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Virtuosity: I Know It When I See It

- By Ariel Osterweis

Excerpt from Body Impossible: Desmond Richardson and the Politics of Virtuosity. Forthcoming from Oxford University Press, 248 pp., April 2024.

Flung out and dispersed in the Diaspora, one has a sense of being touched by or glimpsed from this door. As if walking down the street someone touches you on the shoulder but when you look around there is no one, yet the air is oddly warm with some live presence. That touch is full of ambivalence; it is partly comforting but mostly discomforting, tortured, burning with angered, unknowable remembrance. More disturbing, it does not confine itself to remembrance; you look around you and present embraces are equally discomforting, present glimpses are equally hostile. Art, perhaps music, perhaps poetry, perhaps stories, perhaps aching constant movement—dance and speed—are the only comforts. Being in the...


Of Foundations and Evolutions: Apollo and Impersonality

- By Mark Franko

Not surprisingly, the program for the seventy-fifth anniversary of the New York City Ballet will give us an opportunity to look both backwards and forwards. The Fall program is dubbed “The Foundation,” and the coming winter season is to be called “The Evolution.” “The Foundation” has been dedicated almost exclusively to the works of George Balanchine (with one Robbins ballet—Glass Pieces (1983)—thrown in for good measure). Lincoln Kirstein and George Balanchine founded the company in 1948, though, of course, Balanchine’s choreography got its start earlier in the century, under Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes. Two of the oldest “foundational works” of the current repertoire—Apollo (Stravinsky 1928) and The Prodigal Son (Prokoviev 1929)—were premiered in the...


Yunchan Lim and the Rachmaninoff Third Piano Concerto

- By Kris Hartley

This year we celebrate the 150th anniversary of composer Sergei Rachmaninoff’s birth. It is also one year since Yunchan Lim became the youngest pianist ever to win the gold medal in the sixteenth Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, held once every four years. Lim’s acclaimed performance of Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3 in D Minor, with the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra under the baton of conductor Marin Alsop, clinched his victory and was by all accounts a rare moment.

Music competitions are not ephemeral events. They impact the broader world of classical music by determining which newcomer artists receive media attention and influencing the level of prestige accorded to their concert appearances and recording deals. Competitions also serve as a barometer for stylistic and interpretive trends, in a similar way as literary, film, or...


Late Style in Balanchine

- By Mark Franko

Individual items of a repertory mutate happily in the hands of the individuals who perform them. In Of Late Style, Edward Said described this process as akin to rhetorical inventio, which he discussed in relation to music, where it means “the finding of a theme and developing it contrapuntally so that all its possibilities are articulated, expressed, and elaborated.”[1] Said summed it up in this way: “Invention is therefore a form of creative repetition and reliving.”[2] With the classic repertory of New York City Ballet something similar can and does happen. Choreographic work must not only be recognized, it must also be rediscovered; it must fit within a known pattern but also be restored to life under the changed conditions of the present. In Said’s felicitous phrasing, all repetition must be relived...


And the Garden Is You

- By Michael Taussig

For Rosella Biscotti

Bryon Gysin was a painter who after a decade in Morocco running a night-club called the “Thousand and One Nights” discovered the “cut-up” while cutting something on top of a pile of magazines in his room in a cheap hotel on the left bank of Paris in 1959. The debris fell on the floor. He looked down, marveling at the mash-up on the floor.

I think you’ve got something there, Bryon,” drawled his companion William Burroughs, who made the cutup notorious with his Naked Lunch. “Cut-ups?” he asked. Words are like animals trapped in cages he wrote, or words to that effect, in response to fierce criticism in the Times Literary Supplement. “Cut the cages and let the words free.” For the Brit crit types it was too gay and too ungrammatical.


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