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 […]

Posted inPlaylist

A Giacinto Scelsi Playlist

The only proper word for the music of the self-taught Italian composer Giacinto Scelsi is “sublime.” Not in the common sense of the word, which comes to something like “very good”—but in the sense that Moses Mendelssohn understood it, that is, something that is frightening and overwhelming and pleasing and painful and immense and transcendent […]

Posted inEssay

Doom and Womb

Few pieces within the contemporary classical repertoire concern themselves solely with pregnancy, a fact of which I am all too aware as someone living a double life as a music writer and a reproductive rights activist. Examples of womb-centric compositions include chamber and orchestral works by Dai Fujikura, in which he appropriates and musicalizes his […]

Posted inInterview

I’m Not Hiding Anything

Over the last four years, I’ve heard about half a dozen concerts of music by the composer Alvin Lucier in New York City. I have often begun listening to a piece with skepticism and left astonished. On March 25, Alvin Lucier will perform two of his works, “I Am Sitting in a Room” and “Vespers,” […]