Posted inBreaking

Music in the Background

Classical music-theory academia is a small field with limited professional opportunities, to say the least. So it might seem surprising that the Journal of Schenkerian Studies, an annual music theory journal dedicated to the work of Austrian-Jewish musicologist Heinrich Schenker based at the University of North Texas, has been searching for a new editor (or […]

Posted inPlaylist

A Richard Taruskin Playlist

Musicologist Richard Taruskin, who died on July 1 at the age of 77, once recalled a note he’d received from his colleague Susan McClary, saying that the two were “among the few comic writers in an otherwise grim and humorless discipline.”  At times, this could be “funny ha-ha.” After quoting a set of debatable claims […]

Posted inInterview

Pact with the Dictator

In the summer of 2009, Valery Gergiev organized an exhibition in St. Petersburg called “Wilhelm Furtwängler: Maestro, Man, and Myth” as part of the White Nights Festival. At the opening, Gergiev gave a speech noting that Furtwängler had been attacked all his life because of his biography, yet “he served a great cause with all […]

Posted inReport

The Pitch of Living

“I’ve been interested in the 432 Hz conspiracy theories for a while,” began an email from my editor at VAN. “Would you like to spend some time using the 432 Player, a website that adjusts all your music to 432 Hz?” I consider myself a very online person, and yet, through a mixture of willful […]

Posted inEssay

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

Keep Them Up at Night

In June, I met pianist and musicologist Robert Levin at his home in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Complete editions of works by Mozart, Schubert, Beethoven, and many other composers filled his living room. As a musician, Levin has an almost uncanny ability to assimilate an oeuvre into the component elements of its style. It’s a remarkable process […]

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 inEssay

Origin Myths

Illustrations Olivia Giovetti Nearly a century ago, when my ancestors landed in the United States as a family of Syrian refugees, my great-grandmother Nabiha’s name was changed to a more Americanized “Mona.” The story was always relayed in my family with matter-of-fact pragmatism, though no one caught the irony that the new name has its […]

Posted inReport

Tonefoil Hat, Episode 4

Get started with Tonefoil Hat here. The writer writes a sentence. He reads back what he wrote. He fixes a redundancy, then he writes another sentence. He changes that sentence, too; maybe adds a rhythmic nuance. He puts something on the page, reads it back, silently or even out loud, makes a decision about what […]

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