December 16, 2020

Approximately 100 New Works Planned for Music Marathon

A CHAMPION OF NEW MUSIC: Marvin Rosen, a fixture on the Princeton University radio station WPRB for decades, has big plans for his 15th annual music marathon on December 27. Due to COVID, this year’s show is being broadcast from his Princeton home instead of the studio.

By Anne Levin

As a longtime pianist, musicologist, and teacher at Westminster Conservatory of Music, Marvin Rosen has a healthy respect for classical music. But compositions by contemporary composers are his real passion. Some 100 of them will be featured on the annual 21st century Music Marathon he is curating for broadcast starting Sunday, December 27 at noon and continuing until the same time on the following day.

This is the 16th year for the popular event on WPRB radio, where Rosen has hosted the show Classical Discoveries since 1999. For the third year in a row, he plans to devote the marathon to music by an equal representation of male and female composers. “It’s 50/50,” he said during a recent conversation. “We have to support our living composers, from all over the world. And we have to support both genders.”

Rosen plays music by established contemporary composers, but is also open to those that are less known. “To add a little bit of spice, I take composer submissions,” he said. “So I get all sorts of music sent to me. A number of them this year are very good. The youngest composer is probably in their late teens. I get submissions every day. I have so many this year, I won’t be able to do them all. But I’m planning to use the leftovers in upcoming weeks and months. I would probably need 72 hours to play them all.”

Entries come from all over the world. “I was communicating yesterday with somebody from Lebanon,” Rosen said. “I have musical contacts from Australia and New Zealand. People send me a lot of material. Despite some of the issues people have with social media, a program like this is really helped by it.”

Rosen first got the idea for a music marathon from fellow WPRB host Jon Solomon, who has done the annual “25-Hour Holiday Radio Show” at WPRB since 1988, when he was 15 years old. “I thought, gee whiz, look what he’s doing. And there is such a call for contemporary music,” Rosen said. “I definitely had the material, and I knew the interest was there. It was an opportunity to play a bunch of living composers, to do 21st century material. So why not?”

The audience for Rosen’s radio show comes from “all ages, all walks of life,” he said. “I can hear from somebody who says, ‘I never liked classical music till I heard your show.’ I think people need something inspiring, and they sometimes need a change. We are right around the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth, and that’s great. But we need something with new sound too, that opens the ears a bit. This is my opinion.”

But not all contemporary music is appealing. “I like a great deal of music, but I think a tremendous amount that came out post World War II is very progressive and extremely difficult to listen to,” Rosen said. “The most exciting thing right now about music and living composers is that every single style goes. There is so much diversity. So, there is no excuse for anybody to say ‘I don’t like new music.’ Because the styles are endless. There is something for everybody. Whether its avant-garde or something a little more traditional, or influenced by rock, or jazz, or ethnic, its endless.”

As an independent radio station, WPRB gives a lot of freedom to the hosts of its shows. “I have the opportunity to do what I want to do,” Rosen said. “I am not watched. I have free choice, and a show like this could happen on very few stations except this one. We are encouraged to be different and original. That’s why the station is such an absolute wonder right now. People are looking for new things. I even did a show on music in the time of the pandemic, to show that composers are getting out there. I played 30 different compositions of works done during this crisis. One of them actually passed from COVID.”

Rosen said his students at Westminster Conservatory share his enthusiasm. “Most of them love contemporary music, more than classical,” he said. “Young people find a relevance, because it is being written in their time, and they have a connection with it. It is so important, as we move forward musically, that people have the opportunity to listen to it. We have to keep the concert halls and the interest in music going.”

To listen to the marathon, tune to WPRB 103 FM or visit