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Deutsche Mega-phon

There aren’t many brands like Ferrari or Lamborghini in classical music. For a long time, Deutsche Grammophon was one of the only ones. It was obvious why: the label stood for tradition, good taste, objects of value, cutting edge technology. When you bought something from Deutsche Grammophon, you knew you were getting a reference recording. […]

Posted inRankings & Roundups

Can New Music Be Sexy?

I wrote this from a multidisciplinary arts residency, which I have the good fortune to be attending. There are nine composers here hailing from different parts of the world, which means I’ve gotten to witness firsthand the process people go through when asked about sexiness in new music.The reaction has been quite consistent. Each time […]

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The Age-Old Problem of Aging

There’s a strange clip after a beautiful performance in “I Am The Violin,” the 2004 documentary about violin virtuoso Ida Haendel. On a simple string crossing in the first movement of the Brahms Concerto, Haendel’s bow bounces uncontrollably. She recovers within seconds, and the incident hardly registers in the scope of the performance. Yet the […]

Posted inProfile

I’m Not Doing Anything

It wasn’t Helga Davis’ idea to have a podcast named after herself. Nor was ending up on the radio in the first place. At WQXR, the most listened-to classical station in the United States, Davis is among a cohort of contributors—including violist Nadia Sirota, composer Nico Muhly, and conductor Michael Tilson Thomas—who conjure art both […]

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Flattened Multiplicities

In the very first episode of the critically acclaimed ESPN documentary “OJ: Made in America,” the sociologist Dr. Harry Edwards contemplates OJ’s racial self-distinction during his college days in the 1960s. OJ thought he should be “judged not by the color of my skin, I want to be judged by the content of my character […]

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A Perfect Surface

I hope I play the piece better than last time. Oh, there’s the music critic. His most recent review of me said I was overrated and oversold. Also, this is going to be on live radio. If I make a mistake, about 3 billion people will hear it. It wouldn’t be the first time. In […]

Posted inOpinion

The Prodigy Complex

A journalist, Janet Malcolm once wrote, preys “on people’s vanity, ignorance, or loneliness, gaining their trust and betraying them without remorse.” Great profiles always seem to contain an element of backstabbing. That’s why it’s wrong to write one of a child. When journalists betray their subjects, they are at least adults; they don’t need to […]

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Buried

From 1991 to 1994, Carlos Sandoval, a man with thick grey hair, brown eyes, and wide shoulders, was an assistant to the American-Mexican maverick composer Conlon Nancarrow. It was a defining, if chaotic, time for Sandoval. “[Nancarrow] was always drinking, composing, reading, just throwing away books, newspapers, scores, whatever,” he said. Nancarrow’s tendency to discard […]

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Performing Creativity

When I was starting out as a composer, in Canada in the early 1990s, being a composer was the opposite of being a business person. A few composers devoted a small amount of attention to promoting their work, which seemed both admirable and quirky; but if anyone was too self-promoting, it seemed like they were […]

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The Broken Musician

“It was impossible for me to tell people, ‘Speak louder, shout, because I am deaf.’  Oh, how could I possibly admit a weakness in the one sense which should be more perfect in me than in others.” Beethoven, Heiligenstadt Testament, 1802 Musicians expire. For some lucky members of the profession, the musical expiry coincides with […]