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An Infusion of Essence

British-Chinese composer Alex Ho tells me over lunch at a bao restaurant in central London: “Not only for the enjoyment, but even professionally and creatively—you’re gonna make better work if you just get on with people.” Ho is one of two artistic directors of contemporary music collective Tangram (七巧板), a group of composers and performers […]

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Clothing the Future

Drummers, as a species, are generally granted asylum from the dictates of onstage formal dress. Their counterparts in classical percussion, however, are not so liberated: When Mike Truesdell, then a graduate student in percussion at the Juilliard School, arrived backstage to a fall 2011 solo performance in a t-shirt, he was promptly asked to change. […]

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Resonant Messages

I have been playing the piano since the age of three, but for most of my time at the instrument I was oblivious to the long history of African-descended classical musicians. Today, as a music historian and performer, I am drawn to narratives from and around the African continent and diaspora: to make sense of […]

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Living in the Elsewhere

Some years ago, I found myself stranded in a guesthouse in the Scottish Highlands after an unexpected storm put an end to my hiking plans. As I buttoned up my coat by the door, the lady who ran the establishment asked me where I was headed. I’d intended to find a fireside drink to salvage […]

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A Spiritual Vibration

In Chinese, the characters to describe the type of intense intellectual bond that transcends words like “friendship” or “romance” mean: “Know yourself.” The term is pronounced zhiji in Mandarin, but the characters—and core meaning—remains the same across other dialects. To know yourself, in other words, depends on recognizing your image reflected in another. In turn, […]

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The Price of Luck

Imagine there is a contest, one that will run in perpetuity until the end of time, in every city on Earth. There are no true losers, and there’s no limit to how many people can win. If you win this contest, you’re set for life: No matter where you live or how long you live […]

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Method Singing

“Operatic performers quickly learn how to make a declaration of love, to suffer, to meditate, to die, and so on, and they repeat these forms in all analogous situations that they happen to be in. These are well-known, rubber-stamp effects. Nearly everyone knows them all, and speaks of them scornfully, yet…a majority of singers go […]

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Metaphysical Relief

In September, the legendary German filmmaker, author, actor, opera director, and skateboarding-opinion-haver Werner Herzog turns 80. Herzog’s use of music in his films is noticeably more eclectic and more surprising than that of most of his director colleagues, according to our contributor Thomas von Steinaecker, who is currently finishing a documentary on the artist.  A […]

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A Vigil to a Life

When the world falls to pieces, it’s hard to stick to a single story. The best I could do in these three weeks was to put up signposts. It’s my way of trying to remember some important things. The first day of the war, I woke up and read the news. The world had crumbled […]

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Ethereum Voices

On March 31, 2020, the Metropolitan Opera suspended paychecks for the musicians of its orchestra as its productions ground to a pandemic-induced halt. Some performers left New York City, refinanced their mortgages, or took early retirement. Others survived on a combination of Zoom lessons and unemployment. By the end of 2020, concert venues had reopened […]

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