One of the most challenging assignments for a composer is to write an elegy for an event or person of national significance. But John Adams was up to the task when Lorin Maazel and the New York Philharmonic commissioned him to write a memorial to the victims of September 11th. Adams describes his On the Transmigration of Souls as "a memory space -- a place where you can go and be alone with your thoughts and emotions." It's an apt description of the work. The composer assembled the text from sources that included messages about missing loved ones posted near Ground Zero. Pre-recorded sounds include street noises, a siren, the recitation of names, and the soft voice of a child saying "missing" -- which opens the work and is repeated over the choral background. The 22-minute elegy veers between eerie calm and climaxes of tolling bells, sirens, voices, and blaring brass. Robert Spano conducts the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorus in a stirring performance of this profoundly spiritual piece, featured on a Telarc release called Transmigration. The disc also includes elegies by Jennifer Higdon, John Corigliano, and Samuel Barber -- including the latter's Adagio for Strings. Spano offers a richly hued performance of this famously poignant work, which was played on the radio following the announcement of Franklin Roosevelt's death in 1945 and is now an instantly recognized symbol of grief. Also included on the disc is Barber's Agnus Dei (a choral setting of the Adagio), sung gracefully by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Chamber Chorus. Walt Whitman wrote his "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd" as a tribute to the slain Abraham Lincoln. Jennifer Higdon evocatively sets his poem in her recent Dooryard Bloom for baritone and orchestra. John Corigliano's Elegy is based on an incidental score composed for an off-Broadway production of Wallace Frey's Helen, about the aging Helen of Troy. Corigliano dedicated his Elegy to Barber, his mentor, whose musical ethos is reflected in this soaring neo-romantic work.

July 25: On this day in 1834 Samuel Taylor Coleridge died of heart disease at the age of sixty-one.

Crime fiction legends Dennis Lehane and Michael Connelly discuss the new book that unites their beloved sleuths Patrick Kenzie and Harry Bosch.

Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
Paradise and Elsewhere

Canadian short story marvel Kathy Page emerges as the Alice Munro of the supernatural from these heartfelt tales of shapeshifting swimmers, mild-mannered cannibals, and personality-shifting viruses transmitted through kisses.


When a persuasive pastor arrives in a sleepy farm town, his sage influence has otherworldly results (talking sheep, a mayor who walks on water). But can he pull off the miracle of finding kindly local Liz Denny the love of her life?  Small wonder looms large in this charmer from Andre Alexis.

The Hundred-Year House

When a poetry scholar goes digging through the decrepit estate of his wife's family to uncover a bygone arts colony's strange mysteries, he awakens a tenacious monster: his mother-in-law. A wickedly funny take on aging aristocracies from author Rebecca Makkai (The Borrower).