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An Interview with Philip Venables By · Title Image © Harald Hoffmann · Date 08/24/2017 I met up with the English composer Philip Venables one recent evening at an outdoor bar in Berlin, where he’s been living for the last eight years. He wore a dark cap, glasses, overalls, and a rainbow-striped t-shirt. Over beer […]

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The audience had to creep carefully around the performance space, as a constellation of strings were stretched at hip-height from one wall to another. Ellen Fullman had spent the day here, setting up her traveling installation, the Long String Instrument; she had stretched dozens of stainless steel and phosphor bronze strings across the room in […]

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DNA Of Our Time

An elderly woman flicks the switch on a silver box. Inside a glass container a yellow light turns on and low electric hum begins to sound. She blinks. With her bandaged hand on a wooden handle, she slides some kind of sheet of paper, with metallic stubs, through the hanging strips of a mysterious machine. […]

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Against The Grain

The last time I visited my family in Atlanta, I stumbled across an answering machine in the closet while hunting around for a beach towel. It took me a moment to place the clunky black object, but as soon as I pieced together what it was, I hurriedly plugged it in. The voice of my […]

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Can Cis Men Write Trans Opera?

“I am a human; nothing that is human is alien to me.” Composer Robert Paterson cites this line from the Roman playwright Terence in defense of his choice, along with librettist David Cote, to write an opera with characters that don’t share his demographic background. “I think there’s too much of that these days,” Paterson […]

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Anonymous Man

Shortly after 10 a.m. on the morning of Monday April 24, 1865, a ferry set out across the Hudson River from a landing in Jersey City. Bedecked with symbols of patriotism and mourning, it held the corpse of the assassinated Abraham Lincoln, en route from the place of his death in Washington D.C. to his […]

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Internal States

The bar exuded a greenish, fluorescent light. Joshua Fineberg stood outside smoking a cigarette. Recently, two people had told me that Fineberg, one of the most important living Spectralist composers alongside Tristan Murail, and a tenured professor at Boston University, had moved to Berlin and begun frequenting the city’s famous clubs. They suggested to me […]

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Vulnerable to the Unknown

The setup itself, two pianists and two percussionists, is not conventional. Yet it formed naturally, without a deliberate plan. This naturalness elucidates why giving a title to each member of Yarn/Wire is perhaps misleading: there’s a fluidity to the quartet that shatters and belittles the relevance of the principles imposed on being a pianist or […]

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Among landmarks of opera, 20th-century Hungarian composer György Ligeti’s “Aventures” (1962) and “Nouvelles Aventures” (1962-5) count as two of the most bizarre. They’re both written for singers and a small (seven-piece) orchestra, but that’s where the concessions to operatic conventions end. The music—with percussion including mallets hitting tables, papers being ripped apart, and, in “Nouvelles […]

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Aware Awareness

I met the composer Yair Klartag in 2011, when I moved into an apartment he was renting in the Swiss city of Basel. We studied composition there together under Georg Friedrich Haas. Even then, his music seemed lightyears ahead in its beauty—“a hard word,” he says—and sophistication. Recently, we met up in the VAN office […]