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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. […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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Care, Companionship, and Ecological Distress in Meredith Monk’s “Cellular Songs” By · Title Image Shoshone (CC BY-SA 3.0) · Date 3/29/2018 “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 […]

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Season In, Season Out

Diversity Policy in Classical Music By and · Illustration NYPL (Public Domain) · Date 2/15/2018 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 […]

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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, […]

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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 […]

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Shape and Silence

An interview with Amy Williams By · Title Image A painting by Gerhard Richter / Saralekker (CC BY-SA 4.0) · Date 09/14/2017 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 […]

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Surreal Conjunctions

The composer Annea Lockwood has been inspired by a lifelong fascination with timbre to record the sounds of rivers across the globe, to incorporate the sounds of the cosmos into her installations, to attach a music box to 20 helium balloons, and to set defunct pianos on fire just to listen to them burn. She […]

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The audience had to creep carefully around the performance space, as a constellation of strings were stretched at hip-height from one wall to another. Ellen Fullman had spent the day here, setting up her traveling installation, the Long String Instrument; she had stretched dozens of stainless steel and phosphor bronze strings across the room in […]