Posted inOpinion

The Offensively Inoffensive

At a tandoori restaurant in Tel Aviv, an Israeli politician chastises a quixotic Norwegian diplomat: “When people talk to you, Terje, you should pay attention to what they actually say, and not just listen for what you want to hear.”  The scene is from “Oslo,” which began as a 2016 play and last weekend resurfaced […]

Posted inEssay

A Demonstration of a Physical Fact

I. I am sitting in a room  As the tenor of the coronavirus became amplified in March of 2020, so too did the memes. In those early days of the first lockdown, there wasn’t much else to do besides spend time indoors, cycling through facts and farce with the attention span of a goldfish, and […]

Posted inEssay

Randomness with Direction

“Somehow, after all, as the universe ebbs towards its final equilibrium in the featureless heat bath of maximum entropy, it manages to create interesting structures,” wrote James Gleick in his popular exploration of chaos theory. Nature’s natural tendency is to form patterns. Conversely, the universe teems with randomness and dissipation. “But randomness with direction can […]

Posted inInterview

Building That Foundation

There’s an inescapable delight that comes with listening to the Notorious B.I.G.’s posthumous 1997 single “Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems,” wrapped up as the song is in Diana Ross samples, the Clinton-fueled optimism of ’90s America, and Biggie’s unapologetic lyrical grandstanding (“Jig on the cover of Fortune, 5-double-O. Here’s my phone number, your man ain’t got […]

Posted inOpinion

Disregard All Information

Singer-songwriter Tom Lehrer introduces his 1965 song “So Long, Mom (A Song for World War III)” in a style familiar to classical music fans. “This year we’ve been celebrating the hundredth anniversary of the Civil War, and the fiftieth anniversary of the beginning of World War I, and the twentieth anniversary of the end of […]

Posted inI Know But

I Know, But: The “1812 Overture”

When Tolstoy began working on what would become War and Peace, his 1869 opus that moves fluidly between historical novel and philosophical treatise, he initially had a completely different story in mind. Rather than craft a constellation of parallel and intersecting histories between 1805 and 1820 (with a particular focus on Napoleon’s 1812 invasion of […]

Posted inOpinion

Music, in Theory

In November 2019, music theorist Philip Ewell gave a plenary at the annual meeting for the Society for Music Theory. Titled “Music Theory’s White Racial Frame,” Ewell’s discussion of equity in American music theory was supported by the example of Heinrich Schenker, whose documented racist ideologies have historically been historically overlooked by scholars. Ewell, who […]

Posted inInterview

The Right Questions

A recurring dream that I’ve had for the last several years: My grandmother, a Syrian refugee who spent the last 15 years of her life in the grips of progressive dementia, shows me an attic accessible through a crawlspace in her bedroom closet. It contains a trove of books, journals, letters, and photographs from our […]

Posted inEssay

A Most Violent Year

The enduring image of Beethoven, 250 years after his birth: His hair is untamed. His temperament is as mercurial as his mane. He is, both as an artist and a man, uncompromising and volatile; his whole personality wrapped up in the fateful knock of the first four notes of his Fifth Symphony, or the two […]