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OLM Favorites: Losing Music

December 1st, 2017
OLM Favorites: 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.

OLM Favorites: A Great and Sustaining Mystery

December 1st, 2017
OLM Favorites: 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.

OLM Favorites: The Cute One Redux

December 1st, 2017
OLM Favorites:  The Cute One Redux

A sprawling new biography looks at both the quotidian day to day life and the pivotal music of the “cute” Beatle, Paul McCartney.


January 1st, 2017

Bruce Springsteen’s therapist was one of the inspirations for his memoir Born to Run. Does the book help him make sense of his transformation from wild and innocent rock ‘n’ roller to millionaire icon?

Stolen From Life: An Interview with Jack Kohl

January 1st, 2017
Stolen From Life: An Interview with Jack Kohl

Michael Johnson interviews Jack Kohl, a Juilliard-trained pianist who also finds challenge and inspiration in writing fiction.

Show Queens

September 1st, 2016

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.

“Just Call Her ‘Tailleferre’”

August 1st, 2016
“Just Call Her ‘Tailleferre’”

Even today, women composers still struggle for recognition. Michael Johnson explores the life and work of the unjustly forgotten Germaine Tailleferre.

Book Review: Franz Liszt

July 18th, 2016

A new single-volume biography captures the oversized life of legendary composer and pianist Franz Liszt

Book Review: Bach’s Major Vocal Works

May 27th, 2016
bach’s major vocal works

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.

In the Service: Koussevitzky of Boston

February 1st, 2016
In the Service: Koussevitzky of Boston

Determining the legacy of Boston’s legendary conductor Serge Koussevitsky is a challenging task. Michael Johnson examines the man, the myth, and the music.

Conspicuous Obscurity

November 1st, 2015
Conspicuous Obscurity

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.

Soaring Aloft

October 1st, 2015
Soaring Aloft

Years after his death, Olivier Messiaen remains a divisive figure. Michael Johnson explores the controversial composer’s imprint on modern music.

A Cycle of Horrifying Songs

May 1st, 2015
schubert’s winter journey – Copy

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.

The Other John Cage

October 1st, 2014
The Other John Cage

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.

An Ignorant Highbrow

August 1st, 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?

Beethoven in the Soul

July 1st, 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.

It Wasn’t Palimpsestuous

July 1st, 2014
It Wasn’t Palimpsestuous

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 1st, 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 1st, 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 1st, 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 1st, 2013

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 28th, 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 16th, 2012
Charles Rosen, 1927-2012

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

The Ghosts of Monmouth County

November 1st, 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 31st, 2012

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 1st, 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 1st, 2012

“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 1st, 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 1st, 2012
Sentimental Education

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 1st, 2010

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 1st, 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 1st, 2010

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 1st, 2010

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 1st, 2010

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 1st, 2010

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 1st, 2010

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 1st, 2010

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 1st, 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 1st, 2010

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 1st, 2009

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 2nd, 2009

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 1st, 2009

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 1st, 2009

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 1st, 2009

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 1st, 2009

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 1st, 2009

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 1st, 2009

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 1st, 2009

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

The Crowing of Corncrakes

May 1st, 2009

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 1st, 2009

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.


May 1st, 2009

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 1st, 2009

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 1st, 2009

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 1st, 2009

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 1st, 2009
One More, Please

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 1st, 2009

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 3rd, 2008

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 1st, 2008

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.


August 1st, 2008

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 18th, 2008

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

Life Is Our Cause

June 1st, 2008

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 1st, 2008

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 1st, 2008

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 1st, 2007

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 1st, 2007

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 1st, 2007

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