The encyclopaedia of music in Ireland

irish encyclopedia

Edited by Barra Boydell and Harry White, The encyclopaedia of music in Ireland (EMIR; Dublin: University College Dublin Press, 2013) is the first comprehensive attempt to chart Irish musical life across recorded history. It also documents Ireland’s musical relations with the world at large, notably in Britain, continental Europe, and North America, and it seeks to identify the agencies through which music has become an enduring expression of Irish political, social, religious, and cultural life.

EMIR is the collective work of 240 contributors whose research has been marshaled by an editorial and advisory board of specialists in the following domains of Irish musical experience: secular and religious music to 1600; art music, 1600–2010; Roman Catholic church music; Protestant church music; popular music; traditional music; organology and iconography; historical musicology; ethnomusicology; the history of recorded sound; music and media; music printing and publishing; and music in Ireland as trade, industry, and profession.

EMIR contains some 2,000 individual entries, which collectively afford an unprecedented survey of the fabric of music in Ireland. It records and evaluates the work of hundreds of individual musicians, performers, composers, teachers, collectors, scholars, ensembles, societies, and institutions throughout Irish musical history, and it comprehends the relationship between music and its political, artistic, religious, educational, and social contexts in Ireland from the early middle ages to the present day.

In its extensive catalogues, discographies, and source materials, EMIR sets in order, often for the first time, the legacy and worklists of performers and composers active in Ireland (or of Irish extraction), notably (but not exclusively) in the 19th and early 20th centuries. It offers to the general reader brief lives of Irish musicians throughout history, and it affords the specialist a detailed retrieval of information on music in Ireland hitherto unavailable or difficult to access.

Below, the nocturne in B flat major by the widely influential John Field, one of the composers covered in the book.

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Museo universal, sobre sonidos mexicanos

museo universal

Museo universal, sobre sonidos mexicanos, a virtual museum of pre-Columbian Mexican tlapitzalli (aerophones), is universal because it does not include language-based information; all it requires is Internet access and the ability to use a computer mouse.

Clicking on an illustration takes the user to an enlargement of the image along with a sound file of a brief performance on the instrument and a spectrograph of the sound. Written in the standard HTML markup language, it can operate on all major platforms.

Above, a screenshot of part of the museum; below, a brief demonstration of pre-Columbian Mexican instruments.

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Music for cats. II

cat music 2

As we reported a few years ago, David Teie has composed music for cats. Now he has published, along with two colleagues, a report on a scientific study demonstrating this music’s efficacy.

They presented two examples of Teie’s cat music in counter-balanced order with two examples of human music and evaluated the behavior and response latencies of cats to each piece.

The cats showed a significant preference for and interest in species-appropriate music compared with human music (Median (IQR) 1.5 (0.5-2.0) acts for cat music, 0.25 (0.0-0.5) acts for human music, <P><0.002) and responded with significantly shorter latencies (Median (IQR) 110.0 (54-138.75) s for cat music, 171.75 (151-180) s for human music (<P>< 0.001). Younger and older cats were more responsive to cat music than middle-aged acts (cubic trend, <r>2 = 0.477, <P>< 0.001).

This according to “Cats prefer species-appropriate music” by Teie, Charles T. Snowdon, and Megan Savage (Applied animal behavior science 20 February 2015).

Below, Samantha demonstrates with Cozmo’s air.

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Nudie Musicals in 1970s New York City

Hair original cast

What is most striking about the nudie musicals that ran in New York in the 1970s—aside from the many naked, jiggling bodies, of course—was just how conventional they were.

Even the raunchiest of the bunch espoused the same basic messages: Human bodies are beautiful! Sex, regardless of with whom, is natural and fun! The seismic cultural shift that is taking place right outside this theater is not threatening or confusing or scary at all!

In marked contrast with XXX theaters, peepshows, and sex clubs like Plato’s Retreat, the sex that nudie musicals featured was simulated—never real—and was almost always packaged in a familiar, age-old format: the musical revue.

This according to “Nudie musicals in 1970s New York City” by Elizabeth L. Wollman (Sound matters 16 June 2014). Wollman’s monograph on this topic is Hard times: The adult musical in 1970s New York City (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013).

Above, cast members from the original Broadway production of Hair; below, the finale of Oh! Calcutta!

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Seventeenth-century Italian motets with trombones

motets w trombones

The specification of instruments in vocal-instrumental compositions began in the final decades of the 16th century in Italy and gained momentum in the early decades of the 17th, including in church music. Trombones, in particular, were increasingly specified and often used interchangeably with voices.

Seventeenth-century Italian motets with trombones, edited by D. Linda Pearse, (Middleton: A-R Editions, 2014) is a new edition of concerted motets composed between 1600 and 1640 with explicitly labelled parts for trombones; the works are small scale, containing fewer than eight parts (excluding basso continuo). Unlike other editions of similar repertoire, the works selected here provide a representative sample of a significant repertoire and present music of high quality by lesser-known composers whose output is largely unavailable.

Below, Carlo Fillago’s Confitemini Domino, one of the motets included in this edition, performed by ¡Sacabuche!

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Folkways in Wonderland

Frishkopf fig. 1

Folkways in Wonderland (FiW) is a cyberworld for musical discovery with social interaction, allowing avatar-represented users to explore selections from the Smithsonian Folkways world music collection while communicating through text and audio channels. FiW is built on Open Wonderland, a framework for creating collaborative 3D virtual worlds.

FiW is populated with track samples from Folkways Recordings. Since acquiring the label in 1987, Smithsonian Folkways has expanded and digitized the Folkways collection while enhancing and organizing its metadata, all of which are now available electronically.

FiW is collaborative: multiple avatars can enter the space, audition track samples, contribute their own sounds (speech or other) to the soundscape, and also communicate through text chat. Nearby users can hear music together, as well as hear and see each other. Wonderland also provides in-world collaborative applications, such as a shared web browser or whiteboard. Thus users are provided with a real-time, immersive, audiovisual representation of the virtual sociomusical environment, together with multiple means of communicating within it.

This according to “Folkways in Wonderland” by Rasika Ranaweera, Michael Frishkopf, and Michael Cohen (Sound matters 3 March 2015).

Above, a screenshot of a typical session (click to enlarge); below, a brief demonstration.

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Billie Holiday’s first session

billie-holiday

In a 1956 interview, Billie Holiday recalled her first recording session, with Benny Goodman’s band in 1933:

“I got there, and I was afraid to sing in the mike…I was scared to death of it.”

The pianist, Buck Washington, leveraged the fact that the two of them were black, while most of the band members were white: “You’re not going to let these people think you’re a square, are you? Come on, sing it!”

When asked what she thinks of that recording now, she replied “I get a big bang out of Your mother’s son-in-law. It sounds like I’m doing comedy—my voice sounds so high and funny!”

This radio interview is transcribed as “The Willis Conover interview” in The Billie Holiday companion: Seven decades of commentary (New York: G. Schirmer. 1997, pp. 62–70).

Today is Holiday’s 100th birthday! Above, Holiday in the studio in 1936; below, that first recording.

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BOSS

boss

 

Launched in 2014, BOSS: The biannual online-journal of Springsteen studies publishes scholarly peer-reviewed essays pertaining to Bruce Springsteen.

This open-access journal seeks to encourage consideration of Springsteen’s body of work primarily through the political, economic, and sociocultural factors that have influenced his music and shaped its reception.

BOSS welcomes broad interdisciplinary and cross-disciplinary approaches to Springsteen’s songwriting and performance. The journal aims to secure a place for Springsteen Studies in the contemporary academy.

Below, Born in the USA, the subject of the first article in the first issue.

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Crunching ballads

punch cards

In the 1940s Bertrand Harris Bronson became one of the first scholars to use computers for musicological work.

For one of his projects he encoded melodic characteristics of hundreds of tunes collected for the traditional ballad Barbara Allen on punch cards, so a computer could ferret out similarities. His project resulted in four groups of tunes, members of which came from both sides of the Atlantic with varying frequency.

This according to “All this for a song?” an essay by Bronson reprinted in his collection The ballad as song (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1969, pp. 224–242).

Above, an illustration from the article (click to enlarge); below, the classic recording of the song by Jean Ritchie, a singer Bronson deeply admired.

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Alpert and altruism

alpert-obama

The Herb Alpert Foundation has made major grants to the UCLA School of Music and California Institute of the Arts.

In a 2010 interview, Alpert discussed his philanthropic goals, especially that of supporting educational programs that move beyond a focused concentration on the technical aspects of the musical art.

“There’s two ways to approach jazz,” he said, “you can approach it from the outside point of view where you have chords that are a little remote from the actual melody, or you can stay within the context of the song and play it from that angle. I don’t try to force any notes or rely on techniques that I’ve learned through the years. I try to just let it happen as it happens—which is the only way to approach jazz.”

This according to  “In the name of imagination” by Don Heckman (Jazz education guide 2009–2010, pp. 20–26).

Today is Herb Alpert’s 80th birthday! Above, receiving the National Medal of Arts from President Obama in 2013; below, back in the day.

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