Boogaloo’s influence

boogaloo

In the 1960s boogaloo, a dance akin to the jitterbug, leapt out of New York’s black and Latino communities and swept across the U.S. Boogaloo music and dance also captured the hearts of white teenagers, driving men like Berry Gordy and the founders of Stax Records to find musicians who could capitalize on this crossover appeal.

Tupac Shakur, Dr. Dre, and other rappers are anointed heirs of these R&B musicians, as hip hop is firmly rooted in boogaloo.

This according to Boogaloo: The quintessence of American popular music by Arthur Kempton (New York: Pantheon, 2003).

Below, James Brown demonstrates.

Leave a comment

Filed under Dance, Popular music

Moondog makes it big

moondog

Louis T. Hardin, known to all as Moondog, was celebrated among New Yorkers for two decades as a mysterious and extravagantly clothed blind street performer; but he went on to win acclaim in Europe as an avant-garde composer, conducting orchestras before royalty.

From the late 1940s until the early 1970s Moondog stood like a sentinel on Avenue of the Americas near 54th Street. Rain or shine, he wore a homemade robe, sandals, a flowing cape, and a horned Viking helmet, and clutched a long homemade spear.

Most of the passers-by who dismissed him as “the Viking of Sixth Avenue” and offered him contributions for copies of his music and poetry were unaware that he had recorded his music on the CBS, Prestige, Epic, Angel, and Mars labels.

Although many New Yorkers assumed that he had died after he vanished from his customary post in 1974, Moondog had actually been invited to perform his music in West Germany and decided to stay.

In his later years he produced at least five albums in Europe, and regularly performed his compositions with chamber and symphony orchestras before tony audiences in German cities as well as in Paris and Stockholm.

This according to “Louis (Moondog) Hardin, 83, musician, dies” by Glenn Collins (The New York times CXLVIII/51,643 [12 September 1999] p. I:47).

Today would have been Moondog’s 100th birthday! Below, his 1971 album Moondog 2.

1 Comment

Filed under 20th- and 21st-century music, Curiosities, Performers

Haydn and Lady Hamilton

Lady Hamilton

Returning from Palermo to London in 1800 Lady Hamilton, the poet Cornelia Knight, the ambassador Sir William Hamilton, and Lord Nelson stopped on the way for a visit to Eisenstadt.

From 6 to 10 September the entourage was hosted by Nikolaus I, Prince Esterházy with receptions, dances, and concerts in their honor. Haydn organized a performance of his Te Deum and Nelson Mass (Missa in Angustiis), and composed Lines from the Battle of the Nile, to a text by Ms. Knight, for Emma Hamilton.

Hamilton repeated the cantata in Prague on 8 October, and in 1801 the work was published there with the dedication “The music composed and dedicated to Lady Hamilton.”

This according to “Eternal praise! Joseph Haydn komponiert für Lady Hamilton/Eternal Praise! Joseph Haydn compone per Lady Hamilton” by Dieter Richter, an essay included in Lady Hamilton: Eros und Attitüde–Schönheitskult und Antikenrezeption in der Goethezeit/Eros e attitude–Culto della bellezza e antichità classica nell’epoca di Goethe (Petersburg: Michael Imhof Verlag, 2015, pp. 54–56).

Above, Lady Hamilton in a ca. 1782 portrait by George Romney; below, Emma Kirkby sings Lines from the Battle of the Nile.

Leave a comment

Filed under Classic era

Lydia Mendoza lived it

Lydia Mendoza

From the age of 12 through a career that spanned eight decades, Lydia Mendoza was a beacon to Mexicans and Mexican-Americans, showing them that no matter how humble their situation was they had a culture worth celebrating.

In a 2004 interview, asked what happened to make her the first Mexican-American singing star, she replied “Whether I was singing a bolero or a waltz or a polka it didn’t matter. When I sang, I sang it so I felt like I was living that song. Every song I ever sang I did with the feeling that I was living that song.”

This according to “Lydia motion” by Garth Cartwright (fRoots XXVI/9:261 [March 2005] pp. 30–35, 41).

Today would have been Mendoza’s 100th birthday! Above, the singer in 1948; below, performing in 1975.

1 Comment

Filed under North America, Performers, Popular music

Froberger and the clavichord

Froberger

Although Johann Jacob Froberger was employed as an organist and recognized as an exceptional harpsichordist, he was also a clavichordist. Musically trained in Germany and Italy, where the clavichord flourished, he undoubtedly played the instrument.

The most convincing proof of this hypothesis is his music, nearly all of which can be performed effectively on the clavichord, whose dynamic range makes possible the nuances of lute playing and singing.

Stylistically, Froberger’s suites for keyboard resemble lute music; at the time, lutenists and keyboardists regularly traded repertoire, and clavichordists playing the music of Froberger should follow the vocal models of his polyphonic works.

This according to “Froberger and the clavichord” by Howard Schott, an article included in De clavicordio. III (Magnano: Musica antica, 1997, pp. 27–34).

Today is the 400th anniversary of Froberger’s baptism! (His birthdate is not known.) Below, Richard Smith plays his Lamento sopra la dolorosa perdita della Real M.stà di FerdinandoIV, Rè de Romani on the clavichord.

Leave a comment

Filed under Baroque era

Grappelli, South, and Reinhardt play Bach

Eddie South

The two versions of the first movement from Bach’s d minor concerto for two violins (BWV 1043) recorded in Paris in 1937 by the violinists Eddie South and Stéphane Grappelli and the guitarist Django Reinhardt are among the earliest preserved jazz renditions of a Bach composition.

These recordings document not only a fusion of musical genres, but also a meeting between three performers of diverse nationalities and ethnicities: South was a black American, Grappelli a white Frenchman of partially Italian ancestry, and Reinhardt a Belgian-born Manouche Romani. Their collaboration evinces a fluidly complex relationship between their social backgrounds and their music that is not easily reconcilable with some of the more inflexible ways that race and culture have traditionally been theorized in critical discourse on jazz.

In Il concerto per due violini di J.S. Bach nelle incisioni del trio Reinhardt, South, Grappelli: Una edizione critica/The Reinhardt-South-Grappelli recordings of J.S. Bach’s double violin voncerto: A critical edition (Lucca: Libreria Musicale Italiana, 2016) these recordings are transcribed in full score, both for performing and musicological/analytical ends.

Above, Eddie South, today the lesser-known member of the trio; below, the two historic recordings.

Leave a comment

Filed under Jazz and blues

The Boston Symphony Orchestra Archives

Monteux

Launched in 2015, The Boston Symphony Orchestra Archives preserves the orchestra’s rich history with documentation in the form of concert programs, press clippings, posters, photographs, letters, broadcast tapes, and recordings, as well as the BSO’s collection of historic instruments.

Committed to making the collection more readily available to researchers, the BSO is in the process of building up its digital holdings, which can be accessed by anyone with an Internet connection.

A separate performance history site nicknamed HENRY (after the founder of the BSO, Henry Lee Higginson) contains all documented concerts of the orchestra beginning with 21 October 1881 through the current season. The search function provides access to the performance history of every work, and of all artists–conductors, ensembles, and soloists–who have performed with the orchestra.

Above, in a photograph from the Archives, Pierre Monteux rehearses Stravinsky’s Le scare du printemps; below, Seiji Ozawa conducts the BSO in the finale of Bartók’s Concerto for orchestra.

Leave a comment

Filed under Resources

Meet the gamelatron

The gamelatron, a robotic gamelan built by the sound artist Aaron Taylor Kuffner, has appeared regularly at events such as Burning Man, raves, and exhibitions.

Breaching the conceptual divides between instrument and art installation, performance and recording, sculptor and composer, and prosthesis and robot, the gamelatron is a singular site for investigating imaginaries of the human, machine, and media.

This according to “Atmosphere as a concept for ethnomusicology: Comparing the gamelatron and gamelan” by Andrew McGraw (Ethnomusicology LX/1 [winter 2016] pp. 125–147.

Below, the gamelatron in action.

Leave a comment

Filed under 20th- and 21st-century music, Curiosities, Instruments

Milton Babbitt’s twelve-tone tango

babbitt

Milton Babbitt’s It takes twelve to tango (1984) has a subdivision series that unfolds in two dimensions: globally in the first beat of the 2/4 meter, and locally in the second beat. Though the eight subdivision series expressed in the second beat mostly proceed at the rate of one subdivision per measure, occasionally a subdivision will be repeated in two consecutive measures.

Attempts to interpret these duplicated subdivisions reveal intersections between the subdivision series and a wide variety of other aspects of the piece, including the pitch-class array, hypermeter, and registral gestures. These non-systematic explanations illuminate the meaning and power of the systematic aspects of Babbitt’s music.

This according to “Duplicated subdivisions in Babbitt’s It takes twelve to tango” by Zachary Bernstein (Music theory online XXVII/2 [July 2011]).

Today would have been Babbitt’s 100th birthday! Below, Edward Neeman does the twelve-tone tango.

Leave a comment

Filed under 20th- and 21st-century music

Punta and Garífuna culture

Pen Cayetano and the Turtle Shell Band

The dance-song genre punta and its derivative, punta rock, are iconic of Garífuna ethnicity and modernity. Punta permeates performances of both secular and semisacred rituals, and it is the genre most often used for social commentary.

Punta rock arose from the need to create a new genre fusing elements of Garífuna culture and music that express both indigenous and urban social ideals. As such, it maintains its popularity because it incorporates both the traditional and the contemporary.

This according to “Ethnicity, modernity, and retention in the Garifuna punta” by Oliver N. Greene (Black music research journal XXII [fall 2002] pp. 189–216).

Above and below, Pen Cayetano and the Turtle Shell Band—the originators of punta rock.

Leave a comment

Filed under Central America, Popular music