COLUMNS

  • Child of Light

    The musical otherworlds of Claude Vivier

    LITTLE ELSE COMPARES to the music of Québécois composer Claude Vivier. His work offers, in the words of composer-conductor Matthias Pintscher, “great brilliance, great severity, great archaism, great emotions”: glimpses of other worlds firmly rooted in our own. Though he was admired by leading composers such as György Ligeti, Gérard Grisey, and Louis Andriessen, Vivier, who was murdered in 1983 at the age of thirty-four, remains regrettably obscure. A three-day Vivier festival at London’s Southbank Centre earlier this month offered a welcome opportunity to redress the balance.

    For the opening

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  • Pearl Jam

    The immersive music of the Gulf’s pearl divers

    BEGINNING IN THE FIRST CENTURY BCE, natural pearl diving was the economic, social, and cultural backbone of the Persian Gulf. Well into the 1930s, over 100,000 men—enslaved Africans, indentured workers, and career divers from Bahrain, Kuwait, and Qatar—still took to the sea each season, diving hundreds of times a day to the oyster beds, only 1 percent of which would produce a pearl. It was exhausting and perilous work descending twenty fathoms down to the seafloor, and music lifted their spirits. Nahma: A Gulf Polyphony, the latest transmedia compilation from FLEE, explores the histories that

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  • Immortal Homosexual Poets

    Michael Finnissy reimagines Beethoven’s Hammerklavier

    COMPOSER MICHAEL FINNISSY’S CAREER has been a lifelong rejection of the divisions drawn up in and around the world of classical music. Growing up in London in the 1960s, Finnissy did not pursue academic training in composition until the age of eighteen, and was influenced as much by Hockney, Rauschenberg, Ginsberg, Genet, and Godard as by the wide range of music that he absorbed from public libraries, from family and friends, and from the radio. In the years since, his large body of compositions has referenced folk, jazzspirituals, and the European avant-garde, his approach to music at once

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  • Scream Queen

    FT on Diamanda Galás

    DIAMANDA GALÁS’s FIRST ALBUM, The Litanies of Satan (1982), was reissued last year, and now her second LP, Diamanda Galás (1984), is finally available again after being out of print for thirty-seven years. In high school, I traded a pen pal an Einstürzende Neubauten concert bootleg for a hissy nth generation cassette copy of the two albums, one on each side; these vital reissues, beautifully remastered by Heba Kadry, restore the recordings to crystal clarity. Both albums are a testament to how fully formed and relentlessly radical the American singer’s creative approach and vision were from the

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  • The New Thing

    David Grundy on A Love Supreme: Live in Seattle

    JOHN COLTRANE IS OFTEN HELD UP as a sui generis figure, A Love Supreme his magnum opus. Yet overemphasizing the Coltrane’s individual aura obscures the true force behind his music. The release last week of a previously lost live version of A Love Supreme, recorded at the Penthouse Club in Seattle in October 1965, provides an opportunity to redress the balance, locating the saxophonist within a collective history still not often told.

    Throughout the history of jazz, its musicians have been subject to systematically exploitative labor conditions. At the time the Seattle recordings were made,

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  • Watch the Throne

    Sasha Frere-Jones on King Crimson’s prog overthrow

    IN NOVEMBER OF 1974, Malcolm McLaren, Vivienne Westwood, and Bernie Rhodes collaborated on a T-shirt printed with two columns of text: a list of “hates” alongside a list of “loves.” As reported in Jon Savage’s 2002 book England’s Dreaming, those hates included Yes, ELP., and Bryan Ferry. The loves included “sex professionals, renegade artists, hard Rockers, IRA terrorists, working-class heroes and, well hidden, the first printed mention of ‘Kutie Jones and his SEX PISTOLS.’”

    Those two columns were the shadow commandments of New York critics for decades, and it would not be wrong to lump King

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  • House of Mirrors

    Sasha Geffen on Willow and Olivia Rodrigo

    IN THE FIRST OF TWO VIDEOS for her song “Transparent Soul,” Willow thrashes in a featureless white room flooded bluntly with light. The song’s lyrics are full of barbs launched at a disappointing “you,” but Willow is alone in this visual capsule. She sings into and kicks at the fish-eye lens set on the ground, then backs herself into a corner of the claustrophobic box, whose walls have suddenly sprouted security cameras. She aims one at the viewer, threatening us with a reciprocal gaze. 

    The low vantage and ultrawide-angle lens draw a clean line back to the ’90s, when director Hype Williams used

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  • Into the Groove

    A playlist by Macy Rodman

    These songs were the inspiration for my new album, Unbelievable Animals. I wanted to feel happy and energized, so I went back to music that I listened to as a kid, when the radio hits were somewhere between electronic and adult contemporary. Their sounds are groovy, space age, and clean, like the sixties via Y2K. A familiar chaos for our current moment.

    Madonna, “Candy Perfume Girl”

    The Chemical Brothers, “Hey Boy Hey Girl”

    Felix, “Tiger Stripes”

    Magda, “Naomi Campbell”

    New Order, “Bizarre Love Triangle”

    Towa Tei, Kylie Minogue, and Haruomi Hosono, “GBI (German Bold Italic)”

    Janet Jackson, “So Much

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  • Other Voices, Other Rooms

    Thea Ballard on Alvin Lucier’s I am sitting in a room

    FOUR YEARS AGO, the composer Alvin Lucier, then 86, performed his best-known piece, I am sitting in a room (1969), at ISSUE Project Room in downtown Brooklyn. Sitting cross-legged in a folding chair and sporting a Black Lives Matter T-shirt under his rumpled khaki jacket, Lucier read into a microphone from a hardbound copy of the score as if it were a storybook:

    I am sitting in a room, the same one you are in now. I am recording the sound of my speaking voice and I am going to play it back into the room again and again until the resonant frequencies of the room reinforce themselves so that any
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  • Hearing Voices

    Jesse Dorris on Kristin Oppenheim's Night Run: Collected Sound Works 1992-1995

    FROM THE EARLY TO MID-1990s, the Brooklyn-based installation artist Kristin Oppenheim made hushed, hypnotic, almost impossibly minimal recordings, singing with herself, by herself. At the time, visitors to galleries in New York, Nice, or Milan might have stumbled upon them playing from a tape deck displayed on a plinth, or perhaps hidden from view. The first of these recordings she considered finished, 1992’s “Shake Me,” is a loop of roughly twenty-two seconds, repeated some twenty times, of Oppenheim softly warbling the title. Yet the track sounds massive, at least emotionally. With each

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  • For The In Between Days

    A playlist by Sarah Davachi

    The first half of this year has felt quieter and more pensive, and perhaps a bit lonelier, than last year. Music has been keeping me company in a meaningful way. Here are some pieces I’ve felt myself gravitating toward as I let my mind go into that particular emotional space. I’m also working on a couple of larger recording projects that I’m really excited about—I’m feeding all of these influences into that state of being.

    Stevie Wonder, “Golden Lady”

    Yoko Ono, “Even When You’re Far Away”

    Catherine Christer Hennix, Mode nouvelles des modalités II

    Robbie Basho, “Cathedrals et fleur de lis

    Robert

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  • Forever Changes

    Sadia Shirazi on Arooj Aftab

    AROOJ AFTAB’S WORK TRANSFORMS the nearly millennium-old tradition of Hindustani classical music from which it emerges, a form whose tenets of improvisation, repetition, and rasa, or emotion, have inspired American composers such as John Cage, La Monte Young, and Terry Riley. Aftab responds to their musical borrowing by restituting what these white men excised from their arrangements—the feminine voice—and treating it as yet another instrument in her bright, layered compositions. The pentatonic melodies and mixed genres of the Black avant-garde vocalist and composer Julius Eastman’s shimmering 

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