On the Record - Steve Ahearn

with sarah kienle

Clarinetist Steve Ahearn takes a deep dive into the ways in which we all enjoy music and shares his experience of being a parent and orchestral musician.










Brahms: Symphony No. 4, I. Allegro non troppo

“For me the opening of this piece is so perfect. Every time this piece starts, for me, it’s like walking into a door of a warm room and the music is already playing.  I feel like there’s music that begins and it’s like you’re walking into it, like stepping into the ocean and it’s always been there, and then there’s music that sort of starts and hits you in the side of the face, and this is one of those pieces that for me it’s like opening a door on a winter day and a fire’s going in the hearth. It’s just so warm.  But it’s also so immediately Brahms.  It seems you can sit back and sort of bathe in it, in the simplicity of it, and then as you start to peel back the layers, he’s creating something that feels simple that’s incredibly complex.”

Mahler:  Symphony No. 2, III. In ruhig fließender Bewegung

“For me the third movement of Mahler 2 is quintessentially Mahler… the way that he writes so beautifully but at the same time it’s also funny, and it’s sarcastic, it’s sardonic, it’s witty…

I think just from the opening, if Brahms is walking into that room with the fire going, Mahler just kicks the door in.”

Radiohead "NUDE" from In Rainbows 

“What they did on this album In Rainbows for me really is beautiful. It’s so simple and it really highlights Thom Yorke’s voice in a way that’s almost operatic…

Also on this track early in the song you can hear their guitarist, whose name is Jonny Greenwood, who is also a composer and he is a huge fan of Messiaen, and he uses an instrument on this song called the ondes martenot, which is a French instrument from the 1920’s that actually Messiaen uses in his Turangalîla-Symphonie and they use it in a very subtle way.  It sounds a little bit like a theremin.  It’s like a keyboard but it has wires on it so you can bend pitches. So it’s in the background, but I love that he uses that and to me, that’s a meaningful part of my connection with that band and this song in particular is hearing people experimenting  with other instruments and finding other ways of making music.”

Ryuichi Sakamoto:  "Church Dream" from The Revenant (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

“[The Revenant] to me was absolutely incredible and a main character of the movie was the soundtrack…

In this movie, it’s this incredible space that they create, this vast frozen tundra which is also a character in and of itself in the film.  And then the music backs that up so much.  I love the simplicity of the writing and I really love how there’s some production in it, like there’s a little bit of synthesizer but the strings are still the main voice.”

The Bad Plus and Joshua Redmond "As This Moment Slips Away" from The Bad Plus Joshua Redmond

“This track always gets me every time I put it on.  It’s not unlike the Brahms in that… it sets up an expectation and then ‘whap!’, immediately it’s different, but it’s not in a way that is that obvious to you…

I can’t imagine playing it actually, it seems incredibly hard, but it sounds so natural and the rhythm section is so tight.  Then, when Josh Redmond solos over the top of this thing that is already so complex, I just absolutely love it.  It gets me every time.”


Listen to our other episodes of "On the Record"

Lydia Umlauf

Diane Kitzman

George Nickson

Ted Soluri



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