Bryce Dessner

There's a stunning project by a handful of music's current big-thinkers: composer Nico Muhly, songwriter and singer Sufjan Stevens and guitarist-composer Bryce Dessner of The National. The trio, along with percussionist James McAlister, have created Planetarium, an existential song cycle that confronts both the heavens and the human condition in a marriage of hypnotic sound and song.

Although it closed 60 years ago, Black Mountain College keeps on giving. In its heyday, the liberal arts institution near Asheville, N.C., counted many of the mid-century's great artistic thinkers, including John Cage, Willem de Kooning, Cy Twombly, Buckminster Fuller, Francine du Plessy Gray and Robert Rauschenberg, among its faculty and students.