What does the outrage of this militant Frenchman of German Jewish origin have to do with classical music and, ultimately, with me, music director of the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal? A lot. I, too, am outraged by the direction of Western industrial societies, with their materialism, consumerism, and utilitarianism. I want to show that, because of its powerful impact, classical music can play a significant role right now. Composers address topics that are relevant to everyone. Their music highlights our worries and fears, our pain and joy. It can help us think more clearly, feel more profoundly, and live fuller lives than we could without it. It can alter the way we treat our fellow humans and maybe even our perceptions of ourselves. These beliefs guide me whenever I devise a concert program. I want the music my orchestra performs to become a permanent, indispensable dimension of an audience’s life. Society’s crisis of meaning could be a great opportunity for serious music: more than just a recentring, it could be a form of revitalization.
I don’t know what I was thinking when I applied to Bill’s lab. Most likely I wasn’t thinking at all. Where I was that Sunday was either in bed or at the kitchen table, stoned off my gourd and full of Doritos, watching Hearthstone videos on YouTube. I know because that’s what I did every day.
I’d gotten into science co-op a semester and a half earlier and applied for a total of 20 jobs in that time. Most of this was in four days. I’d slouched my way through applications and interviews, hungover and unapologetic. My mentality was that people like me weren’t meant for success — we’re meant to burn out and drop out.
Imagine my face when I got the job. Last May, I moved to Singapore.
Perhaps more accurately, the absurdity in Woods and Clouds Interchangeable is life-affirming. It is life-affirming insofar as even its oddest scenes smack of believability (such as the greased hog floating down a river covered in what a speaking baby calls “opportunistic leeches,” as in “Town”; one could imagine seeing that) but also reinforces lived experience. One might not enjoy “Colosseum” as fully, for example, if one isn’t familiar with cafes (where the speaker is sitting), muffins, despots, or sriracha. It is work that, while sometimes exaggerated, also feels intimate.
“The Silk Road” is more like music in its harmonies: Davis pulls from folk songs, French ballads, nursery rhymes; from Hindu gods and Greek ones; from Chinese and Western astronomy. Every source is blended into the ur-source, the life source, the blinding white of every color seen at once.
“The Silk Road” is unlikely to make its way onto any best-seller lists. And yet, for those willing to get lost in its spiritual haze, there is a uniquely un-2019 pleasure to be found: a meditative bewilderment that just might cede to enlightenment.
Shields writes from a place of genuine curiosity and confusion. He is ridiculous and brave, he never conflates sincerity with genuine candor, and he poses the kinds of questions that only ever bring trouble (and are the only kind worth reading about) — about sex, self-knowledge and the “theater” of our wounds. Can we recover from who we are? Would we want to?
Horizon is a biography and a portrait of some of the world's most delicate places, but at heart it's a contemplation of Lopez's belief that the only way forward is compassionately, and together. Whether that's possible he doesn't examine; then again, he describes so many things that don't seem possible — what's one more horizon to aim for?
I wake in the dark and remember
it is the morning when I must start