Andrew Katzenstein is on the editorial staff of The New York Review. (February 2020)


Curiouser and Curiouser

A rhinoceros made of tortoiseshell, coral, pearls, and seashells, based on a woodcut by ­Albrecht Dürer, early seventeenth century

Making Marvels: Science and Splendor at the Courts of Europe

an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, November 25, 2019–March 1, 2020
In the early sixteenth century, Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I declared, in one of the semi-autobiographical romances he wrote to promote his accomplishments and the providence of his reign, that rulers should establish their authority over vassals and subjects by gaining “secret knowledge and experience of the world.” His royal …

Danse Macabre

Musicians and dancers at a festival in Ganadio, a village in the region of Epirus in northwestern Greece, 2000

Lament from Epirus: An Odyssey into Europe’s Oldest Surviving Folk Music

by Christopher C. King

Kitsos Harisiadis: Lament in a Deep Style, 1929–1931

an album produced by Christopher King with Vassilis Georganos
The first thing one notices about Epirotic music from the 1920s and 1930s is that it’s raw. This isn’t just a result of the grainy quality of the recording. The singing is full-throated and passionate; the instruments keen like wolves or flutter and swoop like hummingbirds. The insistent strumming and drumming, the pedal notes, the droning of strings and accompanying voices churn with a primeval energy. Aspects of the music suggest bluegrass, or free jazz, or the Velvet Underground, or the Carnatic music of southern India. But something sounds a bit off.


Alice Coltrane’s Songs of Bliss

Alice Coltrane and her son Ravi with a photograph of John Coltrane, September 4, 2004

Alice Coltrane played piano in her husband’s groups from 1966 until his death the following year. Alice recorded a dozen albums under her own name, ranging from straight-ahead jazz to experimental mixtures of orchestral music and improvisation to Hindu chants performed in gospel arrangements. Her corpus remains one of the most varied and underappreciated in jazz.

On a Park Bench with Thomas Bernhard

It’s surprising that Austrian novelist and playwright Thomas Bernhard would agree to star in a documentary about his own life and work, filmed in Hamburg in 1970. (A new book featuring a translated transcript as well as a number of stills has just been released.) By participating in Three Days, Bernhard risked turning himself into writer, not someone who writes.

The Prince of the Player Piano

A detail of one of Conlon Nancarrow's piano rolls

A month and a half after the opening of its new building, the Whitney Museum is now hosting an eleven-day festival celebrating the work of American expatriate composer Conlon Nancarrow, who is best known for his innovative studies for player piano. Even when you don’t understand what you’re hearing, the sheer energy of Nancarrow’s inventions can be delightful, and watching these piano rolls unfurl provides its own pleasure.