Analysis

Humor in Music

Daniel Felsenfeld Paul Bowles wrote, in his autobiography, of watching his friend John Cage listening, for the first time, to an acetate of one of his own string quartets—and laughing inconsolably. For years, we have been swallowing Cage and the PR machine around him as a truly serious presence, as a composer in the great […]

Saying No to Yes

Philip KennicottCourtesy of The Washington Post When I was a teenager, I didn’t have much use for popular culture and especially popular music. It didn’t speak to me and it didn’t offer any particularly useful clues to negotiating adolescence. I didn’t turn to music for rebellion (I got my rebellion elsewhere) because popular music didn’t […]

Kiss and Tell

Steve SmithPhoto by Andrew Kochera Peter Criss taught me to love Haydn. That remark deserves explanation, of course. To begin with, Peter Criss—neé Peter Crisscoula—was the original drummer for the loud, lewd, and garishly painted rock band Kiss. And it was my adolescent discovery of that band that started my long, ongoing relationship with music. […]

Got a Minute? A Few Words on Music in 60 Seconds or Less

with additional reporting by Frank J. Oteri No one has enough time to do anything these days. Early 21st century life is a world of information overload. Channel surfing has become an aesthetic onto itself. An oft-cited criticism of classical music is that symphonies, operas, etc. are just too long. Many classical radio stations these […]

Taking Sides: Patrolling the Line Between Pop and Classical

Music that melds diverse styles and “defies classification” is almost its own cliché these days. Yet no matter how many boundary-smashing genres we add to the ever-expanding list, the fence between pop and classical seems to be well patrolled and holding strong. Even for those who listen to and enjoy all kinds of music, that […]

The Beaten Path: A History Of American Percussion Music

Nicole V. Gagné In the concert halls of 18th and 19th century Europe, percussion was traditionally regarded as being almost exclusively a secondary aspect of orchestral music—and one best employed with caution. Ironically, this European attitude toward percussion was summed up by an American composer noted for his nationalism. In What To Listen For In […]

No Common Practice: The New Common Practice and its Historical Antecedents

Benjamin PiekutPhoto by Megan Wolf When I initially spoke with friends and colleagues about the notion of a new “common practice,” I became aware that the concept is not nearly as widely-recognized as I had initially thought. Is it a set of performance techniques? Is it neo-romantic symphonic music? Or could it be defined as […]

Polyphonic Lives: Composers Working Behind the Scenes in the Music Industry

Jed Distler multitaskingPhoto by Randy Nordschow The great lyricist Johnny Mercer liked to tell the story of how his wife Ginger struck up a conversation with a stranger. Asked what her husband did, Ginger replied that he wrote songs. The stranger replied, “Yes, but what does he do for a living?” Many composers, in fact, […]