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A Memory of Violence

An Interview with Mark Barden By · Title Image Polka Dots by Yayoi Kusama (Public Domain, via Pixabay) · Date 5/31/2018 The Berlin-based, American composer Mark Barden writes music that is both technically refined and irresistibly gripping. He has an ear for rhythmic propulsion and microtonal chords that make sense and sound beautiful without falling […]

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A Knife to Reality

An Interview with Niels Rønsholdt By · Photography © Lars Svankjær · Date 5/17/2018 I was supposed to meet the Danish composer Niels Rønsholdt at the SPOR Festival in Aarhus. There, his recent music theater piece “Gaze for Gaze” received a new production, performed by Denmark’s SCENATET ensemble, with whom Rønsholdt has worked closely for […]

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The Calibrated Voice

The voices of singers tend to call forth abstract, flowery adjectives. But when you hear the baritone Matthias Goerne, it’s easy to point out the specific moments that distinguish his art. As Wotan from Wagner’s “Ring,” he sings about the castle of the gods as if it were a tender memory from Schubert’s “Winterreise.” In […]

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In Fuzzy Color

An Interview with Jessica Cottis By · Title Image © Kaupo Kikkas · Date 5/10/2018 Jessica Cottis has always had a hypersensitivity to sound. As she walks into the cafe at the British Film Institute cinema to meet me, she is acutely aware of little noises—like the man at a table on the right tapping […]

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The Traveler

Alexei Lubimov is a normal man with fingers of gold. A strange combination, at first glance, but one that suits him. He walks on stage, slight of stature, a few thin hairs left, thick, round glasses—the kind of person you wouldn’t normally give a second glance. Then he starts to play and everything changes. I […]

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Degrees of Invention

George Benjamin was once the boy wonder of British classical music. A composer at nine, he became star pupil to Olivier Messiaen in his teens, the youngest ever composer to see his music performed at the Proms while still a student. And then, for a long time, nothing. After a brief stint at Pierre Boulez’s […]

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Expressive Spirals

Contemporary dance tends to see itself as independent from music. Yet Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker has achieved worldwide success with her concept of “harmonic polarity.” The Belgian choreographer, the European standard-bearer for minimal dance, bases her work on the musical score, using it as a starting point to explore possible relationships between sound and dance. […]

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I Did That

Recently elected as a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters at the age of 92, Ben Johnston is taking some time to reflect on his life’s work. As a composer who radically pushed the expressive possibilities of non-tempered harmony for over six decades, Johnston holds an important position in 20th-century American music, […]

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Wonderful Misfits

An Interview with Robin Ticciati By · Title Image © PETER ADAMIK · Date 4/12/2018 Robin Ticciati’s friendliness and openness seems indomitable, yet have none of the routine amicability that other frequently-interviewed musicians adopt. He develops his thoughts patiently while speaking and asks himself lots of questions, too. Bruckner’s relatively seldom played Sixth is part […]

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Opera Vernacular

Leonard Bernstein‘s centenary has been particularly healthy for his legacy as a composer. While “West Side Story” has been an uninterrupted success since its premiere in 1957, it also became almost like a mortgage that Bernstein spent the rest of his years paying off with other creative struggles. His compositional talent, which lay in a […]