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From 1991 to 1994, Carlos Sandoval, a man with thick grey hair, brown eyes, and wide shoulders, was an assistant to the American-Mexican maverick composer Conlon Nancarrow. It was a defining, if chaotic, time for Sandoval. “[Nancarrow] was always drinking, composing, reading, just throwing away books, newspapers, scores, whatever,” he said. Nancarrow’s tendency to discard […]

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Mezzo-sopranos from Outer Space

Morton Feldman’s “Three Voices” By · Title Image NYPL (PD) · Date 08/04/2016 In 2015, the writer Lisa Bolekaja published a short story in Uncanny, a magazine for science fiction and fantasy, called “Three Voices,” inspired by the Morton Feldman piece of the same name. At the climax, a vocalist’s skin pigmentation drains from her […]

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An Interview with Tristan Murail By · Title Image By Marls9393 (CC) · Date 07/14/2016 I reached the French composer Tristan Murail on a Tuesday afternoon at his home in Provence. Since moving back to Europe from New York, where he taught at Columbia University for 13 years, Murail has built himself a kind of […]

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Dissonant and Fabulous

From August 24 to 27, at the Mostly Mozart festival, the American choreographer Mark Morris will present a series of dances to music by the festival’s namesake; on September 8, he’ll show work set to Lou Harrison and Erik Satie at Texas State University. Speaking of Lou Harrison: call the Mark Morris Dance Center on […]

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Mythology Of Our Time

This Tuesday, I spoke with John Adams by phone from his studio, in Northern California. He will be the Artist in Residence at the Berlin Philharmonic next season, and I thought I’d give him some unsolicited advice about techno music here. Does he listen to it? “Sometimes.” Berlin also has a reputation as a paradise […]

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An Interview with Jakob Ullmann By · Photography · Date 06/23/2016 I studied music theory with the composer and writer Jakob Ullmann in Basel, from 2011–2013. For this interview, we met him at his home in Naumburg, Germany, on a rainy Sunday. Books on new music lined the corridor; books on religion lined his study. […]

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An Interview with Rebecca Saunders By · Date 06/16/2016 I met the composer Rebecca Saunders in her Berlin studio on a bright afternoon last week. Her new score was taped up around the wall; a page detached itself and floated to the ground. We started by talking about how we were not going to talk […]

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Two Cities

For this interview, I reached Marin Alsop on Skype from Brussels, where she was conducting the finals of the Queen Elisabeth Competition for pianists. She usually performs a wide variety of repertoire—did she have to do the same piece over and over there? “Three Profokiev Twos, Three Rachmaninoff Threes, and otherwise only one of everything […]

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Sound Color

Musical White Privilege in Africa By · Photography Maria Kallionpää · Date 05/26/2016 In his gripping and provocative memoir Out of America: A Black Man Confronts Africa (1997), the journalist and former Washington Post Africa bureau chief Keith B. Richburg writes, “White people traveling in East Africa are rarely stopped, rarely questioned, rarely instructed to […]

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Changing The System

I met the composer Christian Wolff for this interview some time ago in Hamburg, Germany. There were a few other people in the room—from the festival klub katarakt, which had a commissioned a new work from him—and I asked Wolff if he felt like performing an impromptu version of his prose piece “Crazy Mad Love.” […]