Counterpoint Gone Wild

Who doesn’t love Bach for his fugues? In Bach’s 1738 instructional book on counterpoint, Precepts and Principles for Playing the Thorough-Bass, he writes: “It is played with both hands on a keyboard instrument in such a way that the left hand plays the written notes, while the right hand strikes consonances and dissonances, so that this results in a full-sounding Harmonie to the Honour of God and the permissible delight of the soul.”

High stakes. The Brentano String Quartet is adding to them with their Art of Fugue, presented as part of Da Camera of Houston’s season next Friday, March 3. Read my interview with first violinist Mark Steinberg at Houstonia Magazine.

Calling all Scholars!

I’m proposing a session about my favorite things at the 2018 Modern Language Society  Convention in NYC and I would love to get your proposals! See the call below. (And wide range really means wide range, but if you have questions you can email me too.)

Special Session: Opera and Literature
Throughout the history of opera and literature, the two have overlapped and informed each other. This session welcomes a wide range of papers on the topic. 300-word abstracts by 15 March 2017; Sydney Boyd (

Mysteries of the Macabre

In 1978 at the Royal Opera in Stockholm, György Ligeti premiered his opera Le Grand Macabre. It’s sort of the opera that has everything, running the gamut from tragedy to comedy. Wild, dramatic, absurd, but still philosophical, the opera offers two perspectives that feel incredibly relevant to our present times: to live in fear of tyrants and monsters, always anticipating the worst, or to embrace what joys are within immediate reach.

I’ve long admired it, but never had the pleasure of seeing it in person. Instead, I’ve scoured many recordings and youtube videos. Recently, a friend shared a video that is unlike anything I’ve seen: Barbara Hannigan sings an arrangement of three arias for soprano, “Mysteries of the Macabre,” with conductor Sir Simon Rattle (recorded in January, 2015). I don’t want to give anything away, but—wow. Incredible stuff.

But wait! There’s more: Your conception of what opera is can be radically redefined too. Watch it here.