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Aural Histories

In his essay “The Paradoxical Theory of Change,” Gestalt psychiatrist Arnold Beisser wrote that “change occurs when one becomes what he is, not when he tries to become what he is not.… It does take place if one takes the time and effort to be what he is.”  I quote this line a lot, but […]

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Good Old-Fashioned Lover Boy

For female opera singers, singing a male role is nothing out of the ordinary. Stephanie Blythe, however, thrives in the out-of-the-ordinary. That’s not to discount the majority of her career: Blythe has sung the coloratura lines of Handel and Rossini with whip-smart technique and brought a rioja-hued boldness to more orotund roles like Fricka in […]

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Walking the Path

In 2016, pianist Martin Helmchen took a step which many threaten but few follow through on: He left Berlin for the surrounding countryside of Brandenburg, his four daughters in tow. His new home is close to the town of Luckau, between the German capital and Dresden, where his wife, cellist Marie-Elisabeth Hecker, is a professor […]

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Death as a Metaphor

Missy Mazzoli is sitting in one of Ingmar Bergman’s bedrooms when she joins our Zoom meeting earlier this summer. At the time, the 40-year-old composer was finishing a monthlong artist’s residency at the Bergman Estate at Fårö—an island in the Baltic Sea off the coast of Sweden where the director lived and filmed parts of […]

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Not Only Art, But a Human Right

Under Taliban rule (1996-2001), instrumental music and public performance in Afghanistan were almost totally banned. Instruments that were discovered by the Taliban’s morality police were destroyed; sometimes publicly burned or “hanged” along with confiscated audio and video cassettes, televisions, and camcorders. Only the singing of certain religious songs and unaccompanied hymns of praise to the […]

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Keep Them Up at Night

In June, I met pianist and musicologist Robert Levin at his home in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Complete editions of works by Mozart, Schubert, Beethoven, and many other composers filled his living room. As a musician, Levin has an almost uncanny ability to assimilate an oeuvre into the component elements of its style. It’s a remarkable process […]

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Romantic Comedy

Kieran Hodgson is more of a comic actor than a stand-up. An excellent impressionist, his earnest, if ironically-titled, YouTube series “Bad TV Impressions” made him a viral lockdown hit. Yet he’s more interested in constructing narratives, on topics ranging from Lance Armstrong to the European Union, than improvisatory muscle-flexing. At London’s SoHo Theatre, he recently […]

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Meaning in the Parentheticals

Since winning the Pulitzer Prize for “Partita for 8 Voices” in 2013, Caroline Shaw has gone on to collaborate with musicians as wide-ranging as the Attacca Quartet and Kanye West. Her recent projects include “We Need to Talk” with Anne Carson and Opera Philadelphia and “Narrow Sea” with Dawn Upshaw, Gil Kalish, and Sō Percussion. […]

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Objective and Inner Realities

Last August, conductor Vitali Alekseenok flew from his home in Germany (where he divides his time between Weimar and Munich) to his native Belarus. There, he took part in both the national elections and the subsequent protests against the government of Alexander G. Lukashenko.  Despite the brutal police violence he witnessed, Alekseenok wrote in an […]