Posted inEssay

Fragility

“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 saw Mariss Jansons, at the Musikverein, right after a rehearsal with his Symphonieorchester […]

Posted inEssay

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 […]

Posted inEssay

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 […]

Posted inEssay

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 […]

Posted inEssay

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 […]

Posted inEssay

End Transmission

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 not murdered—who is depicted with an alternating degree of mature sexualization and infantilizing naiveté that earns her […]

Posted inEssay

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 […]

Posted inEssay

Hearing Queerly

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 as much a new experience as when I had first begun to hear the sound. These experiences […]

Posted inEssay

Border Lament

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 says. “I don’t want them to deport him.” The response […]