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A Piano Down a Mine

Is classical music funny? The Witty Ditty Industry, made up of (mostly) white men in their 30s, would probably reply singing “Of course not!” Their retort would be snappily harmonized, with enough panache to make whoever questioned their authority look a bit silly; but not quite enough commitment to suggest this retort is entirely ironic. […]

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The Offensively Inoffensive

At a tandoori restaurant in Tel Aviv, an Israeli politician chastises a quixotic Norwegian diplomat: “When people talk to you, Terje, you should pay attention to what they actually say, and not just listen for what you want to hear.”  The scene is from “Oslo,” which began as a 2016 play and last weekend resurfaced […]

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Disregard All Information

Singer-songwriter Tom Lehrer introduces his 1965 song “So Long, Mom (A Song for World War III)” in a style familiar to classical music fans. “This year we’ve been celebrating the hundredth anniversary of the Civil War, and the fiftieth anniversary of the beginning of World War I, and the twentieth anniversary of the end of […]

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Music, in Theory

In November 2019, music theorist Philip Ewell gave a plenary at the annual meeting for the Society for Music Theory. Titled “Music Theory’s White Racial Frame,” Ewell’s discussion of equity in American music theory was supported by the example of Heinrich Schenker, whose documented racist ideologies have historically been historically overlooked by scholars. Ewell, who […]

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Classical Complacency

The time is in the street you know, Us living as we do upside down. And the new word to have is “revolution.” People don’t even want to hear the preacher spill or spiel Because God’s hole card has been thoroughly piqued And America is now blood and tears instead of milk and honey  —Gil […]

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Winner Takes All

A bit of Beethoven here, a recital there—that doesn’t interest me,” the pianist Igor Levit said five years ago. Instead he wanted to become a thought leader, like Bob Dylan. Levit was reading Greil Marcus’s Like a Rolling Stone. “People like [Dylan] didn’t see music as a separate reality,” Levit told me. “They arrived on […]

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Complete Illusion

How Opera Can Learn from the Movies By · Title Image New York Public Library Digital Collections (Public Domain) · Datum 11/21/2019 When opera house directors and administrators go to the movies, what do they think about (and if they don’t go to the movies, what are they thinking)? Do they consider the box office […]

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Color Blind

We can’t cancel Anna Netrebko. But one of the Russian soprano’s recent Instagram posts, taken backstage during a performance of “Aida” at St. Petersburg’s Mariinsky Theatre and showing off the diva’s makeup-darkened skin, may have been enough to get most any other opera singer to file for moral bankruptcy. “Beautiful singing!” wrote one follower under […]

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Adams 2.0

Thanks to John Adams, I am no longer a snob. When I was studying composition in graduate school, I was possessed by a young man’s certainty about his own knowledge and taste. Still, I was exposed to enough contradictory opinions and ideas that I began to— fortunately—entertain doubts. What if I didn’t know everything? One […]