Posted inInterview

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 […]

Posted inInterview

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 […]

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 […]

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Input

Look through older interviews with violinist Julia Fischer, and you’ll find a disturbing mix of chauvinism and sleaze: “A desirable German export with doe eyes and blond, angelic hair”; “young, sexy, and classical”; “ready for the runway.” One television anchor says she has the “looks, talent, and intelligence of a superwoman,” only to ask her […]

Posted inHistory

The Pianist who Killed Stalin

In his 2017 film “The Death of Stalin,” Armando Iannucci links the titular event to a letter penned by pianist Maria Yudina: “Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin, you have betrayed our nation and destroyed its people. I pray for your end and ask the Lord to forgive you. Tyrant.” In Iannucci’s history-as-farce, the dictator reads this note […]

Posted inProfile

Sandcastles on the Beach

Sometimes you can figure things out just by thinking them through; sometimes you can figure them out by watching other people. But sometimes you just have to grab onto the electric fence with both hands yourself. For those of us who prefer to learn by doing (including with the occasional low-voltage shock), contemporary classical composition […]

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The Nature of the Mind

Laurie Anderson, the 71-year-old performance artist, storyteller, musician and wife of Lou Reed, was looking out at the fog. She seemed exhausted, but her green eyes were alert. I met her in her green room in the middle of a packed four-day festival at the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg, where she was joined by her colleagues, […]

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The Inner Mountain

I worked in a music library for some years. One of our regular visitors was an elderly Irish nun whose eyes twinkled with purpose. She was working on her book, she told me, about the Russian composer Galina Ustvolskaya. Ustvolskaya’s music was little known in the West when Sister Andre Dullaghan had first heard it, […]

Posted inEssay

End Transmission

Early on in her debut essay collection, Dead Girls: Essays on Surviving an American Obsession, Alice Bolin gives us a definition of the Dead Girl genre: highlighted by the dark specter of a deceased female character—more often than not murdered—who is depicted with an alternating degree of mature sexualization and infantilizing naiveté that earns her […]