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Having a Miserable Time

In 2014, John Nolan, a graduate student in music composition at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, started a blog called Composers Doing Normal Shit. Still thriving in 2021, the site was one of the first to unite classical music with memeified internet humor. Now based primarily on Facebook and Twitter, CDNS is one of […]

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Building That Foundation

There’s an inescapable delight that comes with listening to the Notorious B.I.G.’s posthumous 1997 single “Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems,” wrapped up as the song is in Diana Ross samples, the Clinton-fueled optimism of ’90s America, and Biggie’s unapologetic lyrical grandstanding (“Jig on the cover of Fortune, 5-double-O. Here’s my phone number, your man ain’t got […]

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Natural Consequences

English countertenor Tim Mead’s voice is clean, serene, and direct, with a chameleon-like ability to remain subtly expressive in music from Handel to George Benjamin’s opera “Written on Skin,” in which Mead sings a queasily erotic and effective Boy. When I talked to Mead this month, he had just finished singing a project in Malta, […]

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Physical Movement

In a 2015 Bloomberg article about Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic on tour, reporter Joel Stein introduced an “impeccably dressed, handsome, long-haired” man, referred to by members of the orchestra as “the international man of mystery” or “the most interesting man in the world.” He didn’t mean Dudamel. Stein was referring to Guido […]

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The Right Questions

A recurring dream that I’ve had for the last several years: My grandmother, a Syrian refugee who spent the last 15 years of her life in the grips of progressive dementia, shows me an attic accessible through a crawlspace in her bedroom closet. It contains a trove of books, journals, letters, and photographs from our […]

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Digging

Cassie Kinoshi’s compositions appear on her SoundCloud in a couple of unassuming annual collections. The six-minute clips are given generic titles like “Compositions: Instrumental Showreel 2020.” But beneath their utilitarian form lie collections of substantial creativity. “Afronaut,” a gritty Afrofuturist track from the Mercury Award-nominated SEED Ensemble, sits alongside “If She Could Dance Naked Under […]

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The Eternal Factor

New Year’s and third lockdown resolution: trying to listen to and rank every Schubert song. (I’m not done yet, but I attempted something similar for the Scarlatti sonatas.) Because my impressions are very subjective—not to say flat-out wrong—I also decided to get a more holistic view of this oeuvre, which numbers somewhere around 700 lieder, […]

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Input

Look through older interviews with violinist Julia Fischer, and you’ll find a disturbing mix of chauvinism and sleaze: “A desirable German export with doe eyes and blond, angelic hair”; “young, sexy, and classical”; “ready for the runway.” One television anchor says she has the “looks, talent, and intelligence of a superwoman,” only to ask her […]

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Struggling with Time

In September, conductor and Alarm Will Sound artistic director Alan Pierson managed a bureaucratic feat of Olympian proportions: traveling, with COVID-19 restrictions in effect, from the United States to Germany. His essential business: conducting the rehearsals, premiere, and later performances of Hans Thomalla’s new opera “Dark Spring” at the Nationaltheater Mannheim. In early October, Pierson […]