Posted inInterview

A Set Of Values

At the Mozartfest in Augsburg this year, the cellist Steven Isserlis performed during the final concert in Richard Strauss’s tone poem “Don Quixote.” Isserlis’s photograph was plastered all over the festival’s materials, but he insisted that the work was not a kind of concerto for him to star in. Before the performance, I interviewed him […]

Posted inProfile

Internal States

The bar exuded a greenish, fluorescent light. Joshua Fineberg stood outside smoking a cigarette. Recently, two people had told me that Fineberg, one of the most important living Spectralist composers alongside Tristan Murail, and a tenured professor at Boston University, had moved to Berlin and begun frequenting the city’s famous clubs. They suggested to me […]

Posted inInterview


I met the soprano Kristine Opolais for this interview at her hotel in Leipzig. It was a hot, overcast day, so we sat outside. A few drops of rain fell periodically. When she laughed, she’d lean forward and create a triangle from her shoulder to her hand with her left arm, bending her wrist. We […]

Posted inEssay

The Air In Which We Swim

In his book Skyfaring: A Journey With a Pilot, Mark Vanhoenacker writes, “The truth that air is as substantive as concrete remains as counterintuitive as any of science’s most inscrutable revelations.” The sound artist Thessia Machado makes a similar statement: “Working with sound allows me to think of the air in which we all swim […]

Posted inInterview

Aware Awareness

I met the composer Yair Klartag in 2011, when I moved into an apartment he was renting in the Swiss city of Basel. We studied composition there together under Georg Friedrich Haas. Even then, his music seemed lightyears ahead in its beauty—“a hard word,” he says—and sophistication. Recently, we met up in the VAN office […]

Posted inInterview

Burdens of Expectation

In July of 2016, Jay Campbell replaced Kevin MacFarland as the cellist of the JACK Quartet. In the meantime, he’s already shown himself to be an enthusiastic participant in the quartet’s extended technique social media videos. I met him on a sunny day at the bar of the Westin Hotel attached to the Elbphilharmonie. VAN: […]

Posted inProfile


In Mexico City, 7-Eleven carries bottled water in the shape of a dumbbell. One day on vacation, I bought one, drank the contents, took a picture, and sent it to Michael Maierhof, one of the most original composers working today and a master manipulator of the sonic properties of plastics. Would he like me to […]

Posted inInterview

Lyric Engine

The American composer Ashley Fure writes music of a flickering and gorgeous intensity. Recently, she was in Marseille doing research for an upcoming work. We chatted via Skype about happy sonic accidents, alternative careers, and the state of diversity activism in new music. VAN: What are you up to in Marseille right now? Ashley Fure: […]

Posted inOpinion

Maestro Monopolies

“Worthy gentleman, and my loving countrymen,” wrote the English lutist and composer John Dowland in the introduction to his 1612 song cycle “A Pilgrims Solace,” “I have been long obscured from your sight, because I received a Kingly entertainment in a foreign climate…Some part of my poore labours have found favour in the greatest part […]