Music

Islam: Who Are We to Judge?

Anecdotal evidence doesn’t carry as much weight as statistical evidence, but sometimes it speaks volumes. That’s especially the case when the anecdote concerns a representative of society or when it illustrates taken-for-granted behavior. What follows are some vignettes taken from various Islamic communities which serve to illustrate the deep gulf separating acceptable behavior in the [...]

When the Dark Screams of Death Metal Corrode the Culture

Extreme Noise, Terror, Pungent Stench and Pestilence are all disagreeable topics of conversation for most people. They should be avoided in polite company. However, these repugnant things enjoy some favor in today’s postmodern society. The four topics are actually the names of death metal bands casually mentioned in a recent newspaper article. These names are [...]

Listen, and Take Heart: Music that Shines Through the Darkness

Our musical adventures this month will take us through the twenthieth-century to contemporary times.  You need not fear.  Despite the temporary triumph of cacophony for about half a century, beautiful music was written even under the siege of the avant-garde and is still being created today. I begin with the great good news that one of [...]

From Faust to a Poor Wayfaring Stranger, A May Music Review

Since my meditation on playing LPs in late February, I have been engaged in an even more revanchist activity – listening to live music at concerts and opera houses.  For those interested in my musical autobiography, my reviews of the LA Opera and a number of performances of the National Symphony Orchestra can be found [...]

Orgel, Orgel Über Alles: How the German Organist Put His Foot Down

Along the same tributary of Lethe which bears such narcoleptic headlines as “Worthwhile Canadian Initiative”, “Trade: A Two-Way Street”, “Surprises Unlikely in Indiana,” and “Funniest Man in Luxembourg”, there surely floats the banner “Fascinating Book on Organ Music.” The sad truth is that organists – ex officio as it were – tend to subsist at [...]

Trekking for Tournemire: An Aussie Heads to Florida’s Gregorian Chant Convention

Last February, Australia’s R. J. STOVE went in search of America. He found a Marine boot-camp for organists, and a church music congress which felt like a Star Trek convention. When former National Interest editor Owen Harries looked back upon his early-1980s stint as Australian ambassador to UNESCO – in particular upon how he and [...]

The Devotion of Aaron Neville

New Orleans. Wet bodies press close in the pit. Their faces red from the daylong parades, the tourists have come to usher in Mardi Gras with New Orleans musical royalty. Like the mosquitoes outside thirsting for a fresh taste of life, the drunk, the sober, and the merely tipsy crowd the House of Blues stage. [...]

Loads to Do: True Tales from the Laundry Room

Of all the crosses that have come my way since joining the ranks of motherhood, one of the most maddening has got to be the fake laundry. For the blissfully uninitiated, I should explain: Fake laundry consists of perfectly clean clothing that somehow manages to tumble out of children’s closets or dresser drawers and onto [...]

Summer Flood

The musical levees have broken and I am inundated with new CD releases. In these brief reviews, I will also be playing catch-up on some overlooked items of merit. I shall proceed chronologically, which means we begin with my favorite period of music, the Classical era. The CPO label (777 526-2) has released a disc [...]

Five Composers in Three Days

Earlier this month, I stopped in London for three evenings of concerts, accompanied by meetings with five composers. I had the good company of the brilliant young German music critic Jens Laurson, who joined me f ro m his home in Munich. Ignatius Press has agreed to bring out an expanded and revised edition of [...]

Ecstasy and Solitude: Franz Liszt’s Journey of Contemplation

O guiding night! O night more lovely than the dawn! O night that has united, The Lover with his beloved, Transforming the beloved in her Lover. Upon my flowering breast Which I kept for him alone, There he lay sleeping, And I caressing him There in a breeze from the fanning cedars. When the breeze [...]

Lenten Musical Themes

Lent is tough -- not so much because of the voluntary deprivations one may undertake, but because of what it leads up to: the Cross. Take a look. Of course, there is the Resurrection on the other side of it. Without that, it would be hard to make it through the day (and I have [...]

What I Do, and Why

What do I do as a music critic? Why do I do it? Perhaps these are questions you have never posed yourself. The more selfless reader, however, might have wondered exactly how I occupy myself in order to come up with the musical selections I present each month. I have been doing this for Crisis [...]

Musical America

American music is characterized by a sense of openness, expansive vistas, expectancy, and optimism, offset by a deep sense of longing, poignancy, and nostalgia. It is not shy of beauty and has rhythmic vivacity. What's not to like? Think, for instance, of Aaron Copland, Samuel Barber, Roy Harris, and David Diamond. Yet I would challenge [...]

Joining the Choir Invisible

Some years back, I was privileged to hear a tape of some original music recorded by several friends of mine. Singing on the tape were four women with well-trained voices and an astonishing gift for harmony. And though it was done on a shoestring (the whole thing was put together in someone's basement), the music [...]

2010 in Music

It's a race to the finish of 2010 to bring you the fruits of this year before it ends. Brevity, be by my side and slay the demon logorrhea. Here, in brief, are treasures. The Classical era is my favorite for its balance and grace, but what can be new from this period? Haven't we [...]

Not Your Usual Christmas Gift Recommendations

Since I joined crisis Magazine, now InsideCatholic.com, 15 years ago, I've been blessed to meet some very interesting people. They're a diverse group, befitting a guy like me who spends a lot of time multitasking. As I was thinking about making some recommendations for Christmas gift giving, I thought I would challenge my friends by [...]

Viva Criminalità, Viva Italia

Strange. I don't feel like a criminal. But Mark Twain, in his newly released Autobiography (published, as he wished, a century after his death), says, "I believe that the trade of critic, in literature, music, and the drama, is the most degraded of all trades, and that it has no real value." Well, there goes [...]

Oktoberfest

I grow old (but shall not wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled), and my interest in Anton Bruckner's music deepens with time because it speaks of the timeless. His Symphony No. 8 is one of the summits of music that endeavors to make the transcendent perceptible. In it you will hear the swirl and [...]

‘Inside’ Outside for Mahler and Mozart

I go outside for InsideCatholic occasionally, and most recently journeyed across the pond to assay the musical life in London, always a pleasure in what remains, in my experience, the greatest city for music in the world. What other metropolis can boast several superb symphony orchestras and opera houses, to say nothing of the plentitude [...]

Playing Catch-Up

Catching up is hard to do. It reduces me to elliptical reviews of new CDs, the merit of which you must accept from a few brushstrokes of praise from me, as space -- even in this medium -- does not allow for more. Therefore, this is a matter of trust and taste. By the latter, [...]

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