Opera and the Morbidity of Music

Alas, the title Opera and the Morbidity of Music is a dirty gyp. The cover photo of a bloodied and demented Joan Sutherland hides a book of sane intelligence. The ostensible catalyst for most of Joseph Kerman?s collected essays is the book review, but he ranges both widely and deeply, from William Byrd?s Catholicism and music inspired by labyrinths to a note on the program note and a somewhat more than half-hearted defense of Rach 3. Some topics rate only a few pages, but Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Verdi, and Wagner each generate substantial groups of essays. Unlike many critics, Kerman is at his best -- ­specific, passionate, attuned -- when he praises. His description of Charles Rosen?s work gives a sense of what he values: "his is criticism building on what we actually hear in music, even on what we feel about what we hear (though to my taste there is too little here about that)." This admirable attitude serves him well but perhaps makes him strangely sympathetic to political readings of nonverbal music, such as feminist interpretations of Beethoven?s Ninth Symphony as "horrifyingly violent" and a "sexual message." He writes, "What is so very awful about these interpretations? They draw attention­ -- violently, to be sure, and so what? -- ­to a cardinal feature of the first movement?s recapitulatory passage...." Kerman himself eschews trendy language and extreme judgments; his work over the past 30 years paves a critical via media through turbulent times. -

April 24: "[The HST] lifted a curtain from our view of the universe, changing it so profoundly that no human can look at the stars in the same way..."

Kenneth Calhoun (Black Moon) and Lysley Tenorio (Monstress) of the Discover Great New Writers program on B-movies, heritage, and finales.

Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
In the Light of What We Know

Zia Haider Rahman's mystery of a brilliant Bangladeshi mathematician's past barrels through the Ivy League, London high finance, and spy-haunted Afghanistan in a page-turning tale of exile, intrigue and the price of friendship. A Discover Great New Writers selection.

The People's Platform

Once touted as the foundation for tomorrow's digital democracy, the Internet is increasingly ruled by a few corporate giants, while millions of contributors till its fields for free. Astra Taylor looks at why the web has failed to deliver a communitarian cyberscape, and offers a compelling case for restoring its original vision.

A Private Venus

Dubbed "the Italian Simenon," Giorgio Scerbanenco (1911-1969) began his crime-writing career with books set in the USA, but quickly shifted scene closer to home, the city of Milan.  In this adventure, appearing in English for the first time, his underdog hero Dr. Duca Lamberti finds himself in the middle of a seedy, scantily clad criminal racket, where the presence of an outsider could result in death.