Men with guitar cases

oscar-isaac-in-inside-llewyn-davis

An experiment tested the assumption that music plays a role in sexual selection.

Three hundred young women were solicited in the street for their phone number by a young male confederate who held either a guitar case or a sports bag in his hands or had no bag at all.

Results showed that holding a guitar case was associated with greater compliance to the request, thus suggesting that musical practice is associated with sexual selection.

This according to “Men’s music ability and attractiveness to women in a real-life courtship context” by Nicolas Guéguen, Sébastien Meineri, and Jacques Fischer-Lokou (Psychology of music XLII/4 [July 2014] pp. 545–49).

Above, Oscar Isaac as Llewyn Davis, perhaps providing a rule-proving exception; below, a study of men’s reactions to a man with a guitar case.

Related article: Sexual attraction by genre

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Bobby Short, saloon singer

bobby-short

Bobby Short, the cherubic singer and pianist whose high-spirited and probing renditions of popular standards evoked the glamour and sophistication of Manhattan nightlife, liked to call himself a saloon singer.

His “saloon” from 1968 to 2005 was one of the most elegant in the country, the intimate Cafe Carlyle in the Carlyle Hotel on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. There for six months each year, in a room where he was only a few feet from his audience, he sang and accompanied himself on the piano.

Over the years, Short transcended the role of cabaret entertainer to become a New York institution and a symbol of civilized Manhattan culture, attracting a chic international clientele that included royalty, movie stars, sports figures, captains of industry, socialites, and jazz aficionados. In Woody Allen’s films a visit to the Carlyle became an essential stop on his characters’ cultural tour—including a memorable scene in Hannah and her sisters that featured Short.

This according to “Bobby Short, icon of Manhattan song and style, dies at 80” by Enid Nemy (The New York times, 21 March 2005).

Today would have been Short’s 90th birthday! Below, “You must remember this…”

BONUS: The Hannah sequence.

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“The star-spangled banner” turns 200

star spangled banner

Around 1775 John Stafford Smith wrote a melody for verses celebrating the Anacreontic Society, a London amateur musicians’ supper club. With its stirring tune, The Anacreontic song soon escaped the confines of club ritual, appearing in popular song collections and inspiring parodies in London’s many theaters.

By 1790 the melody had become part of the core of the active U.S. broadside tradition; by 1820 Anacreon, as the tune was then known, was the vehicle for more than 85 sets of American lyrics.

A number of these songs were nationalistic, praising early presidents and articulating partisan conflicts. The tune became widely associated with U.S. patriotism, making it a natural choice for Francis Scott Key for his commemoration of the nation’s surprise victory in the Battle of Baltimore in 1814. Originally titled Defense of Fort McHenry, the song quickly became a U.S. patriotic favorite as The star-spangled banner.

This according to “A star-spangled biennial” by Jerry Blackstone, Mark Clague, and Andrew Kuster (Choral journal LIV/9 [April 2014] pp.6–17).

Today is the song’s 200th birthday! Above, the actual flag that flew over Fort McHenry during the battle, as restored by the Smithsonian Institution; below, the original song, followed by two iconic performances of the U.S. national anthem.

Whitney Houston at the Super Bowl, 1991.

Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock, 1969.

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A Cuban instrument atlas

Instrumentos3

Instrumentos de la música folclórico-popular de Cuba: Atlas provides a definitive overview of traditional instruments in Cuba, including discussions of their history, construction, musical characteristics, function in society, historical dissemination, and performance practice.

The accompanying atlas shows the numeric dissemination by county for every traditional instrument played in Cuba on geographical maps of the island. The set was issued by the Centro de Investigación y Desarrollo de la Música Cubana (CIDMUC).

Above, two of the atlas’s pages (click to enlarge); below, a Cuban group that features an unusual instrument—a leaf between the guitarist’s lips!

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Peter Maxwell Davies and sonata form

Peter Maxwell Davies

Throughout much of his career, Peter Maxwell Davies  has had a preoccupation with sonata form. He has exploited the tension between this form and his other conflicting musical preoccupations, such as a penchant for continuous development and an abhorrence of exact repetition.

In his earlier works, Davies at times referred to the presence of a “ghost” of sonata form, whereas more recently he directly states that some of his pieces are in this form. Throughout its evolution the salient elements of sonata form have been contrast, conflict, and resolution, all three of which apply in an examination of Davies’s use of it.

In his second Taverner fantasia, the first movement appears on the surface to be in sonata form, but is actually driven by other principles such as recurring chordal material. The opening movement of the first symphony has the general outline of a sonata form without adhering to its contrasting thematic implications. The more recent third quartet combines the formal and harmonic implications of a pre-Beethovenian, essentially binary, sonata form, with a highly complex and idiosyncratic serial technique derived from magic squares.

This according to “The ghost in the machine: Sonata form in the music of Peter Maxwell Davies” by Rodney Lister, an essay included in Peter Maxwell Davies studies (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009) pp. 106–28).

Today is Sir Peter’s 80th birthday! Below, Davies conducts the BBC Philharmonic in his first symphony.

BONUS: How to pronounce the composer’s last name.

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Early French trademarks

 

Cinématographes Phonographes et Pellicules trademark

The Archives de Paris holds 1200 registrations, mainly by instrument builders working in the former département of the Seine. The same company could have several different trademarks or hallmarks, either to differentiate among products or their quality, or due to various acquisitions or inheritances. In the 1890s trademarks for phonographic machines using cylinders or records, as well as for player pianos, were also registered.

These trademarks are rendered by labels, stamped imprints, dry point, and other means. They include various combinable elements: initials, patronyms, handwritten signatures, instrument names, common names or qualifying adjectives, names of cities, proverbs, or maxims. There are also figurative elements: notes, emblems, coats-of-arms, instruments, stars, animals, photographs, exhibition medals, certificates, and so on.

Les marques de fabrique des facteurs d’instruments de musique déposées au greffe du Tribunal de Commerce de Paris de 1860 à 1914 is an open-access online resource that includes a detailed chronological inventory of 1200 trademarks with illustrations and three indices: of names, of cities, and of figurative elements. The site is published by the Institut de Recherche en Musicologie (IREMUS).

Above, a trademark registered by La Compagnie Générale de Cinématographes, Phonographes et Pellicules in 1898 (click to enlarge).

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Milhaud and jazz

Milhaud Brubeck

In a 1922 interview in New York City, Darius Milhaud described how jazz had recently taken the French musical scene by storm, to the delight of young composers like himself.

“Jazz interests us tremendously. We are fascinated and intrigued by the jazz rhythms and are devoting serious study to it. There are new elements of clarity and rhythmic power that were a real shock to us when we heard jazz for the first time.”

“It was in 1919, immediately after the war, that the first jazz band was heard in Paris. To us it was a musical event of genuine import. Music had long been under the domination of the impressionist school. Poetry was the predominating element. Jazz came to us as a good shock—like a cold shower when you have been half asleep with ennui.”

This according to “Jazz, says Darius Milhaud, is the most significant thing in music today” (The musical observer XXIII [March 1923] p. 23; reprinted in Jazz in print 1856–1929: An anthology of selected early readings in jazz history [Hillsdale: Pendragon press, 2002] p. 235).

Today is Milhaud’s 120th birthday! Above, with Dave Brubeck at Mills College; below, La création du monde from 1923.

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Interactive Hansel and Gretel

hansel&gretel

Hansel and Gretel: Design your own opera! is an open-access website that allows children to create a personalized version of Humperdinck’s opera and to go backstage to learn about the making of an opera production.

Clicking through the screens, the child is engaged in each scene in creating some aspect of the setting or action, such as costumes, choreography, backdrops, lighting, or props. After a selection is made—such as a costume—it remains that way throughout the whole opera.

The interactivity is combined with guided listening suggestions; before the child clicks to go to the next scene, an audio prompt suggests what to listen for.

This according to “Design your own opera!…online!” by Rachel Nardo (General music today XXIV/1 [October 2010] pp. 41–42).

Today is Engelbert Humperdinck’s 160th birthday! Below, the iconic duet followed by some decidedly odd goings-on.

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Dinah Washington on the road

Dinah Washington

Dinah Washington spent her youth on the South Side of Chicago, Illinois, where she sang in church from the age of ten.

She gave her first secular public performance in a Chicago nightclub at the age of 18, and soon came to the attention of the bandleader Lionel Hampton, for whom she started singing in 1942.

Although initially unhappy with life on the road, Washington soon became acclimated, and developed the abrasive, one-of-the-guys personality for which she later became famous. She made a steady upward climb to stardom after her departure from Hampton’s band in 1945, and her popularity was at its peak when she died unexpectedly in 1962.

This according to Queen: The life and music of Dinah Washington by Nadine Cohodas (New York: Pantheon, 2004).

Today is Washington’s 90th birthday! Below, live at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1958.

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Gluck and Winckelmann

Laocoön

“Sculpture, music, text: Winckelmann, Herder, and Gluck’s Iphigénie en Tauride” by Simon Richter (Goethe yearbook VIII [1996] pp. 157–71) considers Gluck’s opera in the context of Johann Joachim Winckelmann’s writings on the statue known as Laocoön, widely regarded as the measure for classical beauty in the second half of the 18th century, and Johann Gottfried Herder‘s writings on the human voice as a common origin for both music and language.

According to Richter, Gluck’s Iphigénie enacts a musical version of Winckelmann’s classical aesthetics, which in turn may have consequences for the way in which Iphigénie is performed, staged, and interpreted. Gluck is in every respect staging the allegorical triumph of his opera reform as the musical counterpart of Winckelmann’s classical aesthetics.

This year we celebrate the 250th anniversary of the publication of Winckelmann’s Geschichte der Kunst des Althertums (Dresden, 1764)! Winckelmann revolutionized the understanding of stylistic changes in Greco-Roman art and deeply influenced archaeological studies. His concept of edle Einfalt und stille Grösse (noble simplicity and quiet grandeur) put the excessive complexities of Baroque aesthetics to rest, influencing Gluck and others.

Above, the sculpture in question (click to enlarge); below, Susan Graham as Iphigénie.

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