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Ritual Time

When people bring up the rituals of the classical concert hall, it usually isn’t to celebrate them. Countless blog posts, newspaper columns, and tweets have criticized the unspoken formalized rules of such performances—especially rules about when it is appropriate to clap—for being barriers to new listeners not already steeped in the culture. Whatever the merit […]

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Surreal Conjunctions

The composer Annea Lockwood has been inspired by a lifelong fascination with timbre to record the sounds of rivers across the globe, to incorporate the sounds of the cosmos into her installations, to attach a music box to 20 helium balloons, and to set defunct pianos on fire just to listen to them burn. She […]

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Alchemy

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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Doom and Womb

Few pieces within the contemporary classical repertoire concern themselves solely with pregnancy, a fact of which I am all too aware as someone living a double life as a music writer and a reproductive rights activist. Examples of womb-centric compositions include chamber and orchestral works by Dai Fujikura, in which he appropriates and musicalizes his […]

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Sensitivities

I met the soprano Kristine Opolais for this interview at her hotel in Leipzig. It was a hot, overcast day, so we sat outside. A few drops of rain fell periodically. When she laughed, she’d lean forward and create a triangle from her shoulder to her hand with her left arm, bending her wrist. We […]

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The Air In Which We Swim

In his book Skyfaring: A Journey With a Pilot, Mark Vanhoenacker writes, “The truth that air is as substantive as concrete remains as counterintuitive as any of science’s most inscrutable revelations.” The sound artist Thessia Machado makes a similar statement: “Working with sound allows me to think of the air in which we all swim […]

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Medieval Time

Composer and multi-instrumentalist Kristina Wolfe spent her formative years wandering the forests of Denmark, listening and cultivating her love of the soundscapes of space and place. This environment focused her imagination and creativity on spirits of the past and continues to inspire her work to the present day. I talked to her about European bells, […]

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Lyric Engine

The American composer Ashley Fure writes music of a flickering and gorgeous intensity. Recently, she was in Marseille doing research for an upcoming work. We chatted via Skype about happy sonic accidents, alternative careers, and the state of diversity activism in new music. VAN: What are you up to in Marseille right now? Ashley Fure: […]

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A #HearAllComposers Playlist

On March 21, musicians and music lovers who desired more diverse orchestral programming took to Twitter with the hashtag #HearAllComposers, to encourage symphony orchestras to program music by non-male and non-white composers. The hashtag came largely from the efforts of Emma O’Halloran, Annika Socolofsky, Amanda Feery, and Finola Merivale, all young composers frustrated with the […]

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The Smallest Island of Strangeness

In the first week of February, I talked to composer Chaya Czernowin, my professor in composition at Harvard University, about her upcoming opera “Infinite Now,” which is due to be premiered in Ghent in April 2017, followed by performances in Antwerp, Mannheim, and Paris. Drawing texts from Can Xue’s story “Homecoming” and Luk Perceval’s play […]

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