Posted inReview

The Society of the Spectacle

Modernist literature has a special fascination with Wagner. The voices of “Das Rheingold” and “Tristan und Isolde” drift across T. S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land.” Virginia Woolf’s The Waves bears the imprint of the composer’s motivic method, along with the symbolism of the “Ring” Cycle and “Parsifal.” A lusty Wagnerian atavism is stamped all over […]

Posted inReport

The Audiencers

Illustrations Carine Kuntz We seldom pay attention to ushers. In “The Natural History of the Theatre,” Theodor Adorno’s otherwise extravagant sociology of concert-going, the usher receives only a glancing mention: a missed opportunity for a writer who discerned the ideological contradictions and atavistic energies of music in a thousand minor details, from gales of applause […]

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Collective Breath

Singing, as a teacher of mine once disarmingly put it, is simply “an exhaling of sorts.” For most people, the mechanisms of breathing are hardly noticed unless they stop working as intended. That caveat has become more present in the last year, with the nature of COVID-19 leaving us paying more, and more nervous, attention […]

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Lived Experience

“I don’t know if you can hear the helicopters overhead,” guitarist Sean Shibe said as he introduced his encore. The helicopters were policing a Black Lives Matter demonstration just down the road from the Wigmore Hall. Shibe’s encore was a guitar arrangement of Peter Maxwell Davies’ “Farewell to Stromness,” a piece of protest music written […]

Posted inRankings & Roundups

Keyboard Warriors

Stravinsky puts it pithily enough: Music “expresses nothing outside of itself.” It’s a dictum that puts critics like me on the back foot, accusing us of peddling only a pale and inadequate imitation of the thing itself. Those who can’t, write. But it also describes a deeper sense of music as incommensurable, elevated by thinkers […]

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The Rehearsing Musician

The Essential, Invisible Work of the Repetiteur By · Illustrations · Date 1/9/2020 There is an army behind every production of, say, “La Traviata”: armorers and fight directors for the action; lighting technicians giving Violetta’s last breaths a ghostly frisson; wig-makers and costumiers who make the Paris demimonde glitter. An even less visible figure, whose […]

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Turning Over

Why Page Turners Matter By · Photography Screenshots and GIFs taken from Top 5 Page Turn FAILS During Classical Performances! and Berezovsky page-turning cg · Date 10/3/2019 Like elevators, page turners are only remarkable when things go awry. And go awry they do. Pianist Charles Owen recalled a 1998 recital in Scotland. The page turner, […]

Posted inHistory

The Smoldering Progressive

The Musical and Political Innovations of Paul Dukas By · Illustrations Costume sketches for Paul Dukas’ 1912 Poème dansé “La Péri” by the artist Léon Bakst (Public Domain) · Date 7/4/2019 Pity Paul Dukas. For most listeners—even serious music lovers—his work is the mere soundtrack to the anthropomorphic avatars of the Disney corporation. Despite floating […]