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Articles in music

An Ignorant Highbrow

August 1, 2014
An Ignorant Highbrow

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?

Losing Music

July 1, 2014
Losing Music

“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.

Beethoven in the Soul

July 1, 2014
Beethoven in the Soul

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.

July 2014 Issue

July 1, 2014
July 2014 Issue

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.

Paper Mausoleums

May 1, 2014
Paper Mausoleums

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.

Music’s restless avant garde: Still a ‘wonderful adventure’

September 1, 2013
Music’s restless avant garde: Still a ‘wonderful adventure’

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?

The Annotated Mix-Tape, #24

May 1, 2013
The Annotated Mix-Tape, #24

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

How Pictures Comes to Life

March 1, 2013
7

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.

Van Cliburn, 1934-2013

February 28, 2013
Van Cliburn, 1934-2013

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 …

Charles Rosen, 1927-2012

December 16, 2012
Charles Rosen, 1927-2012

Open Letters mourns the loss of Charles Rosen, pianist, scholar, teacher and critic.

A Great and Sustaining Mystery

December 1, 2012
A Great and Sustaining Mystery

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.

The Ghosts of Monmouth County

November 1, 2012
The Ghosts of Monmouth County

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.

CD of the Week – Vivaldi’s Four Seasons Recomposed

October 31, 2012
MI0003427249

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

Dignity, Conviction, and Mrs. Stollman’s Checkbook

October 1, 2012
Dignity, Conviction, and Mrs. Stollman’s Checkbook

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.

A Certain Kind of Loneliness: Thoughts on Bri Hurley’s Making a Scene

August 1, 2012
AFAu86CB

“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.

American Aristocracy – Beethoven In Granite: The Boston Brahmin Aesthetic

June 1, 2012
dst – 2

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.

Sentimental Education

January 1, 2012
musicandsentiment

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.

The Prodigal Brothers

December 1, 2010
gustavmahler

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.

See Hear!: Erroll Garner and Bill Evans – Two Views of a Trio

December 1, 2010
Bill Evans Live

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.

The Tao of Steve

December 1, 2010
Nov2010VideoImage

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.

See Hear!: Quincy and the Count

November 1, 2010
basiemontreuxbb77

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

The Annotated Mix-Tape, #7

September 1, 2010
demo

Black cars, night escapes, spinning vinyl, “Why should I care / Driving’s a gas / it ain’t gonna last…”

Eggs Scrambled Differently: A Look at Wayne Shorter

September 1, 2010
wayne_shorter

Saxophonist Wayne Shorter’s performances – improvisational, pointed, unpredictably brilliant – were the stuff of legend, and some pivotal examples were caught on film.

Open Ears on Clark Terry

July 1, 2010
clarkTerry2

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

Open Ear

June 1, 2010
ArtieShawLanaTurner

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

You Oughta Know that (Music) is a Battlefield

April 1, 2010
grace slick by allan tannebaum

“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 …”

Laughin’ Louis

February 1, 2010
SweetThunder

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.

Seger Unsettled

November 1, 2009
travelinman

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

October 2, 2009
speaking-in-code

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 …

Cosmic Gobbledygook

September 1, 2009
amiina-low1

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.

‘You Gotta Get the First Beat Right’

September 1, 2009
thejazzbook

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.

Jazz Festivals and What They Play There

September 1, 2009
wsq

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.

Carmen ex Machina

September 1, 2009
supermario

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.

Primordial Sounds of Lost Islands

September 1, 2009
techno

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.

Cracking the Music Genome

September 1, 2009
pandora

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.

Marimo Balls, Midnight Sun, and the Water of Life

July 1, 2009
reykjavik

Quick: What’s Iceland like? Faint idea? Marc Vincenz reassures—your knowledge of Japan will do just fine.

The Crowing of Corncrakes

May 1, 2009
decemberists

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 Makes His Move

May 1, 2009
joshuaredman

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.

Grace

May 1, 2009
jb

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 Last Train for the Coast

May 1, 2009
9781416552154

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.

Big Kid

March 1, 2009
biggie1

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.

Blue Music

March 1, 2009
kindboxset

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.

One More, Please?

January 1, 2009
argerich

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.

Ugly on Purpose

January 1, 2009
disguises

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.”

Carnival of Light

December 3, 2008
paulmccartney

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 …

World-Famous Feelings

December 1, 2008
hamtime

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.

Pinnacle

August 1, 2008
romance

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.

Book Review: Inside Beethoven’s Quartets

July 18, 2008
insidebeethoven

Lewis Lockwood’s Beethoven lectures result in this book about the master’s string quartets. Elizabeth Hardy reviews.

Life Is Our Cause

June 1, 2008
girlslikus

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.

One Encounter: Thank You and Goodbye

March 1, 2008
brendel2

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.

Gladly Possessed

January 1, 2008
joydivision

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.

Quiet Storm

October 1, 2007
katrina2

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.

Second Glance: Do You Know Squarepusher?

September 1, 2007
squarepusher

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.

Who Are the Smashing Pumpkins?

August 1, 2007
zeitgeist

Adam Golaski reviews Zeitgeist, the newest from the iconic band whose members are always changing and whose bickering and misery is our gain.