In 2013 Diaphanes launched the series Thinking resistances: Current perspectives on politics and communities in the arts with Dance, politics & co-immunity.
The volume explores the multiple connections between politics, community, dance, and globalization from the perspectives of dance, theater studies, history, philosophy, and sociology. Edited by Gerald Siegmund and Stefan Hölscher, the collection comprises papers presented at an international symposium with the same title that was held in 2010 at Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen.
Below, an excerpt from Xavier Le Roy’s Le sacre du printemps, one of the works discussed in the book.
Liszt and his parents first arrived in Paris on 11 December 1823, 190 years ago today.
He was refused admittance to the Conservatoire because he was a foreigner, but within a few months the 12-year-old prodigy was the darling of Parisian musical circles.
After his father’s death in 1827 Liszt taught piano lessons to the titled and socially connected, and several of his female students fell in love with him; when he was thwarted in his wish to marry one of them he fell so ill with despair that the newspapers published his obituary.
Liszt cultivated friendships with Hugo and Berlioz, but when his illicit relationship with Marie d’Agoult threatened to ignite a scandal in 1835 the couple eloped to Switzerland. Although he made many subsequent trips to France to perform, Liszt never lived there again.
This according to “Liszt in France” by Julien Tiersot (The musical quarterly XXII/3 [July 1936] pp. 255–361).
Above, Liszt in 1824, not long after he moved to Paris (click to enlarge). Below, his variations on a theme by Paganini from 1831, two years before his relationship with d’Agoult began.
After the American rock star and poet Jim Morrison’s death in 1971 fans used increasingly transgressive means to commemorate him at his grave at Cimetière du Père-Lachaise in Paris.
Before crowd-control barriers and permanent police surveillance were put in place in 2004, the site abounded in illegal drug use and drunkenness as a way to celebrate and honor Morrison’s commitment to living life on the edge. Many fans describe him as a shaman.
Direct body contact with the site was important for some, with women lying naked and couples engaging in sexual sessions on the grave.
Now many of these celebrations of the senses have moved to a café next to the cemetery, and the gravesite is visited only for silent contemplation.
This according to “The performance of a cult of the senses: A feast of fans at Jim Morrison’s grave in Paris” by Peter Jan Margry (Traditiones: Zbornik Inštituta za Slovensko Narodopisje/Acta Instituti Ethnographiae Slovenorum XXXVI/1  pp. 141–152).
Today would have been Morrison’s 70th birthday! Above, the gravesite on 8 December 2003, the year before the barriers were built. Below, The Doors’ iconic Light my fire live in 1968, preceded by one of Morrison’s poems; he prepares to resume singing around 8:30.
The June 2013 issue of Journal of new music research (XLII/2) is a special issue devoted to computational ethnomusicology.
The editors, Emilia Gómez, Perfecto Herrera, and Francisco Gómez-Martin, explain that the term computational ethnomusicology is over 30 years old, but it has recently been redefined as “the design, development, and usage of computer tools that have the potential to assist in ethnomusicological research.”
Above, a diagram of the Tarsos platform from “Tarsos, a modular platform for precise pitch analysis of Western and non-Western music” by Joren Six, Olmo Cornelis, and Marc Leman (pp. 113–29). Below, a vintage computer cover of The house of the rising sun.
C. Saraswati Bai (1874–1974) began studying Karnatak music at the age of 6, and by the time she was 9 her exceptional talent was so evident that the harikathā guru Tiruvaiyaru Krishnachar took her under his wing.
By the age of 11 she was gaining local notoriety, and as it became clear that she was contemplating a professional career the established performers of this male-dominated genre moved to undermine her, effectively blackmailing performance venues into refusing to engage her. Saraswati persevered, and public support for her grew; at last, those who had sought to squelch her career relented and tried to make amends.
In early 1911 she embarked on a highly successful tour of India and Sri Lanka, and by the age of 22 she had become one of the most acclaimed harikathā performers of the time.
From 1913 through the 1930s Saraswati traveled almost continually, performing standing up for six to seven hours in a different town each night. She recorded nine successful records for Odeon, and often performed on the radio; she was also in great demand for performances at weddings. At the height of her career she earned 2000 rupees each night, more than any other harikathā performer at that time.
From the 1940s until the early 1960s Saraswati performed less and less, due partly to a decline in audiences with the advent of sound films, and partly to the intense physical demands of traveling and performing. She took a keen interest in developing cultural organizations, and was an ardent supporter of Gandhi.
This according to “C. Saraswati Bai” by Sriram Venkatakrishnan (writing as Sriram V; Sruti 262 [July 2006] pp. 21–31 and 263 [August 2006] pp. 17–38). Below, one of her Odeon recordings.
When Maria Callas returned to Greece to inaugurate the 1957 Athens Festival her demand for an unusually high fee created much antagonism, and she vowed that she would not perform in the country again.
However, in 1959 Κostis Bastias (1901–72) took charge of the administration of the Ethnikī Lyrikī Skīnī (Greek National Theater) and invited Callas to star in an opera in the ancient theater of Epidaurus. Since its opening in 1954, the Epidaurus Festival had only included performances of ancient Greek dramas by Ethnikī Lyrikī Skīnī; performances by other troupes were not allowed.
Finally, Callas consented to present Bellini’s Norma at the festival in 1960, and decided to donate her fee to a scholarship foundation. The performance was a resounding success, and she returned to Epidaurus a year later to present Cherubini’s Médée, further eroding Ethnikī Lyrikī Skīnī’s monopoly.
This according to “Callas: The conflict for Epidaurus” by Georgia Kondyli (Hellenic journal of music, education and culture III/1 [2010; open access]).
Today is Callas’s 90th birthday! Above, a Greek stamp commemorates her Norma at Epidaurus; below, an excerpt from her subsequent performance of the work in Paris.
For his 1972 album Sail away Randy Newman took practically all pre-rock American vernacular music styles and reworked the genres with ironic, sarcastic, and sometimes caustic lyrics that might have shocked Tin Pan Alley-era audiences.
Because of the elaborate settings of many of the songs—including Newman’s piano, traditional rock instruments, and symphony orchestra—the pieces take on a parallel life as a kind of song cycle that explores the ironies of life throughout much of recorded history. The universality of the subject matter and the deliberately retro style of the song forms, rhythmic styles, and harmonic and melodic vocabulary all combine to make Sail away an album that continues to ring true.
This according to “Randy Newman: Sail away (1972)” by James E. Perone, an essay included in The album: A guide to pop music’s most provocative, influential, and important creations. II: The golden age of the singer-songwriter, 1970-1973 (Santa Barbara: Praeger, 2012).
Today is Randy Newman’s 70th birthday! Above, the original album cover; below, Newman performs the title song in 1994.
The novel La musique du diable, ou Le Mercure galant devalisé (Paris: Robert le Turc, 1711) describes the arrival and subsequent activities of Marie-Louise Desmâtins and Lully in Hell; it also recounts events leading up to the soprano’s demise.
In the absence of any historical record of her last days, one might ask whether there could be a modicum of truth in the novel’s reports that Desmâtins had grown so obese that she engaged the finest butcher of the day to remove her fat; that she then mounted a lavish party for which all of the food had been prepared using this fat; at that she died soon thereafter from unknown causes. The reader is assured that she was welcomed to Hell with the highest honors, and that she is happier there than she ever was in her earthly life.
This according to “La musique du diable (1711): An obscure specimen of fantastic literature throws light on the elusive opera diva Marie-Louise Desmatins (fl. 1682–1708)” by Ilias Chrissochoidis (Society for Eighteenth-Century Music newsletter 11 [October 2007] pp. 7–9).
Above, a rather alarmingly corseted Desmâtins in a contemporaneous portrait; below, the final scene of Lully’s Armide, which Desmâtins starred in in 1703 (note that this is not an attempt to replicate the original staging).
The Beatles, a.k.a. The white album, contests the arbitrary distinction between popular music and political engagement through its radical eclecticism and self-reflexivity. The album outlines a new way of being political—a postmodern politics—that was and still is to a large extent erroneously seen as escapism.
Critics from the New Left charge that the disparate styles and self-conscious references on the record signal the Beatles’ disregard of politics; but this perspective implies that there is only one way of being political, and fails to consider the historical circumstances that give any use of parody its particular significance.
By 1968 corporate attempts to manipulate rock artists and fans were reaching a peak, and early rock and roll had lost much of its initially subversive allure. Concurrently, the Beatles found themselves lauded for their masterpiece, Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
The Beatles’ turn to parody then serves not as an escape from but as a specific response to key cultural tensions: the self-reflexivity and ironic appropriation of various styles on the album allowed the Beatles to contest the commodification of rock music even as they challenged assumptions about what constitutes political relevance.
This according to “We all want to change the world: Postmodern politics and the Beatles’ White album” by Jeffrey Roessner, an essay included in Reading the Beatles: Cultural studies, literary criticism, and the Fab Four (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2006, pp. 147–158).
Today is The white album’s 45th birthday! Below, the entire album for your listening pleasure.
Zoomusicology is an area of intellectual endeavor that developed outside of music studies, among scholars interested in animal behavior.
Although this field is almost 30 years old, people operating in ethnomusicology, who are potentially the better equipped to understand the goals and challenges of zoomusicology, are often not aware of how compatible the two fields are.
Zoomusicology and ethnomusicology have much to gain from each other. Moreover, if ethnomusicology indeed has the ambition to be a field that brings together musical knowledge in a worldwide perspective, then one would have to maintain that zoomusicology should be seen as part of ethnomusicology.
This according to “Zoomusicology and ethnomusicology: A marriage to celebrate in heaven” by Marcello Sorce Keller (Yearbook for traditional music XLIV  166–83). Above and below, lupine group vocalizations.