Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, visual artist

Fischer-Dieskau self portrait 1985

When Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau was a little boy he was, as he described himself, “shy, clumsy, obedient, and uninterested in sport.”

He started piano lessons when he was nine, and these led indirectly to his second great artistic pursuit, drawing and painting. It took many years for him to try his hand at oils, but by the 1970s his two homes were filled with many testimonies to his skill. “It helps to release the tensions and strains of my profession,” he told an interviewer.

This according to Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, mastersinger by Kenneth Whitton (New York: Holmes & Meier, 1981, pp. 16–17).

Today would have been Fischer-Dieskau’s 90th birthday! Above, a self-portrait from 1985; below, a brief film presenting several of his portraits.

BONUS: Fischer-Dieskau’s much-celebrated recording of Schubert’s Die Winterreise with Gerald Moore, from 1962.

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Ramsey Lewis and “The in crowd”


Ramsey Lewis’s 1965 album The in crowd was recorded over three days (13–15 May 1965) at the Bohemian Caverns nightclub in Washington, D.C. In an interview earlier this year, the pianist recalled the experience.

“I remember when they said that I was going to play the Bohemian Caverns, I remarked ‘Isn’t this the place where the hard-boppers are playing? And John Coltrane, Roland Kirk and other go-get- ’em guys? They want us?’ And they did.”

“We were at the club trying to come up with one more song. A waitress came over and asked if we’d heard Dobie Gray’s The in crowd. Eldee had heard it, and it was on the jukebox in the club. We listened to it, learned it, and at the end of the first set, Redd whispered to me ‘Don’t forget to play The in crowd.’”

“We started doing the song, and all of a sudden the guys in the club are moving their shoulders, and the women are standing up and clapping and dancing. We just looked at each other—it was such a pleasant surprise. When they put the single out, we got a call from Phil Chess telling us he thought we had a hit record. In those days, did jazzers have hit records? What? Are you kidding? Soon enough, it was a bona fide hit that just kept selling.”

Quoted in “Lewis keeps reaching out” by Thomas Staudter (DownBeat LXXXII/4 [April 2015] p. 15).

Today is Lewis’s 80th birthday! Below, Lewis performs The in crowd in 1990.

BONUS: Here’s the whole album, which turned 50 this year!

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English keyboard music c.1600–1625

English keyboard music

English keyboard music c.1600–1625, edited by Alan Brown (London: Stainer & Bell, 2014), presents works by anonymous and lesser-known composers of the period, drawn from 22 manuscripts that mostly also transmit music by William Byrd and other noted virginalists.

The edition includes the complete keyboard works of Nicholas Carleton, the surviving 20 “Miserere” canons by Thomas Woodson, and the anonymous Pretty ways for young beginners to look on, along with preludes, plainsong settings, voluntaries, dances, and character pieces.

Below, Carleton’s A verse for two to play.

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SMT-V: Videocast journal of the Society for Music Theory


In 2015 the Society for Music Theory launched SMT-V: Videocast journal of the Society for Music Theory, a peer-reviewed scholarly video publication that explores a wide range of topics in music theory and analysis.

Each video article is about ten minutes in length and accessible for free via the SMT website.

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American vernacular music manuscripts, ca. 1730–1910

Stewart MS

American vernacular music manuscripts, ca. 1730–1910 is a free online resource supported by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The site presents digitized images of holdings of the American Antiquarian Society and the Center for Popular Music. It is searchable by keyword or title; advanced search options are also available.

Above, Sorrowing hearts at home weeping sad and lonely, or, When this cruel war is over, one of the most popular songs of the U.S. Civil War (click to enlarge). This manuscript, attributed to Charles Stewart of Fayette County, Pennsylvania, contains shape-note music and lyrics on ruled stationary and is inscribed “August 24th 1867, Saturday half past” and “June 9th 1868”.

Below, a concertina rendition of the song by Gary Coover.

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Narcissism and digital erotics

madonna vogue

In new video media there is a possibility for a profound change in the representation of sex, eroticism, gender, and sexuality. Freud’s concept of primary narcissism provides important insights into digital imagery, not least in the construction of female spectatorship.

For example, David Fincher’s video for Madonna’s Vogue enacts a sense of femininity as masquerade; the act of masquerade allows women to merely play a role rather than actually becoming it, thus simultaneously fulfilling and parodying expectations.

This according to “Rolling and tumbling: Digital erotics and the culture of narcissism” by Sean Cubitt, an essay included in Sexing the groove: Popular music and gender (London: Routledge, 1997, pp. 295–316).

Above and below, the video in question.

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Utah Phillips’s principles

utah phillips 2007

In a 1997 interview, Bruce “Utah” Phillips (1935–2008) described himself as a “Catholic, anarchist, pacifist, draft dodger of two world wars, tax refuser, vegetarian, one-man revolution in America.”

“My body is my ballot,” he continued, “and I try to cast it on behalf of the people around me every day of my life.”

“I don’t assign responsibility to do things to other people; I accept the responsibility to make sure that things get done. I love to tell that to people who are frustrated with the ballot box. How many people do I know who have never voted for anyone who won, ever in their lives, and are really frustrated? It’s not the end of the road. There’s another way to go, and that’s with your own labor, your own sweat, your own body. I think there’s a lot of hope in that.”

Quoted in “Radical folk: A conversation with Ani DiFranco and Utah Phillips, kindred spirits and collaborators on a daring new album” by Jeffrey Pepper Rodgers (Acoustic guitar VIII/2:56 [August 1997] pp. 62–70).

Today would have been Phillips’s 80th birthday! Above, the singer, storyteller, and labor organizer at a peace march in 2007; below, classic Phillips from 2005.

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Fauré’s liaisons


Gabriel Fauré’s apparently irresistible appeal to women led to the kind of extramarital liaisons that were far from uncommon in the Third Republic; Alfredo Casella, one of his pupils, described the composer as having “the large, languid, and sensual eyes of an impenitent Casanova.”

Fauré’s friends and associates were not insensitive to the delicate situations that this predilection incurred; for example, some the composer’s most talented students at the Paris Conservatoire were rumored to be his illegitimate children.

This according to Gabriel Fauré by Jessican Duchen (London: Phaidon, 2000, p. 63).

Today is Fauré’s 170th birthday! Above, Fauré and Gustave Bret with the pianist Marguerite Hasselmans, the composer’s mistress for the last 24 years of his life; below, Fauré’s Fantasie, op. 111, which Hasselmans premiered in 1919.


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Keith Jarrett’s solo concerts

Jarrett 1974

Keith Jarrett began playing improvised solo concerts in 1973, establishing himself as a major figure in the jazz piano tradition.

The performances drew on a new conception of form suggested by free jazz, one which posited a new kind of relationship between a performer and the musical constraints suggested by a composition. This new approach to performance allowed musicians to reconfigure formal conception in the moment, rather than being tied to an invariant set of constraints.

Jarrett’s solo concerts also drew on an aesthetic view of performance that emerged from free jazz, which saw music making as tapping into a divine source of inspiration. The context in which he performed promoted this conception by giving such dramatic weight to the process of improvisation.

This according to Keith Jarrett’s solo concerts and the aesthetics of free improvisation, 1960–1973 by Peter Stanley Elsdon, a dissertation accepted by the University of Southampton in 2001.

Today is Jarrett’s 70th birthday! Above, performing solo in 1974; below, part of the 1973 Lausanne concert, a performance analyzed in Elsdon’s dissertation.

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From oilcans to old-time

Wayne's Body Shop

For more than 40 years—ever since Wayne Willis discovered that he could play the guitar and wanted some people to play with—Wayne’s Body Shop in Portsmouth, Virginia, has hosted a regular jam session.

Just about everyone who can play old-time, country, bluegrass, or gospel music in southeastern Virginia and northeastern North Carolina has jammed at Wayne’s. The first rule is that there is no hierarchy and no noninclusion; everyone gets a chance to participate.

This according to “Saturday night at Wayne’s Body Shop in Portsmouth, Virginia” by Dan Margolies (The old-time herald IX/3 [Spring 2004] pp.14–18).

Above and below, Saturday night at Wayne’s.

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