Benedetto Marcello: Cassandra

marcello cassandra

In 2016 A-R Editions published Benedetto Marcello: Cassandra, a new critical edition edited by Talya Berger.

Benedetto Marcello composed Cassandra in 1727 to a poem by Antonio Conti written at Marcello’s request. The work is a large-scale dramatic cantata for solo alto voice with unfigured basso continuo for the harpsichord; it was not published in Marcello’s lifetime.

Cassandra describes the events of the last years of Trojan War as told by the prophetess Cassandra. Unique in its formal design, the cantata blends arioso sections with recitatives and arias. The expressive vocal line conveys grief, rage, terror, and happiness, and demands vocal agility and technical command from the singer. The work was among the most popular of Marcello’s cantatas during the eighteenth century, and it continued to be performed regularly up to 40 years after it was composed.

Below, a performance by Giovanna Dissera Bragadin and Nicola Lamon.

Leave a comment

Filed under Baroque era, Dramatic arts, New editions

Rebecca Clarke arrives

rebecca clarke

When Rebecca Clarke studied composition at the Royal College of Music she was Charles Villiers Stanford’s only female student.

In 1916 she left England for the United States, where she established herself as a composer and viola soloist. In 1919 she won second prize at the Berkshire Chamber Music Festival for her Sonata for viola and pianoforte, and in 1921 she again won second prize for her Trio for violin, cello and pianoforte.

Clarke returned to London in 1923 and toured Europe—and then the world—with the English Ensemble, an all-women piano quartet.

This according to “Clarke, Rebecca” by Aaron I. Cohen (International encyclopedia of women composers [New York: Books & Music, 1987] pp. 153–54); this encyclopedia is one of many resources included in RILM music encyclopedias, an ever-expanding full-text compilation of reference works.

Today is Clarke’s 130th birthday! Above, with her viola in 1919; below, the award-winning 1921 trio, which is widely considered her most important work.

Leave a comment

Filed under Performers, Romantic era

Inventing medieval music

Early Music Consort of London

Medieval music has been made and remade repeatedly over the past two hundred years.

For the nineteenth century it was vocal, without instrumental accompaniment, but with barbarous harmony that no one could have wished to hear. For most of the twentieth century it was instrumentally accompanied, increasingly colorful, and widely enjoyed. At the height of its popularity it sustained an industry of players and instrument-makers, all engaged in re-creating an apparently medieval performance practice.

During the 1980s medieval music became vocal once more, exchanging color and contrast for cleanliness and beauty. Radical changes in perspective such as these may have less to do with the evidence of how medieval music sounded and more to do with the personalities of scholars and performers, their ideologies, and musical tastes.

This according to The modern invention of medieval music: Scholarship, ideology, performance by Daniel J. Leech-Wilkinson (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002).

Above, the Early Music Consort of London in the 1960s. Below, a recording by the group from 1976.

Leave a comment

Filed under Curiosities, Middle Ages, Reception

A Latin American music reader

latin american music reader

In July 2016 the Society for Ethnomusicology issued A Latin American Music Reader: Views from the South, edited by Javier F. Léon and Helena Simonett and published in collaboration with University of Illinois Press. Along with extensive introductory material, the book includes 17 articles translated from Spanish and Portuguese into English, representing a cross-section of the innovative research of Latin American music scholars over the past 25 years.

The project was initiated by SEM’s Latin American and Caribbean Music Section and Board of Directors several years ago in support of the Society’s goal of expanding international communication in ethnomusicology. A detailed new introduction by León and Simonett surveys and contextualizes the history of Latin American ethnomusicology, opening the door for readers energized by the musical forms brought and nurtured by immigrants from throughout Latin America.

Below, Violeta Parra, the subject of one of the book’s essays.

Leave a comment

Filed under New editions, South America

Rumba and racial politics

rumba

The Afro-Cuban music and dance genre rumba has historically been considered una cosa de negros (a black thing) and reviled due to racialized stereotypes that link the practice with el bajo mundo (the low life), excessive alcohol use, and violence. Nevertheless, the socialist government has sought to elevate rumba’s status during the past half century as part of a larger goal of foregrounding and valorizing the African contributions to Cuban identity and culture.

Rumba is the most significant and popular black-identified tradition in Cuba; in addition to its association with blackness, it is often portrayed as a particularly potent symbol of the masses and working-class identity, another reason why the government has aimed to harness rumba to its cultural nationalist discourse.

Despite the discursive valorization of the practice found in much Cuban scholarship and political rhetoric, rumba continues to be identified with a particular and marginalized sector of the population. In many ways, the complex situation of rumba performance conforms to the more general trend of contemporary racial politics on the island.

This according to “National symbol or ‘a black thing’? Rumba and racial politics in Cuba in the era of cultural tourism” by Rebecca Bodenheimer (Black music research journal XXXIII/2 [fall 2013] pp. 177–205). This issue of Black music research journal, along with many others, is covered in our new RILM Abstracts of Music Literature with Full Text collection.

Above and below, street performances of rumba.

Leave a comment

Filed under Black studies, Central America, Dance, Politics, Popular music

The Alpine virgin in Italian opera

 

Uliana Alexyuk - La sonnambula

Nineteenth-century Italian operas portraying an emphatically virginal heroine—a woman defined by her virginity—were often set in the mountains, most frequently the Alps.

This convention presents an unusual point of view—a theme rather than a composer, a librettist, a singer or a genre—from which to observe Italian opera over a century. The clarity of the sky, the whiteness of the snow and the purity of the air were associated with the innocence of the female protagonist.

This according to Landscape and gender in Italian opera: The Alpine virgin from Bellini to Puccini by Emanuele Senici (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005).

Above, Uliana Alexyuk in Bellini’s La sonnambula, one of the operas discussed by Senici; below, Renata Scotto in another of the book’s case studies, Verdi’s Luisa Miller.

Leave a comment

Filed under Curiosities, Opera

Bibliolore hits 1000!

1000

RILM published its 1000th blog post today! Since its inception on 7 October 2009, Bibliolore has faithfully published at least two posts every week. You can start the journey here.

Below, Prince offers a hug and a kiss for each post.

2 Comments

Filed under RILM, RILM news

Electro hop and Afrofuturism

Uncle Jamm's Army

Most narratives on Los Angeles hip hop begin with gangsta rap, but recordings, videos, news articles, photographs, interviews, fliers, and memories detail a different story.

Electro hop, or techno hop, was the direct precursor to gangsta rap. This multifaceted and complex period emerged in the early 1980s and was developed on the streets of Los Angeles by adolescent black males. Expanding from mobile disk jockey crews, electro hop artists produced a musical soundscape and cultivated a cultural landscape that drew from both electro funk and hip hop, demonstrating both how intramusical components are linked to extramusical factors and how Afrofuturist concepts (re)envision (sur)realities. Electro hop sounds off on other/outer ways of reconsidering and reinvigorating planet rock.

This according to “Something 2 dance 2: Electro hop in 1980s Los Angeles and its Afrofuturist link” by Gabriela Jiménez (Black music research journal XXXI/1 [Spring 2011] pp. 131–144). This issue of Black music research journal, along with many others, is covered in our new RILM Abstracts of Music Literature with Full Text collection.

Above, Uncle Jamm’s Army, a seminal electro hop group, in the 1980s; below, UJA’s signature hit Dial-a-freak.

Leave a comment

Filed under Black studies, Curiosities, Popular music

Helicopters in music encyclopedias

Helicopter-PNG

The cross-volume search capacity of our new database RILM Music Encyclopedias offers some quirky surprises—for example, this resource currently includes nine different music-related articles with references to helicopters. These include entries on Madonna, Mickey Rooney, and the following excerpt from the article “Highland region of Papua New Guinea” in The Garland encyclopedia of world music:

“The texts [of girls’ coming-of age songs] address topics broadly sorted in four sets: daily routine, recalling netted bags (made by all women), sores (irritated by flies), and pleasure over good food (grown or gathered); unusual events, like sighting a helicopter, European missionaries’ arrival, and death in a hospital; desires, including the romantic, with meanings often hidden in metaphor, but also the adventuresome, like wanting to ride in a vehicle; and the coming-of-age performance itself speaking of dancing together, laughing together, and becoming adults.”

Above, an organization that searches for new species in Papua New Guinea by helicopter—perhaps the subject of the sighting; below, a performance by the Girl Guides Association of Papua New Guinea.

Leave a comment

Filed under Australia and Pacific islands, Curiosities, RILM

U.S. mavericks

Anthony_Philip_Heinrich (1)

From colonial times to the present, U.S. composers have lived on the fringes of society and defined themselves in large part as outsiders. This tradition of maverick composers illuminates U.S. tensions between individualism and community.

Three notably unconventional composers—William Billings in the eighteenth century, Anthony Philip Heinrich in the nineteenth, and Charles Ives in the twentieth—all had unusual lives, wrote music that many considered incomprehensible, and are now recognized as key figures in the development of U.S. music. Eccentric individualism proliferates in all types of U.S. music—classical, popular, and jazz—and it has come to dominate the image of diverse creative artists from John Cage to Frank Zappa.

This according to Mavericks and other traditions in American music by Michael Broyles (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2004).

Above, a portrait of Heinrich, nowadays the lesser-known of the three composers; below, “Victory of the condor” from The ornithological combat of kings, or, the condor of the Andes (1847), which remained his favorite work throughout his life.

Leave a comment

Filed under 20th- and 21st-century music, Classic era, Romantic era