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A Mechanical Instruments Playlist

The musical instruments of the concert stage are products of thousands of years of experimentation in sound; the often taken-for-granted results of a long process of tinkering. Keyboard instruments are just one example: From early string instruments to the harpsichord, the pianoforte, and the modern concert grand, the piano has been a long-term, collaborative project. […]

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A Maria Ewing Playlist

Two months ago, almost to the day, actress Rebecca Hall saw her directorial debut, “Passing,” premiere on Netflix. It was a personal project for Hall, whose mother—the soprano Maria Ewing—had a family history that mirrored the plot of the 1929 novel on which Hall based her film. In fact, Hall learned more about that family […]

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An Edita Gruberová Playlist

The death of a classical musician is a moment of loss, but it’s also a moment of rediscovery. Especially when the musician in question is someone like Slovak soprano Edita Gruberová, whose death in Zürich this past Monday, October 18, was an opportunity for fans and houses alike to pay tribute to some of her […]

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An Opera Transfiguration Playlist

Recently I wrote a book called Avidly Reads Opera about opera fandom and opera fans. I also wrote an accompanying playlist. The playlist was supposed to vivify the book’s arguments through a wide range of composers and performers; it contains so many references that its compilation took longer than the manuscript preparation had. When I […]

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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 […]