Recently by Mary Sydnor:

In my first real music history class, I was confronted with a disturbing fact: I couldn’t name a single British composer. In a get-to-know-you exercise our professor asked us about our homes and histories, and then connected them to music. You’re from Louisiana? Tell us about the history of cajun and zydeco! Your family came from France? Name some French composers for us. Circling around the room, my professor stopped at me.

“Where are your ancestors from?”

“As far as I’m aware, my ancestry is almost entirely English.”

“Name a British composer!”

Mary Sydnor was managing editor of The Smart Set and is now a writer based in Baltimore. She has also written for Table Matters, Philly.com, and the Philadelphia Daily News. Follow her on Twitter @_MarySydnor.

   

Sadly, at age 22, it is not an exaggeration for me to admit that I have no one my own age willing to discuss my greatest passion with me: classical music. I’m sure there must be other millennials out there who scrimp and save for yearly orchestra subscriptions or who’d prefer to party with Poulenc instead of P. Diddy (is that who the kids are listening to these days?), but I have yet to meet them.

Many people shy away from classical music the same way they do fine art or quality wine. It seems an art form that you need to know something about in advance to enjoy it. I admit I have a hard time understanding this sentiment. To me, classical music is a simple experience — just sit back, listen, and take in… More…

   

Sadly, at age 22, it is not an exaggeration for me to admit that I have no one my own age willing to discuss my greatest passion with me: classical music. I’m sure there must be other millennials out there who scrimp and save for yearly orchestra subscriptions or who’d prefer to party with Poulenc instead of P. Diddy (is that who the kids are listening to these days?), but I have yet to meet them.

Many people shy away from classical music the same way they do fine art or quality wine. It seems an art form that you need to know something about in advance to enjoy it. I admit I have a hard time understanding this sentiment. To me, classical music is a simple experience — just sit back, listen, and take in… More…

   

Frederick Delius was a lover of places. Born in England, in the second half of the 19th century, he spent the majority of his life in Paris. His time there inspired his orchestral nocturne Paris: The Song of a Great City. He was also famously fond of Scandinavia and heavily influenced by the work of Norwegian Edvard Grieg. A Norwegian fairy tale became the base for his orchestral work Eventyr. He studied composition in Germany, and composed A Mass of Life as homage to the philosophy of Nietzsche.

Delius also fell in love with America, but not with any of our country’s most iconic spots. Instead, he saw beauty in Appalachia and Florida. Appalachia is an expansive area made up of multiple states. So, in his work Appalachia: Variations on an Old Slave… More…

   

Frederick Delius was a lover of places. Born in England, in the second half of the 19th century, he spent the majority of his life in Paris. His time there inspired his orchestral nocturne Paris: The Song of a Great City. He was also famously fond of Scandinavia and heavily influenced by the work of Norwegian Edvard Grieg. A Norwegian fairy tale became the base for his orchestral work Eventyr. He studied composition in Germany, and composed A Mass of Life as homage to the philosophy of Nietzsche.

Delius also fell in love with America, but not with any of our country’s most iconic spots. Instead, he saw beauty in Appalachia and Florida. Appalachia is an expansive area made up of multiple states. So, in his work Appalachia: Variations on an Old Slave… More…

   

What qualifies something as “American”? Political candidates accuse their opponents of not being American enough, yet for every constituent who agrees, there is another who defines their country in a completely different fashion. In the world of arts and culture, America lacks the lengthy history of Europe to define itself. At just a few decades over 200 years old, we haven’t had nearly enough time to establish the same artistic legacy as the rest of the world. Even defining purely American food proves a difficult task; almost everything we eat seems to have historical roots planted in another country.

American music follows a similar narrative, but the story has a different ending. Yes, much of our music was inspired by sounds from around the world. But, from the traditional African music that became jazz to the… More…

   

What qualifies something as “American”? Political candidates accuse their opponents of not being American enough, yet for every constituent who agrees, there is another who defines their country in a completely different fashion. In the world of arts and culture, America lacks the lengthy history of Europe to define itself. At just a few decades over 200 years old, we haven’t had nearly enough time to establish the same artistic legacy as the rest of the world. Even defining purely American food proves a difficult task; almost everything we eat seems to have historical roots planted in another country.

American music follows a similar narrative, but the story has a different ending. Yes, much of our music was inspired by sounds from around the world. But, from the traditional African music that became jazz to the… More…

Debussy was the first composer I never learned to play. After more than ten years of piano lessons, I had moved through baroque Bach; classical Mozart; and romantic Chopin Nocturnes — all of which had systematic rules to follow. I thought I was ready to move on to the next big thing: The Impressionist Era. I started with Debussy’s Clair de lune and later attempted the first of his Deux Arabesques. I listened, again and again, until I could hear the entirety of the works in my head, but between the key and tempo changes, it was simply music I couldn’t grasp.

   

Pour le piano. February 8, 2013. The Kennedy Center, Washington D.C. Syrinx. February 17, 2013. Dolce Suono Ensemble, Philadelphia. La Mer. February 28 through March 3, 2013. The Los Angeles Philharmonic, Los Angeles. Prelude to The Afternoon… More…

Debussy was the first composer I never learned to play. After more than ten years of piano lessons, I had moved through baroque Bach; classical Mozart; and romantic Chopin Nocturnes — all of which had systematic rules to follow. I thought I was ready to move on to the next big thing: The Impressionist Era. I started with Debussy’s Clair de lune and later attempted the first of his Deux Arabesques. I listened, again and again, until I could hear the entirety of the works in my head, but between the key and tempo changes, it was simply music I couldn’t grasp.

   

Pour le piano. February 8, 2013. The Kennedy Center, Washington D.C. Syrinx. February 17, 2013. Dolce Suono Ensemble, Philadelphia. La Mer. February 28 through March 3, 2013. The Los Angeles Philharmonic, Los Angeles. Prelude to The Afternoon… More…

Philadelphia’s Mütter Museum makes visitors feel vaguely uncomfortable. An enormous wall of human skulls greets you as you walk in, each with a note listing the name of the skull’s owner and the details of his death. Advertized as a museum of medical oddities, the Mütter freaks you out because medical oddities are, well, freaky.

   

I’ve never been to the Mütter Museum to indulge in the freakish spectacles. The Museum, oddly enough, has a display on my ancestors Chang and Eng, the original Siamese twins. Eng is my great-great-great-grandfather. Every year, my family has a huge Chang and Eng reunion in Mount Airy, North Carolina, where as many of the twins’ 1,800 descendents as possible get together. I expect this year’s reunion to be particularly crowded, as 2011 marks the 200th anniversary of the twins’… More…