Posted inNew in VAN

The Sound of the End of the World

The music of Laura Bowler tends to divide opinion. Go looking for reviews and you’ll find some arguing her work is vital, an urgent intervention into social issues that brings much-needed aesthetic experimentation to contemporary music. For others, her work is frustrating: all-too-angry, unenjoyable and ultimately off-putting. For me, her music is both moving and […]

Posted inEssay

The Wanderer’s Return

As night fell on September 2, 1978, Iannis Xenakis stood, walkie-talkie in hand, by his console on the back row of a temporary seating stand. As he looked across Mount Elias in the northeastern Peloponnese from his vantage point in the foothills, he could survey a peculiar kind of avant-garde circus with hundreds of performers, […]

Posted inInterview

What Ebbs Away

Composer Donnacha Dennehy writes music inflected by the overtone harmonies of the French spectralists and the propulsive rhythms of American minimalism, a combination resulting in something all his own. It’s a captivating blend that perceives the hypnotic thread uniting two genres often considered at odds (and whose practitioners were frequently dismissive of one another). I […]

Posted inOpinion

The Problem with Peter

Rain is hardly a deterrent in Paris. It’s opening night for a new staging of the John Adams warhorse “Nixon in China,” and the imposing stone walls of the Opéra Bastille are framed by a quickly-brewing storm. Under trickling March skies, the house bears an uncanny resemblance to the military stronghold from which it gets […]

Posted inInterview

The Sounding Organism

Immediately recognizable in Greek-French composer Georges Aperghis’s works are moments of startling, absurd and often witty theater. In his famous “Récitations” for solo female voice, sensual incantations expand and contract, pyramid-like, on the page and in time; “Les guetteurs de sons” (for three percussionists) delights in the play of sound, movement, and expectation created by […]

Posted inEssay

How to Measure Love

New music mourns with a strange and violent passion. Each announcement of the death of a major composer sparks a river of public grief that is always torrential at its mouth—floods of tributes, letters, anecdotes, love notes, lessons, all offered in the reification of the dead. In the days that follow, the artist’s work receives […]

Posted inEssay

Curiosity Without Limit

One day, I asked György Ligeti a question that had been troubling me for a long time: Did his constant need to break artistic barriers, either instrumental or musical-linguistic, stem from the traumas he had endured in his youth, creating an existential need for transgression? His response was a resounding “yes.” The unbearable ordeals that […]

Posted inEssay

Une curiosité sans limites

Je lui ai un jour posé la question qui me taraudait depuis longtemps : son constant besoin de dépasser les frontières artistiques, instrumentales ou musicolinguistiques avait-il comme origine les traumatismes qui ont bouleversé sa jeunesse, engendrant un besoin existentiel de transgression ? Sa réponse a été indubitablement positive. Les épreuves insoutenables qu’il a vécues pendant la Deuxième […]

Posted inInterview

Trust the Truths

Can an opera album stand on its own as an opera? I listened to Christopher Cerrone’s 58-minute “In a Grove” while walking in Nebraska. I passed a deserted main street, barking dogs tied to porches, children learning to bike, and Trump 2024 signs, while listening to the story of a murder. Based on the Ryūnosuke […]

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