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Performing Creativity

When I was starting out as a composer, in Canada in the early 1990s, being a composer was the opposite of being a business person. A few composers devoted a small amount of attention to promoting their work, which seemed both admirable and quirky; but if anyone was too self-promoting, it seemed like they were […]

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Mental Composers

Throughout history, artists, composers, and musicians have been plagued by personal demons. As a society, we adore the works of Beethoven, perhaps due in part to the crippling emotional impact his deafness had on his music. We appreciate Schumann, though he went insane through the latter stages of syphilis. But is there a more modern […]

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Postcards

Dispatches of Music and Memory Text & Photography · Date 06/23/2016 Ojai Postcard #1 On Pauline Oliveros’s “Sonic Meditations” Sitting and listening to live music from a source I cannot see can be a strange experience. As a student at Oberlin, I spent a few half-hours staring at the front wall of Fairchild Chapel as […]

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Program Music

Recently, I played a series of symphonic movements for a class. Some were by Mozart, and others by other composers. With a little practice and guidance, the class picked up a rough impression of Mozart’s style, as distinct from the other works. The last piece I played was by David Cope’s software Experiments in Musical […]

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Unfinished

A few nights ago, I sat in Berlin’s Philharmonie listening to the Deutsches Sinfonie-Orchester Berlin under the direction of Kent Nagano. The program was practically a Greatest Hits of German romanticism and late-romanticism: Wagner’s “Tristan” prelude and “Liebestod”; the orchestral version of Schoenberg’s “Verklärte Nacht”; Schubert’s Unfinished; Richard Strauss’s “Four Last Songs.” I thought about […]

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Sound Color

Musical White Privilege in Africa By · Photography Maria Kallionpää · Date 05/26/2016 In his gripping and provocative memoir Out of America: A Black Man Confronts Africa (1997), the journalist and former Washington Post Africa bureau chief Keith B. Richburg writes, “White people traveling in East Africa are rarely stopped, rarely questioned, rarely instructed to […]

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One Night’s Chord

Photography Godfried Maes, Illustrations to the Metamorphoses of Ovid, Jupiter and Io, disguised as a white heifer (PD) At the heart of Schoenberg’s string sextet “Verklärte Nacht” stands a chord. In the midst of the work, an ambiguous, complex, chromatic tone poem, the chord stands out as uniquely ambiguous, complex, and chromatic. The work was […]

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Chalk Spaceships

Finding Improvisation By · Photography Courtesy of Elena Cheah · Date 04/14/2016 1. After graduating from Juilliard in 1997, I moved to Berlin on a lark, escaping from the untenable pressure of finding work in a city that needed no more musicians. In 2001, two years into my studies with the great Boris Pergamenschikow, I […]

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A Blizzard

On a Friday afternoon in February, I got snowed out of a Boston Symphony Orchestra concert. There was a blizzard in the area and a tree fell on the train tracks, blocking the Green Line. The next day, I made it to the performance, of works by Shostakovich, Hans Abrahamsen (“let me tell you,” with […]

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Performer on Trial

We are prepared for this day. We are equipped with all the most modern camping accessories from a store in Denver. We are in shape from aerobic exercise, at least four times a week for several weeks. We are at the edge of civilization, brought here by a friendly van driver along rain-gouged roads. My […]