Miles Hoffman

Host, Writer

Violist Miles Hoffman is founder and artistic director of The American Chamber  Players.  He made his New York recital debut in 1979 at the 92nd Street Y and has since appeared frequently around the country in recital, as chamber musician, and as soloist with many orchestras.  In 1982 he founded the Library of Congress Summer Chamber Festival, which he directed for nine years, and which led to the formation of the American Chamber Players. His musical commentary, “Coming to Terms,” was heard weekly throughout the United States for thirteen years – from 1989 to 2002 – on NPR’s Performance Today, and now, as Music Commentator for National Public Radio’s flagship news program, Morning Edition, he is regularly heard by a national audience of nearly 14 million people.  Mr. Hoffman is the author of The NPR Classical Music Companion: Terms and Concepts from A to Z, now in its tenth printing from the Houghton Mifflin Company.  He is a graduate of Yale University and the Juilliard School, and in 2003 he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Centenary College of Louisiana in recognition of his achievements as a performer and educator. Violist Miles Hoffman is founder and artistic director of The American Chamber  Players and artistic director of the Peace Chamber Program at the Peace Center, in Greenville, SC. He is the host of two of South Carolina Public Radio's national productions, The Spoleto Chamber Series, and A Minute with Miles.

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Violin Versus Fiddle

Dec 1, 2014

What’s the difference between a violin and a fiddle? Well, I’ve heard it said that a violin has strings, and a fiddle has “strangs.”  But in reality, violin and fiddle are just two different words for the same instrument.

It was a fad that brought the BASS DRUM, CYMBALS, and TRIANGLE to Europe. The fad was for a kind of Turkish military music known as Janissary music. The Janissaries were the personal guard of the Turkish Sultans, and they were famous for their bands, which featured the bass drum, cymbals, triangle, and an instrument of bells and jingles called the Turkish crescent.

Bad Conductor

Oct 8, 2014

Yesterday, we talked about good conductors.  Today, let's talk about bad conductors.  Some bad conductors or unimaginative, or uninteresting.  And others are just not very gifted; even when they have good ideas, they have difficulty communicating them.  Some may even put on an extravagant physical show, but without necessarily showing much that's useful to the members of the orchestra.  Other conductors are unprepared or undependable.  Good orchestras try to ignore bad conductors, and in fact, it's not uncommon for good orchestras to rescue bad conductors- to play passages of music correctl

Good Conductor

Oct 7, 2014

What makes a good conductor?  Well, musical imagination and intelligence certainly come first since there's no point in trying to communicate with an orchestra without ideas worth communicating.  An excellent ear is essential, both for judging overall results and for pinpointing specific problems.  And so is a rock-solid sense of rhythm.  A good conductor must also have a certain physical grace, or at least coordination in order to produce a clear beat and musically meaningful gestures.  And it almost goes without saying that a conductor will have enough personal presence to be a convincing

Canon Round Catch

Oct 6, 2014

A Canon, with one "n" in the middle, is a composition with two or more voices or parts in which a melody is first stated in one voice and then imitated in another.

Prima Donna

Oct 2, 2014

Prima donna, Italian for “first lady,” refers to the leading lady in an opera, the singer of the principal female role.  The term has been in use since the 1600s, the earliest days of opera, and by the 1700s it was already associated with the artistic and commercial cult of the glamorous leading lady… and with singers who were monumentally demanding egomaniacs—to put it politely.

Brass Instruments

Sep 30, 2014

Brass instruments are wind instruments and although they may be coiled or bent in different shapes, all brass instruments consists essentially of a very long metal tube.  If you straightened out all the tubing on a French horn, for example, it would be about 17 feet long!  And the tubing of a tuba might be up to 26 feet long.  There are two main ways to play different notes, or pitches, on a brass instrument.  One is to change the actual length of the tube either using valves as on the French horn, trumpet, and tuba or a slide as on the trombone.  The longer the tube, the lower the note.  T

Narrative in Music

Sep 29, 2014

I once asked the composer Max Raimi what he thought of a certain other composer’s music.  He replied that her music had interesting sounds, and interesting textures, and interesting moments, but that it tended to lack three things that he considered very important: a beginning, a middle, and an end.