Top Picks: A radio show about visual design, Wagner's Ring Cycle, and more

Traffic app Waze warns you of roadblocks ahead, pianist and composer David Greilsammer performs classic and contemporary compositions, and more.

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    Wagner’s epic Ring Cycle
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Jazz Progression

From the first track, a lovely rendition of the South African composer Abdullah Ibrahim's "Manenberg," Ernest Ranglin's Avila takes us on a tour of global jazz and all the many influences of Ranglin's long career, from reggae to Afro-pop to 1970s urban American jazz. There's nothing rushed or showy about his playing, so this is a great album for the world-music or jazz aficionado who just wants to chill. Ranglin's solos still have that creamy, rhythmic quality they had when he played guitar on Bob Marley's first albums. "Avila" is a wonderful ride.

storytelling for design lovers

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The pitch for 99 Percent Invisible sounds foolish: It's a radio show about visual design. Yet, somehow, host Roman Mars carries his audience into seeing through hearing. His audio storytelling rolls through the history of great buildings, the philosophy behind art movements, and the beauty of overlooked objects. The biweekly show enters its third season in September. It's available as a podcast on iTunes or at 99percentinvisible.org.

Baroque past and present

David Greilsammer's new CD, Baroque Conversations, features the pianist and composer performing Rameau, Couperin, and other Baroque masters interspersed with contemporary compositions – echoing and commenting on the works from an earlier era. This musical conversation between styles of former eras and current ones is a unique addition to any library.

Beat the traffic

The new traffic app Waze functions like a social network, with drivers who are in your area weighing in on trouble spots on the road. Waze also updates its directions for new road conditions so you're not stuck behind orange cones. The app is available through the iTunes app store and through Google Play.

Wagner's operatic Masterpiece ...

"Das Rheingold," the first of four parts in Wagner's epic Ring Cycle, kicks off Sept 11 on PBS's "Great Performances" at New York's Metropolitan opera house. "Die Walkure," "Siegfried," and "Gotterdammerung" will air nightly in sequence through Sept. 14. Tune in to see the evil Alberich steal gold from the Rhine to forge a ring of unimaginable power, but a curse guarantees misery for anyone who wears it. This is big, mythic opera at its biggest and bravest – epic theater making epic TV.

... And the staging of it

The Met's bold decision to mount an entirely new production of the Ring Cycle was a monumental undertaking that ran from 2010 through this year. Wagner's Dream, a documentary by award-winning filmmaker Susan Froemke airing on PBS's "Great Performances" Sept. 10, goes behind the scenes of director Robert Lepage's visionary staging.

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