Ellen McSweeney: Getting Our Own House in Order

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Particularly for those of us who deeply care about the fate of the world, being an artist can feel like a retreat, a cop-out, a failure to “really help.” An accomplished musician friend of mine said: “I’ve been spending a lot of time asking myself: why the hell am I doing this?” As musicians, we may ask ourselves that question constantly. We’re often forced to defend—whether to others, or to ourselves—the decision to devote our lives to art.

Lucy Caplan: Music in Moments of Crisis

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Since the cataclysmic election earlier this month, I have struggled, at times, to find comfort or inspiration in music. With increasing apprehension, I wonder how music can make a difference going forward. We are on the brink of catastrophe. What can artists do with music in this moment, and how do we discern its limits?

So Percussion: Taking aim at guns in America

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Making art in response to unspeakable acts is difficult – at least it has been for us. The first problem that is so easy to stumble over is “what do we say?” But we realized that the first question for an artist could also be: “what do we make?”

Donnacha Dennehy: Politics and a Crusading Opera

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Some people, mainly critics, get very protective of genres. They want an “opera” to have the same type of structure as all the operas they love from the past. I don’t. In fact, I believe if you have trouble categorizing, you may be on to something. It means that you’re experimenting with the form, that you’re allowing content to drive a new approach to form.

Jenny Q. Chai: Discovering a Mission in Artistic Activism

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The beauty of making music is that it means so many personal and important things to so many. So then, having spent almost my entire conscious life learning about music, what is my motivation for making it?

Bonnie Wright: Bringing It All Back Home

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After an on-campus epiphany sent her back to school, Bonnie Wright has cultivated worldwide networks of community through bringing her far-flung musical discoveries home to San Diego.

Lisa Kaplan: A community of enduring connections

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It is the most amazing thing to have people write music just for you. It feels like an honor and a privilege. But it is truly something special to have your close friends write for you, because of course in the best scenarios those pieces end up being aural representations of the friendship you have with that person.

Performance Review: Missy Mazzoli, Breaking the Waves

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The director Lars von Trier hasn’t shied away from operatic ambition, so perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that Missy Mazzoli and Royce Vavrek produced a realization as daring and devastating as its morally complicated source.

Allan Kozinn: Critics, composers, and performers

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When people talk about the musical world, or part of it, as a “community,” the presumption is that they are speaking mainly of composers, performers and listeners. How critics fit into this community has long been a fraught question from just about every point of view.