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Aural Histories

In his essay “The Paradoxical Theory of Change,” Gestalt psychiatrist Arnold Beisser wrote that “change occurs when one becomes what he is, not when he tries to become what he is not.… It does take place if one takes the time and effort to be what he is.”  I quote this line a lot, but […]

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Good Old-Fashioned Lover Boy

For female opera singers, singing a male role is nothing out of the ordinary. Stephanie Blythe, however, thrives in the out-of-the-ordinary. That’s not to discount the majority of her career: Blythe has sung the coloratura lines of Handel and Rossini with whip-smart technique and brought a rioja-hued boldness to more orotund roles like Fricka in […]

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Death as a Metaphor

Missy Mazzoli is sitting in one of Ingmar Bergman’s bedrooms when she joins our Zoom meeting earlier this summer. At the time, the 40-year-old composer was finishing a monthlong artist’s residency at the Bergman Estate at Fårö—an island in the Baltic Sea off the coast of Sweden where the director lived and filmed parts of […]

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Like the Volga Singing

Psychoanalysis and opera both have an uneven relationship to feminism, to put it mildly. The former, even when challenging the disorienting, traumatic quality of patriarchy, is a product of that same power. The practice’s roots lie in Jean-Martin Charcot’s Salpêtrière hospital in Paris, which turned the confinement of so-called “hysterical” women into a public spectacle. […]

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Meaning in the Parentheticals

Since winning the Pulitzer Prize for “Partita for 8 Voices” in 2013, Caroline Shaw has gone on to collaborate with musicians as wide-ranging as the Attacca Quartet and Kanye West. Her recent projects include “We Need to Talk” with Anne Carson and Opera Philadelphia and “Narrow Sea” with Dawn Upshaw, Gil Kalish, and Sō Percussion. […]

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An Object Beyond Music

In 2020, composer Sara Glojnarić won Berlin’s “Neue Szenen” competition, awarded the prize by a jury chaired by Chaya Czernowin. In 2018, her work “#popfem,” which artfully dismantles anti-feminist and racist propaganda, received Darmstadt’s Kranichstein Music Prize. “I’d never thought that my identity as a queer woman could have such a strong influence on my work […]

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The Right Questions

A recurring dream that I’ve had for the last several years: My grandmother, a Syrian refugee who spent the last 15 years of her life in the grips of progressive dementia, shows me an attic accessible through a crawlspace in her bedroom closet. It contains a trove of books, journals, letters, and photographs from our […]

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Digging

Cassie Kinoshi’s compositions appear on her SoundCloud in a couple of unassuming annual collections. The six-minute clips are given generic titles like “Compositions: Instrumental Showreel 2020.” But beneath their utilitarian form lie collections of substantial creativity. “Afronaut,” a gritty Afrofuturist track from the Mercury Award-nominated SEED Ensemble, sits alongside “If She Could Dance Naked Under […]

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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 […]