Posted inReport

For Better, For Worse

At the beginning of Ingmar Bergman’s “Scenes from a Marriage,” we meet Marianne and Johan, a couple being interviewed for a magazine story about successful relationships. In the next scene, Marianne asks Johan, “Do you believe two people can spend a lifetime together?” “It’s a ridiculous convention passed down from God knows where,” he answers.“A […]

Posted inOpinion

Fiddling While California Burns

After these long lockdowns, what a pleasure to finally attend concerts and new musical seasons. For instance, in 2020, the MusikFest Berlin was online-only; this fall, it featured live performances by nine of the best international music ensembles and orchestras in addition to prestigious orchestras and ensembles from Germany, with a varied and daring program, […]

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“The Perfect Voice in the Wrong Body”

“A chubby bundle of puppy fat.” “Unsightly and unattractive.” “Repulsive figure.” These comments count as professional feedback in the world of opera. At first glance, they may appear to be isolated cases; only seldom does body shaming make headlines in the opera industry. The most prominent exception was the “little black dress” which did not […]

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Formed Under Pressure

In classical music, racism toward musicians of Asian heritage is as casual as it is pervasive. When I was in my first year of conservatory, at the Royal Academy of Music in London, a Korean composition student was late to a single lesson; the professor proceeded to do a disgustingly caricatured impression of his accent. […]

Posted inInterview

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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Building That Foundation

There’s an inescapable delight that comes with listening to the Notorious B.I.G.’s posthumous 1997 single “Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems,” wrapped up as the song is in Diana Ross samples, the Clinton-fueled optimism of ’90s America, and Biggie’s unapologetic lyrical grandstanding (“Jig on the cover of Fortune, 5-double-O. Here’s my phone number, your man ain’t got […]

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Whispering Through the Music

It’s a bitter sign that we’re still living in the era of “firsts” when it comes to Black representation in classical music. The first Black musician to hold a principal chair in the New York Philharmonic did not secure that spot in the first decades of the orchestra’s founding; nor in the explosive heyday of […]

Posted inOpinion

Music, in Theory

In November 2019, music theorist Philip Ewell gave a plenary at the annual meeting for the Society for Music Theory. Titled “Music Theory’s White Racial Frame,” Ewell’s discussion of equity in American music theory was supported by the example of Heinrich Schenker, whose documented racist ideologies have historically been historically overlooked by scholars. Ewell, who […]

Posted inEssay

A Most Violent Year

The enduring image of Beethoven, 250 years after his birth: His hair is untamed. His temperament is as mercurial as his mane. He is, both as an artist and a man, uncompromising and volatile; his whole personality wrapped up in the fateful knock of the first four notes of his Fifth Symphony, or the two […]