Posted inReview

Infiltrating Justice

Heartbeat Opera’s adaptation of Beethoven’s “Fidelio” achieves what many well-meaning, ostensibly “woke” contemporary music ensemble efforts fail to accomplish. Artistic Director Ethan Heard’s retelling engages directly with the marginalized population it seeks to draw attention to: The “Prisoners’ Chorus” is sung by incarcerated individuals from prison choirs across the United States. Although the opera was […]

Posted inInterview

Meaning in the Parentheticals

Since winning the Pulitzer Prize for “Partita for 8 Voices” in 2013, Caroline Shaw has gone on to collaborate with musicians as wide-ranging as the Attacca Quartet and Kanye West. Her recent projects include “We Need to Talk” with Anne Carson and Opera Philadelphia and “Narrow Sea” with Dawn Upshaw, Gil Kalish, and Sō Percussion. […]

Posted inProfile

The Listener is Present

I. (beauty) “I really think that beauty can come from ugliness,” Marina Abramović told me as she gestured to several pictures of her boobs. We were seated across from each other at a long wooden table in her Greenwich Village apartment, casually sparring about the place of silence, violence, and beauty in art. The performance […]

Posted inEssay

Hearing Queerly

Sometimes we produced sounds that lasted over an hour. If it was a loud sound my ears would often not regain their normal hearing for several hours, and when my hearing slowly did come back it was almost as much a new experience as when I had first begun to hear the sound. These experiences […]

Posted inReview


“I’m a happy woman, I’m a happy woman.” Meredith Monk’s sudden singsong was the first and only instance of actual words to be heard throughout an evening of vocal sound. This interlude, in which Monk’s voice was accompanied by soft piano chords, was one of the most touching segments of a Monk work that I […]

Posted inReport

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 […]

Posted inInterview

A Catalyst

On October 7, National Sawdust celebrated the CD release of Du Yun’s Pulitzer-prize-winning opera “Angel’s Bone” with a performance of excerpts from the work. The concert was preceded by a panel during which ethnomusicologist Lara Peligrinelli moderated a discussion between Du Yun, librettist Royce Vavrek, and conductor Julian Wachner. Through vocal, acoustic, and electronic sound, […]

Posted inInterview

Ostrava Days, Brooklyn Nights

The Ostrava Days 2017 festival was pervaded by an atmosphere of such overbearing toxic masculinity that I could barely hear the music. The festival lasted 10 days and served as a gathering place for avant-gardists and “risk-takers.” Of the 33 composition residents, 27 were men, and 23 were white cis men; despite the festival’s international […]

Posted inInterview

Shape and Silence

Recently, the JACK Quartet played a series of concerts at the Whitney Museum, sounding the sparse celestial beauty of John Cage’s “Thirty Pieces for String Quartet” among the floating colors and shapes of Alexander Calder’s mobiles. Listeners wandered through the gallery featuring an exhibition of Calder’s works, aptly titled “Hypermobility,” focusing on the sound and […]

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