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Doctor Baton

In pop culture, there are usually two ways of looking at the conductor’s baton. One way is as the focal point of his or her authority and magic: as Bernstein said, the stick as a “an instrument of meaning in its tiniest moment.” The other way is as a symbol of the conductor’s pretension and […]

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Outsourced Scores

The full score of Miroslav Snrka’s opera “South Pole,” which premiered this winter at the Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich, is 1,000 pages long. Each of its two volumes weighs over eight pounds. The parts for 77 unique voices add up to close to 3,000 pages.    Every composer knows how frustrating and time-consuming the preparation […]

Posted inInterview

Continental Shift

An Interview with Ilan Volkov By · Photography NYPL (PD) · Date 04/14/2016 Ilan Volkov’s Tectonics Festival, in Reykjavik on April 14-15 and in Glasgow on May 7-8, conjures images of dramatic, continental upheaval. But plate motion is an incredibly slow process—land masses move at rates measured in millimeters per year. Listening to the names […]

Posted inEssay

A Blizzard

Camping, Sound, Shoveling Snow By · Date 03/16/2016 On a Friday afternoon in February, I got snowed out of a Boston Symphony Orchestra concert. There was a blizzard in the area and a tree fell on the train tracks, blocking the Green Line. The next day, I made it to the performance, of works by […]

Posted inReview

Broken Heartbeat

George Benjamin’s “Written On Skin” By · Cover-image Bernardino Mei, “Ghismonda” · Date 03/16/2016 George Benjamin’s opera “Written On Skin” telescopes back and forth through past and present. Based on a vida of the 12th century Catalan troubadour Guillaume de Cabestanh, it takes place in a medieval world where books are precious objects, but references […]

Posted inHistory

Black Magic

On the evening of March 7, 1983, the French-Canadian composer Claude Vivier went for a drink at a bar in the Belleville neighborhood of Paris. He picked up a young man there and brought him back to his apartment for sex. The man then stabbed Vivier to death. If, before he fled, the killer had […]

Posted inInterview


Cover-photography Substantia Jones I studied composition with Georg Friedrich Haas in Basel from 2011-2013, his last years there before his move to New York City, where he teaches at Columbia University. In my Master’s recital, a musician showed late and an instrument I built broke, and I had trouble facing the—very supportive—audience. He managed to […]