The MTT Files was produced by American Public Media and the San Francisco Symphony.

MTT’s ideas about music and art, and the stories of legendary artists he’s known and been inspired by.

Program 1: You Call That Music?!

MTT demonstrates that noise is in the mind of the listener. His guest is contemporary composer Steven Mackey.

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Program 2: What Does America Sound Like? — Part 1

Before 1900, there was no real American concert music. But only 20 years later, composers had begun to break the hold of European standards for art and were experimenting in earnest with ways to portray an American sound.

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Program 3: What Does America Sound Like? — Part 2

In this program, Michael Tilson Thomas explains Copland’s musical transformation, and the political and artistic sentiments behind it. Included is a recorded rehearsal of the composer’s greatest modernist work, the Symphonic Ode, with MTT conducting the New World Symphony, America’s Orchestral Academy.

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Program 4: Igor Stravinsky’s Copyright Blues

When Igor Stravinsky’s The Firebird premiered in Paris, it was the most sensational hit of the early 20th century. But when the score fell out of the composer’s control because of the Bolshevik Revolution and the arcane realities of international copyright law, Stravinsky spent much of the rest of his life trying to collect some of the money he thought was due him.

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Program 5: The Last Virtuoso

In this program, Michael Tilson Thomas examines why Heifetz was so good, and asks whether any violinist living today could ever hope to match his incredible technical ability and immense musicality. What’s changed? What is virtuosity, and why is it so hard to maintain? Featured is an interview/demonstration recorded on the stage of Davies Symphony Hall with Alexander Barantschik, the Concertmaster of the San Francisco Symphony, who now plays Heifetz’s Guarnerius violin.

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Program 6: Freud and the Ballet

Some people think the music of Giselle is a piece of fluff. But Michael Tilson Thomas thinks it’s a masterpiece. The work marks the very beginning of art that looks at internal, emotional explanations of behavior. Art has always predicted the future; in this case, music predicted Sigmund Freud. MTT interviews former prima ballerina Natalia Makarova, the greatest Giselle of our time, about dancing this “heart on the sleeve” role.

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Program 7: We Were Playing Boulez, But We Were Listening To James Brown!

The core of this program, an extensive interview with James Brown about his music, was recorded at Brown’s home in Georgia.

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Program 8: Five Degrees of Separation

A program about teachers and students – about how teachers pass on technique and musicianship, but also about how they use stories about their own teachers to pass on the spirit of a musical life.

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For more information about the MTT Files, please visit

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The MTT Files are supported by a grant from Koret Foundation Funds and by members of Minnesota Public Radio. The MTT Files are part of Keeping Score, made possible with lead funding from the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund and with generous support from The James Irvine Foundation, Marcia and John Goldman, Nan Tucker McEvoy, William and Gretchen Kimball Fund, the National Endowment for the Arts, and others.

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