Arts

Arts and culture

Harper Lee, the author of the classic novel To Kill a Mockingbird, has died in her hometown of Monroeville, Ala. The Pulitzer Prize-winning writer was 89.

Monroeville city officials confirmed reports of Lee's death to Alabama Public Radio. Her publisher, HarperCollins, also confirmed the news to NPR.

Her famous novel about a young girl's experience of racial tensions in a small Southern town has sold tens of millions of copies and been translated into dozens of languages.

What does it mean to actually see black people and honor them with the grand art of portraiture?

That’s what artist Kehinde Wiley has been exploring for more than a decade and he’s created a lot of buzz.

Wiley paints huge and colorful portraits of African Americans that mimic the great masterpieces of 18th century Europe.

A retrospective of his work, featuring nearly 60 pieces, is currently up at the Seattle Art Museum through May 8.

When the iconic gold Oscar statues are handed out at the Academy Awards ceremony on Feb. 28, they'll look a little bit different.

The statues will more closely resemble the early awards.

It seemed like there was something for everybody at the 2016 Grammy Awards. Mark Ronson's high-spirited "Uptown Funk," featuring Bruno Mars, won Record of the Year. The songwriting award, Song of the Year, went to Ed Sheeran and Amy Wadge's "Thinking Out Loud," while Taylor Swift won Album of the Year for 1989.

The nominations for the 58th annual Grammy Awards, though, were pitched as something of a showdown between pop and hip-hop. In certain ways, neither won outright — but both genres' reigning queen and king emerged as winners.

In the movie Mad Max: Fury Road, a renegade, played by Charlize Theron, races away from a dictator through a hellish desert.

It's essentially a two-hour post-apocalyptic car chase.

The film isn't your typical Oscar bait, yet it has 10 nominations. One of those is for editor Margaret Sixel. Her job began with hundreds of hours of footage.

The Goats and Soda team is playing a game, and one of us pulls out a bright red card with this line: "Angelina Jolie will now be a special envoy for ____."

Each team member shuffles through a handful of white cards and picks an answer to fill in the blank. This is what we get:

"Explaining that Chad is a country, not a person"

"China!"

"Antimalarial-induced hallucinations"

"George Clooney's wife"

Now comes the fun part. Which card do you choose?

A group of 10- and 11-year-olds giggle as professional cellist Frederic Rosselet flexes his wrist as if he's made of rubber. "Really flexible in your wrist," he tells the students. "It's your arm basically that does the work."

The cello students at Downer Elementary School in San Pablo, Calif., drag their bows across their cello's strings, following Rosselet's wrist-shaking lead.

Screeeech. It needs work.

"Guys, wanna try that again? 'Forte' means?"

"Loud!" the students reply.

Just ahead of Valentine's Day, we visited the tomb of a poet who wrote often of love.

The 14th century Persian poet Hafez is buried in Shiraz, the city where he lived almost 700 years ago. He remains venerated in Iran, even though he wrote of romance and other topics that are not obviously embraced in the modern-day Islamic Republic.

One of his lines: "Oh Cup-bearer, set my glass afire with the light of wine!"

Hollywood producer Ross Putman says he's read thousands of scripts during his time working in the film industry in Los Angeles, and over the years, he began to find one pattern particularly problematic: the way female characters are introduced.

Here's a sampling: leggy, attractive, blonde, beautiful, hot, gorgeous, pretty, sexy.

Attention, Harry Potter fans.

This is not a drill.

A new Harry Potter book will be published this summer.

The book, called Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, picks up the story of Harry, Ron and Hermione where the epilogue left off, according to author J.K. Rowling's website, Pottermore. The book is the script of a play by the same name opening this summer in London.

When the Sundance Film Festival kicked off last month, the subject of diversity was in the air. Just days after the Academy of Motion Pictures rekindled the debate on #OscarsSoWhite, thousands of filmmakers and journalists decamped to Park City, Utah's snowy mountains to discover new indie gems and meet the auteurs of tomorrow.

Paul Kantner, who co-founded the psychedelic-rock group Jefferson Airplane and helped define the San Francisco sound in the 1960s with songs such as "Somebody to Love," has died. He was 74.

The guitarist and singer died Thursday following a heart attack earlier in the week, NPR's Tom Cole reports.

The free-speech organization PEN American Center says it is giving its 2016 PEN/Allen award to author J.K. Rowling. The prize honors "a critically acclaimed author whose work embodies its mission to oppose repression in any form and to champion the best of humanity."

You know his voice, playing the title roles on the animated TV series Bob's Burgers and Archer, not to mention a can of vegetables in the movie Wet Hot American Summer.

But none of that is why the 20-year comedy veteran Jon Benjamin spoke with All Things Considered. Instead, it was for the most "public radio" of reasons: He has recorded an experimental jazz album.

What's your favorite memory of listening to a David Bowie song? We want to hear your story: In an audio recording, set the scene and tell us why that particular song matters to you in a minute or less. To get the ball rolling, here are two examples from our own staff: NPR editor Dana Farrington remembers her father singing Bowie's "Letter to Hermione" as a lullaby.

Legendary rock musician David Bowie, who influenced generations of musicians and fans, died on Sunday, two days after his 69th birthday.

Pierre Boulez, the French composer and conductor whose career spanned from the avant-garde post-World War II era to the computer age, has died, according to the French culture ministry. He was 90. Boulez famously challenged his peers and his audience to rethink their ideas of sound and harmony.

One of the world's most precious volumes starts a tour on Monday, in Norman, Okla. The Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C., is sending out William Shakespeare's First Folio to all 50 states to mark the 400th anniversary of the bard's death. Published seven years after he died, the First Folio is the first printed collection of all of Shakespeare's plays.

Singer Natalie Cole Dead At 65

Jan 1, 2016

Natalie Cole, the Grammy award-winning singer and daughter of legendary crooner Nat King Cole, has died. She was 65.

According to a statement from her family, Cole passed away last night at a Los Angeles Hospital "due to complications from ongoing medical issues."

A Holiday Favorite: David Sedaris' 'Santaland Diaries'

Dec 25, 2015

You might not expect "Santa's helper" to be a career-altering gig, but for David Sedaris, it changed everything. The writer and humorist spent a season working at Macy's as a department store elf. He described his short tenure as Crumpet the Elf in "The Santaland Diaries," an essay that he first read on Morning Edition in 1992. He was brought to NPR by an up-and-coming producer named Ira Glass.

Instantly, a classic was born. Sedaris' reading has become an NPR holiday tradition. Click the "Listen" link above to hear Sedaris read his tale.

Paula Wissel

Have you ever had a job that was so repetitive you did little things to try and spice it up?  Apparently, that’s true even when you’re a professional musician playing in the orchestra for Pacific Northwest Ballet’s "The Nutcracker."

That's what KPLU's Paula Wissel found out when she went to a matinee performance on Tuesday and got a behind-the-scenes tour.

provided by the Compline Choir

The Compline service at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church feels very traditional – ancient, even. But the all-male Compline Choir chants its monastic prayers and hymns to a pretty eclectic flock. Elders bent with age mix with people who live on the street, families with small children and young adults in a pretty obvious drug haze.

They’re all there to feel the thrum of sacred music, ringing through this soaring, 90-foot-high cathedral.

Frank Sinatra was born 100 years ago this past Saturday, which at NPR can mean only one thing: an opportunity to talk to the biggest Sinatra superfan we know, business reporter Sonari Glinton, about the singer's formidable legacy.

A battle between upbeat, finely crafted pop and politically minded hip-hop seems to be what's shaping up for the biggest prizes at this year's Grammy Awards. The nominees were announced this morning, in advance of the awards ceremony on Feb. 15.

Tonight (Monday), ABC will air a special at 8 p.m. ET called It's Your 50th Christmas, Charlie Brown, to mark the half-century since A Charlie Brown Christmas first aired in 1965. Then at 9, it will air the special itself.

Around this time in 2014, ABC had just canceled the sitcom Selfie, starring everybody's ideal boyfriend John Cho and Karen Gillan. Cho was the first Asian-American male to play the lead in a rom-sitcom — he called his role "revolutionary" — and fans lamented that the show was just finding its legs when it got cut.

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