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Like the Volga Singing

Psychoanalysis and opera both have an uneven relationship to feminism, to put it mildly. The former, even when challenging the disorienting, traumatic quality of patriarchy, is a product of that same power. The practice’s roots lie in Jean-Martin Charcot’s Salpêtrière hospital in Paris, which turned the confinement of so-called “hysterical” women into a public spectacle. […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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An Old, New Song

During this pandemic year, distanced from the world, I’ve taken solace in Schubert’s 1827 song cycle “Winterreise,” which plumbs a man’s anguish as he travels through a wintry night away from the woman who has rejected him. The desolation of solitude, darkness and ice, and the lilting or storming interplay of piano and voice, have […]

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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 […]

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Vital Cacophony

On August 9, 2020, longtime president of Belarus Aleksandr G. Lukashenko claimed 80 percent of the vote in the country’s latest presidential election. Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, Lukashenko’s main rival in this campaign, was forced to leave the country. This isn’t the first year that Lukashenko’s win at the polls has been suspect, nor is it the […]

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On the Other Hand

In the days following Leon Fleisher’s death, at the age of 92, I’ve found myself listening to his Bach. They’re few compared to the pianist’s more notable repertoire of Beethoven and Brahms, but two can be found on his 2004 album, “Two Hands.”   It was a recording that was also something of a rebirth (how […]

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Notes on Birdsong

1. “During this pandemic, I’ve been feeling … particularly drawn to birding,” Joan Walsh wrote for The Nation. “You can hear the birds better without the city noise, and Central Park feels wilder, Edenic. Birding’s careful, meditative rhythms seem a cure for pandemic jitters.” New York in the time of COVID-19 has largely been talked […]