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“In the fall of 1956, the Soviet Union crushed an uprising in Hungary, swiftly ending an attempt to escape the superpower’s grip on the Eastern bloc. The Soviet tanks that rolled through Budapest also brought an end to the belief of many intellectuals and artists here in the ideals of Communism.

The Hungarian composer Gyorgy Kurtag, then 30, felt his whole world collapse that year. “Not just the outside world, but my inner universe, too,” he once said in an interview.

Mr. Kurtag spent the next two years in Paris, seeking new meaning for his life and work under the guidance of a psychoanalyst. He studied with the composer Olivier Messiaen, and heard the music of Anton Webern and Arnold Schoenberg at concerts given by Pierre Boulez. From the isolation of Communist Hungary, he had emerged into the West’s center of musical modernism.

It was in Paris during this period that Mr. Kurtag first saw Samuel Beckett’s play “Endgame.” The encounter set him on a lifelong journey, studying Beckett’s works and creating music inspired by them. Six decades later, on Nov. 15, this odyssey — and the career of one of the last living giants of 20th-century music — will culminate in Mr. Kurtag’s long-awaited, long-delayed first opera, based on “Endgame,” at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan.”

The New York Times

“Universal-owned Deutsche Grammaphon and Decca conducted a study into multiple recordings of Bach’s famed Double Violin Concerto in celebration of the release of Bach 333, a box set marking the 333rd anniversary of the German composer’s birth. The labels found that modern recordings of the work have shaved off one-third of the length of recordings from 50 years ago, quickening by about a minute per decade. That performance trend would fall in line with faster tempos in modern music, as audiences’ attention spans shrink and streaming particularly pushes artists and songwriters to be more conscious of every second.”

Rolling Stone

“Roy Hargrove, a virtuoso trumpeter who became a symbol of jazz’s youthful renewal in the early 1990s, and then established himself as one of the most respected musicians of his generation, died on Friday in Manhattan. He was 49.”

The New York Times

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I am both delighted and honoured to announce that RhysTranter.com has been selected by the British Library’s UK Web Archive “as an important part of Wales’ documentary heritage”. The site has become part of the repository’s permanent collection, where it will “remain available to researchers in the future”. The UK Web Archive is a partnership between the British Library, the National Library of Wales, and the National Library of Scotland.

Find out more about the UK Web Archive.

William Faulkner was a terrible postman • Friends and fellow authors pay tribute to Newark native Philip Roth • 5 new biographies about Mary Shelley • Friedrich Nietzsche’s descent into madness • 48 Years In the Making, Orson Welles’s Last Film Is Finally Released • 58 Jazz Giants in Art Kane‘s One Immortal Image • Patti Smith on Little Women • How to write the perfect sentence Storyboard for Tarkovsky‘s Andrei Rublev • Haruki Murakami Introduces The Penguin Book of Japanese Short Stories  Twenty Questions with Esi Edugyan The 50 Biggest Books of Autumn 2018

Reflecting on the decision to pursue my vocation in art, service, and simple living

One year ago today I made a decision to change my life. A cardiology appointment prompted me to think more carefully about my lifestyle choices, and I became motivated to start living according to values of simplicity, humility, and compassion. (more…)

In an exclusive interview with People magazine in March 2018, legendary tenor saxophonist Sonny Rollins discussed the reissue of his 1957 album, Way Out West; the establishment of a Sonny Rollins archive; and the importance of diligent and continuous practice to his development as a player and composer:

Sonny-Rollins-with-Mohawk-by-Lee-Tanner“A lot of the people I grew up with in my early teens, we all wanted to be jazz musicians — but we didn’t have the talent. It was a gift. Music is a gift. Anybody can learn music, but it’s only a few people who have a gift that are really talented enough — especially these days — to make it in this highly competitive world. So it’s definitely a gift. However, you have to apply yourself, you have to work at it. I had a gift, but I didn’t explore it enough, I feel, and that’s why I was always the guy who practiced incessantly. I was always trying to catch up and learn things.”

— Source: People

Celebrating the women’s civil rights movement

Today marks International Women’s Day, which has commemorated the struggle for women’s civil rights throughout the twentieth century. The day was originally known as International Working Women’s Day, and for most of its history has been connected with socialist movements and communist states such as China and Soviet Russia. In the mid-1970s, during the height of Second Wave Feminism, the UN recognised International Women’s Day and invited its member states to do the same.

Reads for IWD 2018

“Rudy Van Gelder’s recording studio in Englewood Cliffs was a longtime mecca for jazz musicians. It was the place where they created some of their greatest albums. Take a tour of this rarely seen studio where so much jazz history was made.” — NorthJersey.com

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“It might have been about two years before the birth of tintinnabuli, in 1974, when Arvo and Nora Pärt met the icon painter Viktor Krivorotov in Georgia, who also dealt with creative psychology. And Nora asked for his advice. What can he do? How could he find a way out of this creative dead end? ‘And Krivorotov recommended experimenting with different types of art – precisely the ones you do not know or command. You just have to have the courage to do poorly and fail, and even have a certain impudence,’ Nora relates.

As the paper and canvas felt too demanding to paint on, at some point they arrived at flowerpots – ordinary clay pots that usually came with flowers. ‘And then I just waited for the flowers to dry, to get the pot,’ she continues. In the beginning it was only Nora who painted the pots with water-based paint, but one day Arvo too took a pot in his hands. ‘And what did he paint? Some sort of lines. Simple lines in different colours,’ Nora recalls. We will never know if it was painting that eventually got the composer’s creativity flowing again, but indeed it released something in him.”

Arvo Pärt Centre

Open Culture

A conference at the University of York • 17-19 May 2018

This conference marks the publication of 30 books in the two book series Historicizing Modernism and Modernist Archives with Bloomsbury Academic.

Archival excavation and detailed contextualisation is becoming increasingly central to scholarship on literary modernism. In recent years, the increased – and often online – accessibility and dissemination of previously unpublished or little-known texts has led to paradigm-shifting scholarly interventions across a range of canonical and lesser-known authors, neglected topics, and critical methodologies including genetic criticism, intertextuality, book history, and historical documentation. This trend is only bound to increase as large-scale digitisation of archival materials gathers pace, and existing copyright restrictions gradually lapse.

These two book series have been at the forefront of this burgeoning trend, and this international conference will take stock of these developments. Above all, it will also point forwards, towards future avenues of research. The authors and editorial board members connected with the series will reflect upon the ‘state of the art’ regarding archive-based research within their particular sub-discipline, connecting this to Modernism Studies as a whole. The provisional paper titles listed below reflect their responses to this invitation. (more…)

“Ambient Music has arrived at middle age. 2018 marks 40 years since the release of Brian Eno’s Music For Airports, which effectively introduced the term. As a musical form it has endured, even though its sense of self as a genre has become arguably obfuscated at best and ineffectual at worst. Genres, like human beings, can undergo periods where direction and clarity are lacking. When such periods take hold in the middle years, a mid-life crisis can often occur. With that in mind, I am reconsidering ambient music and its place looking into the 21st century. What might ambient music’s next decade (let alone 40 years) be concerned with?”

FACT Magazine

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Mark E. Smith

“Tributes to artists often end up being more about the person writing them, but MES provided me with an alternative education, looping me into Camus, and Arthur Machen, and William Blake, and Can, and dub and old garage punk and rock’n’roll. I saw the Fall 52 times and without MES my life would have been utterly different and nowhere near as much fun. What on earth are we all going to do with ourselves now?”

— Stewart Lee, The Guardian

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“As the highlight of the 800th anniversary celebrations of the University of Salamanca, the oldest university in Spain, an extraordinary concert will be performed on 18 February 2018, with the world premiere of Arvo Pärt’s new a cappella composition, And I heard a voice… / Ja ma kuulsin hääle… as part of the programme.” Arvo Pärt Centre