Using conventional musical devices for blues compositions as a basis, Willie Dixon expanded the possibilities for blues songwriting by introducing elements from pop song forms, using a quatrain refrain text form with longer musical structures than a 12-bar form, and amalgamating the 12-bar/a-a-b form with the 16-bar/quatrain refrain form in different sections of a composition.
Dixon also helped artists such as Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, and Koko Taylor to intensify their public images; his development of their performing personae is relevant to the tradition of the blues as a secular religion, and Dixon’s casting of them originated in traditional black badman tales circulated in the postbellum South.
This according to Willie Dixon’s work on the blues: From the early recordings through the Chess and Cobra years, 1940–1971 by Mitsutoshi Inaba, a dissertation accepted by the University of Oregon in 2005.
Today is Dixon’s 100th birthday! Below, he sings his own Back door man, first recorded by Howlin’ Wolf in 1960; the song is a classic example of Dixon’s innovations in blues song forms.
BONUS: The inimitable Howlin’ Wolf recording:
The holdings of the Bachhaus in Eisenach include a polished goblet that was presented to J.S. Bach around 1735; the word VIVAT inscribed on it was meant as an invitation to enjoy a glass of wine.
Sources including letters, pay slips, stipends, and the 1750 catalog of his estate suggest that Bach’s life was sometimes cheerfully informal. The table of this choral street-singer, organist, cantor, court musician, and municipal music director—whose salary as an employee was, throughout his life, paid not only in money but also in kind (grain, fish, beer, wine, wood)—was abundantly set for his large family and for the many welcome guests, and his comfortable standard of living was provided for on a corresponding scale.
This according to Zu Tisch bei Johann Sebastian Bach: Einnahmen und “Consumtionen” einer Musikerfamilie by Walter Salmen (Hildesheim: Georg Olms, 2009).
Below, Bach’s jovial Mer hahn en neue Oberkeet (“Bauernkantate”), BWV #212, which includes the encouraging words “Wave if you’re thirsty!”
The Yale journal of music & religion (YJMR) is an open-access online publication issued twice yearly by the Yale Institute of Sacred Music, an interdisciplinary graduate center that educates leaders who foster, explore, and study engagement with the sacred through music, worship, and the arts in Christian communities, diverse religious traditions, and public life.
YJMR is hosted by EliScholar, the Yale University Library institutional repository. YJMR accepts submissions of original scholarly research on sacred music spanning such disciplines as music theory, musicology, ethnomusicology, ritual studies, religious studies, theology, and liturgical studies.
Below, an extract from the Cisneros choirbooks, the subject of the first article published in the journal, with views of the Catedral de Toledo, the repertoire’s home base.
The title of Terry Riley’s improvisation template Descending moonshine dervishes is rooted in several sources.
“Moonshine” may be considered a triple entendre referring to the mysticism of the shining moon, the ecstasy associated with U.S. moonshine liquor, and Riley’s property on Moonshine Road in the Yuba River country of California’s Sierra foothills, which he has dubbed Shri Moonshine Ranch.
Dervishes are adherents of Sufism, and although Riley subscribes to a general spirituality rather than any formal religious orientation the Sufi tradition has clearly been important to him, as evinced by his performances in mosques and with musicians more closely involved with Sufism. Riley has also used the word dervish in reference to his Hindustani music teacher, Pran Nath.
This according to “Terry Riley in the 70s” by Mark Alburger (21st-century music XI/3 [March 2004] pp. 4–7).
Today is Riley’s 80th birthday! Above, the composer earlier this year; below, Descending moonshine dervishes as he performed it in Berlin in 1975 (Kuckuck, 1982).
Working with a top collector and specialist in the field, RILM has created a new document type abbreviated JZ, standing for Journal Zine—zine being the recognized short version of fanzine, which refers to the self-published fan magazines that proliferated in the 1980s, 1990s, and early 2000s (when the Internet made them largely obsolete).
Much like the thriving music-journal culture that developed in 19th-century Europe, these low-circulation publications were produced and consumed by key players in the music cultures they took as their subject; today they serve as primary sources that provide valuable insights into the subcultures that shaped the sound of the late 20th century (in the case of punk rock, it was the New York-based zine Punk that provided the name for the nascent musical movement).
We are in the first stage of entering JZ records that give bibliographic information and detailed summaries of key zines in popular music history. A growing number of universities have begun acquiring collections of these important documents.
Above, Joey Ramone, drawn by John Holstrom for Punk #3 (April 1976; click to enlarge). Below, the Ramones at Max’s Kansas City the same year.
Mixing eras, cultures, and attitudes with trademark panache, Pink Martini offers joyous music in trying times.
Onstage, Pink Martini puts across a camp, seriously anti-serious aesthetic with over-the-top lush arrangements, sing-alongs, and conga lines.
The group’s 2013 album Get happy comprises 16 songs in 9 languages, and most of the tracks run deeper than they first let on.
This according to “Reimagining the past” by Zach Hindin (JazzTimes XLIII/10 [December 2013] pp. 11–12). Below, ¿Donde estas, Yolanda? featuring China Forbes, live in 2006.
BONUS: You want the whole concert? Sure! Don’t miss the dancers at the end!
A catalogue of Mass, Office, and Holy Week music printed in Italy, 1516–1770 focuses on the vast repertoire (comprising approximately 2000 sources) of music for the Office, Holy Week, and the Mass published in Italy from 1516 to the cessation of the printing of such repertoire in the latter part of the 18th century. Even by the end of the first quarter of the Settecento, Italian prints of sacred music were quite rare.
Compiled by Jeffrey G. Kurtzman and Anne Schnoebelen for the JSCM Instrumenta series, this free online resource includes a wide range of indices, from academic references to publishers.
Above, Girolamo Frescobaldi’s Secondo libro, an edition covered in detail in the catalogue (click to enlarge); below, his Ave Maris stella, one of the works preserved in this edition.
Jazz and animation enjoyed an organic relationship in the developmental period for both forms.
From the 1920s to the early 1930s jazz provided frequent animation soundtracks. For the most popular and enduring cartoon characters, it was their music of choice. Two forms with clear structural similarities of syncopation and rhythm temporarily merged.
Together they created a timescape or representational space that critically challenged taken-for-granted relationships with the modern(ist) world. In an anti-realist attack on modernism, animated characters asked critical questions of their audience in a similar way to Brecht’s epic theater. In an alliance with jazz, they unmasked hidden aspects of society and its technological marvels in a questioning, revealing, and confrontational manner.
The comparatively marginalized position of two improvised forms allowed for the development of a critical artistic movement identified by the Frankfurt School—in particular, Walter Benjamin and Theodor Adorno recognized that popular art was not merely a reflection of economic life but constituted a conscious, active force for change. The subterranean and often subversive values of the animation–jazz alliance were quickly recuperated, but for a limited period they offered a resistance that ran counter to established taste and the bourgeois appropriation of high art.
This according to “Of mice and music: Image, soundtrack, and historical possibility” by Coinneach Shanks (The soundtrack VI/1–2  pp. 67–81).
Above, publicity for Disney’s The jazz fool (1929); below, Betty Boop stars in Sally Swing (1938).
From 1 November 1879 to 31 December 1883 the teen-aged Carl Nielsen was employed as a bugler and trombonist in Odense, with the 16th battalion and the 5th regiment, respectively.
In the long run his modest position in the military could not satisfy him, so he traveled to København to continue his musical training at the conservatory. However, in many ways his time as a military bandsman in Odense was a particularly good basis upon which to build his future.
This according to “Spillemand Carl August Nielsen” by Ida-Marie Vorre (Fynske Minder 2008, pp. 49–63).
Today is Nielsen’s 150th birthday! Above, a photograph from ca. 1880; below, Helios, op. 17, a work in which the orchestra’s brass section figures prominently.
Launched by the New World Symphony in 2015, Making the right choices: A John Cage celebration is a free online resource dedicated to Cage’s music.
In celebration of the composer’s 100th birthday, Michael Tilson Thomas and the NWS presented a week-long festival of Cage’s music in February 2013. That festival was the starting point for the videos presented on the site.
Some of the videos primarily capture the live event. Others take the performances much further, adding layers of visual interpretation that provide deeper insight into the spirit of his works.
Above, Cage at the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music in 1977; below, one of his orchestral works (the NWS videos are not available for embedding).