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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 […]

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Challenging Dispositions

Almost directly beneath the composer Patricia Alessandrini’s feet, in a basement performance space, lurks a sheet of steel. We are sitting in the garden of a café next to Goldsmiths College, London, where she lectures in sonic arts, and after our conversation she invites me to have a look. Large enough to bend slightly under […]

Posted inInterview

Uncanny Songs

Before she moved to London as a third-year undergraduate student less than a decade ago, Na’ama Zisser had never even been to the opera. This week sees the production of her very own, “Mamzer Bastard,” by London’s Royal Opera House at the Hackney Empire. Taking place within an orthodox Hasidic community and featuring Jewish cantorial […]

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In Fuzzy Color

Jessica Cottis has always had a hypersensitivity to sound. As she walks into the cafe at the British Film Institute cinema to meet me, she is acutely aware of little noises—like the man at a table on the right tapping away at his laptop keyboard. She describes this sound to me with a harsh burst […]

Posted inPlaylist

A Women Film Composers Playlist

“If I may be so honored,” said Frances McDormand in her acceptance speech for Best Actress at last Sunday’s Oscars ceremony, “to have all the female nominees in every category stand with me tonight,” and they did—actors, directors, writers. But how many standing were composers? Although there were three women nominated for the original song […]

Posted inReview

Deep Listen: Kaija Saariaho

Confession: As a music lover, one of my least favorite things to do is actually go to a live performance. Not because of the performance itself, but for the hell-is-other-people experience of being in an audience and the unspoken sense of competition that seems to come through in the concert hall. One evening, as a […]

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Feminine Beginnings

Since musicology’s inception as an academic discipline in the 19th century, few scholars have influenced the field as profoundly as Susan McClary. Perhaps best known for her central role in “New Musicology”—the late-1980s push to incorporate social, political, and cultural analyses into music studies—she is certainly no stranger to criticism and controversy. Although there were […]

Posted inReview

Deep Listen: Maryanne Amacher

Magic Eye images, or autostereograms, are those illusory images you used to see in books and magazines back in the ‘90s. If looked at in the right way or for the right amount of time, parts of the image would appear on a separate plane and acquire a kind of three-dimensionality produced entirely within the […]

Posted inInterview

Make It Hurt

On October 26, 2017, the alto Wiebke Lehmkuhl sang a note—a G or an E flat, if I’m not mistaken—that was so quiet and smooth it sounded more like a boy than many boy sopranos do. The piece was Bach’s Mass in B Minor, conducted by Ton Koopman at the Berlin Philharmonic, penultimate movement, the […]

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