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A “Divine Comedy” Playlist

One of the more morbid traditions of classical music is its focus on death anniversaries: 1991 was a big year for Mozart (particularly in the business of Requiems). The cancellation of so many #Beethoven250 concerts in 2020 was half–but only half–jokingly bright-sided by the fact that all of the programs could be resurrected for 2027.  […]

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A Father Complex Playlist

Our collective obsession with fathers and father figures is nothing new. (See: Christianity, the Ancient Greeks, the American Revolution, Freud, Harry Chapin.) However, we may be reaching an era of peak Dad Obsession. According to Google Trends, searches for “daddy issues” reached an all-time high in December 2020 after a gradual incline since 2004. On […]

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An Industry Playlist

When the composers Michael Gordon, David Lang, and Julia Wolfe put on an eclectic marathon concert of contemporary music in downtown Manhattan in May 1987—and decided to call it the Bang on a Can Festival—they might not have known it would become the powerhouse organization it is today. But they were young, scrappy, and hungry […]

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A Timothy Leary Playlist

How to commemorate the centenary of acid guru Timothy Leary, born 100 years ago today in Springfield, Massachusetts? Many will dig into their psychedelic rock collection to spin something like Jefferson Airplane’s “Surrealistic Pillow” (1967) or the Grateful Dead’s “Aoxomoxoa” (1969). More historically-minded psychonauts, however, will reach for their Mozart and Wagner records, paying tribute […]

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A Goldberg Variations Playlist

Writing about my musical path for the New York Times last month, I noted that the one strand of continuity for me, between instruments and repertoires, was Bach’s Goldberg Variations. Part of that continuity was my dissatisfaction with the work. Don’t get me wrong, the Goldbergs are incredible. But, from piano to harpsichord to organ, […]

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A Chinese Composers Playlist

Music has a way of slipping through the fingers of politicians. In his memoir Along the Roaring River: My Wild Ride from Mao to the Met, the bass Haojiang Tian writes of the way certain songs of the Cultural Revolution, once force-fed to the Chinese population, became sentimental ear-worms, even for the persecuted. The role […]

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A Trans Composers Playlist

Trans people are used to seeing ourselves refracted through the eyes of cis artists. Sometimes it’s done very well; more often it’s not. But what happens when we’re the ones making the art? Much has been written about video games, novels, and rock and pop music by trans artists, but our presence in the contemporary […]

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A Women Film Composers Playlist

“If I may be so honored,” said Frances McDormand in her acceptance speech for Best Actress at last Sunday’s Oscars ceremony, “to have all the female nominees in every category stand with me tonight,” and they did—actors, directors, writers. But how many standing were composers? Although there were three women nominated for the original song […]