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The Choral Contrarians

Music Podcasts

A couple of friendly conductors bantering about complex issues affecting the choral world.

A couple of friendly conductors bantering about complex issues affecting the choral world.


United States


A couple of friendly conductors bantering about complex issues affecting the choral world.




Highback Chairs and Hefty Tomes

With churchwarden pipe in hand, Richard joins Eric in the library by a tended fire to discuss the year and perhaps what the future may hold for those in the choral profession.


Similes Like or As Metaphors

Eric and Richard are like or as a couple of professors talking about using words in a way that is like or as similes and metaphors are used. How can a conductor use similes and metaphors in the context of a rehearsal setting? Is it useful? What are potential issues that can arise if used incorrectly or too much? Join the guys deep in the mine and go spelunking for ways metaphors can be used in ways that are like or as useful ideas are used.


Unattainably Attainable Transcendence

Richard and Eric discuss the slippery subject of transcendence through music and art. Often referenced throughout their discussions, they take the time to dive more deeply into this difficult concept, deciding if it is something one can grasp for or merely receive. Is it attainable in our day-to-day lives, or only reserved for special moments? ...and what is it exactly, anyway? Lewis, C. S. (2001). The Weight of Glory (1st ed.). HarperOne.


Chain Links and the Cult of Progress

Richard and Eric tackle a juicy quote about Herbert Howells from a 1950s Musical Times article composed by Gerald Finzi. “To some the idiom will appear ‘dated,’ and poorer critical minds attach much greater significance to this word than it deserves. ‘All only constant is in constant change,’ but too often the generations see only the change and overlook the constancy. We are, after all, only a link in a chain and each link must, of necessity, lie the opposite way to its predecessor.” Where...


The Nihilism of Accomplishment. Feat. Dr. Jeremiah Cawley

Richard and Eric are joined by returning guest Dr. Jeremiah Cawley to discuss a special and controversial quote from Fyodor Dostoevsky's "Notes from Underground." The thought process of the examined quote is guided by a YouTuber "Thoughts on Thinking," and the road leads to some broad and substantial questions about a human's relationship to process, purpose, goals, accomplishment, and despair. Is what you think you want not what you want at all? Is the process of completion a hidden key for...


Composing: An Ocean of Song. Feat. Michael McGlynn

Irish composer Michael McGlynn once again joins Eric on the podcast, this time to wander deep into all things composing. Having an extensive international career as a celebrated choral composer, Michael shares stories and thoughts on the composer's voice, distillation, the current landscape of composition, and the rich wide ocean of song we all swim in. Pieces by Michael McGlynn (sung by Anúna) included: "Salve Rex Gloriae" "O pia...


The Guy in the Gorilla Suit

Richard and Eric take a look at a 2017 Australian research paper that correlates openness to experience and binocular rivalry. The researchers found some very interesting perceptual outcomes, including a connection to inattentional blindness (made famous by the 'Invisible Gorilla' experiment), but does anything found have anything to do with our musical practice (especially for conductors)? It is seen to be true that openness to experience, wonder, and awe are linked to perceptual awareness...


Sacred Cow Tipping: Blend

Richard and Eric venture out to tip over a most beautiful sacred cow: choral blend. What are people actually talking about when they ask for "blend?" Though being slightly more ambiguous than conductors would like to admit, it remains a top priority for many. We all want the choirs we hear to sound good, but what could we all be missing if we focus on "blend" too much, or put it above other aspects of the music-making experience. Are there potential alternatives or perhaps different ways of...


Anúna and Sean-nós. Feat. Michael McGlynn

Eric sits down to chat with one of Ireland's preeminent composers and musicians: Michael McGlynn. They speak about the early days of Anúna, what the group has grown into, and its global influence over the course of its illustrious 33 year history. They also spend some time speaking about how "Sean-nós" singing has directly, and indirectly, effected the model Anuna and Michael's own choral philosophy. What exactly is "Sean-nós"? Does integrating this concept into a choral paradigm challenge...


Questions, Questions

Richard and Eric dig into listener emails to answer some questions and comments. The short-form topics and questions covered are 1) CPDL (Choral Public Domain Library) and attribution, 2) publishing houses and their domination of reading sessions, 3) DMA (Doctor of Musical Arts) recipients and their perceived preparedness in certain choral styles/eras, and 4) the choral world's general relationship with composers who are considered luminary or celebrity. Thanks for the emails, questions,...



Richard and Eric discuss the moment and some psychological ramifications that have developed over the recent months, both individually and collectively within the choral arena. They land on a word not often used, but perhaps necessary for the times: "trudge."


Imposter Syndrome

Do you constantly feel like an imposter, just waiting to be found out to be the fraud that you think you are? For their first episode of Season 3, Richard and Eric take a peek at the real-life phenomenon known as "imposter syndrome," as well as the five types of ways this is seen to manifest in individuals. During the covid-19 season, this particular psychological pattern may be more prevalent than ever. For those that struggle with this periodically, or habitually, they land on something to...


We are (most certainly) Dwarves.

Richard and Eric take a dive into the concept of profession scalability articulated by essayist and scholar Nassim Taleb. After defining terms, they ask whether the current conductor/music-teacher profession model is changing rapidly into something very different. How has the 2020 pandemic (and the internet/technology intersection) perhaps shaped the future of the profession? Could we be in store for something unrecognizable, sooner than later? They finally realize they are (most certainly)...


Dunning-Kruger Effect

Richard and Eric essentially live out the Dunning-Kruger effect by talking about the Dunning-Kruger effect. They introduce the concept and land on an important question: To what degree do we recognize incompetence — not just in others, but in ourselves? Does it matter? This troubling phenomenon is seemingly (and unfortunately) a ubiquitous feature of the human psyche. Kruger, J., & Dunning, D. (1999). Unskilled and unaware of it: How difficulties in recognizing one’s own incompetence lead...


The Present Past of T.S. Eliot

Richard and Eric dive into the deep end of the pool in seeing how T.S. Eliot's "Tradition and the Individual Talent" may intersect with music. This surprisingly short essay (which is hailed as perhaps the best essay of the 20th Century) shows off Eliot's rare genius of getting to the bottom of things as eloquently and powerfully as possible. Beyond poetry, there is indeed quite a bit that is relevant to a number of other artist endeavors, including various aspects of music and music-making....


Contrarian Short: Arvo Pärt. Feat. Timothy Tharaldson

Composer and Conductor, Timothy Tharaldson, joins Eric to speak about his unique, recent visit to the Arvo Pärt Centre in Laulasmaa, Estonia. They celebrate not only his experience, but Pärt as a composer and human being. Arvo Pärt Centre: Timothy Tharaldson:


Collective Memory Decay

Richard and Eric look into a fascinating phenomenon: Collective Memory Decay. Owing much to the work of the Cesar A. Hidalgo and the Collective Learning group at the MIT Media Lab, this concept looks generally (and specifically) into the interaction between culture and memory. Can we learn something from the way pieces of information are shared and retained by large number of people. This study resulted in a truly fun and compelling data set entitled the "Pantheon Project: Historical...


Shh... Audiate and Whatnot. Feat. Dr. Jeremiah Cawley

Eric is joined by friend of the cast Dr. Jeremiah Cawley to discuss what in the world musicians (students, teachers, and professionals) can do to continue growing during the silence of isolation. Many musicians are thrust into awkward living situations where traditional practice regimens are not feasible or even possible. What types of things can we do or practice instead to make a "musical deposit" towards the future when collaboration may begin again in earnest. Are there are things that...


Game Time!

What do cyborg arms, Pampered Chef, truth, lies, and influential composers have in common? Nothing! Take a dive into some game time with Richard and Eric as they have fun (for once).


Living in Zoom

Richard, who has been living in Zoom, must be rescued by Eric and brought back to the corporeal with the power of the *beep bop boop.* They discuss how the use of technology could continue to grow and be implemented by conductors and musicians after the initial wave of global pandemic. What could be some long term ramifications? Eric ends up uploading his mind to the interwebs.