Posted inInterview

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 […]

Posted inProfile

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 […]

Posted inOpinion

Classical Complacency

For me, the most memorable part of Barack Obama’s first inauguration wasn’t the cold or the TV wheeled into the classroom or the flubbed administration of the oath of office or the supergroup of Gabriela Montero, Anthony McGill, Yo-Yo Ma, and Itzhak Perlman taking the inaugural ceremony on a Thanksgiving detour. Somehow, the most memorable […]

Posted inInterview

Cultural Gumbo

Titus Underwood is the principal oboist of the Nashville Symphony in Tennessee. In February, he became the first Black tenured principal oboist of an American orchestra. Originally from Pensacola, Florida, Underwood attended the Cleveland Institute of Music, the Juilliard School, and the Colburn School, studying with legendary oboists John Mack and Elaine Douvas. This year, […]

Posted inProfile

Sandcastles on the Beach

Sometimes you can figure things out just by thinking them through; sometimes you can figure them out by watching other people. But sometimes you just have to grab onto the electric fence with both hands yourself. For those of us who prefer to learn by doing (including with the occasional low-voltage shock), contemporary classical composition […]

Posted inReport

The Insurmountable Wall

In July 2019, the Aspen Music Festival and School staged a concert production of Rodger and Hammerstein’s “South Pacific.” This was a performance of the show’s 2006 revised concert score, a score that had preserved Pacific Islander stereotypes and an anti-Japanese racial slur. It was so offensive to one student in the orchestra that he […]

Posted inEssay

Notes on Birdsong

1. “During this pandemic, I’ve been feeling … particularly drawn to birding,” Joan Walsh wrote for The Nation. “You can hear the birds better without the city noise, and Central Park feels wilder, Edenic. Birding’s careful, meditative rhythms seem a cure for pandemic jitters.” New York in the time of COVID-19 has largely been talked […]

Posted inEssay

Centuries of Silence

Only then can his creative genius begin redounding, as it should, to the glory of Black music history,” writes the musicologist Robert Stevenson in his 1982 article, “The First Black Published Composer.” Stevenson’s subject was Vicente Lusitano (ca. 1520-ca. 1561), an African-Portuguese priest and musician who enjoyed an international career. Stevenson heralds works like the […]