Posted inEssay

The Wanderer’s Return

As night fell on September 2, 1978, Iannis Xenakis stood, walkie-talkie in hand, by his console on the back row of a temporary seating stand. As he looked across Mount Elias in the northeastern Peloponnese from his vantage point in the foothills, he could survey a peculiar kind of avant-garde circus with hundreds of performers, […]

Posted inInterview

A Collection of Disappearing Sounds

Four years ago, I put on a pair of chunky red headphones and was immediately plunged into an entirely new soundworld. Suddenly, everything was buzzing, clicking and pulsing—yet there was no cable running from my headset, no bluetooth link to a nearby media player. I was in the center of Amsterdam for the city’s biennial […]

Posted inInterview

Becoming Sound

On stage, there is something of a Monsieur Hulot-esque quality to Joëlle Léandre. She hunches over her big double bass, leaning forward with furrowed brow, huffing and puffing as she plays, sometimes letting those huffs and puffs emerge as full-throated vocalizations, each one a triumphant bof! of simultaneous exultation and exasperation. Watching her solo set […]

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The Birth of a New Ritual

As a child, Alvin Curran would lie in bed at his parents’ Providence, Rhode Island home and listen to the counterpoint between the booms of trains shunting together at a nearby rail yard and foghorns down at the harbor a few miles away. “Was that a piece of music?” I ask him. “Absolutely,” he replies. […]

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Personal Mathematics

“Music,” says composer and woodwind player Roscoe Mitchell, “is a science.” The octogenarian is in Bergen, Norway, for the city’s annual Borealis Festival of experimental music. In a few days’ time, he’ll bring the weekend to a thrilling close with two sets, one solo (accompanied by several pre-recorded videos of himself improvising at home), and […]

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Open the Closed Bubble

Launched at Glasgow’s Glad Cafe in the weeks just before the first lockdown back in March 2020, Over/At has grown to become more than just a concert series. It’s now more like a “trans music-making world,” to quote the project website, encompassing record releases, published sheet music, and new commissions. Supported by the Sound and […]

Posted inInterview

Visceral Communication

There’s a very long pause, then a single plucked string bends up. Pause again, followed by a long screech from the highest flute register. Another pause. Something rattles. So begins my very own realization of John Cage’s “Concert for Piano and Orchestra”—built using the Concert Player App on the Cage Concert website assembled by Philip […]

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Central Nodes

The word immersive is over-used. But listening to new recordings of Milton Babbitt’s “Philomel” is a disorientating, vertiginous experience. The listener finds themselves plunged, instantly, into an all-encompassing sound world in which bloops and gurgles of electronic sound appear to come from all possible angles, anchored by the central node of Juliet Fraser’s soaring solo […]

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Uncanny Songs

Before she moved to London as a third-year undergraduate student less than a decade ago, Na’ama Zisser had never even been to the opera. This week sees the production of her very own, “Mamzer Bastard,” by London’s Royal Opera House at the Hackney Empire. Taking place within an orthodox Hasidic community and featuring Jewish cantorial […]

Posted inInterview

In Fuzzy Color

Jessica Cottis has always had a hypersensitivity to sound. As she walks into the cafe at the British Film Institute cinema to meet me, she is acutely aware of little noises—like the man at a table on the right tapping away at his laptop keyboard. She describes this sound to me with a harsh burst […]

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