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Krenek illustrated by P. Hoffman from our original Winter 1975 issue. 

April 26, 2020

From Beethoven to the Blues

Including a 1975 essay from pianist Glenn Gould!

From Boccaccio’s Decameron to why we need civil justice reform in light of coronavirus, we continue to publish new essays into our Thinking in a Pandemic  project. 

But today we offer our members some escape from the news cycle with our very first music-themed reading list! Charting everything from the origins of Marvin Gaye’s “Sexual Healing,” to the similarities between John Cage and Milton Babbitt, our archive has musical gems from all genres, with writers as passionate about Beethoven’s sublime symphonies as they are about Bessie Smith’s blues. 

We also go all the way back to our Winter 1975 print issue with an essay by Glenn Gould—a heartfelt, hilarious commemorative to Ernst Krenek, who “despite being a prolific composer,” Gould writes, “is one of the least understood musical figures of the twentieth century.” 


Glenn Gould

Despite being a prolific composer, Ernst Krenek is one of the least understood musical figures of the twentieth century.

Dmitri Tymoczko

What the composer and Kant had in common.

Dave Byrne

The Making of an American Folk Song

Peter E. Gordon

A personal essay on family, death, and the healing power of music.

Jonathan Gill

Invitations to danger and salvation that makes the blues the blues.

Dmitri Tymoczko

Milton Babbitt and John Cage. 

Ed Pavlić

‘Amazing Grace,’ the long-lost film of Franklin’s gospel album, offers a lesson in the deep connections between gospel and soul music.

Megan Pugh

The novel House of Earth shows Woody Guthrie in a different light, exiled from the Dust Bowl but dreaming of it still.

David Ritz
Grammy winner David Ritz, who cowrote Marvin Gaye’s legendary “Sexual Healing,” recalls how the song emerged from Gaye’s struggles with faith, drug addiction, and childhood abuse.

Our weekly themed Reading Lists compile the best of Boston Review’s archive. Sign up for our newsletters to get them straight to your inbox before they appear online.

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