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Cuba’s Madres (y Padres) of Invention

Since the communist revolution of 1959, Cuba has been on an economic rollercoaster. The country has lurched from dependency to self-sufficiency, in a bubble of isolation where technological time stopped. Our correspondent, who in 2016 visited the artists and self-taught engineers who have kept Cuba running throughout its bizarre ride, updates us on Cuba’s declining fortunes in the years since.

Written and photographed by ROB WATERS

“Miracle in a Box” — the Quintessence of Repair

In many of our favorite gathering places—schools, churches, concert halls, jazz clubs—pianos still take center stage. Some of these instruments are still going strong more than a century after their birth. Come enjoy a remarkable documentary that follows one shop of technicians that keeps these beloved, complicated beasts alive. The best of these shops can also improve a piano, even when it’s well into its elderly years.

Introduction by TODD OPPENHEIMER
Film by JOHN KORTY
Narrated by JOHN LITHGOW

Listen to “Keeping the Beat: Custom-Made Conducting Batons”

A good conductor can lead an orchestra with almost anything — even a chopstick. Leonard Bernstein was known to conduct a full symphony with just his eyebrows. Why, then, in this age of cheap manufacturing, are handmade, customized batons still in demand? Written by JEFF GREENWALD Introduction by PAULINE BARTOLONE Narrated by JEFF GREENWALD Produced…

The Cigar Box Guitar Maker

When a promising rock musician tired of the road and the pressure, he gave up music and got a job at a hardware store. Then one day, he had a revelation.

Written by NANCY LEBRUN
Photography by STEPHEN KRAMER

Keeping the Beat: Custom-Made Conducting Batons

A good conductor can lead an orchestra with almost anything — even a chopstick. Leonard Bernstein was known to conduct a full symphony with just his eyebrows. Why, then, in this age of cheap manufacturing, are handmade, custom conducting batons still in demand?

The Agony and Ecstasy of an Oboe Reed Maker

Of all the wind instrument players in an orchestra, oboists are among the few who have to spend more time making their reeds than playing their music. As the comic monologist Josh Kornbluth has painfully learned, just one of the myriad micro-adjustments that reed makers create will make a world of difference in their music.

Written by JEFF GREENWALD
Photography by SCOTT CHERNIS

Watch “Josh Kornbluth: On the Short, Intense Life of the Oboe Reed”

Josh Kornbluth, perhaps best known as a comic monologist, is also an accomplished oboist. Here, Josh plays his oboe and talks about the challenges of reed-making for his instrument.

Listen to “The Agony and Ecstasy of an Oboe Reed Maker”

Oboists can spend more time making reeds for their instrument than playing their music. One such musician, the comic monologist Josh Kornbluth, has a lot to say about reed making’s painfully exacting process.

The Kayak’s Cultural Journey

For millennia, Indigenous peoples across the world have built and used wooden skin boats to fish and hunt, for sport and travel, even for warfare. Skin kayaks are the unique product of Arctic peoples, but non-Indigenous admirers of the craft are making them, too. Does that matter?

Written by SIMON MORRIS

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