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Those who listen to a lot of music surely know what I mean when I refer to music as a soundtrack. Of course, there's no universal reason why musicians create music, but likely not at the top of the list is an intention to make a soundtrack to the world around them. In fact, some musicians, and even serious listeners to music, would find repellent the idea of music as simple backdrop, perhaps even relegated to audio wallpaper.

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Although his career has been silent for the past quarter century (he last sang in a public performance in 1988), Jon Vickers' name has continued to resonate loudly through his substantial discography. He sang strong roles. He felt an obligation to become the character. If he didn't like the character, or he felt there was something weak about a particular work, he would refuse the role.

  

It's hard to believe it's been 40 years since Venezuela's El Sistema drew its first breath, but it has. A new compact disc from DG celebrates this 40th anniversary with a collection of 12 tracks drawn from the extensive discography of the Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela. The disc is titled “El Sistema 40 – A Celebration.”

Who is today's Birthday Bard? Why, it's William Shakespeare! In truth, his birth date is rather hazy. Nevertheless, April 23, 1564, is when the BBC celebrates it, and that's good enough for me. However, to keep all bases covered, his baptism record shows the date April 26th on it.

Milton Montenegro

[This post has been edited from when it first went online to reflect some of the winners in this year's categories.]

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