Marc Masters

To create her wide-ranging music, New York-based artist Lea Bertucci has used a wealth of instruments and compositional techniques. But her primary creative tool is the saxophone, and on her new album, Metal Aether, she delves into it perhaps further than she ever has.

Just reading about the Japanese film Nagasaki: Memories Of My Son is enough to get you choked up. Directed last year by 84-year-old legend Yoji Yamada, it stars longtime actor Sayuri Yoshinaga as a mother whose son dies in the 1945 bombing of Nagasaki and visits her as a ghost until she herself passes on. It's a heavy, heartbreaking tale, for which veteran composer Ryuichi Sakamoto was tasked with creating appropriately poignant music. Making things even heavier, this would be Sakomoto's first score since recovering from throat cancer last year.

Lyrics tend to be what we remember most about Christmas music, but a song doesn't need to have words to evoke the holidays. In the case of North Texas-based musician Derek Rogers, all he had to do was put Christmas in the title of one of his rich, suggestive drone pieces, and suddenly these thoughtful waves of sound conjure chilly atmospheres and faded family memories.