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Centuries of Silence

Only then can his creative genius begin redounding, as it should, to the glory of Black music history,” writes the musicologist Robert Stevenson in his 1982 article, “The First Black Published Composer.” Stevenson’s subject was Vicente Lusitano (ca. 1520-ca. 1561), an African-Portuguese priest and musician who enjoyed an international career. Stevenson heralds works like the […]

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Women In Love

I first learned about opera’s tradition of trouser roles from a trio of puppets. As a toddler, I’d often watch the 1972-73 series “Who’s Afraid of Opera?,” which featured a trio of audience members created by puppeteer Larry Berthelson: Rudy the Lion, Sir William the goat, and Billy, the baby goat nephew of Sir William. […]

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Universal Partisanship

Beethoven’s Ninth Through the Brexit Debacle By · Date 2/20/2020 I am a child of Europe, I am a liberal cosmopolitan. My family is the genetic equivalent of a UN peace-keeping force. I can read novels in French, and I can sing the ‘Ode to Joy’ in German…[encouraging shouts from audience] ‘Freude, schöner Götterfunken’…” This […]

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Remembering Linda Shaver-Gleason By · Date 1/20/2020 On Christmas Day, 2019, Dr. Linda Shaver-Gleason offered the internet an important gift, as she had with reliable regularity for the past handful of years. “My present for you is to be uncomfortable for some time; just enough to make you see and question your situation,” she wrote […]

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Fragility

Remembering Mariss Jansons By · Title Image © Peter Meisel · Date 12/5/2019 “So, tell me Gustavo! How is the orchestra? And how is the Schumann? Do they like to work? And how is the discipline? And then, tell me, I want to know…” This was the way our conversation started, the last time I […]

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What You Have Seen

The sepia photograph, taken over a century ago, shows Ottilie Metzer-Lattermann in a brimmed hat and pale summer dress, standing on a garden path in northern Bavaria. Today, that same garden is blooming with marigolds, geraniums, and bird of paradise flowers. The path moves uphill past shade trees and a waterlily pond, before turning right […]

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Friction

Recognition is a basic neural pleasure. The first five notes of “Parsifal” are thrilling if we expect the sixth, an agonized A-flat. Something similar is at work with names like Bejun Mehta, Ken-David Masur, Kristjan Järvi, Michael Barenboim. On albums and concert posters, the names sound like transcendent concerts. They radiate prestige, competence, familiarity, proximity […]

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Imaginary Places

If music is about sounds coordinated in time, moving from the present moment to the future until there is nothing left, then perhaps ambient music is the archetypal music. At stake are not notes or rhythms, but time and space. Sound simply unfolds; the abstract structures it defines are not fleeting musical forms, but entire […]

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Origin Myths

Illustrations Olivia Giovetti Nearly a century ago, when my ancestors landed in the United States as a family of Syrian refugees, my great-grandmother Nabiha’s name was changed to a more Americanized “Mona.” The story was always relayed in my family with matter-of-fact pragmatism, though no one caught the irony that the new name has its […]

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Political Rites

For the past 80 years, I have started each day in the same manner,” Pablo Casals told his biographer when he was 93. “It is a sort of benediction to the house. I go to the piano, and I play two preludes and fugues of Bach.” Then, Casals would stretch his legs, admire the dew […]