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Gated Debussy

The Paris Métro’s Line One to Étoile is pretty crowded this afternoon. There are slightly fewer smartphones than there were a couple of years ago; a few passengers are even reading books. Line Two is next, almost empty, and just two stops to Porte Dauphine, where the train disappears into the tunnel as I emerge […]

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Emotional Anatomies

In his forthcoming book, The Impossible Art, composer Matthew Aucoin likens his early immersion in opera not to the pageantry of going to a live performance, but rather to the solitude of reading a book. “Operas, like the young-adult fiction I was reading at the time, felt to me like interior adventures rather than extravagant […]

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The Intelligence of Bodies

When VAN asked me to do a review of an artificial-intelligence-created realization of Beethoven’s Tenth Symphony called “Beethoven X: The AI Project,” which is based on the skimpy sketches he left when he died, I more or less groaned in my reply. “Not for me,” I said. “I know pretty much what I’ll think about […]

Posted inInterview

Death as a Metaphor

Missy Mazzoli is sitting in one of Ingmar Bergman’s bedrooms when she joins our Zoom meeting earlier this summer. At the time, the 40-year-old composer was finishing a monthlong artist’s residency at the Bergman Estate at Fårö—an island in the Baltic Sea off the coast of Sweden where the director lived and filmed parts of […]

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Meaning in the Parentheticals

Since winning the Pulitzer Prize for “Partita for 8 Voices” in 2013, Caroline Shaw has gone on to collaborate with musicians as wide-ranging as the Attacca Quartet and Kanye West. Her recent projects include “We Need to Talk” with Anne Carson and Opera Philadelphia and “Narrow Sea” with Dawn Upshaw, Gil Kalish, and Sō Percussion. […]

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An Object Beyond Music

In 2020, composer Sara Glojnarić won Berlin’s “Neue Szenen” competition, awarded the prize by a jury chaired by Chaya Czernowin. In 2018, her work “#popfem,” which artfully dismantles anti-feminist and racist propaganda, received Darmstadt’s Kranichstein Music Prize. “I’d never thought that my identity as a queer woman could have such a strong influence on my work […]

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Built and Abandoned

Georg Friedrich Haas’s new orchestral work opens at the void. A solo contraforte—a sort of improved contrabassoon with a more focused, melodic tone—holds a low F#. A solo violin looks down on it from far above, playing close, dissonant intervals in the high reaches of the harmonic spectrum. Slowly, the violin descends. The orchestra begins […]

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The Right Questions

A recurring dream that I’ve had for the last several years: My grandmother, a Syrian refugee who spent the last 15 years of her life in the grips of progressive dementia, shows me an attic accessible through a crawlspace in her bedroom closet. It contains a trove of books, journals, letters, and photographs from our […]