Posted inEssay

Living in the Elsewhere

Some years ago, I found myself stranded in a guesthouse in the Scottish Highlands after an unexpected storm put an end to my hiking plans. As I buttoned up my coat by the door, the lady who ran the establishment asked me where I was headed. I’d intended to find a fireside drink to salvage […]

Posted inReview

A Shallow Oasis

Aaron Jay Kernis wrote his new string quartet “oasis” in nearly perfect solitude. It was December at Tippet Rise, an arts center and festival near Fishtail, Montana, and windswept snowdrifts made it impossible to enter or leave. The facilities sat vacant except for the most necessary core personnel. His piece is stark, taciturn, full of […]

Posted inReview

Bursting Through Confines

The first thing I saw was groups of soldiers. Aix-en-Provence, a wealthy tourist resort and college town, is not their primary target, and France is only the latest in a long series of countries to be occupied by the French military. But they were everywhere: at the airport in baggage claim, flanking the exit to […]

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Constructed Deconstruction

In four separate, darkened rooms sit five performers. One prepared piano, a Hardanger fiddle, clarinet, and guitar with electronics. It’s a chamber concert for wanderers, with each instrument piped into the other rooms via wires and speakers. The format has been exploded, and while the fragmentary sounds of Stephen Mediell’s “Metrics,” which they’re performing, are […]

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The Architecture of Experience

Attendees of the Ultima Oslo festival took cover from the rainy September weather at venues that ranged from a railway underpass to a waste water purification plant to a mausoleum in the woods. These soundscapes often provided a physical refuge from the gloomy dampness, but simultaneously unsettled and destabilized aesthetic norms. Wading around town in […]

Posted inEssay

Sound in Flight

The Airbus A320 was quiet as it waited on the runway behind the other planes for takeoff. I put on a Guillaume de Machaut motet, “Tribulatio proxima est et non est qui adjuvet,” in my headphones. The pilot pushed the throttle forward and the plane picked up speed. A male voice joined the two female […]

Posted inInterview

Ostrava Days, Brooklyn Nights

The Ostrava Days 2017 festival was pervaded by an atmosphere of such overbearing toxic masculinity that I could barely hear the music. The festival lasted 10 days and served as a gathering place for avant-gardists and “risk-takers.” Of the 33 composition residents, 27 were men, and 23 were white cis men; despite the festival’s international […]

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Heinz Holliger sits on the edge of his seat, moving his hands knowingly to the atonal wanderings of Frédérique Cambreling’s harp. His face cycles between anticipation, excitement, and a little thrilled relief. Holliger is watching the world premiere of the full version of his Partita No. 2 for Harp, which is stretching both the limits […]

Posted inEssay

Ringling and Riots

I was dumbfounded by the spectacular opulence of my surroundings. This was Cà d’Zan, the first venue of my “Overtures to Bach” series at the Ringling International Arts Festival in Sarasota, Florida, and once John and Mable Ringling’s beloved winter palace; a gilded mansion standing on the edge of the Gulf of Mexico, with stunning […]

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