Articles in music
Two new books – a biography of one of Broadway’s brightest stars and a memoir from one of its lesser lights – bring the world of American stage and screen vividly to life.
Even today, women composers still struggle for recognition. Michael Johnson explores the life and work of the unjustly forgotten Germaine Tailleferre.
It’s been years—too long!—since Martha Argerich has preformed solo. Greg Waldmann eagerly pours thorugh her new DVD and the history of her brilliant career for clues to her reclusiveness and for glimmers of hope.
A new single-volume biography captures the oversized life of legendary composer and pianist Franz Liszt
A sprawling new biography looks at both the quotidian day to day life and the pivotal music of the “cute” Beatle, Paul McCartney.
Some of Johann Sebastian Bach’s most glorious music is also some of the most intimidating to modern audiences; a new book introduces readers to the masses and oratorios of the master.
Determining the legacy of Boston’s legendary conductor Serge Koussevitsky is a challenging task. Michael Johnson examines the man, the myth, and the music.
Joshua Harmon’s new collection, The Annotated Mixtape, bills itself as a set of learned and personal liner notes. It is that, but, alas says our reviewer, that isn’t all that it is.
Years after his death, Olivier Messiaen remains a divisive figure. Michael Johnson explores the controversial composer’s imprint on modern music.
Schubert’s bleak, tumultuous song cycle, Winterreise, is the subject of tenor Ian Bostridge’s passionate new book. Greg Waldmann examines Schubert’s Winter Journey, and the trouble with hard-to-love classical music.
John Cage’s controversial music is his best-known legacy, but his voluminous writings and artwork, equally inventive, have been unfairly neglected. It’s time to right this wrong.
If you think distinctions between ‘high’ and ‘low’ art are stuffy Victorian relics, our beleagured Stephen Akey says, you’re just not paying enough attention. So are you a highbrow? And should you be? And should everybody be?
“We can pour anything into it – any fear or catastrophe or yearning, any warning” – music both fills our lives and helps to shape them. But what happens if music starts, slowly, haltingly, to go away? A harrowing personal essay.
Over time, the books of our youth make way for titles better suited to the grown-up readers we have become. But not all of them: YA or not, some books — such as K. M. Peyton’s Pennington trilogy — deserve a lasting place on our shelves.
The collectors of rare 78 rpm records are nearly as singular and remarkable as the vinyl they seek out. A new book travels to flea markets and music fairs to discover the secrets of these American obsessives.
Rock music is all about inflaming the senses. Rock biographies, on the other hand, are built from facts and reasoned explanations. Matthew Stevens looks at a study of the life of Big Star frontman Alex Chilton, and wonders what fans can get out of it.
Many composers and musicians believe we are in a golden age of experimental creativity in composition. So why does the general concert-going public hate the results?
In this latest installment of his Mix Tape series, our writer discovers a new world of digital lore for young music fans and contrasts it with his analogue lessons of yore
Sviatoslav Richter called Pictures at an Exhibition the “best Russian work for piano, amen”; many know it best through Ravel’s lush orchestration, which Richter considered “an abomination.” This beloved piece becomes even more resonant when you know its genesis in Mussorgsky’s friendship with the architect-artist Viktor Hartmann.
His repertoire was small, he was no barnstormer, and he gave up full-time concertizing in 1978. But Van Cliburn, who died yesterday at age 78, is to this day the most famous pianist America has …
Open Letters mourns the loss of Charles Rosen, pianist, scholar, teacher and critic.
Anthony Burgess the novelist had dreams of being a composer. He had little success, but along the way he delved deep into the nature and meaning of music.
Bossophilia: The idolization of Bruce Springsteen that comes from midlife nostalgia and a fear of dying. Steve Danziger confronts the phenomenon, and a new biography.
You may wonder if Vivaldi’s overexposed Four Seasons needs a new recording, but Max Richter’s inspired recomposition gives the hoary old favorite a shot in the arm
ESP-Disk’, the cult record label from Bernard Stollman, was known for two things: extraordinary, eclectic recordings and horrendous business practices. A new oral history sheds light on the glorious mess.
“I was seething with unchanneled anger, frustration, and a maddening inability to express myself. In other words, I was perfect for hardcore.” Steve Danziger on a misspent youth at CBGB.
Intertwining through Boston history: the rich, implacable music of Beethoven and the flinty austerity of the Boston Granite style of architecture – trace the connections, as American Aristocracy continues.
Though most people don’t understand musical notation or the theory underlying it, nearly all classical music writing relies on it. Today, the initiate has a better option: YouTube.
Ever since Cain and Abel, literature has reserved a prominent place for sterling heroes — and the flawed, grasping, and entirely more interesting brothers who live in their shadow.
Once they had established a repertoire and following, jazz pianists could tour as single artists, adding bassists and drummers from venue to venue. Brad Jones explores the styles of two of the greatest.
For their wit and challenge, Stephen Sondheim’s lyrics have virtually come to symbolize our modern musical theater. A new collection gathers the lyrics to all those maddening, memorable songs, and adds to them with Sondheim’s own comments.
A bandleader must be a tireless multitasker who can unite a large group of musicians while satisfying the egos of soloists; two of the greatest are featured here
Black cars, night escapes, spinning vinyl, “Why should I care / Driving’s a gas / it ain’t gonna last…”
Saxophonist Wayne Shorter’s performances – improvisational, pointed, unpredictably brilliant – were the stuff of legend, and some pivotal examples were caught on film.
In his regular column, Brad Jones offers a warm tribute to a Jazz legend who has delighted audiences for over sixty years, from Duke Ellington’s band to the Tonight Show
In his 94 years, Artie Shaw had eight wives and eight Gold Records–the man and his conquests are on display again in Tom Nolan’s new biography
“Sisters are doin’ it for themselves” … but the Spice Girls? Marisa Meltzer’s “Girl Power” picks some strange hall-of-famers, and gets Megan Kearns shaking her head, “with friends like these …”
In the first half of the 20th century, Louis Armstrong and Sugar Ray Robinson both rose to greatness that reached across racial divides. Two new books look at the prices they had to pay.
Midwest Rock icon Bob Seger’s former tour manager gives us a behind the scenes look at old time rock & roll; John G. Rodwan, Jr. turns the page.
Speaking In Code
a film by Amy Grill
sQuare Productions, 2009
What drives, obsesses, and eventually breaks impresario David Day in the new documentary Speaking In Code is that most elusive of quarries: getting something started in Boston.
The something …
Did it all start with Bjork, or was she riding an inevitable wave? The world of Icelandic pop is weird, wild, and disarmingly wonderful – let Marc Vincenz be your guide.
If you don’t know The Jazz Book, then as Miles Davis would say, ‘you ain’t never gonna know.’ Brad Jones shows us the groove.
Self-appointed jazz authorities like Wynton Warsalis weigh in on jazz festivals and the musicians who love them, and their listeners. John G. Rodwan, Jr., devoted listener, sorts the noise.
The blips and whistles of Mario’s soundtrack have evolved into grand strings and horns. Phillip A. Lobo assays how real music has come to video games, and vice versa.
Music correspondent Marc Vincenz voyages to the end of the world – the windswept Faeroe Islands – and reports back on the entrancing music they make there. And the parties.
Your father’s FM radio can close up shop, as far as Steve Brachman’s concerned; the music you want is at your fingertips, and you hear it the way you like it, on your computer.
Quick: What’s Iceland like? Faint idea? Marc Vincenz reassures—your knowledge of Japan will do just fine.
The Decemberists seem benign enough, but their songs are blood-dimmed with rape, drownings, and even cannibalism. The body count rises on their new release The Hazards of Love, but Lianne Habinek also discovers fresh wellsprings of feeling.
Joshua Redman’s new album Compass makes some daring allusions to the all-time titans of jazz; John G. Rodwan, Jr. listens to hear how Redman borrows from those pastmasters and how he departs from them.
Jeff Buckley’s famous father and early death insured him a cult status in the pop culture pantheon. Nivedita Gunturi uncovers the music behind the myths.
The advent of the CD threw the retail music business into a disarray from which it hasn’t recovered. Brad Jones, a veteran of that disarray, reads Steve Knopper’s account of the industry’s Appetite for Self-Destruction.
Thug or genius? Artist or gangster? In his brief, troubled life – and now in the new movie Notorious – The Notorious B.I.G. was an enigma. Andrew Martin sorts myth from legend.
The one jazz album even hardened jazz haters own – Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue – turns fifty this year. John G. Rodwan, Jr. plays out the tracks of its long, strange life.
Saxophone legend John Coltrane took jazz further from its traditional sound than any artist of his day. Philip Larkin kept traditional rhyme and meter alive in English verse. Richard Palmer’s new study, Such Deliberate Disguises, attempts to make the case for one influencing the other. John G. Rodwan Jr. puts the emphasis on “attempts.”
Paul McCartney doesn’t need to worry about his legacy, but he is worried. Perhaps The Beatles Anthology (both book and three (double-disk) CD sets) was the first indication, but Wingspan, a Wings greatest hits compilation …
For decades, Oscar Hammerstein transformed the world of musical theater, writing the lyrics for such blockbusters as Showboat, Oklahoma! and The Sound of Music. Michael Adams gives us front row seats for a tour through the master’s many moods.
Lianne Habinek reviews Katie Hafner’s A Romance on Three Legs and gives up all the gossip on one of the most strange and successful relationships in music history, the ménage a trois among Glenn Gould, a blind piano tuner, and a one-of-a-kind Steinway concert grand.
Lewis Lockwood’s Beethoven lectures result in this book about the master’s string quartets. Elizabeth Hardy reviews.
Carole King, Joni Mitchell, and Carly Simon sonically reshaped a generation, and Sheila Weller has talked to almost everyone who saw them do it. Laura Tanenbaum, reviewing Girls Like Us, assesses the job Weller does in letting these women roar.
In February, the great pianist Alfred Brendel gave his final performance in New York City. Greg Waldmann was in Carnegie Hall to see it and in this regular feature he shares the experience.
Joy Division was post-punk at its ecstatic, abrasive best. Peter Law reviews Control, the soundtrack to the documentary that briefly brought the emblematic band back on the stage.
Jazz composer Terence Blanchard’s score movingly complemented Spike Lee’s documentary When the Levees Broke. David Meadow evaluates whether the music stands alone in the album A Tale of God’s Will: A Requiem for Katrina.
In this regular feature, Adam Golaski revisits Intelligent Dance (or “laptop”) Music, discovering unity and poise in a Squarepusher album which critics have short-sightedly misfiled.
Adam Golaski reviews Zeitgeist, the newest from the iconic band whose members are always changing and whose bickering and misery is our gain.