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The Calibrated Voice

The voices of singers tend to call forth abstract, flowery adjectives. But when you hear the baritone Matthias Goerne, it’s easy to point out the specific moments that distinguish his art. As Wotan from Wagner’s “Ring,” he sings about the castle of the gods as if it were a tender memory from Schubert’s “Winterreise.” In […]

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Tonefoil Hat, Episode 3

Listen to Episode 1 of Tonefoil Hat here.Listen to Episode 2 of Tonefoil Hat here. Masterclass 6 of David Lucas Burge’s Perfect Pitch Ear Training SuperCourse starts much the same as the previous five: with chatter. He tells me that through his course I will start to experience “a little Christmas of musical perception.” This […]

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Tonefoil Hat, Episode 5

Get started with Tonefoil Hat here. In a 2016 New Yorker article, Patrick Radden Keefe reported on a unit of the London Metropolitan Police he termed “super-recognizers.” These police officers have the ability to see a face once and then recognize it again among millions of others, and they comb vast quantities of CCTV footage, […]

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Tonefoil Hat Finale

Get started with Tonefoil Hat here. I’m giving up. The last time I made any progress with David Lucas Burge’s Perfect Pitch Ear Training SuperCourse was June 12—almost a month ago. My ear training practice sessions now end after five minutes. I’ve started hurling insults at my microphone. Like the main character in Beckett’s play […]

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Tonefoil Hat, Episode 4

Get started with Tonefoil Hat here. The writer writes a sentence. He reads back what he wrote. He fixes a redundancy, then he writes another sentence. He changes that sentence, too; maybe adds a rhythmic nuance. He puts something on the page, reads it back, silently or even out loud, makes a decision about what […]

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Heels of Fortune

Opera so often has an aftertaste of evil. The character of Osmin in Mozart’s “Entführung aus dem Serail” is an embarrassing Middle Eastern caricature absurdly obsessed with blood and gore. Wagner’s knights and gods like to address their female counterparts simply as “woman.” Blackface still makes regular appearances in contemporary stagings of Verdi’s “Otello.” In […]

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How Things Align

I met the composer Raven Chacon one afternoon in the library of the American Academy in Berlin, where he is currently a fellow. Normally based in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Chacon creates stereophonic, tactile music, as well as sound and visual installations. Over coffee, we talked about small town touring, the definition of composing, and negotiations […]

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Death and the Theater

On the evening of November 21, 2015, a scrum of protesters blocked the glass doors of the Teatr Polski in Wrocław, Poland. They were members of the Catholic organization Krucjata Różańcowa za Ojczyznę (Society of the Rosary) and far-right groups such as the All Polish Youth and the National Resurrection of Poland. Piotr Rybak, a […]

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Aesthetic Responsibility

Daniel Mendelsohn is a writer, translator, and professor of literature at Bard College. His most recent book is An Odyssey: A Father, A Son and an Epic which, along with the memoir The Elusive Embrace: Desire and the Riddle of Identity, are personal favorites of mine. He is also deeply attuned to classical music. I […]