Practicing vs. born that way

Carrivick sisters

The relative importance of nature and nurture for various forms of expertise has been intensely debated. Music proficiency is viewed as a general model for expertise, and associations between deliberate practice and music proficiency have been interpreted as supporting the prevailing idea that long-term deliberate practice inevitably results in increased music ability.

An experiment examined the associations (rs = .18–.36) between music practice and music ability (rhythm, melody, and pitch discrimination) in 10,500 Swedish twins. The researchers found that music practice was substantially heritable (40%−70%).

Associations between music practice and music ability were predominantly genetic, and, contrary to the causal hypothesis, nonshared environmental influences did not contribute. There was no difference in ability within monozygotic twin pairs differing in their amount of practice, so that when genetic predisposition was controlled for, more practice was no longer associated with better music skills.

These findings suggest that music practice may not causally influence music ability and that genetic variation among individuals affects both ability and inclination to practice.

This according to “Practice does not make perfect: No causal effect of music practice on music ability” by Miriam A. Mosing, Guy Madison, et al. (Psychological science XXV/9 [September 2014] pp. 1795–1803).

Above, the identical twins Laura (left) and Charlotte Carrivick, who perform as The Carrivick Sisters; below, Derrick Davis and Tom McFadden discuss the importance of genetics (an article about their work is here).

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Frottolas and monkeys

Antico

The frontispiece of Andrea Antico’s Frottole intabulate da sonare organi libro primo (1517) features a woodcut of a player at a harpsichord, a singer holding a score, and a monkey holding a lute.

The image involves a symbolic mocking of Antico’s  rival, the publisher Ottaviano Petrucci. Antico had greater success than Petrucci in publishing keyboard music, and the allusions in the frontispiece highlight this fact. The monkey is meant to symbolize Petrucci, and the singer is Lady Music, who is pointing her finger accusingly at him.

This according to “A monkey business: Petrucci, Antico, and the frottola intabulation” by Hiroyuki Minamino (Journal of the Lute Society of America 26–27 [1993–94] pp. 96–106).

Above, the woodcut in question; below, Ensemble Renaissance performs Antico’s frottola Vale iniqua.

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Bibliolore reaches 200!

200

Thanks to ksanchezmusic, Bibliolore now has 200 followers! Sure, plenty of music blogs have more, but since we have staked out such a tiny niche we’re truly honored…many thanks to our followers and friends!

Below, we celebrate reaching 200 with Frank Zappa’s 200 motels.

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Mei Lanfang and film

Mei Lanfang 3

Performances of excerpts from the kunqu classic The peony pavilion (牡丹亭, Mudan ting) marked the respective beginning and end of the film career of Mei Lanfang (梅兰芳). While fortuity and the canonical status of the play might be enough to explain this coincidence, Mei’s interests in both the venerable kunqu and the new medium of cinema suggest a productive line of inquiry into their expressive potentiality.

In his 1959 film of Dream in the garden (游园惊梦, Youyuan jingmeng), the precisely choreographed “meeting of the eyes” (dui yanguang) during the dream scene is translated into refreshingly rare exchanges of cinematic point-of-view. The original play’s motif of transcendence as represented by the romantic dream encounter at once opens up a self-referential space for Mei’s performance and frees the film medium here from the sole function of photographical preservation.

In this sense, Mei’s own interpretation of the transformative fairy quality (xian qi) of the play and the film medium could be seen as a footnote to his own art of impersonation. The film thus also complemented his stage performance in the masculine and patriotic General Mu Guiying (Mu Guiying guashuai) of the same year, which added a paradoxical last touch to his career as a female impersonator.

This according to “Meeting of the eyes: Invented gesture, cinematic choreography, and Mei Lanfang’s Kun opera film” by Dong Xinyu (The opera quarterly XXVI/2–3 [spring–summer 2010] pp. 200–219).

Today is Mei Lanfang’s 120th birthday! Above and below, he portrays the star-crossed Du Liniang in Dream in the garden.

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Celia Cruz’s (trans)nationalism

celia cruz

Celia Cruz’s diverse musical repertoire served as a performative locus for the negotiations of both her Cubanness and her broader Latin American identity.

Likewise, her construction of blackness as an Afro-Cuban woman transformed and was transformed by her collaborations with African American musicians and singers, in styles ranging from jazz to hip hop.

Cruz also crossed racial and cultural boundaries by collaborating with Anglo musicians and by tropicalizing rock music. Her staged persona and her body aesthetics also reveal the fluidity with which she assumed diverse racial, national, and historical identities while simultaneously asserting her Cubanness through the use of Spanish onstage.

This according to “The blackness of sugar: Celia Cruz and the performance of (trans)nationalism” by Frances Aparicio (Cultural studies XIII/2 [April 1999] pp. 223–236).

Today is Celia Cruz’s 90th birthday! Below, Cruz performs with the Fania All-Stars in 1974.

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Charles Ives and baseball

Charles Ives baseball

Baseball played an important part in Charles Ives’s life, music, and writings; it was a place where he proved himself as a man, and it provided a framework within which he could build new musical ideas. Ives’s identity as a U.S. composer links him to this game, and a brief chronology of baseball history demonstrates significant changes in the game over the course of his lifetime (1874–1954).

Baseball provided Ives with a vehicle to establish his masculine identity, counterbalancing societal and self views of his musical participation as feminine. His pieces and unfinished sketches about baseball provided a vehicle for him to invent new musical ideas in reference to specific baseball situations that he could use as part of his basic musical language in later pieces.

Analyses of Ives’s baseball-related completed pieces (All the way around and back, Some southpaw pitching, Old home day, The fourth of July) and unfinished sketches (Take-off #3: Rube trying to walk 2 to 3!!, Take-off #7: Mike DonlinJohnny Evers, and Take-off #8: Willy Keeler at the bat), compared with passages from later works, reveal these associations.

This according to Baseball and the music of Charles Ives: A proving ground by Timothy A. Johnson (Lanham: Scarecrow, 2004).

Today is Ives’s 140th birthday! Above, the Danbury Alerts, ca. 1890; a young Charles Ives is the first seated player from the left. Below, James Sykes plays Study no. 21: Some southpaw pitching.

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Scottish journal of performance

Scottish Journal of Performance

Founded in 2013, Scottish journal of performance is an open-access peer-reviewed journal that aims to promote and stimulate discussion, development, and dissemination of original research, focusing both on performance in Scotland (contemporary and historical) and on wider aspects of performance presented by scholars and reflective practitioners based at Scottish academic institutions. Published biannually and run by doctoral students, the journal welcomes submissions from both established and early career researchers.

All content is freely available without charge to users or institutions. Users are allowed to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, or link to the full texts of the articles in this journal without asking prior permission from the publisher or the author. This is in accordance with the BOAI definition of open access.

Performance in this context encompasses a wide range of arts and entertainment and takes as central themes dance, drama, film, music, and television. The journal takes as a key focus the creation and execution of performance in various contexts, encouraging the adoption of a wide range of research methods and approaches.

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N. Ramani, maestro of many jubilees

ramani

Natesan Ramani performed his debut seven decades ago. He has spent six decades as a soloist, five decades as a globetrotting star, four decades as a top-ranked performer and teacher, three decades as an academic, and two decades as an elder of the Karnatak music community.

This according to “N. Ramani: A front-rank flutist” by Manna Srinivasan (Sruti 223 [April 2003] pp. 21–29)—except that we have added one decade to each category in honor of his 80th birthday!

Below, Ramani performs Muttusvāmi Dīkṣitar’s Mahā Gaṇapati, a song in praise of the elephant-headed god also known as Ganesh.

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Mayan instrument iconography

mayan jaguar drum

Provided mostly by vase paintings and murals, pictorial evidence of the musical practices of the Mayan Classic (ca. 250–900 C.E.) and especially of the Late Classic (ca. 600–800 C.E.) is abundant.

These depictions allow the identification of instrument types—many of them not found as artifacts in archaeological contexts—and their association with specific musical occasions.

What is not always as clear as it may appear is the past musical combination practice of the instruments (and vocal forms) represented in a given picture. Many representations of groups of musicians and musical instruments arouse doubts about their band-like organization or, put positively, give rise to questions about the possible devices used by their painters to indicate musical and social differentiations of such groups.

This according to “Trumpets in Classic Maya vase painting: The iconographic identification of instrumental ensembles” by Matthias Stöckli (Music in art: International journal for music iconography XXXVI/1–2 [spring–fall 2011] pp. 219–230).

Above, a Late Classic Mayan vase painting depicting a friction drum (center); below, John Burkhalter discusses and demonstrates this instrument (demonstration begins at 2:05).

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Bulletin of the Kazakh National Conservatory

Kazakh

In 2013 a new scholarly journal, Құрманғазы Атындағы Қазақ Ұлттық Консерваториясының Хабаршысы/Вестник Казахской Национальной Консерватории им. Курмангазы/The Bulletin of the Kazakh National Conservatory of the Name of Kurmangazy (ISSN 2310-3337), was launched by the Kazakh National Kurmangazy Conservatory in Almaty.

This quarterly is published in Kazakh, Russian, and English. Its goal is to present a broad spectrum of  research in arts, musicology, and contemporary music education, as well as in social studies, humanities, culture, criticism, and journalism. The full text of the first issue is available here.

Below, Kyz Žibek by Evgenij Grigor’evič Brusilovskij, a Kazakh opera discussed in the inaugural issue.

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