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End Transmission

The “Dead Girls” of Opera By · Photography Metropolitan Museum of Art (Public Domain) · Date 8/2/2018 Early on in her debut essay collection, Dead Girls: Essays on Surviving an American Obsession, Alice Bolin gives us a definition of the Dead Girl genre: highlighted by the dark specter of a deceased female character—more often than […]

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Binky Listens

On a 2014 episode of the beloved Canadian-American kid’s show “Arthur,” everyone is getting into this really weird band—except for Binky. Known among his classmates for having refined musical taste and talent, Binky decides to listen to the band only after another character, Muffy, teasingly suggests that “it might be too sophisticated” for him. “Too […]

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Hearing Queerly

The Gendered and Sexual Politics of Music Metaphors By · Photography NYPL (Public Domain) · Date 6/28/2018 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 […]

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Border Lament

Analyzing the Sounds of State Terror By · Date 6/21/2018 For a second or two it could be a playground: tiny voices cry. Then they keep crying, panting for air from the crying, their voices wavering from the exhaustion from the crying and the panting. “I don’t want them to stop my father,” a child […]

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Indigo Moods

Depression and the Act of Listening By · Photography NASA / Space Telescope Science Institute · Date 6/7/2018 All music is mood music. There is party music, from Parliament to “Eine kleine Nachtmusik,” there is music, like Air Cushion Finish and Mompou, to induce waking dreams and soothe the savage breast, and there is music, […]

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Sound Is The Placebo

In Search of the Musical Occult By · Title Image The Temple of Music, Robert Fludd (1574–1637) · Date 5/24/2018 “It hasn’t got any FLAPS!” A man in a pinstriped suit shouts at a customer trying to sell him a limited edition John & Yoko box set. I am in a very niche shop of […]

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PLATÉTUDES

On Music and Activism By · Title Image Still from Ludovico Einaudi, “Elegy for the Artic.” · Date 4/19/2018 Musical activism reached its zenith in the wake of the political turbulence of the 1960s and ‘70s. From Bob Dylan’s “With God on Our Side” to Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Gonna Come,” the cold war […]

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The Halls Are Alive

The Concert Hall in the 21st Century By · Photos NYPL (Public Domain) · Date 4/12/2018 So many facets of classical music culture are holdovers from the 19th century and at odds with 21st century society. To name just a few examples: the sacralization of classical music; the deification of its (male) composers; the snobbery […]

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Marble and Marzipan

On Wolfgang Hildesheimer’s Mozart By · Illustration · Date 12/07/2017 40 years ago, Wolfgang Hildesheimer wrote a long-form essay, Mozart, that freed his namesake from the marble of statues and the marzipan coatings of candies. The open-ended structure of the work makes so much new writing look older than its years. Every time a new […]

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Silence, Breaking

Title Image © James Meyer/ Columbia Artists When I was 12 years old, James Levine began his tenure as Music Director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. My father was a cellist there. This is not an essay about abuse—I never met James Levine. This is an essay about what happens when knowledge is warped by […]