Alma Deutscher isn’t your typical TikTok star. She’s a violinist, pianist, and classical music composer, not someone who lip syncs K-Pop. She’s written three operas and multiple concertos, sonatas, and waltzes. She’s performed at Carnegie Hall and been the subject of a BBC documentary. She’s an influencer, but the people she influences tend to be famous conductors, like Zubin Mehta and Sir Simon Rattle, or celebrated violinists, like Anne-Sophie Mutter.
On the other hand, Alma is 17, which puts her firmly in the traditional TikTok demographic. And last month, one of her videos, which typically get views in the low 10,000s, received over a million views, going viral shortly after it posted.
The clip shows Alma conducting her Sirens Sounds Waltz with a Viennese chamber orchestra. The music has a swoony but unsettling quality that some fans have compared to a horror movie soundtrack—in a good way! The video is only 50 seconds long, and it leaves you wanting to hear more. But what really makes it memorable is Alma’s graceful conducting, and a satisfied smile that says she’s having fun.
Alma was born in England, but now lives with her family in Vienna, where she’s studying conducting. She was only five when she composed her first piano concerto—the same age as Mozart when he started writing music—but don’t call Alma a prodigy. She hates that word.
Her music is unabashedly melodic, sometimes even romantic, in a way that some modern classical composers disdain. Whether “serious” music should be pleasurable or challenging has been an ongoing debate since at least 1913, when the Paris premiere of Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, full of harsh, dissonant passages, supposedly caused a riot. (The record is a bit unclear, but it’s a good story.)
Alma comes down firmly on the side of pleasure. “It’s extremely easy to create ugliness,” she recently told The Times of London. “That needs absolutely no talent. But to create beauty? That is a challenge. And I don’t want to inflict misery on my audience or myself.”
She added, “People say that music has to reflect the ugliness of the modern world. But you can take the ugliness of the world and through music turn it into something beautiful, and you can see it has such a strong effect on people.”
Ugliness, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder, or the ear of the listener, and modern music isn’t quite as either/or as Alma seems to think. One thing the 21st century has going for it: it’s made room for female composers. Alma’s family has a portrait of Mozart’s sister Maria Anna hanging in their home. Like her brother, Maria Anna was a precocious musical talent, but was forced to put any career ambitions aside.
“I’m really happy that I was born now when girls are allowed to develop their talents,” Alma told the New York Times in 2019. “Because if I had been born beforehand, I probably wouldn’t have been allowed to become a composer. I would have had to be a housekeeper.” —Bruce Handy
If you’ve heard people discussing Twitter recently, they were probably talking about Elon Musk, who offered $44 billion to buy the company last month. In an unexpected turn of events, Musk is now complaining—on Twitter—that the Web site has too many fake users for him to buy it. Some think this is just Musk being his erratic self, while others think it’s a way to shave a few billion off the purchase price.
The main character is a cute blue puppy named Data. To start playing, you pick your language, then select a character who acts as Data’s sidekick. There are several options, but for AIR MAIL Pilot, it’s always a tough choice between Meme Meow, a cat, and Dee, a doughnut.
The goal is to help Data navigate through PrivaCity, a blue-tinted city, and arrive safely at a park. On the way, gamers jump onto floating platforms and leap over tall buildings to dodge advertisements for cats, a swarm of DMs, and Twitter trolls. Bonus points for collecting dog bones. Throughout the game, a catchy song plays.
At the end of each level, once you’ve helped Data find bones and dodge trolls, you get a prize: information on Twitter’s privacy policies, which the company recently re-wrote. “We’ve emphasized clear language and moved away from legal jargon,” the company said in a statement.
Designed by the game developer Momo Pixel, the game is purposefully easy. (In AIR MAIL Pilot’s experience, it’s not that easy.) It’s meant to teach users how to “safely navigate the Twitterverse,” not stump gamers.
That said, the game is probably the most fun way to spend time on Twitter. Helping Data the dog avoid fake Twitter trolls is more enjoyable than scrolling past real ones. —Clara Molot
Russia’s war on Ukraine has displaced more than 14 million people. As families try to find safety, Martina Kojić Reiter has helped thousands of Ukrainian women and children find new places to live.
Born in Dubrovnik, Croatia during the country’s four-year war for independence, the 28-year-old is familiar with the kinds of violence unfolding in Ukraine today. During Croatia’s war, Martina’s dad served in the Special Forces as a trauma surgeon. Some of her earliest memories were of the violence around her.
In March, just a few hours after Russia detonated the first bomb in Ukraine, Martina traveled to Lviv to set up a shelter for refugees. Through her charity, Mademoiselle Martina, she also organized buses to take people across the border to Austria. Today, she’s helped more than 5,500 women and children safely travel to Vienna, Frankfurt, Munich and Düsseldorf.
One of the troubles she had was letting Ukrainians know about the shelter. To spread the word about it and the buses, Martina turned to Instagram. Previously, she posted outfits and vacation photos on the app. Now, from the account @mademoisellemartina_org, she posts information so mothers can find their way to her shelter.
At first, many Ukrainians were skeptical of the Instagram account. “I had to ask a psychologist to go on screen and speak in Ukrainian to reassure them,” Martina told The Financial Times. In addition, once they arrive to safety, Mademoiselle Martina has Ukrainian psychologists to talk with the refugees.
“We are now filming an informative workshop-style interview with our in-house psychologist and will post it on our Instagram and Web site,” she explained. “We believe this is the best way to approach women as it allows them to inform themselves without being exposed.”
For many Ukrainian families fleeing, this is their first time outside of the country. While many refugees have found jobs in their temporary homes, they want them to stay temporary. “They are all grateful for being hosted, but keep asking for a ticket home,” Martina says.
Before the war in Ukraine started, Martina was preparing for her wedding, which was set for this fall. Now, she’ll only celebrate once the war is over. When she does walk down the aisle, she will wear a wedding dress made by a Ukrainian designer. —Elena Clavarino