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Favorite Things

Favorite Things: Excuse

- By Jonathan Berger

El Nora Alila, a twelfth-century acrostic piyut by Moshe ibn Ezra, is recited at the start of the powerfully evocative neila service which closes Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement. Neila (literally ‘the locking’ in Hebrew) affords the congregant and the congregation a final opportunity to own up to transgressions and seek repentance as the doors of heaven are closing and soon to be locked. In a vain attempt to resist the inevitable closing of the doors, the cantor begins the neila service, incanting:

Open the gates for us, as the gates are being closed.
The day is passing.
The day is setting.
The sun will descend and set.
Let us enter Your gates!

Hungry, thirsty, and weary from...


Favorite Things

Favorite Things: Marco Rosano's Stabat Mater

- By Len Berkman

I address this capsule memoir especially to those of you who take boisterous, passionate delight in retracing trajectories of your major life discoveries and convergences. Among my most profoundly haunting classical music discoveries of the past decade, Marco Rosano’s contemporary Stabat Mater has come to play a role in my life well beyond the treasured experience of listening to it, and seeing it performed, again and again.

The insistent, unmitigated artistic focus, across centuries, on the mother of crucified Jesus has long fascinated my wife and me: There the mother stands, as witness, as support through her very proximity, choosing not to shut her eyes or flee from the torture and murder of her son. A literally excruciating event, beyond the capacity of nearly...


Favorite Things

FAVORITE THINGS: When Men . . .

- By Joshua L. Ishmon

Scott Olson/Getty Images
 

The summer of 2016 was filled with the deepest sense of empathy I had ever experienced. Sadly, I had considered myself almost numb to the constant tragedies permeating my community and the communities of people dear to me, but in the cases of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile as well as the Pulse massacre, my spirit was heavy with grief and frustration. The dance studio afforded me the space to share and cope, to create work that—one hopes—will allow others to do the same.

I needed to respond to these tragedies devastating my community. What does equality look like? What is the meaning of freedom? How do we resist? In a world that tries to make us something other, not men. . .

...

Favorite Things

FAVORITE THINGS: Making a Story Sing

- By Harley Erdman

Daniel Kamalic as Newton Arvin and Paul LaRosa as Ned Stofford from the June 2015 workshop of The Scarlet Professor.

 

“My shame has escaped from that dark room.
What can I do but retreat once again
into the darkness corner of my heart,
into the coldest and remotest part
of the Dismal Chamber?”

So sings Newton Arvin in his opening aria in The Scarlet Professor. Publically outed as gay in small town New England in 1960, his secret life exposed, his face plastered across national newspapers—facing this disgrace and humiliation, he voluntarily commits himself to Northampton State Hospital to retreat from...


Favorite Things

Favorite Things: Broken Sounds/Telephone Bach

- By Michael Markham

This series is a good opportunity to wonder why so many of my most moving experiences listening to music have been moments involving imperfect, marred, or broken sounds. In classical music, in particular, a heavy emphasis is placed on ideal acoustic conditions when “listening correctly.” High fidelity recordings, as Colin Symes demonstrated in his 2004 book, Setting the Record Straight: A Material History of Recording, have been sold on a faulty ontology: the possibility of perfect mimesis of perfect sounds born within a perfect sonic space. The goal of such recordings has been to replicate the experience of “the best seat in the house.” Beyond the implications for recordings themselves, that turn of phrase also assumes that there is such a thing as the...


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