Category Archives: commentary

If All You Have Is A Hammer, Everything Looks Like A Nail

Hammer and nails by Hans Godo Frabel

Hammer and nails by Hans Godo Frabel

We asked the city for help, and we got a raid.
—Taylonn Murphy

We somehow understand punishment, but then we put a period after that word. Nothing follows. Nothing about rehabilitation, redemption, second chances.
Leon Botstein, President, Bard College

This is not my typical reading material, but recently, three noteworthy articles relating to the subject of criminal justice came to my attention in quick succession. The first, in The Atlantic, by 2015 MacArthur Genius award winner Ta-Nehisi Coates, is entitled “The Black Family in the Age of Mass Incarceration.”  Using as his springboard Daniel Moynihan’s controversial 1965 report, “The Negro Family: The Case for National Action,” Coates, with clarity, intelligence, and nuanced marshaling of evidence, traces the plight of the black family in the United States from its origins in slavery to the present. In so doing, he sets current incarceration rates in the United States in bold relief: Continue reading

Why We Need Contemporaneous

Every time we perform a piece we somehow manage to walk the line between performing music that we love and music that we want other people to hear and doing something that scares us a little bit. We take a lot of risks. When a group of people, each completely remarkable on their own, comes together for a specific idea, and if they do it for each other, then you get great music.

—Contemporaneous core member and violinist Finnegan Shanahan

Will Robin recently wrote:

. . . orchestral works that are large-scale – as in more than, let’s say arbitrarily, 30 minutes – are a seeming rarity in the 21st century. It’s due to the commissioning process: very few orchestras are going to take a risk and commission a very large work simply for orchestra. So most purely orchestral commissions, in the U.S. at least, are 5-25 minutes, depending on the type of commission, or you get your bigger chorus-vocal-soloists cantata thing which will ground half or all of your program (and, potentially, get staged as an opera too).

But what might be left out, then, is the opportunity for composers to write the instrumental symphony of our day. Or something like that. Continue reading

Reflections on The Death of Klinghoffer

Acacia_Negev

When asked about her libretto for the opera, The Death of Klinghoffer, Alice Goodman, whose voice has not been heard nearly enough in the current discussions, said:

Our world has had, since before I was born, histories of people dehumanizing other people, of which the Jewish people have been the most notable of subjects, of victims. And so I think that it is absolutely paramount that civilization, that people who claim to be humane, civilized, moral, and, as it were, looking to a higher power, should know better than to wish to dehumanize anyone and should be able to acknowledge also the darkness that is in each of us. So, in other words, there is nothing that is human that should be foreign to us. That’s one of the things that art exists to express. Continue reading