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Twilight of the Tyrants

At first blush, an orchestra is a group of artists whose playing as a group can sweep the audience away to other planes of being. As pathos-laden as that may sound, it’s true. And those who experienced, say, the performances of Tchaikovsky’s symphonies by St. Petersburg’s Mariinksy Theatre Orchestra this season … they know what this means: active thought ceases …


The Orchestra – Simultaneous Diversity and Unity

World culture, to hear Milan Kundera tell it, has Europe to thank for the novel and the symphony. Reading a novel is easily done—everyone can manage that on their own. But a symphony requires an orchestra in order to be heard. It was a centuries-long developmental process that led to the classical and romantic orchestras with their constantly increasing numbers …


Anxiety: A Weapon

Anxiety is a weapon. We can’t see it, we can’t hear it, and we can’t smell it: only from very close will one’s nose pick up the sharp scent of the sweat that anxiety and outright fear can trigger. And for that to be possible, two people have to get closer to each other. Have to reach out, come together, …


Idle Fear, Modern Anxiety

Life was easy when there were lions everywhere. You know, like back in the stone ages. Life had a clear purpose: stay away from big animals with big teeth. The fear of being digested without one’s consent was pretty constant, and it was there for good reason. A bush could turn into a lion, which could turn an unsuspecting Homo …


Church Music – Ideal and Reality

Incense. A procession of acolytes, deacons, and priests moves forward through the nave to reach the chancel. The congregation stands, reverently observing this pompous performance. What’s happening up in the organ loft while all this is going on? The (typically male) organist accompanies the procession with the droning sounds of his organ, while the music director (yes, also male) waits …


Sacred Silence

Tuscany in early June is like a birthday party where far more guests have turned up than were actually invited. In the big cities like Florence, Pisa, or Siena, it’s still somehow bearable—after all, there’s always a side-street or a little alley to run and hide in. Things can get brutal, though, in the little villages out in the country. …


Uncompromising Yet Open to Everything: Can it Be Done?

Contemporary music, viewed a bit ironically, is a comfy filter bubble that, for decades now, has been inflating almost unnoticed by the worldwide public. Nourished by public subsidies, it grows happily away and even gets some late-night radio play from time to time. And festivals, awards, subsidies, etc. ensure that by far the most important recognition for many composers is …


Adopting a Different Tone

The difference between noise and music is a question of taste, of what one’s used to hearing and listening to, and of the times in which one lives. Music that has run counter to the accustomed and eschewed conventional harmonies, challenging listeners rather than calming and soothing them, has never had it easy. Arnold Schönberg, Paul Hindemith, and Richard Strauss …


Afternoons at the Piano

My godmother was not a talkative woman. She wasn’t even my godmother, really; she was the wife of my godfather. But following his sudden death, she took over everything he used to do. His relatives, his office at home, his obligations. I was part of what she’d inherited. She had never been one for feigning all that much interest in …


He Tweets – We Tweet

We all tweet. Trump, Macron, and now Mr. Kurz, too. “have clear [sic] commitment to a differentiatated [sic] & performance-rewardings [sic] school system”, he tweets—and if not correctly, then at least rightly. But we are save! Even under Mr. Kurz, people in Austria will still be able to go to school. Even if, after reading his tweet, we’d be pardoned …


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