gas.

And then there is extreme fuel efficiency. The Edison2 is an experimental car that was one of the winners of the ten-million-dollar Progressive Insurance Automotive X Prize. The prize was given to teams that could design a vehicle that could travel one hundred miles or more on one gallon of gas. That is at least forty-three kilometers a liter.

Oliver Kuttner led the Edison2 team. He says electric cars have a problem with weight. He says their batteries weigh too much. He believes very light-weight cars are more efficient than electric cars can ever be. The Edison2 car uses E85 fuel that is mostly ethanol, a form of alcohol.

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: But all-electric cars that the public can afford to buy are no longer something for the distant future. Japanese carmaker Nissan has said it will offer its LEAF for sale next month.

Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn stands next to a Nissan Leaf, a fully electric car
AP
Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn stands next to a Nissan Leaf, a fully electric car

The LEAF has no gas engine. It runs completely on stored electric power. The company has not released exact performance details. But Nissan says the LEAF will run for about one hundred sixty kilometers between charges. The company says ninety-five percent of drivers travel fewer than one hundred sixty kilometers a day.

The Chevy Volt and the Nissan LEAF are among five cars competing for the 2011 Green Car of the Year award. The other finalists are the Ford Fiesta, the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid and the Lincoln MKZ Hybrid. The prize is given by Green Car Magazine which has been writing about cars, energy and the environment for eighteen years. The winner will be announced at the LA Auto show on Friday.

(MUSIC)

STEVE EMBER: This program was written and produced by Mario Ritter. I'm Steve Ember.

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: And I'm Shirley Griffith. Go to voaspecialenglish.com for pictures and MP3s of our programs. And follow us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and iTunes at VOA Learning English. Join us again next week for EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

"The Raven" by Edgar Allan Poe
Performed by Daniel Gangloff



Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
`'Tis some visitor,' I muttered, `tapping at my chamber door -
Only this, and nothing more.'

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December,
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow; - vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow - sorrow for the lost Lenore -
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels named Lenore -
Nameless here for evermore.

And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me - filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating
`'Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door -
Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door; -
This it is, and nothing more,'

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
`Sir,' said I, `or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you' - here I opened wide the door; -
Darkness there, and nothing more.

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before;
But the silence was unbroken, and the darkness gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, `Lenore!'
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, `Lenore!'
Merely this and nothing more.

Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,
Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before.
`Surely,' said I, `surely that is something at my window lattice;
Let me see then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore -
Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore; -
'Tis the wind and nothing more!'

Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately raven of the saintly days of yore.
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door -
Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door -
Perched, and sat, and nothing more.

Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore,
`Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou,' I said, `art sure no craven.
Ghastly grim and ancient raven wandering from the nightly shore -
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night's Plutonian shore!'
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.'

Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,
Though its answer little meaning - little relevancy bore;
For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
Ever yet was blessed with seeing bird above his chamber door -
Bird or beast above the sculptured bust above his chamber door,
With such name as `Nevermore.'

But the raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only,
That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.
Nothing further then he uttered - not a feather then he fluttered -
Till I scarcely more than muttered `Other friends have flown before -
On the morrow he will leave me, as my hopes have flown before.'
Then the bird said, `Nevermore.'

Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
`Doubtless,' said I, `what it utters is its only stock and store,
Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful disaster
Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore -
Till the dirges of his hope that melancholy burden bore
Of "Never-nevermore."'

But the raven still beguiling all my sad soul into smiling,
Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird and bust and door;
Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore -
What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt, and ominous bird of yore
Meant in croaking `Nevermore.'

This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom's core;
This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining
On the cushion's velvet lining that the lamp-light gloated o'er,
But whose velvet violet lining with the lamp-light gloating o'er,
She shall press, ah, nevermore!

Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer
Swung by Seraphim whose foot-falls tinkled on the tufted floor.
`Wretch,' I cried, `thy God hath lent thee - by these angels he has sent thee
Respite - respite and nepenthe from thy memories of Lenore!
Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe, and forget this lost Lenore!'
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.'

`Prophet!' said I, `thing of evil! - prophet still, if bird or devil! -
Whether tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,
Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted -
On this home by horror haunted - tell me truly, I implore -
Is there - is there balm in Gilead? - tell me - tell me, I implore!'
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.'

`Prophet!' said I, `thing of evil! - prophet still, if bird or devil!
By that Heaven that bends above us - by that God we both adore -
Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,
It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels named Lenore -
Clasp a rare and radiant maiden, whom the angels named Lenore?'
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.'

`Be that word our sign of parting, bird or fiend!' I shrieked upstarting -
`Get thee back into the tempest and the Night's Plutonian shore!
Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!
Leave my loneliness unbroken! - quit the bust above my door!
Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!'
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.'

And the raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming,
And the lamp-light o'er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted - nevermore!

_________________________________________________________________

The following is a video by Alan Parsons

Here is his introduction:

THE RAVEN is one of Poe's best known poems.
I designed a video with a near atmosphere.
I adore POE, so this is a tribute to the immortal writer and poet!
This song is performed by the band "The Alan Parsons Project" and it takes part in the album, "Tales of Mystery and Imagination , Edgar Allan Poe" .
The awesome illusions belong to the great artist Rob Gonsalves.



Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Norman Rockwell: The Painter of Everyday America



SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: Welcome to THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English. I’m Shirley Griffith.

STEVE EMBER: And I’m Steve Ember. Norman Rockwell was one of the most popular American artists of the twentieth century. His drawings and paintings appeared in advertisements and on magazine covers. Today we tell about an exhibit of his work at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C.

(MUSIC)

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: The exhibit is called "Telling Stories: Norman Rockwell from the Collections of George Lucas and Steven Spielberg." It shows how the artist’s work influenced two of America’s most famous filmmakers. The exhibit also shows how Norman Rockwell’s art was deeply influenced by movies.

STEVE EMBER: Steven Spielberg and George Lucas are directors and producers best known for making the "Star Wars" and "Indiana Jones" movies. Both filmmakers have been collecting Norman Rockwell’s paintings since the early nineteen eighties. This is the first time their private collections of fifty-seven artworks have been gathered together and shown publicly.

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: Norman Rockwell drew covers for the Saturday Evening Post magazine for nearly fifty years, starting in nineteen sixteen. Some of his art also illustrated stories inside magazines. Each of his drawings and paintings tells a story.

They often tell everyday stories, like the experience of a young girl having her first haircut at a beauty shop. Or, the happiness of a teacher whose students have surprised her with a birthday celebration.

Rockwell’s works often express a sense of warmth, innocence, humor or fun. They show an idealized version of American families, children and life in small towns.










STEVE EMBER: Some works have a political message. In nineteen forty-three Rockwell was searching for a way to help the American war effort during World War Two. He had an idea after seeing his neighbor speak during a town meeting. Everyone at the meeting disagreed with the neighbor, but had permitted him to express his views.

Rockwell decided to represent this moment in his painting "Freedom of Speech." This painting and three others in the series were shown around the country as part of a government effort to sell war bonds. The paintings helped raise over one hundred thirty-two million dollars in one year.

(MUSIC)

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: Virginia Mecklenburg organized this Smithsonian exhibit. Here, she talks about why Steven Spielberg and George Lucas were so influenced by Norman Rockwell’s work.

VIRGINIA MECKLENBURG: "Both Lucas and Spielberg see Rockwell ultimately not just as an illustrator, not just as a maker of pictures, but a teller of visual stories. George Lucas in fact said when we did an interview with him that he thought one of the reasons he was so comfortable when he got into the movie business [was] because he already knew how to tell a story visually from having looked at Norman Rockwell’s covers."

STEVE EMBER: One Norman Rockwell painting from nineteen seventeen is called "Polley Voos Fransay?" It shows a tall young American soldier standing in the countryside of France. Next to him is a very young French girl in a red and white dress and wooden shoes. She is looking up at him with a questioning look as he struggles to communicate with her in his poor French. This image appeared on the cover of "Life" magazine during World War One.










SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: A nineteen twenty-two painting is called "The Stuff of Which Memories are Made." Rockwell created it as an advertisement for a light made by the General Electric company.

In this work, a mother sits as her three children say their prayers before going to bed. They are in a dark room. But a General Electric light on a nearby table covers them with a soft warm glow. George Lucas owns both of these paintings.

VIRGINIA MECKLENBURG: "One of the things that George Lucas loves about Rockwell is what Rockwell tells us about our culture, about our society, and about who we are as people. Many of his pictures have to do with children growing up and all of the funny things that happen."

STEVE EMBER: Steven Spielberg has praised Norman Rockwell for showing a sense of community and civic responsibility in his paintings.

VIRGINIA MECKLENBURG: "He owns several pictures of Boy Scouts, Boy Scouts in action, Boy Scouts as sort of semi-heroic figures. As young men ready to take on whatever cause needs to be done"

STEVE EMBER: Steven Spielberg says Rockwell was the great American storyteller. The artist was able to tell an entire story using a single image.

"And Daniel Boone Comes to Life on the Underwood Portable," 1923, from the collection of Steven Spielberg"And Daniel Boone Comes to Life on the Underwood Portable," 1923, from the collection of Steven Spielberg







The first Rockwell work Spielberg ever bought is a nineteen twenty-two painting called "And Daniel Boone Comes to Life on the Underwood Portable." It shows a young man hard at work on his typewriter. Above his head is an image of the American pioneer Daniel Boone. The young man is thinking about the story he is writing.

Steven Spielberg says this painting hung in his office and helped him whenever he was having trouble writing down his ideas for a movie.

VIRGINIA MECKLENBURG: "When he is starting to write a movie, he says he just sits there at the typewriter waiting for a little thought bubble to emerge over his head that will finally get his fingers dancing across the keys. So it is a very evocative painting for him. But I think it is also a wonderful demonstration of Rockwell's early fascination with the way movies look. The whole idea looks like a movie screen. It looks like a film playing out over the writer’s head."

(MUSIC)

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: Norman Rockwell enjoyed movies and the movie industry. He spent some time in Hollywood during the nineteen thirties and forties. He designed posters for several movie production companies and became familiar with the industry.

In many ways, Rockwell worked like a movie director as he prepared for his paintings. He invited friends, neighbors or even strangers to sit for him in his studio. He chose special clothing for them to wear and objects to use that would help tell the story in his drawings.

STEVE EMBER: Rockwell worked with his models. He showed them how he wanted them to stand, look and act, much like how a movie director works with his actors. The artist also paid careful attention to the expressive qualities of light.

Rockwell photographed his models and then made drawings from those photographs. Sometimes he would take the arm or nose of one person and draw it on another person.

Or, he might take a photograph of a woman sitting in a chair, then later draw her sitting in a car. He did not draw from his imagination. Every detail he drew came from real life.

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: The movies are a subject of several of his paintings. One example is his nineteen thirty-six painting "Movie Starlet and Reporters." It shows a beautiful actress surrounded by a group of male reporters. The model that experts believe Rockwell used for this work was trying to become a movie actress.

Her image appeared on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post. Two weeks later the woman signed a deal with a movie production company and was on her way to Hollywood.

(MUSIC)

STEVE EMBER: Norman Rockwell’s works have been extremely popular, but they also have their critics. Some people criticize his art for only showing a false or very limited image of America, one that is white and middle-class.

They say his art rarely showed the difficulties within American society, such as social injustice, racism and poverty. However, Rockwell did pay attention to these subjects much later in his career.

Some critics believe his works were too safe. They never forced viewers to think about new ideas or try new activities. However, other art experts say these criticisms may be true, but that art does not have to be about reality.

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: One work by Norman Rockwell shows that he was very much aware of the changes going on in American culture during the nineteen fifties and sixties.

By the early nineteen sixties, many magazines were having difficulty competing for advertising because of the growing popularity of television. Some people at the Saturday Evening Post where Rockwell worked believed his art was too old-fashioned for modern times.

STEVE EMBER: Rockwell’s nineteen sixty-two painting "The Connoisseur" seems to express the artist’s questions about traditional and modern art.

The work shows the back of a well-dressed older man at a museum. He is standing in front of a bold and colorful painting similar to those created by the abstract-expressionist artist Jackson Pollock. We cannot see the face of this man. But it is possible that Rockwell was showing himself in the process of facing the future of modern art.

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: Norman Rockwell died in nineteen seventy-eight. Steven Spielberg has said that Rockwell would have been a great and famous filmmaker if he had made movies. But Spielberg says he is thankful that Rockwell painted pictures so that he could influence filmmakers to be better artists.

(MUSIC)

STEVE EMBER: Our program was written and produced by Dana Demange with reporting by Susan Logue. I'm Steve Ember.

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: And I’m Shirley Griffith. You can see some of Norman Rockwell’s paintings on our website, voaspecialenglish.com. Join us again next week for THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English.

COMPREHENSION CHECK

Norman Rockwell is a powerful influence on the art of __________ .
a: photography
b: sculpture
c: film
d: fashion design

2. In his painting " _______________" Rockwell celebrates American democracy thereby showing that it is worth defending.
a: Freedom of Speech
b: Polley Voos Fransay?
c: Star Wars
d: The Stuff of Which Memories are Made

3. In the painting "And Daniel Boone Comes to Life on the Underwood Portable", the painter is illustrating ________________ .
a: the conquest of the west.
b: the thoughts of a writer
c: the Democratic idea of free speech
d: a moment in American history

4. Norman Rockwell received a lot of inspiration from ____________ .
a: the world of nature
b: political discussions
c: the movie industry
d: popular magazines

5. One reason Norman Rockwell was so popular is that _______________ .
a: his painting were abstract
b: his paintings had interesting color schemes
c: his subjects were taken from ordinary people in small town America
d: his paintings reflected growing American industry

6.The woman modal in Rockwell's "Movie Starlet and Reporters" ____________ .
a: became a painter
b: became a very fine teacher of art
c: continued to model for other Rockwell paintings
d: became a movie actress

7. In the early sixties with the growing popularity of television, magazines had difficulty competing for _______________ .
a: writing talent
b: new ideas
c: advertising
d: artists

8.Norman Rockwell seems to question the role of traditional versus modern art in his painting "______________"
a: The Connoisseur
b: Freedom of Speech
c: Indiana Jones
d: Polley Voss Fransay

9. Another name for this article could be "_____________________" .
a: The Steven Spielburg and George Lucas Collections of Norman Rockwell Art
b: The Political Influences on the Art of Norman Rockwell
c: Why Was Rockwell Popular?
d: The History of the Saturday Evening Post

10.This article is mainly about _________________ .
a: Norman Rockwell's influence on two great filmmakers
b: the inspiration Normal Rockwell gained in his years in Hollywood
c: everyday life in small town America
d: the differences between traditional and abstract art

Norman Rockwell painting slide show from Youtube:


Friday, August 27, 2010

Stephen Foster, America's First Popular Songwriter





I'm Shirley Griffith. And I'm Steve Ember with the VOA Special English program PEOPLE IN AMERICA. Today, we tell about Stephen Foster, America's first popular professional songwriter.

(MUSIC)

You may have heard the old traditional American songs "Oh! Susanna," "Camptown Races" and "My Old Kentucky Home. " But, do you know who wrote them? Stephen Foster. He wrote those and more than two hundred other songs during the eighteen forties and eighteen fifties.

His best songs have become part of America's cultural history. They have become American folk songs. Many PEOPLE IN AMERICA learned to sing these songs when they were children. Most Americans can sing these songs today.

Stephen Collins Foster was born on July fourth, eighteen twenty-six in what is now part of the city of Pittsburgh, in the northeastern state of Pennsylvania. He was the ninth child of William and Eliza Foster. He did not have much musical training. But he had a great natural ability for music. He taught himself to play several musical instruments. He could play any music just by listening to it.

Stephen Foster began writing songs when he was fourteen. In eighteen forty-seven, he wrote his first successful song, "Oh! Susanna. "

Ken Emerson wrote a book about Stephen Foster. It is called “Doo-dah! Stephen Foster and the Rise of American Popular Culture. ” Mr. Emerson says "Oh! Susanna" was the first internationally popular song written by an American that everyone can still recognize and sing today.

(MUSIC)

Stephen Foster married Jane McDowell in eighteen fifty. He wrote many new songs. Some of them were about love. One of the best known is "Jeanie With the Light Brown Hair. " He wrote it for his wife when they were separated.

(MUSIC)

Stephen Foster wrote almost thirty songs for minstrel shows. Minstrel shows became popular in the United States in the eighteen forties. White entertainers blackened their faces and performed as if they were black entertainers. Minstrel shows included music, dance and comedy. The shows were performed in almost every major American city, especially in the Northeast. One of Foster's songs written for minstrel shows is "Camptown Races. " Today, it is a popular song for children.

(MUSIC)

Minstrel songs described the culture of black American slaves in the southern states. Yet Foster did not really know anything about this subject. He lived in Pittsburgh for most of his life. He visited the South only once.

However, some experts say Foster's minstrel songs showed he did understand how black people in the South lived before the Civil War. The people in Foster's songs love their families and work hard. Now, however, some of his songs are judged insulting to African-Americans. So, music publishers have changed some of the words. And a few of his songs are no longer sung.

In eighteen fifty, Foster made an agreement with the leader of a successful minstrel group, E. P. Christy. The agreement meant that Christy's Minstrels had the right to perform every new song Foster wrote. Foster also permitted Christy to name himself as the writer of the song "Old Folks at Home. " This became one of most successful songs written by Stephen Foster. It became the official song of the state of Florida in nineteen thirty-five. It also is known as "Way Down upon the Swanee River. "

(MUSIC)

Stephen Foster wrote other songs about home and memories of times past. In his book, Ken Emerson says Foster wrote songs about home in part because he almost never lived in one home for long. His father lost all his money when Stephen was a boy. So Stephen was forced to live with many different family members. Although Foster lived in the North, some of his songs suggest a desire to be back home in the American South.

"My Old Kentucky Home" is an example. Mr. Emerson says Foster wrote the song in honor of Harriet Beecher Stowe's anti-slavery book, "Uncle Tom's Cabin." "My Old Kentucky Home" expresses great sympathy for enslaved African-Americans. The black anti-slavery activist Frederick Douglass praised the song. It later became the official song of the state of Kentucky.

(MUSIC)

Stephen Foster was America's first full-time professional songwriter. He was a good songwriter. But he was a poor businessman. He sold many of his most famous songs for very little money. He was not able to support his wife and daughter.

In eighteen sixty, he moved to New York City. His songs were not as popular as they had been. His marriage had ended. He had no money. For most of his life, he drank large amounts of alcohol. He died on January thirteenth, eighteen sixty-four. He was only thirty-seven years old.

Stephen Foster was honored in several ways after his death. He was the first musician to be nominated to the Hall of Fame for great Americans. And he was the first American composer whose complete works were published together. Each year, on the anniversary of his death, people in Pittsburgh gather to remember Stephen Foster. They go to the church he attended as a child. They attend a show that honors him. Then they visit his burial place.

The end of Stephen Foster's life was sad. But his songs have brought happiness to many people. One of his last songs was one of the most beautiful. It is called "Beautiful Dreamer. "

(MUSIC)

This Special English program was written by Shelley Gollust. It was produced by Lawan Davis. I'm Shirley Griffith. And I'm Steve Ember. Join us again next week for another PEOPLE IN AMERICA program on the Voice of America.

Try these quizzes about the VOA Special English Program about Stephen Foster.
They are written by Charles Kelly, and they are at ManyThings.org

Stephen Foster One
Stephen Foster Two
Stephen Foster Three
Stephen Foster Four
Stephen Foster Five
Stephen Foster Six


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

America's Popular Songwriter: Cole Porter, Part One


This is Faith Lapidus. And this is Steve Ember with PEOPLE IN AMERICA in VOA Special English. Today we tell about the life and music of American songwriter Cole Porter.

(MUSIC: "Begin the Beguine")

That was "Begin the Beguine" played by Artie Shaw's orchestra in nineteen thirty-eight.

It is one of almost one thousand songs Cole Porter wrote. In his seventy-three years, more than five hundred of those songs were published. Porter wrote most of his songs in the nineteen twenties, thirties and forties. Yet they remain as fresh as when he wrote them.

Cole Porter’s songs are still being sung and played today. They are performed at musical theaters, jazz clubs, even rock-and-roll concerts. A movie about his life, called “De-Lovely,” was released in two thousand four. Kevin Kline stars in the movie as Cole Porter. Ashley Judd plays his wife, Linda Porter. Popular young performers of today sing his songs in the movie. We will play some songs from that movie later in this program.

Cole Porter was born June ninth, eighteen ninety-one, in the middle western state of Indiana. His family was wealthy and educated. His mother, Kate, guided him to music at an early age. He wrote his first song at the age of ten.

As a young man, he was sent east to study at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. In his extra time, he continued to write songs. Two were for the university: the "Yale Bulldog" song and "Bingo Eli Yale." They are still sung there today.

After finishing his studies at Yale, Cole Porter went to Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts to study law. That plan lasted only a year. At a party one night, he played some of his songs for the students and professors. The head of the law school spoke to him. "Why are you studying law?” he asked. "You are no good at it. Why don't you go to Harvard's Music School and then write for the musical theater?" Later, Porter said: "That idea had never entered my head before. "

At the time, musical theater was extremely popular in America. This is because there were few music records. And radio programs were still being developed. So, songwriters had to work in the musical theater to be successful. Cole Porter wrote his first musical show in nineteen sixteen. He was still a student at Harvard. The show was called "See America First." It was produced in the Broadway theater area of New York City.

The show was a complete failure. Porter wanted to leave town until people forgot it. So, he went to Europe. He stayed there for most of the next thirteen years.

During this time, Cole Porter became famous for his parties. His guests were wealthy, pleasure-loving people from all over Europe. They liked him because he was smart and funny and knew how to enjoy life. And they loved his songs, which he played at his parties. Here Cole Porter sings his song, “You’re the Top.”

(MUSIC)

You're the top!
You're the Coliseum.
You're the top!
You're the Louver Museum.
You're a melody from a symphony by Strauss
You're a Bendel bonnet,
A Shakespeare's sonnet,
You're Mickey Mouse.
You're the Nile,
You're the Tower of Pisa,
You're the smile on the Mona Lisa
I'm a worthless check, a total wreck, a flop,
But if, baby, I'm the bottom you're the top!




In France, Cole Porter met the woman who became his wife. She was a beautiful and rich American named Linda Lee Thomas. They were married in nineteen nineteen. The Porters gave parties that lasted for days. They had so much money they could do anything they wanted. And they did. Their life together was a search for excitement, adventure and pleasure.

Still, Cole Porter remained a serious, hard-working songwriter. He wrote both the words and the music for his songs. The words and music always fit together perfectly. His songs were funny, sexy and intelligent. They were playful -- full of little jokes and hidden meanings.

One of his earliest big hits is called "Let's Do It (Let's Fall in Love)." It was written in nineteen twenty-eight for a show called "Paris.” Alanis Morrissette sings the song in the movie about Cole Porter called “De-Lovely.”

(MUSIC: "Let's Do It (Let's Fall in Love)")

birds do it, bees do it
even educated fleas do it
let's do it, let's fall in love
in spain, the best upper sets do it
lithuanians and letts do it
let's do it, let's fall in love

the dutch in old amsterdam do it
not to mention the finns
folks in siam do it
think of siamese twins

some argentines, without means, do it
people say, in boston, even beans do it
let's do it, let's fall in love

Some of Porter's friends thought he might not be a success. One friend, Elsa Maxwell, told him: "You are too good. The humor and poetry of your words are far beyond the people. One day, however," she added, "you will bring the public up to your own level. Then the world will be yours."

Most of Cole Porter's songs are about love and desire. When they were written, they stretched the limits of what was socially acceptable. The words were often unexpected, sometimes even shocking. They spoke both directly and indirectly about sex, about drug use. Some songs he sang only for his friends.

Critics consider "Love for Sale" to be one of Porter's finest songs. He wrote it in nineteen thirty for a Broadway musical called "The New Yorkers." For years, the song was banned on American radio. Here is a new version by Vivian Green.

(MUSIC: "Love for Sale")

Love for sale,
Appetising young love for sale.
Love that's fresh and still unspoiled,
Love that's only slightly soiled,
Love for sale.

Who will buy?
Who would like to sample my supply?
Who's prepared to pay the price,
For a trip to paradise?
Love for sale

Many of Porter's songs were written in a minor musical key. This gives them a feeling of sadness and longing. Yet they also can have a feeling of great excitement. American songwriter Alan J. Lerner said only Cole Porter could really "write" passion. One example is "Night and Day." It is considered perhaps the finest song Cole Porter ever wrote. It is about the kind of romantic love that is almost a form of insanity.

Porter got the idea for the song while traveling in Morocco. He heard drums and a man singing a prayer. The song has a sound that beats endlessly, over and over. It is like a lover who thinks of nothing but his love, over and over, night and day.

The song "Night and Day" was introduced in a nineteen thirty-two Broadway musical comedy called "The Gay Divorcee." The great dancer and singer Fred Astaire played the leading male character and sang the song.

"Night and Day" became famous around the world. And Cole Porter was becoming one of the greatest songwriters America had ever produced. Today there are many recordings of the song by different singers and musicians. Here is “Night and Day” from the movie about Cole Porter called “De-Lovely.” John Barrowman and Kevin Kline sing it.

(MUSIC: “Night and Day”)

On our program next week, we will tell more about Cole Porter’s life, and bring you more of his music.

(MUSIC: "Begin the Beguine")

This program was written by Shelley Gollust. It was produced by Lawan Davis. This is Faith Lapidus. And this is Steve Ember. Join us again next week for PEOPLE IN AMERICA in VOA Special English.




Like the beat, beat, beat of the tom tom
when the jungle shadows fall
like the tick,tick, tock of the stately clock
as it stands against the wall
like the drip, drip drip of the rain drops
when the summer showers through
a voice within me keeps repeating
you, you, you

Night and day you are the one
only you beneath the moon or under the sun
whether near to me or far it's no matter darling
where you are
I think of you
night and day, day and night
why is it so that this longing for you
follows where ever I go
in the roaring traffic's boom, in the silence of my lonely room
I think of you
night and day, night and day
under the hide of me , there's an oh such a hungry yearning burning
inside of me
and this torment won't be through
'till you let me spend my life making love to you
day and night, night and day.


Cole Porter, Part Two

Friday, July 30, 2010

"American Songwriter, Cole Porter" from Voice of America


This is Faith Lapidus. And this is Steve Ember with PEOPLE IN AMERICA in VOA Special English. Today we tell about the life and music of American songwriter Cole Porter.

(MUSIC: "Begin the Beguine")

That was "Begin the Beguine" played by Artie Shaw's orchestra in nineteen thirty-eight.

It is one of almost one thousand songs Cole Porter wrote. In his seventy-three years, more than five hundred of those songs were published. Porter wrote most of his songs in the nineteen twenties, thirties and forties. Yet they remain as fresh as when he wrote them.

Cole Porter’s songs are still being sung and played today. They are performed at musical theaters, jazz clubs, even rock-and-roll concerts. A movie about his life, called “De-Lovely,” was released in two thousand four. Kevin Kline stars in the movie as Cole Porter. Ashley Judd plays his wife, Linda Porter. Popular young performers of today sing his songs in the movie. We will play some songs from that movie later in this program.

Cole Porter was born June ninth, eighteen ninety-one, in the middle western state of Indiana. His family was wealthy and educated. His mother, Kate, guided him to music at an early age. He wrote his first song at the age of ten.

As a young man, he was sent east to study at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. In his extra time, he continued to write songs. Two were for the university: the "Yale Bulldog" song and "Bingo Eli Yale." They are still sung there today.

After finishing his studies at Yale, Cole Porter went to Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts to study law. That plan lasted only a year. At a party one night, he played some of his songs for the students and professors. The head of the law school spoke to him. "Why are you studying law?” he asked. "You are no good at it. Why don't you go to Harvard's Music School and then write for the musical theater?" Later, Porter said: "That idea had never entered my head before. "

At the time, musical theater was extremely popular in America. This is because there were few music records. And radio programs were still being developed. So, songwriters had to work in the musical theater to be successful. Cole Porter wrote his first musical show in nineteen sixteen. He was still a student at Harvard. The show was called "See America First." It was produced in the Broadway theater area of New York City.

The show was a complete failure. Porter wanted to leave town until people forgot it. So, he went to Europe. He stayed there for most of the next thirteen years.

During this time, Cole Porter became famous for his parties. His guests were wealthy, pleasure-loving people from all over Europe. They liked him because he was smart and funny and knew how to enjoy life. And they loved his songs, which he played at his parties. Here Cole Porter sings his song, “You’re the Top.”

(MUSIC)

You're the top!
You're the Coliseum.
You're the top!
You're the Louver Museum.
You're a melody from a symphony by Strauss
You're a Bendel bonnet,
A Shakespeare's sonnet,
You're Mickey Mouse.
You're the Nile,
You're the Tower of Pisa,
You're the smile on the Mona Lisa
I'm a worthless check, a total wreck, a flop,
But if, baby, I'm the bottom you're the top!

Linda and Cole
In France, Cole Porter met the woman who became his wife. She was a beautiful and rich American named Linda Lee Thomas. They were married in nineteen nineteen. The Porters gave parties that lasted for days. They had so much money they could do anything they wanted. And they did. Their life together was a search for excitement, adventure and pleasure.

Still, Cole Porter remained a serious, hard-working songwriter. He wrote both the words and the music for his songs. The words and music always fit together perfectly. His songs were funny, sexy and intelligent. They were playful -- full of little jokes and hidden meanings.

One of his earliest big hits is called "Let's Do It (Let's Fall in Love)." It was written in nineteen twenty-eight for a show called "Paris.” Alanis Morrissette sings the song in the movie about Cole Porter called “De-Lovely.”

(MUSIC: "Let's Do It (Let's Fall in Love)")

birds do it, bees do it
even educated fleas do it
let's do it, let's fall in love
in spain, the best upper sets do it
lithuanians and letts do it
let's do it, let's fall in love

the dutch in old amsterdam do it
not to mention the finns
folks in siam do it
think of siamese twins

some argentines, without means, do it
people say, in boston, even beans do it
let's do it, let's fall in love

Some of Porter's friends thought he might not be a success. One friend, Elsa Maxwell, told him: "You are too good. The humor and poetry of your words are far beyond the people. One day, however," she added, "you will bring the public up to your own level. Then the world will be yours."

Most of Cole Porter's songs are about love and desire. When they were written, they stretched the limits of what was socially acceptable. The words were often unexpected, sometimes even shocking. They spoke both directly and indirectly about sex, about drug use. Some songs he sang only for his friends.

Critics consider "Love for Sale" to be one of Porter's finest songs. He wrote it in nineteen thirty for a Broadway musical called "The New Yorkers." For years, the song was banned on American radio. Here is a new version by Vivian Green.

(MUSIC: "Love for Sale")

Love for sale,
Appetising young love for sale.
Love that's fresh and still unspoiled,
Love that's only slightly soiled,
Love for sale.

Who will buy?
Who would like to sample my supply?
Who's prepared to pay the price,
For a trip to paradise?
Love for sale

Many of Porter's songs were written in a minor musical key. This gives them a feeling of sadness and longing. Yet they also can have a feeling of great excitement. American songwriter Alan J. Lerner said only Cole Porter could really "write" passion. One example is "Night and Day." It is considered perhaps the finest song Cole Porter ever wrote. It is about the kind of romantic love that is almost a form of insanity.

Porter got the idea for the song while traveling in Morocco. He heard drums and a man singing a prayer. The song has a sound that beats endlessly, over and over. It is like a lover who thinks of nothing but his love, over and over, night and day.

The song "Night and Day" was introduced in a nineteen thirty-two Broadway musical comedy called "The Gay Divorcee." The great dancer and singer Fred Astaire played the leading male character and sang the song.

"Night and Day" became famous around the world. And Cole Porter was becoming one of the greatest songwriters America had ever produced. Today there are many recordings of the song by different singers and musicians. Here is “Night and Day” from the movie about Cole Porter called “De-Lovely.” John Barrowman and Kevin Kline sing it.

(MUSIC: “Night and Day”)

On our program next week, we will tell more about Cole Porter’s life, and bring you more of his music.

(MUSIC: "Begin the Beguine")

This program was written by Shelley Gollust. It was produced by Lawan Davis. This is Faith Lapidus. And this is Steve Ember. Join us again next week for PEOPLE IN AMERICA in VOA Special English.

COMPREHENSION CHECK

1. Cole Porter was born in 1891 in
a: Paris 
b: Indiana
c: Iowa
d: Illinois
 

2. Porter attended two Ivy League universities,
a: Dartmouth and Princeton
b: Columbia and Cornell
c: Yale and Harvard
d: Brown and Penn
 

3. After he wrote his first Broadway musical, Cole Porter moved to and lived for many years in
a: Europe
b: Argentina
c: Canada
d: Antarctica
 

4. According to the story, Cole Porter
a: never drank 
b: was a quiet, lonely man
c: threw wild parties
d: ate regularly at the Olive Garden
 

5. Most of Cole Porter’s songs are
a: solemn and religious
b: clever and sexy
c: written for little babies
d: heavy metal
 

6. In 1919, Porter
a: formed his first band, “Cole Porter and the Stouthearts” 
b: was kicked out of Harvard
c: married an American woman in Paris
d: was born
 
 
 
 
 

7. The song, “Love for Sale,” is about
a: a prostitute 
b: an online dating service
c: Valentine’s Day
d: 25 minutes long
 

8. “Night and Day” was first sung in the movies by
a: Brad Pitt 
b: Vicente Fernandez
c: Elvis Presley
d: Fred Astaire

9. The idea for the song, “Night and Day” came to Porter in
a: Africa
b: America
c: Alabama
d: Alaska
 

10.Another possible title of this story could be
a: “From Farmboy to Fanatic”
b: “Poor Young Man Makes Good in Europe”
c: “Cole Porter, a Sophisticated Talent”
d: “His Real Name Was Fred Astaire”





Like the beat, beat, beat of the tom tom
when the jungle shadows fall
like the tick,tick, tock of the stately clock
as it stands against the wall
like the drip, drip drip of the rain drops
when the summer showers through
a voice within me keeps repeating
you, you, you

Night and day you are the one
only you beneath the moon or under the sun
whether near to me or far it's no matter darling
where you are
I think of you
night and day, day and night
why is it so that this longing for you
follows where ever I go
in the roaring traffic's boom, in the silence of my lonely room
I think of you
night and day, night and day
under the hide of me , there's an oh such a hungry yearning burning
inside of me
and this torment won't be through
'till you let me spend my life making love to you
day and night, night and day.


Cole Porter, Part Two

Thursday, July 22, 2010

"Contemporary Classical Composers" from VOA



BARBARA KLEIN: Welcome to THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English. I'm Barbara Klein.

STEVE EMBER: And I'm Steve Ember. Today we present the second of two programs about contemporary classical music written by composers working in the United States. We begin with Osvaldo Golijov. He grew up in La Plata, Argentina, in a Jewish family from eastern Europe. He studied music in Israel and currently lives in the United States.

(MUSIC)

BARBARA KLEIN: This is Osvaldo Golijov's "La Pasion segun San Marcos," or "Saint Mark Passion." He wanted it to express the story of Jesus' last days as seen through the Latin American experience. The performance includes dancers and folk instruments like the accordion and guitar.


The work was first performed in Germany in two thousand to mark two hundred fifty years since the death of the composer Johann Sebastian Bach. The crowd cheered wildly for over twenty minutes. One music critic wrote that modern music history had just been made.

Osvaldo Golijov's more recent work "Azul" is a cello concerto written for Yo-Yo Ma and the Boston Symphony Orchestra:

(MUSIC)

STEVE EMBER: John Adams began his music career playing the clarinet, but he also began composing as a child.

His works over the years include the opera "Nixon in China," based on the historic visit by President Richard Nixon in nineteen seventy-two. Another of his works is "Shaker Loops":

(MUSIC)

STEVE EMBER: More recently, John Adams composed a piece in memory of the victims of the terrorist attacks of September eleventh, two thousand one. "On the Transmigration of Souls" earned a Pulitzer Prize as well as three Grammy Awards.

(MUSIC: “On the Transmigration of Souls,” Atlanta Symphony Orchestra)

John Adams took words from missing-person signs that had been put up by friends and family members immediately after the attacks. He also used the names of victims and personal stories about their lives that appeared in the newspaper. He said he wanted the music to express a sense of otherworldliness, like the listener is in the presence of generations of souls.

John Adams is a writer not only of music: he is currently working on a novel.

(MUSIC: “Red Violin Caprices” by John Corigliano, violinist Philippe Quint)

BARBARA KLEIN: John Corigliano writes many different kinds of music. Much of it is bold and expressive. He grew up in New York City in a family of musicians.

He has written several symphonies as well as music for movies. His "Red Violin" concerto was developed from music that he wrote for the movie of the same name. Another of his works is called "Mr. Tambourine Man: Seven Poems of Bob Dylan."

(MUSIC: “All Along the Watchtower,” Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra)

STEVE EMBER: For some people in the classical music world, the past ten to fifteen years have been a difficult period. Budgets have shrunk, a situation that only worsened with the recent recession. And there is growing competition from other forms of entertainment.

Also, public schools in the United States have reduced classical music education.

BARBARA KLEIN: Still, there is reason to celebrate the variety and energy of music created in the United States today. So says Frank Oteri, himself a composer. He works for the American Music Center, a nonprofit group that supports classical music. He started its online magazine, the NewMusicBox.

Frank Oteri says the Internet and new technologies have increased the competition for people's attention and money. But he points out that technology has also made new music available to people all over the world twenty-four hours a day. He says there has never been a richer time for so many musicians and so many kinds of new music.

We asked Frank Oteri if there is something that defines the work of modern American composers. That is a hard question, he says, because there are so many kinds of music being made right now.

But he believes this variety in music is informed by the variety in backgrounds of a nation of immigrants. If anything defines American music, he says, it is a spirit of redefinition and reinvention.

STEVE EMBER: Adam Schoenberg is a young composer adding to this rich variety. He started playing the piano at the age of three. But it was not until college at Oberlin in Ohio that he decided to study music more seriously. He recently earned a doctorate from the Juilliard School in New York.

Here is his piece "Finding Rothko" which he wrote for the IRIS chamber orchestra in Tennessee.

(MUSIC)

STEVE EMBER: We asked Adam Schoenberg about his composing process.

ADAM SCHOENBERG: "Every composer is different. I always get my notes at the piano, first and foremost. And I tend to sit down and improvise. Within those improvisations certain motives and ideas will come about that I like."

STEVE EMBER: He writes down his ideas, then continues his work away from the piano. He uses a computer notation program called Finale to put the work together.

So what does Adam Schoenberg think of contemporary classical music?

ADAM SCHOENBERG: "Something happened post-World War Two where a divide occurred between the audience and the composer. And today I feel like composers are reconnecting with the audience and the orchestra. I think it's an incredibly exciting time because we can now draw on so many different sources that we are influenced by, and I sort of feel like anything goes."

(MUSIC: “Gazebo Dances” by John Corigliano, University of Texas Wind Ensemble)

BARBARA KLEIN: Our program was written and produced by Dana Demange. I'm Barbara Klein.

STEVE EMBER: And I'm Steve Ember. You can read and listen to this program at voaspecialenglish.com. You can also find last week's program about composers, including two women who have won Pulitzer Prizes, Ellen Taaffe Zwilich and Jennifer Higdon. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter at VOA Learning English. Join us again next week for THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English.

From "Pasion Segun San Marcos" - Osvaldo Golijov


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

"Percival Lowell: Pluto's Discoverer" from VOA


VOICE ONE:

I'm Mary Tillotson.

VOICE TWO:

And I'm Bob Doughty with the VOA Special English program PEOPLE IN AMERICA. Today, we tell about Percival Lowell whose work led to the discovery of Pluto. His efforts and imagination helped change the history of astronomy in America.

(MUSIC)
VOICE ONE:

Percival Lowell came from a New England family with a long history in America. The Lowell family first came to the colony of Massachussetts in sixteen thirty-nine. One of Percival Lowell's ancestors, John Cabot Lowell, manufactured cloth. He became an important American industrialist in the late Eighteenth and early Nineteenth Centuries.

Percival's father, Augustus Lowell, worked in the family cloth business. He settled his family in Boston, Massachusetts. Percival was born there in eighteen fifty-five. He had a younger brother, Abbott Lawrence, and a younger sister, Amy.

VOICE TWO:

Percival Lowell attended American and European private schools as a young man. He studied mathematics at Harvard University. After he finished his studies at Harvard in eighteen seventy-six, he traveled in Europe and the Middle East for a year. Then he worked as a financial officer in the cloth business of his grandfather.

After several years, Percival realized he was not happy as a businessman. So he decided to travel to Japan to study its culture and language. While there, he was asked to go with a special trade group from Korea to establish trade relations with the United States.

In eighteen eighty-three, Mister Lowell traveled to Korea as a diplomat. He reported on a clash there between Korean and Japanese troops. Mister Lowell remained in East Asia for ten years. He returned home when each of his six books about East Asian subjects was published.

(MUSIC)

VOICE ONE:

Percival Lowell also had an intense interest in astronomy and mathematics. In eighteen ninety-three he left Tokyo for the last time and returned to the United States. He decided to spend more time observing the planet Mars.

He had studied observations by the famous Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli. He found notes that described markings on Mars that Mister Schiaparelli called "canali" Mister Lowell came to believe that intelligent life created the markings on Mars.

In eighteen ninety-four, he built an observatory near Flagstaff, Arizona. He had the world famous telescope maker Alvan Clark and Sons make a telescope for his observatory. He began a program of observing not only Mars, but also Venus and Mercury.

VOICE TWO:

Mister Lowell published his first book about Mars in eighteen ninety-five. In it, he developed a theory that intelligent life had created waterways all over the surface of Mars. His theory was that Martians were trying to bring water to the warm areas near the equator of the planet.

Mister Lowell's theories were based on what were serious scientific studies of that time. Yet his theories about life on Mars may have had more lasting influence on many writers of imaginary stories.

Three years after Mister Lowell's book was published, H.G Wells published his famous book "War of the Worlds." Mister Wells' story told of a Martian invasion of Earth. The Martians that he imagined lived on a dry and wasted planet. This is very similar to Mister Lowell's description of Mars.

Mister Lowell's theories about Mars also influenced Edgar Rice Burroughs. Mister Burroughs is best known for stories about "Tarzan." He also wrote a series of books about an American who traveled to Mars and fell in love with a beautiful princess. The popular series began in nineteen twelve with "The Princess of Mars."

VOICE ONE:

Mister Lowell's book, "Mars and Its Canals," was published in nineteen-oh-six. In that book, he expanded his theory about Martian life. He said he could see changes in the seasons on the surface of Mars. He said the darkening of the Martian surface during some times of the year was caused by the growth of plants. His theory of Martian life became so complex that he made maps of cities and waterways on the planet.

Percival Lowell did not know that his eyes played a part in the markings he saw on Mars. Experts explain that the movement of air in the atmosphere and natural qualities of the human eye caused him to see markings that were not there.

VOICE TWO:

Percival Lowell also studied the effect of gravity on the planet Neptune. Small changes in the movement of Neptune led several astronomers to believe that an undiscovered planet was affecting Neptune's orbit. Mister Lowell called it Planet X. Mister Lowell himself searched for Planet X for two years starting in nineteen-oh-five.

He made the search by comparing two pictures of the same part of the sky. The photographs would be taken several weeks apart. The astronomer would then check both photographs. An object in the solar system could be identified if it appeared to move from its place in the earlier photograph.

However, the first search failed. In fact, he failed to recognize Planet X in a few photographs. He searched again for it several years later. Percival Lowell did not have the chance to discover Planet X. He died suddenly in November, nineteen sixteen.

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VOICE ONE:

The search for Planet X did not restart at Lowell Observatory for years. Then in nineteen twenty-five, Guy Lowell, a relative of Percival, gained control of the observatory. He decided to seriously search for Planet X. He wanted to continue the work Percival had started.

In the following years, Percival's brother, Abbott Lawrence, provided money to build a special photographic telescope. The new telescope was completed in early nineteen twenty-nine.

That year, an observatory official, V. M. Slipher, offered a young man a job working with the new telescope. The young man's name was Clyde Tombaugh.

VOICE TWO

Mister Tombaugh got a job a Lowell Observatory after he sent drawings of his observations of Jupiter and Mars. He quickly learned how best to use the new photographic telescope at the observatory. He carefully planned his research to make the most of his time. On February eighteenth, nineteen thirty, he discovered an unusual object after less than one year of searching. The object moved slowly in the sky like a distant planet. Percival Lowell's Planet X had been found!

Pluto
On March thirteenth, Clyde Tombaugh and V.M Slipher announced the discovery of a new planet. The date was the seventy-fifth anniversary of Mister Lowell's birth.

Mister Tombaugh continued to record the motion of the new planet for thirteen years. He found more than seven hundred small bodies that orbit the sun, called asteroids. He also discovered a number of star systems called galaxies.

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VOICE ONE:

During his life, Percival Lowell did not enjoy the success he hoped to find in astronomy. He died long before the search for Planet X resulted in the discovery of Pluto. And his theories about waterways and complex life on Mars have been disproved. In nineteen sixty-five, NASA's Mariner Four spacecraft showed that no waterways existed on Mars.

Yet, the institution Mister Lowell established in Flagstaff, Arizona, has made many discoveries in addition to that of Pluto. Evidence that the universe is expanding was first discovered at Lowell Observatory by V. M. Slipher. Also, the rings around the planet Uranus were discovered there.

Lowell Observatory now has four telescopes and is continuing to expand. It supports programs that bring astronomy to the public.

Astronomers at Lowell and many other observatories continue to search for life beyond our planet. Their efforts continue Percival Lowell's tradition of scientific investigation.

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VOICE TWO:

This Special English program was written by Mario Ritter. It was produced by Caty Weaver. I'm Mary Tillotson.

VOICE ONE:

And I'm Bob Doughty. Join us again next week for another PEOPLE IN AMERICA program on the Voice of America.