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The Savior’s Gaze

Upon hearing her own stepmother the Kostelnička guiltily admit that she was the one who killed her infant child—whose frozen corpse the people of the Moravian village have now discovered—Jenůfa, initially shocked and appalled, first orders her to “stand up.” Then, going against the general bloodthirsty tenor of the crowd surrounding them, she grants her […]

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Flattened Multiplicities

In the very first episode of the critically acclaimed ESPN documentary “OJ: Made in America,” the sociologist Dr. Harry Edwards contemplates OJ’s racial self-distinction during his college days in the 1960s. OJ thought he should be “judged not by the color of my skin, I want to be judged by the content of my character […]

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A Perfect Surface

I hope I play the piece better than last time. Oh, there’s the music critic. His most recent review of me said I was overrated and oversold. Also, this is going to be on live radio. If I make a mistake, about 3 billion people will hear it. It wouldn’t be the first time. In […]

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Notes Towards A Movement

On November 24, 1963, two days after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Leonard Bernstein conducted Mahler’s “Resurrection” Symphony with the New York Philharmonic on a nationally televised memorial to the slain president. Three days later, Bernstein spoke before an audience of 18,000 at Madison Square Garden, where he delivered his famous words: “This […]

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Dark Ocean

“We aren’t supposed to drink on the bus, but I brought beer!” After a full day of rehearsals and a concert in Copenhagen, the musicians of the Baltic Sea Philharmonic were on the road to Sønderborg, a town straddling the main Danish peninsula and the island of Als. It was halfway through their Baltic Sea […]

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Crocodiles and Collio

Around his rustic country table in Cormons, Italy, Kristian Keber, a 28-year-old winemaker, poured his family’s 2013 Collio. Perhaps Kristian could sense that my mind was racing for adjectives and metaphors to describe the chilled white wine swirling in the glass. He began to recount a story about Luigi Veronelli, one of Italy’s most respected […]

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Mezzo-sopranos from Outer Space

In 2015, the writer Lisa Bolekaja published a short story in Uncanny, a magazine for science fiction and fantasy, called “Three Voices,” inspired by the Morton Feldman piece of the same name. At the climax, a vocalist’s skin pigmentation drains from her body and her eyes pop out. “How could she sing with no head?” […]

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Brandenburgs and Buffalo

Downbeat was in less than 24 hours for the inaugural concert on the ranch. A herd of trucks and tractors still rumbled through, as hundreds of construction workers added finishing touches to buildings, and cleared roads to the eight sculpture sites placed among the dips and rises of the 11,500 acres of this working cattle […]

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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 […]