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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 […]

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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 […]

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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

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 era was a time when people, even faced with the prospect of global annihilation, still believed in the power […]

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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

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 book comes out, it eclipses 10 older ones. One may […]

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Silence, Breaking

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 a cult of interpretive genius. It is […]

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Before Leaving this Place

When Gounod brought his “Faust” to London five years after its world premiere in 1859, there was one devil lurking in the details: venerated baritone Charles Santley was singing Valentin—the soldier brother of Marguerite who is killed by his sister’s lover (and the work’s title character)—but despite his fame he had no aria to sing. […]

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The Soul Must Descend From Its Mount

Remembering Klaus Huber Text and Title Image · Translation and · Date 10/05/2017 I haven’t composed anything in three years,” he laughed, “too lazy!” That was two years ago. Klaus Huber was 90, and knew full well that his oeuvre was complete. He took another Mozarella in Carozza and a sip of prosecco, and blinked […]

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