Author Archives: rilm

Music & minorities

On 6 December 2021 the Music and Minorities Research Center at the Universität für Musik und darstellende Kunst Wien launched Music & minorities (M&M; ISSN: 2791-4569),

A peer-reviewed English-language, online-only, fee-free, diamond open access journal, M&M is dedicated to the scholarly exploration of the multi-dimensional field introduced by the concepts of music and minorities. It is published by mdwPress.

The journal is inclusive of music, dance, and other sound-based social phenomena. The term minority refers to communities, groups, or individuals that are at risk of discrimination on grounds of ethnicity, race, religion, language, gender, sexual orientation, disability, political opinion, displacement, social or economic deprivation, and their intersections.

Contributions to M&M may address all aspects of music and/or dance in the context of minorities. This may encompass aspects like genres of music and/or dance of certain minorities, societal discourses thereon, relationships between hegemonic and marginalized groups, depictions of minorities and/or their musical expressions in other contexts, or the meanings and values that are attributed to musical and other performing practices.

M&M encourages a diversity of approaches and methods, such as ethnography, theoretical reflection, historiography, or other forms of cultural criticism and social analysis. M&M is a forum for both foundational and engaged/applied research. The journal also welcomes interdisciplinary approaches.

Below, Dawood Sarkhosh, an Afghani singer/songwriter currently living in Vienna, is one of the musicians discussed in the inaugural issue.

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Filed under Ethnomusicology, New periodicals

Ballerinas and honeybees

The relational and cooperative labor of a corps de ballet illuminates the ways the dancers’ embodied knowledge and decision-making processes constitute a vital part of a production’s impact.

Two key aspects of dancers’ performances as a corps de ballet are collaboration and cooperation, which are components of eusociality, a term used to describe the highest level of organization of sociality, commonly observed in honeybees. Through embodied experiences and dancers’ decision-making, a corps de ballet operates in ways that are similar to democratic decision-making processes in honeybee behaviors.

This according to “Cooperation, communication, and collaboration: The sociality of a corps de ballet” by Kate Mattingly and Laura Kay Young (Dance chronicle XLIII/2 [2020] 132–44).

Above and below, La royaume des ombres from La bayadère is widely considered one of the world’s most demanding corps de ballet numbers.

BONUS: A short film on honeybee eusociality.

Related article: The postmodern ballerina

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Filed under Animals, Curiosities, Dance

Bach, anger, and fear

In an experiment, two musicologists analyzed J.S. Bach’s sonata for unaccompanied violin, no. 1 in G minor, BWV 1001) from the standpoint of how its structural features were associated with the expression of different emotional categories from the perspective of the composer and through the eyes and ears of the analysts themselves.

They then constructed two empirical experiments to test whether contemporary listeners could identify the same emotions identified by the analysis, targeted at two groups of subjects: relatively inexperienced popular music students; and musicians, composers, and music academics (including some of the world’s leading Bach scholars).

Results suggest that emotional attributions by low-level experts are led by surface acoustic features, and those by high-expert listeners are led by both acoustic and formal features; that this applied much more to the emotions of sadness and tenderness rather than to anger or fear; and that despite the common confusion between anger and fear in real life, listeners were capable of differentiating these emotions in the music, supporting analytical findings in the score.

This according to “The effects of expert musical training on the perception of emotions in Bach’s sonata for unaccompanied violin no. 1 in G minor (BWV 1001)” by Michael Spitzer and Eduardo Coutinho (Psychomusicology: Music, mind and brain XXIV/1 [March 2014] 35–57).

Above and below, the piece in question.

More posts about J.S. Bach are here.

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Filed under Analysis, Baroque era

Rita Moreno, EGOT

In 1977 Rita Moreno became the third person in history to achieve what has been called the “grand slam” of show business—a winner of the Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony Awards, or EGOT.

The clincher was her Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program for an appearance on The Muppet show. In a 2021 interview, she recalled the experience.

“They had a studio two streets from us on Broadway. I saw [Jim Henson] at a restaurant one day, and I literally got on my knees. I said, ‘I beg you to let me do some little-girl Muppet voices.’ And I did. I would say, ‘You don’t have to pay me.’ And he said, ‘No, I do. This is a union shop. We have to pay you.’ And then, a number of years later, I went to England to do The Muppet show.”

“You [have to avoid] looking at the Muppeteer, which a lot of people do because it’s a natural instinct to look at the person who’s doing the voice. But I love comedy. This was my idea, by the way: ‘What if I’m trying to be really sexy?’ We had me in a great gown and a long wig, and I looked absolutely smashing. Animal’s last line, after I smash him with the cymbals is ‘That’s my kind of woman!’ And most people don’t hear that because they’re laughing.”

Quoted in “Rita Moreno has time only for the truth” by Michael Schulman (The New Yorker, 17 June 2021 [online]; RILM Abstracts of Music Literature 2021-10493).

Today is Rita Moreno’s 90th birthday! Above and below, the historic performance.

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Filed under Humor, Performers, Popular music

Barry Brook in Dijon

Barry Brook, François Lesure, and Frederic and Nanie Bridgman. 1960s. Photograph preserved in the archives of the Barry S. Brook Center for Music Research and Documentation, CUNY Graduate Center.

RILM’s founder, Barry S. Brook, spent the summer of 1965 pursuing research in Brussels, Paris, and Vienna; midway he attended the IAML congress in Dijon, held on 1 through 6 July. Among the 14 letters that he sent to his wife Claire back in New York City, the letter of 8 July 1965, which he wrote immediately after his return to Paris, describes his participation in the Dijon congress and his social activities around it. The letter reveals the young Brook, who was still unaccustomed to the attention he received from his older colleagues. Every dinner and every conversation was making an impression on him.

On Saturday 3 July he was particularly busy. At a round table at 11 am he explained his idea about notating music using the ordinary typewriter, known as the Plaine and Easy Code. After lunch he was the principal presenter in a round table from 2 to 5 pm titled Utilisation of data processing techniques in musical documentation. Here he made public for the first time his idea about founding an international bibliography of music literature, which he was already calling RILM. Brook’s emphasis in the session was on the possibilities of using computers for the control of music documentation, and he showed a film about IBM called Once upon a punched card (1964; the film may be viewed at the bottom of this post). In an earlier letter, from 2 July, Brook described how he and Françoise Lesure loaded up the back seat of their car with a carton of IBM brochures in three languages that he obviously distributed in the session.

Finally, on Sunday, 4 July, he presented a paper in the session on tempo in 17th- and 18th-century music, organized by the Société française de Musicologie and presided by Mme la comtese de Chambure, who would be a his key partner in founding the Répertoire International d’Iconographie Musicale (RIdIM) a few years later. This may have been his first meeting with Mme Chambure, since in this otherwise very detailed letter, full of names of people with whom he was working and dining, her name was not mentioned.

His paper was Le Tempo dans l’exécution de la musique instrumentale à la fin du XVIIIe siècle. Other presenters in the session was Mme de Chambure, Denise Launay, Charlese Cudworth, André Verchaly, and Claudie Marcel-Dubois.

A fragment of the letter concerning his engagements during the conference:

The congress, which was originally supposed to be more relaxation and wine gobbling than work and business meetings. turned out to be mad whirl. Many meetings—too many—and the “relaxed” part too filled with official receptions, dull speeches by [Député-]Maire [of Dijon, Chanoine Félix Kir], etc. and guided tours of museums and churches (separated by buses) that each lasted too many hours and too many miles. The food at the Cité Universitaire was cheap but dull and could be eaten only after a long wait in line. Despite all this, the congress itself has been a pleasant affair, which I enjoyed because of the people, the concerts, and small amount of wheeling and dealing, the spotlight which was on me more than anticipated since everyone kept referring to my big speech in later meetings.
Also we would drive into town for meals, even breakfast when the line was too long and that was the pleasantest of all—“we” included François [Lesure], Fritz Noske, Paule Guiomar, Nanna Schiødt from Denmark, Rita Benton, Nanie and Fredric [Bridgman], etc. Fredric has a big international job in Geneva where he lives; he & Nannie get together every weekend whether in Geneva or Paris; he took us out to dinner in a wonderful restaurant in the country 15 km outside Dijon on the way to Beaune, chez Jeanette (François, Nanna S., and me). Paule had to return to Paris to start her vacation with Michel so she couldn’t come). Also had breakfast with André Jurres of Holland who succeeds Fédorov as président [of IAML] & spent time with [John Howard] Davies of the BBC, who is good friend of Herman, [Enrich] Straram of French Radio, Sven Lunn of Denmark, spoke to [Friedrich] Blume at some length about R.I.L.M.
Now to the speeches, which as usual were down to the wire. Despite the complete lack of cooperation from Simone Wallon in charge of arrangements (projections etc.) everything was led smoothly with François [Lesure] & Paule’s [Guiomar] help. The first one on the code was changed by François at my request to 11 am instead of 9 on Saturday so as not to conflict with a round table & a RISM meeting starting then. I demonstrated the code and recent improvements with the aid of slides (made for Dallas) distributing French + German translations (Xeroxed by Elvood’s friend). The interest was very high & it was the best attended business meeting of the congress since other meetings stopped in time for those who wished to attend it.
The Round Table on Automation in Music Documentation was, according to François, the hit of the Congress. (I had missed the 1st while preparing for Code mtg, no.s 3 & 4 were very dull). I spoke for 1 ¼ hours, showed a 10 min IBM film, then followed by a German ([Walter] Reckziegel), Dane (Nanna Schiødt in English) and a Swiss ([Raymond] Maylan in French). It went very well. The Tempo meeting in a cold Abbey [de Fontenay] during a guided tour after a large winery lunch was ill conceived from the beginning and was not a success as a whole. Six speakers! 4 French who mainly spoke too fast and too low to be heard, [Charles] Cudworth who spoke charmingly as usual in English and me who spoke extempore—from careful notes—in French and did very well.
After all the intense work & preparation there was much relief and less letdown than anticipated. As indicated, the after round tables were not good, except for Vincent Duckles who was excellent and except that I was constantly being greeted or asked questions.

The letter continues by informing Claire about his research in Paris, his daily activities, the invitation to Vincent Duckles to use their New York apartment on the way through New York, and asking her to send him $150 to Vienna by special delivery.

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Filed under From the archives, RILM

Conversa das antigas

Launched in 2021, Conversa das antigas: Um periódico moderno para (ou sobre) a música barroca, a Brazilian periodical devoted to Baroque music, was born in the early days of the enforced COVID-19 quarantine.

Musicians of the Orquestra Barroca da Unirio decided to transform their virtual conversations, which kept them in touch and active during the quarantine, into something more formalized and more broadly accessible. Very soon, a vibrant virtual community of musicians, scholars, researchers, and teachers came together as a diverse editorial collective, and Conversa das antigas was launched.

The periodical showcases a variety of research subjects, works in progress, interpretative insights, manuscript studies, aesthetic issues, and everything and anything related to Baroque music. Its title, which could be rendered as “Old-style chat”, conveys the informal vitality of the journal and its fluid boundaries, equally attuned to rigorous scholarship and experimental brain-storming. They clearly have a lot of conversas up their sleeves.

Below, the Orquestra Barroca da Unirio in action.

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Filed under Baroque era, New periodicals

Choe Seung-hui and modernism

Choe Seung-hui’s career moved in the reverse of the developmental narrative often associated with non-Western choreographers who study Western dance.

The earliest dance photographs of Choe show her in form-fitting leotards and short tunics, showing off her muscular and flexible body through extended lines, pointed feet, and angular planes, her face expressing seriousness or ecstasy—the epitome what one might envision today as modern dance.

But for her, this style ultimately came to represent imitation and convention rather than innovation and creativity. Whereas those early dances followed in the styles of others and worked in their voices, it was in formulating dances involving traditional Korean models that Choe invented her own style and established something new that would influence others.

For Choe, what looked like modern dance from a Western perspective was less modern than the Korean-style modern choreographies with which she made her mark as a modernist choreographer, dancer, theorist, and pedagogue.

This according to “Locating performance: Choe Seung-Hui, East Asian modernism and the case for area knowledge in dance studies” by Emily E. Wilcox, and essay included in Futures of dance studies (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2020, 505–22; RILM Abstracts of Music Literature no. 202o-14576).

Today is Choe Seung-hui’s 110th birthday! Above, a photo from the 1950s; below, a partial reconstruction of Choe’s choreography.

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Filed under Dance, Performers

Toyi-toyi’s African journey

The toyi-toyi is a high-kneed, foot-stomping dance, rhythmically punctuated by chants and call and response. It can be observed at almost any kind of protest in South Africa and Zimbabwe today.

Many people associate it with the South African township protests of the 1980s, when young men toyi-toyied as they confronted police or attended political funerals and protests. But its origins are in fact much further away, and they tell us about a much longer, global history of political and military struggle. This story played out across Africa, moving from north to south, all the way from Algeria to South Africa, with stops in Tanzania, Zambia, Angola, and Zimbabwe along the way.

This according to “The incredible journey of the toyi-toyi, southern Africa’s protest dance” by Jocelyn Alexander and JoAnn McGregor (The conversation 2 February 2021; RILM Abstracts of Music Literature no. 2021-485).

Below, a performance from 2015, with some historical footage.

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Filed under Africa, Black studies, Dance, Politics

Soundscape: Schafer’s heritage and an annotated bibliography

Raymond Murray Schafer (1933–2021), the Canadian composer, author, educator, and ecologist who coined the term soundscape, died on 14 August at 88. Through the years Schafer’s concept of soundscape has inspired scholars in not only musicology and ethnomusicology, but also history, anthropology, and more.

In 1969, with the aim of “finding solutions for an ecologically balanced soundscape that harmonizes the relationship between human society and its sound environment,” Schafer founded the world soundscape project at the Simon Fraser University. Based on this project, his book, The tuning of the world, was published in 1977 (reprinted in 1993 and retitled as The soundscape: Our sonic environment and the tuning of the world). Schafer’s visualization of the sound environment led to the concept of soundscape, which refers not only to the sounds in people’s environments, but also to the interactions between people, their hearing, their sound environment, and their social environment.

The concept of soundscape inspired new approaches for musicological research. Since Schafer first suggested this term, generations of scholars not only focused on sound itself, but also interpreted various cultural phenomena from the perspective of sound: echo, noise, silence… these terms are seemingly abstract, yet each contains deep meaning and controversy. Since the 1970s, the sound environment we live in has been changing rapidly. Considering the harmony and balance that the concept of soundscape has emphasized from the very beginning, what will be the relationship between human communities and ecology in the future? Please join RILM in following recent publications on sound studies.

(Introduced and compiled by Liu Xintong)

Schafer, R. Murray. The soundscape: Our sonic environment and the tuning of the world (Rochester: Destiny, 1993). [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 1993-3992]

Abstract: Studies the evolution of soundscapes in connection with culture, urban development, and technology. The soundscape—a term coined by the author—is our sonic environment, the ever-present array of noises with which we all live. Beginning with the primordial sounds of nature, we have experienced an ever-increasing complexity of our sonic surroundings. As civilization develops, new noises rise up around us: from the creaking wheel, the clang of the blacksmith’s hammer, and the distant chugging of steam trains to the “sound imperialism” of airports, city streets, and factories. The author contends that we now suffer from an overabundance of acoustic information and a proportionate diminishing of our ability to hear the nuances and subtleties of sound. Our task, he maintains, is to listen, analyze, and make distinctions. As a society we have become more aware of the toxic wastes that can enter our bodies through the air we breathe and the water we drink. In fact, the pollution of our sonic environment is no less real. Schafer emphasizes the importance of discerning the sounds that enrich and feed us and using them to create healthier environments. To this end, he explains how to classify sounds, appreciating their beauty or ugliness, and provides exercises and “soundwalks” to help us become more discriminating and sensitive to the sounds around us. This book is a pioneering exploration of our acoustic environment, past and present, and an attempt to imagine what it might become in the future. 

The study of soundscape has developed considerably since Schafer first used the term. However, Schafer’s own work and his world soundscape project have received much criticism, primarily because of his way of treating sound as an objectified presence, ignoring its experiential nature, and his project’s failure to include the sound cultures of Canada’s First Nation peoples. However, Schafer’s concept of soundscape opened up new horizons in sound studies, and subsequent scholars have continued to build on his foundation to expand the theoretical framework of soundscape. Below are some examples of cutting-edge research on soundscape.

Abe, Marié. Resonances of chindon-ya: Sounding space and sociality in contemporary Japan. Music/culture (Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 2018). [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2018-3821] 

Abstract: Investigates the intersection of sound, public space, and sociality in contemporary Japan. Chindon-ya, dating back to the 1840s, are ostentatiously costumed street musicians who publicize a business by parading through neighborhood streets. Historically not considered music, but part of the everyday soundscape, this vernacular performing art provides a window into shifting notions of musical labor, the politics of everyday listening and sounding, and street music at social protest in Japan. Against the background of long-term economic downturn, growing social precarity, and the visually and sonically saturated urban streets of Japan, this book examines how this seemingly outdated means of advertisement has recently gained traction as an aesthetic, economic, and political practice after decades of inactivity. It challenges Western conceptions of listening that have normalized the way we think about the relationship between sound, space, and listening subjects, and advances a growing body of interdisciplinary scholarship that examines the ways social fragmentation is experienced and negotiated in post-industrial societies.

Ochoa Gautier, Ana María. Aurality: Listening and knowledge in nineteenth-century Colombia. Sign, storage, transmission (Durham: Duke University Press, 2014). [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2014-65359]

Abstract: Explores how listening has been central to the production of notions of language, music, voice, and sound that determine the politics of life. Drawing primarily from 19th-century Colombian sources, the author locates sounds produced by different living entities at the juncture of the human and nonhuman. An “acoustically tuned” analysis of a wide array of texts reveals multiple debates on the nature of the aural. These discussions were central to a politics of the voice harnessed in the service of the production of different notions of personhood and belonging. Thus, Latin America and the Caribbean emerge as a historical site where the politics of life and the politics of expression inextricably entangle the musical and the linguistic, knowledge and the sensorial.

Daughtry, J. Martin. Listening to war: Sound, music, trauma and survival in wartime Iraq (New York: Oxford University Press, 2015). [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2015-10080]

Abstract: A groundbreaking study of the centrality of listening to the experience of modern warfare. Based on years of ethnographic interviews with U.S. military service members and Iraqi civilians, as well as on direct observations of wartime Iraq, the author reveals how these populations learned to extract valuable information from the ambient soundscape while struggling with the deleterious effects that it produced in their ears, throughout their bodies, and in their psyches. He examines the dual-edged nature of sound—its potency as a source of information and a source of trauma—within a sophisticated conceptual frame that highlights the affective power of sound and the vulnerability and agency of individual auditors. By theorizing violence through the prism of sound and sound through the prism of violence, the author provides a new vantage point for examining these strangely conjoined phenomena. Two chapters dedicated to wartime music in Iraqi and U.S. military contexts show how music was both an important instrument of the military campaign and the victim of a multitude of violent acts throughout the war.

Dillon, Emma. The sense of sound: Musical meaning in France (1260–1330). New cultural history of music (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012). [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2012-25429]

Abstract: Among the most memorable innovations of music and poetry in 13th-century France was a genre that seemed to privilege sound over sense. The polytextual motet is especially well-known to scholars of the Middle Ages for its tendency to conceal complex allegorical meaning in a texture that, in performance, made words less, rather than more, audible. What did it mean to create a musical effect so potentially independent from the meaning of words? Is it possible such supermusical effects themselves had significance? A radical recontextualization of French song in the heyday of the motet ca. 1260–1330 makes the case for listening to musical sound against a range of other potently meaningful sonorities, often premised on non-verbal meaning. In identifying new audible interlocutors to music, our ears are opened to a broad spectrum of sounds often left out of historical inquiry, from the hubbub of the medieval city; to the eloquent babble of madmen; to the violent clamor of charivari; to the charismatic chatter of prayer. Drawing on a rich array of artistic evidence (music, manuscripts, poetry, and images) and contemporary cultural theory locates musical production in this period within a larger cultural environment concerned with representing sound and its emotional, ethical, and social effects. 

Manabe, Noriko. The revolution will not be televised: Protest music after Fukushima (New York: Oxford University Press, 2015). [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2015-13996] 

Abstract: Nuclear power has been a contentious issue in Japan since the 1950s, and in the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster, the conflict has only grown. Government agencies and the nuclear industry continue to push a nuclear agenda, while the mainstream media adheres to the official line that nuclear power is Japan’s future. Public debate about nuclear energy is strongly discouraged. Nevertheless, antinuclear activism has swelled into one of the most popular and passionate movements in Japan, leading to a powerful wave of protest musicMusic has played a central role in expressing antinuclear sentiments and mobilizing political resistance in Japan. A combination of musical analysis with ethnographic participation offers an innovative typology of the spaces central to the performance of protest music—cyberspace, demonstrations, festivals, and recordings. These four spaces encourage different modes of participation and methods of political messaging. The openness, mobile accessibility, and potential anonymity of cyberspace have allowed musicians to directly challenge the ethos of silence that permeated Japanese culture post-Fukushima. Moving from cyberspace to real space, the author shows how the performance and reception of music played at public demonstrations are shaped by the urban geographies of Japanese cities. While short on open public space, urban centers in Japan offer protesters a wide range of governmental and commercial spaces in which to demonstrate, with activist musicians tailoring their performances to the particular landscapes and soundscapes of each. Music festivals are a space apart from everyday life, encouraging musicians and audience members to freely engage in political expression through informative and immersive performances. Conversely, Japanese record companies and producers discourage major-label musicians from expressing political views in recordings, forcing antinuclear musicians to express dissent indirectly: through allegories, metaphors, and metonyms.

Schwarz, Arman. Puccini’s soundscapes: Realism and modernity in Italian opera. Centro Studi Giacomo Puccini: Premio rotary Giacomo Puccini ricerca 2 (Firenze: Leo S. Olschki, 2018). [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2018-58613]

Abstract: From the bells in Tosca and the birdcalls in Madama Butterfly to the horns and sirens in Il tabarro and the music box melodies that inspired Turandot, Puccini’s operas rely to an unprecedented degree on realistic and seemingly unmediated acoustic objects. Focusing on the pervasive if little-discussed aspect of the composer’s art, presented are two categories of sound and realism to rethink the shape of Puccini’s career, and to offer new interpretations of many of his major works, as well as those of his contemporaries. It asks how Italian composers responded to some of the fundamental transformations of auditory culture during the fin-de-siècle, and resituates their works within the discourses (aesthetic, political, and technological) of Italian modernity.

Rasmussen, Anne K. Women, the recited Qur’an, and Islamic music in Indonesia (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2010). [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2010-6148]

Abstract: Going to the heart of religious musical praxis in Indonesia, home to the largest Muslim population in the world, this book explores a rich public soundscape, where women recite the divine texts of the Qur’ān, and where an extraordinary diversity of Arab-influenced Islamic musical styles and genres, also performed by women, flourishes. Based on unique and revealing ethnographic research beginning at the end of Suharto’s New Order and continuing into the era of Reformation, the book considers the powerful role of music in the expression of religious nationalism. In particular, it focuses on musical style, women’s roles, and the ideological and aesthetic issues raised by the Indonesian style of recitation.

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Filed under Ethnomusicology, Musicology

Bat City music

This Halloween, let’s visit the home of the largest urban bat colony in the world—Austin, Texas, where a group of Mexican free-tailed bats arrived in the early 1980s and found a highly suitable breeding environment.

Now nicknamed Bat City, Austin has forged links with the city’s more official nickname, Live Music Capital of the World. The annual Bat Fest combines a music festival with the bats’ nightly emergence, literally turning the latter into a performance event, and the city’s many bat-themed musical groups include the Bat City Surfers, a “horror surf punk” band whose members self-identify as descendants of bats.

This according to “Bat City: Becoming with bats in the Austin music scene” by Julianne Graper (MUSICultures XLV/1–2 [2018] 14–34); RILM Abstracts of Music Literature no. 2018-47414).

Above, bats flying in front of the iconic Frost Bank Tower in downtown Austin. Below, the Bat City Surfers hold forth.

More Halloween-related posts are here.

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Filed under Animals, Curiosities, Popular music