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Music

Furious 7. Directed by James Wan. Universal Pictures, 2015.  137 minutes.

Driving Off Into the Sunset

The rest of the world eyes the lives of Golden State tribes—Hollywood “movie people,” surfers, gay San Franciscans, Silicon Valley programmers—with a mixture of fascination and longing. What is the powerful appeal of the California subcu [...]

A Whole Lotta Soul

May 5, 2014

The music closest to my heart (and soul) has been jazz, blues, rumba, son, reggae, soca, R&B, and—later in life—gospel. (This, despite being a godless Jew.) Growing up in Chicago helped. It was home to the powerful WVON (Voice of the N [...]

First Loves Playlist

February 16, 2014

When anyone mentions the 1980s, it depends on what ’80s they are talking about. It wasn’t all Day-Glo colors and jean miniskirts (sadly); nor was it hair metal, parachute pants, and white-collared dress shirts. Do you mean the ’80s when rap was growing up and we used mixtapes like currency? Or when I would wear Chuck Taylors and rolled-up Levis and get yelled at for dressing differently?

A page from Beethoven’s Concerto No. 5 for piano, pulled from the stack that sits atop the Baer family Steinway grand.

Sound + Vision

For some of us concerned about the fate of sheet music, Song Reader also served as a litmus test of sorts: How many music fans (at least among the sample Beck attracts) still read, or know someone who reads, Western music notation, notes and chords placed on a five-line staff with clefs, rests, and time signatures?

A Harry Belafonte Playlist

October 8, 2013

I like stories that allow me to linger, to circle back, to return to a set of words, an image, a song I can’t get out of my mind. In writing “Voice and Hammer,” it was the 1959 broadcast of Tonight With Belafonte, and the chain-gang songs with which Belafonte declared himself more than just the “King of Calypso.”

The Composer

On the June night of Dolphy’s passing, the composer is in New York, holding forth about the size of space. An audience has gathered to hear him speak. Perhaps they recognize him, but more likely they only think they do. He is wide as a boxcar and not a little frightening, this giant of a man with a scowl across his lips. He ashes his cigar into an up-turned linen cap.

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