Posted inInterview

Degrees of Density

“99 percent of the day, we are in the thinking mode,” Peter Ablinger tells me across a table in the lobby of our hotel in Bergen. “And in opposition to that, if we decide now to be silent for a few seconds. Just…” His voice drifts off and he raises his eyebrows in anticipation. For […]

Posted inReview

Awful Magic

Our times are full of peculiar things,” Carlotta sings in the first act of Franz Schreker’s 1918 expressionist psychothriller, “Die Gezeichneten.” She is referring to a woman who paints hands—delicate ladies’ palms, fat workingmen’s fists—but by the end of the evening she will have found herself (at least in Calixto Bieito’s new staging at the […]

Posted inReview

Buried Treasure

In June 2013, the Aldeburgh Festival celebrated the centenary of its founder, Benjamin Britten, by brutalizing his music. “Grimes on the Beach,” a production of the opera “Peter Grimes” that was performed over three nights on the very shoreline that first gave George Crabbe, and then Britten, a setting for their stories of Suffolk fisherfolk […]

Posted inReview

The Mischief I Made

When a friend sent me a YouTube video of Helmut Lachenmann’s newest piece, “Marche fatale” for orchestra, I texted him back asking, “Holy shit, is this a joke?” The eminent German, who writes noisy works of intimidating craft and intelligence, who has probably single-handedly invented more new instrumental sounds than anyone in music history, had […]

Posted inInterview

Hidden Theater

“What I find interesting in Georges Aperghis’ works is his way of juggling elements that are all in some way chaotic as a way of writing music, his way of searching for possible creative focuses that assumes an absolute risk,” wrote the philosopher Félix Guattari. Recently, I spoke with the prolific composer, whose work moves […]

Posted inReview

Disappearing Act

The rarely performed music of Horatiu Radulescu, the iconoclastic Romanian composer and self-described founder of spectralism, will be at the center of an ambitious upcoming three-day festival at Acker Stadt Palast in Berlin on October 19-21. Organized by Iranian composer and conductor Arash Yazdani and his Ensemble for New Music Tallinn (ENMT) in honor of […]

Posted inHistory

Self-Sufficient Sound

Roland Kayn was a composer who pushed his music to the furthest extremes he could reach while doing his best to remove himself as completely as possible from the work. Kayn composed what he called “cybernetic music,” building elaborate electronics to generate systems that would respond in unplanned-for ways. He would build the basic system […]

Posted inPlaylist

A Gérard Grisey Playlist

On August 16, the Salzburg Festival ended its focus on the French composer Gérard Grisey with a complete performance of his cycle “Les espaces acoustiques” by the Austrian ORF Symphony Orchestra and Maxime Pascal conducting. It was an hour and a half during which the music’s timbral and structural richness occupied the brain’s entire perceptive […]

Posted inEssay

Limits of Perspective

In Franz Lehár’s 1929 operetta “Das Land des Lächelns,” a Viennese lady, Lisa, loves a Chinese diplomat, Sou-Chong. She follows him back to China and marries him, only for them to ultimately be forced apart by Chinese custom. In 1929, this was a plea for tolerance by its two Jewish librettists. But today, its depiction […]