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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Filed under Black studies, Popular music, Women's studies

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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Filed under 20th- and 21st-century music, Sports and games

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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Filed under Curiosities, Iconography, Instruments

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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Filed under 20th- and 21st-century music, New periodicals, Opera

A rediscovered Mozart manuscript!

Kutatók éjszakája - Mozart-szonáta kéziratának egy töred

Balázs Mikusi, the chair of RILM’s Hungarian committee and the head of the music collection at the Országos Széchényi Könyvtár in Budapest, was recently leafing through one of the library’s folders of unidentified manuscripts when he encountered four pages of what looked to him like Mozart’s handwriting.

He soon realized that he had stumbled upon the original score of the piano sonata in A, K.331—one of Mozart’s most beloved sonatas, with the famous “alla turca” finale! The finding has additional significance because the score clears up long-standing questions regarding certain passages.

Congratulations to RILM’s own Balázs Mikusi! Below, Olga Jegunova performs the work in 2012.

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Grock, concertina clown

Grock

At an early age Charles Adrien Wettach (1880–1959) ran away to join a circus; there he became a highly accomplished clown.

In 1903 he teamed up with Marius Galante, who was already performing under the name Brick; they decided to call their act Brick and Grock, and Wettach’s stage name was born. Around 1906 Grock switched partners to work with the the already-renowned Umberto Guillaum, who performed as Antonet.

Grock’s signature was comic stunts with musical instruments; he was an expert performer on the violin, piano, guitar, clarinet, saxophone, and—most memorably—the concertina.

He performed in various duo and solo acts around the world with great success, and in 1951 Grock founded his own circus. After he retired in 1954 he continued to take great pleasure in showing visitors the gardens at his Italian estate, often fooling them by pretending to be the gardener.

This according to “Concertina clowns. II: Grock” by Göran Rahm (Concertina world 458 [June 2014] pp. 30–33). Below, some memorable concertina moments.

Want more? Of course you do! Here’s a 45-minute set.

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Stevie Ray Vaughan, roadhouse king

stevie_ray_vaughn

The roadhouse is an American institution—the little bar on the edge of town that comes alive when the sun comes down with back-to-basics roots music. Texas is the honorary home of roadhouse music, and Stevie Ray Vaughan was its uncrowned king.

Vaughan arrived in a blaze of guitar glory in the early 1980s, following on the trail of his Texas forebears from electric guitar pioneers like Eddie Durham and Charlie Christian to blues legends like T-Bone Walker, Freddie King, Albert Collins, and his own big brother Jimmie.

This according to Roadhouse blues: Stevie Ray Vaughan and Texas R&B by Hugh Gregory (San Francisco: Backbeat Books, 2003).

Today would have been Vaughan’s 60th birthday! Below, live in Texas in 1989.

BONUS: One of his legendary Hendrix covers.

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Filed under Jazz and blues, Popular music