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.

April 21: " 'Pull' includes 'invitations to tea' at which one hears smiling reminders that a better life is available to people who stop talking about massacres..."

Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch is the winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. James Parker calls this Dickensian coming-of-age novel "an enveloping…

Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
Poems That Make Grown Men Cry

And women too.  Luminaries from Colin Firth to Nick Cave and Jonathan Franzen chose the poems that bring them to tears, and the result is a stunning collection of poignant verse from writers like Auden, Whitman, Bishop, Larkin, Neruda and many others.  Warning: choking-up hazard.

The King of Pain

Trapped beneath his entertainment system, reality TV mastermind Rick Salter reflects on his life and tries to piece together the events of the previous evening. Seth Kaufman’s romp is an outrageous meditation on pain and entertainment in a deranged world in which the two are often interchangeable.

The Good Inn

Frank Black, frontman for the Pixies, has written a transgressive historical fiction with shades of Thomas Pynchon (focused as it is on the history of explosives and cinematic pornography), all set in a hallucinatory Edwardian Europe.