Category Archives: Music


(Alex Ross’s article appeared in the New Yorker, 4/4.)

Last year, the British critic Philip Clark had a provocative response to the perennial question of how to save classical music from its so-called image problem—the perception that it is stuffy, élitist, and irrelevant. He declared, “There is absolutely nothing wrong with classical music. It cannot pretend to be anything other than it is. And perhaps it’s the wider cultural environment . . . that has a problem.”

I don’t accept Clark’s entire argument. Certain of classical music’s difficulties are self-created: ossified concert norms, brain-dead programming, a pervasive fear of the new. Yet his principal point holds. Endless chatter about the need to reinvent the art is symptomatic of a deep-seated hostility toward fundamental features of the concert experience: the extended duration of works, the complexity of their construction, the attention they demand. There is no shame in the fact that classical music has trouble adapting to a marketplace dominated by celebrity worship and by the winner-take-all economy for which celebrity serves as a seductive symbol.



(Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim’s article appeared in The New York Times, 3/30; via the Drudge Report.)

The Unesco Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger is a melancholy document, charting the 3,000 or so languages that experts predict will vanish by the end of this century. For the most part, ethnographers and linguists are helpless in the face of the gradual erasure of collective memory that goes along with this loss of linguistic diversity.

Time to call in the composers?

A growing number of them are turning their attention to languages that are extinct, endangered or particular to tiny groups of speakers in far-flung places with the aim of weaving these enigmatic utterances into musical works that celebrate, memorialize or mourn the languages and the cultures that gave birth to them. On Saturday, April 9, at the Cologne Opera in Germany, the Australian composer Liza Lim unveils her opera “Tree of Codes,” which includes snippets of a Turkish whistling language from a small mountain village. On her most recent album, “The Stone People,” the pianist Lisa Moore sings and plays Martin Bresnick’s hypnotic “Ishi’s Song,” a setting of a chant by the last member of the Yahi, who died in 1916.



(Niall Byrne’s article appeared in the Irish Times, 9/3.)

Bleeding Heart Pigeons
Friday, Body & Soul Main Stage, 11pm

A young Limerick band who despite the major label backing, are resisting the path to a larger audience, and are instead exploring an artistic side of indie-rock that has lead to them addressing the Columbine school shootings and abstract theories. Teen artistic angst.

Booka Brass Band
Friday, Other Voices, 5pm

We know from the frequency of visits from New Orleans-style brass bands to these shores that the Irish can't get enough of the stuff. So the rise of Booka Brass, seven native Dubliners playing original music and covers of Beyonce’s ‘Crazy In Love’ and Jason Derulo’s ‘Talk Dirty’ is an easy sell and a perfect festival act.

See also: Stomptown Brass at Body & Soul: Earthship stage, Saturday.

Friday, Body & Soul main stage – 5.15pm
Saturday, Little Big Tent – 2:30pm

There's always been a small niche Irish audience interested in the kinds of “urban” music popular in the UK like garage, bass music and dubstep. Even rarer are singers who are familiar with such scenes and who mine them for their own music. Wicklow singer and violinist Joni, along with her production partner Richie Kaboogie, have concocted an underground electronic style, inspired by Burial and Paul Woolford.

Saturday, Other Voices, 4pm

Galway lady Maria Somerville makes slow, moving music with the barest of instruments and the most delicate of touch. But if you want to experience her music, you'll have to see her live, as she's proceeding with caution on the recording front. Make the effort and you'll be rewarded with music that draws from folk, soul and electronic music.

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(Jancee Dunn’s article appeared in The New York Times, 6/24; via Pam Green.)

In the video for “Bitch I’m Madonna,” a party anthem released last Wednesday, the pop star of the title, in a clingy Moschino leopard-print dress, hot-pink coif and gold teeth grills, romps through the corridors of the Standard hotel along Manhattan’s High Line. “The bass is pumping,” she sings, adding a suggestive phrase before gleefully making out with some guy in the hallway.

Madonna will turn 57 in August. As she has repeatedly pointed out, her age is not going to slow her down. “Shut up jealous bitches!” she wrote recently on her Instagram account. “I hope you are as fun loving and adventurous as me when you’re my age!!!! Hahahhahaha let’s see.”



(Patrick Healy’s article appeared in The New York Times, 1/6; via Pam Green.)

Why do some serious-minded Broadway shows flourish and others flop? Monday night’s announcement that the new musical “The Last Ship” will close on Jan. 24 after a meager four-month run, despite unusual efforts by Sting, its composer, to increase ticket sales, raises that question more than most other foundering musicals in recent years.

On Tuesday the show’s producers, who will lose their entire $15 million investment, had no easy answers. What’s clear is that Sting’s gambit last month — to join the cast in hopes of drawing bigger audiences — provided a short-term lift at the box office but failed to generate enough excitement for the show to last. Sting was set to stay only until Jan. 24; ticket sales for performances after that were poor, one of the show’s producers, Jeffrey Seller, said in an interview on Tuesday. 


(Alex Ross’s article appeared in the New Yorker, 10/20.)


Beethoven is a singularity in the history of art—a phenomenon of dazzling and disconcerting force. He not only left his mark on all subsequent composers but also molded entire institutions. The professional orchestra arose, in large measure, as a vehicle for the incessant performance of Beethoven’s symphonies. The art of conducting emerged in his wake. The modern piano bears the imprint of his demand for a more resonant and flexible instrument. Recording technology evolved with Beethoven in mind: the first commercial 33⅓ r.p.m. LP, in 1931, contained the Fifth Symphony, and the duration of first-generation compact disks was fixed at seventy-five minutes so that the Ninth Symphony could unfurl without interruption. After Beethoven, the concert hall came to be seen not as a venue for diverse, meandering entertainments but as an austere memorial to artistic majesty. Listening underwent a fundamental change. To follow Beethoven’s dense, driving narratives, one had to lean forward and pay close attention. The musicians’ platform became the stage of an invisible drama, the temple of a sonic revelation.