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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 […]

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Munich 1997

Norman Lebrecht’s book Who Killed Classical Music was published in 1996, and contained an infamous anecdote about a conductor, named under a pseudonym, abusing children. The culprit was widely rumored to be James Levine. (In a recent groundbreaking investigation, Malcolm Gay and Kay Lazar of the Boston Globe confirmed a similar incident to the one […]

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Flying Blind

Musicians who feel that their instruments have been mishandled by airlines like to unleash avalanches of outrage on social media, followed by petitions and calls for boycotts. British Airways recently tested tempers when gate agents refused to take three of the Kronos Quartet’s instruments on board. The quartet responded with a pledge to boycott the […]

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The Bernstein Effect

On an unusually sunny February afternoon, I met Craig Urquhart in his apartment at Berlin’s Nollendorfplatz, the beating heart of the city’s gay life. (Christopher Isherwood once rented a place here.) “I’m going to be very bad and have a gin,” Urquhart said, but then realized he didn’t have any ice. Urquhart was a longtime […]

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Season In, Season Out

On September 30, 2002, two civil rights lawyers, Johnnie L. Cochran, Jr. and Cyrus Mehri, released a report called “Black Coaches in the National Football League: Superior Performance, Inferior Opportunities.” By then, the problem of diversity in the sport had already been widely acknowledged. “A panel of ESPN experts were asked their opinion on the […]

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A Hall of Mirrors

How strange to be older than an army specialist. One gray, drizzly day at Fort Campbell, in Kentucky, a 24-year-old firefighter with brown hair, a pale complexion, and a self-deprecating sense of humor was struggling to play a C major scale with both hands on a little keyboard. As I watched her instructor, a blond […]

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Weather Systems

I’m on the train to Hamburg, listening to Nico Muhly’s opera “Two Boys” and struggling to form an opinion about it. Some of the composition sounds plain to my ears, and the lines of the detective, sung with wide vibrato, sound a little silly, but there are also gorgeous choral moments. In interviews, Muhly frequently […]