Oliver “Tuku” Mtukudzi left a vast and rich body of music produced over a long and illustrious career. Through his skillful use of traditional Shona proverbs, textured idiomatic expressions, metaphor, and ingenious word play, he was able to teach while simultaneously entertaining his audience.
Through its dialogic nature, Mtukudzi’s music positioned itself at the service of both instruction and reconstruction in ways that differed markedly from those offered by Western formal education.
These pedagogical and reconstructive potentials are located in traditional forms of knowledge generation and knowledge transfer. Mtukudzi’s music must be viewed as a reconstructive pedagogy that raises the social consciousness of its listeners. Framed against current trends in Africa and other formerly colonized spaces for the decolonization of ways of learning and teaching, Mtukudzi’s music articulates reconstructive ways of thinking about knowledge, knowledge generation, knowledge transfer, and the archiving of lived experiences in Africa.
This according to “Music as pedagogy: The life, times, and music of Oliver Mtukudzi” by Gibson Ncube and Yemurai Gwatirisa, an essay included in The life and music of Oliver Mtukudzi: Reconstruction and identity (Cham: Palgrave Macmillan, 2022, 39–50; RILM Abstracts of Music Literature 2022-407).
Today would have been Oliver Mtukudzi’s 70th birthday!
Below, Mtukudzi’s Todii (What shall we do?) evokes the world of traditional proverbs to convey new messages of social commentary.
BONUS: In a collaboration with Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Mtukudzi’s Neria raises vital themes involving women, family relations, and politics.
“Rejoice in what you learn, and spray it.” – Tim Minchin
The multifarious methods used to communicate, transmit, and preserve musical knowledge reflect the diversity of this knowledge and the assumptions that lie behind what constitutes it. Students around the world learn about music in a wide range of settings—on stage, in the classroom, one-on-one with a specialist, and through personal reflection and rehearsing, to name only some examples. Music pedagogy, whether practiced within or outside of formalized institutions of learning, is a vibrant and important field of study. Those who teach pass on traditions, provide opportunities for economic advancement, exercise neurological pathways, and even instill ethical values on communities large and small. With music teachers and students in mind, and in recognition of the value of book reviews, this installment of our Instant Classics series highlights RILM’s eight most reviewed music pedagogy texts from 2016 to 2019. Although merely a snapshot of a moment in a dynamic publication environment, it is one worth taking.
And as always, an important reminder: We need your help! RILM always welcomes your reviews or reviews of your publications. Notice an omission? Help us fill in our gaps by submitting your review.
#8. Campbell, Patricia Shehan. Music, education, and diversity: Bridging cultures and communities. Multicultural education series (New York: Teachers College Press, 2018). [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2018-685]
Abstract: Music is a powerful means for educating citizens in a multicultural society and meeting many challenges shared by teachers across all subjects and grade levels. By celebrating heritage and promoting intercultural understandings, music can break down barriers among various ethnic, racial, cultural, and language groups within elementary and secondary schools. This book provides important insights for educators in music, the arts, and other subjects on the role that music can play in the curriculum as a powerful bridge to cultural understanding. The author documents key ideas and practices that have influenced current music education, particularly through efforts of ethnomusicologists in collaboration with educators, and examines some of the promises and pitfalls in shaping multicultural education through music. The text highlights World Music Pedagogy as a gateway to studying other cultures as well as the importance of including local music and musicians in the classroom. It chronicles the historical movements and contemporary issues that relate to music education, ethnomusicology, and cultural diversity; offers recommendations for the integration of music into specific classes, as well as throughout school culture; examines performance, composition, and listening analysis of art (folk/traditional and popular) as avenues for understanding local and global communities; and documents music’s potential to advance dimensions of multicultural education, such as the knowledge-construction process, prejudice reduction, and an equity pedagogy.
#7. Abrahams, Frank and Paul D. Head, eds. The Oxford handbook of choral pedagogy. Oxford handbooks (New York: Oxford University Press, 2017). [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2017-925]
Abstract: Explores varied perspectives on teaching, learning, and performing choral music. Authors are academic scholars and researchers as well as active choral conductors. Topics include music programming and the selection of repertoire; the exploration of singer and conductor identity; choral traditions in North America, Western Europe, South America, and Africa; and the challenges conductors meet as they work with varied populations of singers. Chapters consider children’s choirs, world music choirs, adult community choirs, gospel choirs, jazz choirs, professional choruses, collegiate glee clubs, and choirs that meet the needs of marginalized singers. Those who contributed chapters discuss a variety of theoretical frameworks including critical pedagogy, constructivism, singer and conductor agency and identity, and the influences of popular media on the choral art. The text is not a how-to book. While it may be appropriate in various academic courses, the intention is not to explain how to conduct or to organize a choral program. While there is specific information about vocal development and vocal health, it is not a text on voice science. Instead, the editors and contributing authors intend that the collection serve as a resource to inform, provoke, and evoke discourse and dialogue concerning the complexity of pedagogy in the domain of the choral art.
#6. Ódena Caballol, Óscar. Musical creativity revisited: Educational foundations, practices and research. SEMPRE studies in the psychology of music (Abingdon: Routledge, 2018). [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2018-4287]
Abstract: How is creativity understood and facilitated across music education settings? What is the power of creativity in enhancing individual and group learning? How is musical creativity used as a tool for cross-community integration? How can we research the interactions of those engaged in musical activities aimed at creative development? These are just some of the questions addressed in this book, which includes insights from theory, practice-based research, and methodological analyses. Its chapters celebrate the diversity of the many different ways in which young and adult learners develop musical creativity. Following on from the volume cited as RILM 2012-8068, the author offers novel examples from practice and precise suggestions on how to research it. Chapters are organized into three sections: Foundations, Practices, and Research. They include examples from in-depth studies focused on a secondary school in England, higher music education in Spain, and out-of-school settings in Northern Ireland.
#5. Kertz-Welzel, Alexandra. Globalizing music education: A framework. Counterpoints: Music and education (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2018). [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2018-2953]
Abstract: How do globalization and internationalization impact music education around the world? By acknowledging different cultural values and priorities, the author’s vision challenges the current state of international music education and higher education, which has been dominated by English-language scholarship. Her framework uses an interdisciplinary approach and emphasizes the need for developing a pluralistic mode of thinking, while underlining shared foundations and goals. She explores issues of educational transfer, differences in academic discourses worldwide, and the concept of the global mindset to help facilitate much-needed transformations in global music education. This thinking and research, she argues, provides a means for better understanding global transfers of knowledge and ways to avoid culturally and linguistically hegemonic standards.
#4. Downing, Sonja Lynn. Gamelan girls: Gender, childhood, and politics in Balinese music ensembles. New perspectives on gender in music (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2019). [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2019-10637]
Abstract: In recent years, girls’ and mixed-gender ensembles have challenged the tradition of male-dominated gamelan performance. The change heralds a fundamental shift in how Balinese think about gender roles and the gender behavior taught in children’s music education. It also makes visible a national reorganization of the arts taking place within debates over issues like women’s rights and cultural preservation. The author draws on over a decade of immersive ethnographic work to analyze the ways Balinese musical practices have influenced the processes behind these dramatic changes. Girls and young women assert their agency within the gamelan learning process to challenge entrenched notions of performance and gender. One dramatic result is the creation of new combinations of femininity, musicality, and Balinese identity that resist messages about gendered behavior from the Indonesian nation-state and beyond. Such experimentation expands the accepted gender aesthetics of gamelan performance but also sparks new understanding of the role children can and do play in ongoing debates about identity and power.
#3. Wallbaum, Christopher, ed. Comparing international music lessons on video. Hochschule für Musik und Theater “Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy” Leipzig: Schriften 14 (Hildesheim: Georg Olms, 2018). [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2018-58022]
Abstract: Video-recorded music lessons (on multi-angle DVDs) were used to inspire and improve understanding among experts from different cultures and discourses of music education. To make the process manageable and focused, we developed the Analytical Short Film (2–3 minutes) to address particular areas of interest and starting points for debate. We asked selected music teachers from seven nation-states to allow a typical and (in their opinion) good lesson to be recorded. We also asked the students and their parents for permission. At a symposium, held at Leipzig’s Hochschule für Musik und Theater Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy in September 2014, national experts and researchers presented views on their lessons through Analytical Short Films. Discussion followed which included implicit and explicit comparisons. Each presenter also used a lesson from one of the other countries to stimulate discussion about assumptions in and challenges to their own views. We documented all comparisons made and compared these to derive cross-cultural categories. These categories should be relevant for understanding what makes a music lesson “good”. The different perspectives and discussions offered by the authors in this book—together with ten DVDs, interviews with the teachers and students, and associated research—provide rich and diverse material for researchers, teachers, and teacher educators. A related article is abstracted as RILM 2015-83222.
#2. Cook, Nicholas. Music as creative practice. Studies in musical performance as creative practice 5 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2018) [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2018-2373]
Abstract: Until recently, ideas of creativity in music revolved around composers in garrets and the lone genius. But the last decade has witnessed a sea change: musical creativity is now overwhelmingly thought of in terms of collaboration and real-time performance. This book synthesizes both perspectives. It begins by developing the idea that creativity arises out of social interaction—of which making music together is perhaps the clearest possible illustration—and then shows how the same thinking can be applied to the ostensibly solitary practices of composition. The book also emphasizes the contextual dimensions of musical creativity, ranging from the prodigy phenomenon, long-term collaborative relationships within and beyond the family, and creative learning, to the copyright system that is supposed to incentivize creativity. This book encompasses the classical tradition, jazz, and popular music, and music emerges as an arena in which changing concepts of creativity—from the old myths about genius to present-day sociocultural theory—can be traced with particular clarity. The perspective of creativity tells us much about music, but the reverse is also true, and this book offers an approach to musical creativity that is attuned to the practices of both music and everyday life.
#1. Allsup, Randall Everett. Remixing the classroom: Toward an open philosophy of music education.Counterpoints: Music and education (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2016). [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2016-3531]
Abstract: Provides alternatives for the traditional master-apprentice teaching model that has characterized music education. By providing examples across the arts and humanities, the author promotes a vision of education that is open, changing, and adventurous at heart. He contends that the imperative of growth at the core of all teaching and learning relationships is made richer, though less certain, when it is fused with a student’s self-initiated quest. In this way, the formal study of music turns from an education in teacher-directed craft and moves into much larger and more complicated fields of exploration. The author advocates for an open, quest-driven teaching model that has repercussions for music education and the humanities more generally.
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A performance that occurred almost daily in a public square in Marrakech in the early 1980s traded on ethnic identity for fun and profit.
The performance began with an Arab duo singing in Arabic; as a crowd began to gather around them, a Berber—a member of a rival ethnic group—leaped into the circle with a song in Tashlit. After a few moments of cacaphony a shouting match began, with the Berber and one of the Arabs trading insults while the other Arab took one side and then the other, upping the ante.
“Monkey, block-headed windbag, long-fingernailed King Kong, hick, salt stealer, son of a whore!” Each string of insults was preceded by an ethnic designator, and audience members were encouraged to contribute money to the aggrieved party to demonstrate their own ethnic pride. Occasionally fisticuffs between audience members ensued.
The high point of the performance came when the monetarily losing antagonist was figuratively turned into a donkey and the winner climbed onto his back and called for his instrument; victory, however temporary, meant both being on top and singing one’s own song there.
This according to “Saints, prostitutes, and rotten sardines: The musical construction of place and ethnicity in a Moroccan insult contest” by Philip D. Schuyler, an essay included in Ethnomusicological encounters with music and musicians: Essays in honor of Robert Garfias (Farnham: Ashgate, 2011, pp. 249–259; RILM Abstracts of Music Literature 2011-5436).
Above and below, examples of street music in Marrakech.
In 2022 Libreria Musicale Italiana launched Acusfere: Suoni_culture_musicologie, a multilingual, annually published, peer-reviewed print and online journal with abstracts in English. The journal’s scope is purposely broad; however, there are several general elements around which it coheres, including emphases on:
Research from the fields of musicology and anthropology
Musical writing, invention, improvisation, and composition in the contemporary world
Local and peripheral music traditions
Relationships between music and many other artistic and expressive activities
Musical instruments and technologies
Vocal expression as manifested in individual and polyphonic contexts
The processes of thought, theories, aesthetics, and structures that shape musical meanings
The multifarious behaviors detectable in the music-making of diverse cultures
The spaces and places of music, stable and concrete, but also mobile and ephemeral
Projections of music in media, rapidly changing and integrated into multiple perspectives
The journal’s tripartite subtitle—suoni (sounds), culture (cultures), and musicologie (musicologies)—reflects the pluralities and variabilities of viewpoints, processes, scenarios, contexts, and knowledges at the center of the critical reflection of music making.
Below, Marco Tomassi performs on his reconstruction of the 17th-century sordellina, the subject of an article in the journal’s inaugural issue.
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In the mid-1990s a staff member at the American Folklife Center received a note asking if the Center would be interested in an old LP of a cowboy singer named Romaine Lowdermilk. Not having heard of the singer, she stopped by the office of the director, Alan Jabbour. “Romy Lowdermilk!” he exclaimed, “Who’s got a recording of Romy Lowdermilk?”
Jabbour knew the name only through accounts of the singer (1890–1970), who had written and published several popular cowboy songs (including Goin’ back to Arizona, which Patsy Montana performed as Goin’ back to old Montana). Lowdermilk had stated that he never made a commercial recording; this LP appeared to be a unique record of his singing. The owner generously supplied the disc in 1999 and the Center digitized it, assuming that it was a solitary specimen.
The discovery of an exact copy in 2006 led to a full unraveling of the story. Lowdermilk had recorded several songs in a recording studio in 1951; the studio then had copies pressed on demand for the singer’s clients at Rancho Mañana, the Arizona dude ranch where he worked.
This according to “Long-lost twins: The curious case of the Romaine Lowdermilk discs” by Stephen Winick (Folklife Center news XXXVI/3 [summer 2006] pp. 11–12; RILM Abstracts of Music Literature 2006-10837).
Below, Patsy Montana’s recording of Goin’ back to old Montana. In a letter to John I. White, Lowdermilk wrote “Patsy Montana liked it and wanted to sing it on her road appearances, so I just called it Goin’ back to old Montana and she recorded it for Victor and it was on the juke boxes for quite a spell. You can sing it Back to California or Oklahoma or Wyoming—or any damn place you want to go back to. So I figured it was an all-around western. I got paid for it by WLS, so I didn’t really care where the singer went back to.” (Quoted in Ten thousand goddam cattle: A history of the American cowboy in song, story, and verse [Flagstaff: Northland University, 1975; RILM Abstracts of Music Literature 1978-3562].)
More stories about the American Folklife Center are here.
Reviews serve many valuable functions in music scholarship, from sparking critical discourse, to revealing topics of interest at a particular historical moment, to providing summaries and assessments for further inquiries, to shining a light on superlative (or, in some cases, substandard) research. Reviews collect and constitute interpretive communities, which arguably play a role in constructing the very meaning of a text.
In recognition of the importance of reviews, RILM inaugurates its Instant Classics series—a collection of the ten most-reviewed monographs indexed in the extensive international holdings of RILM Abstracts of Music Literature. The current list of books spans the two-year period from 2017 to 2019 and is ordered from least to most reviewed. Since it takes some time for texts to be assessed and reviews to be released, going back a few years provides a fuller and more accurate picture of a book in review.
This list is inherently limited, dynamic, and subject to continuous revision as more reviews potentially accrue for these and other texts. What we offer here is merely an inchoate snapshot, one that reflects the biases and areas of interest in music research at a specific time and place in history. With that in mind, it is also more than simply another “Top Ten” list, as it may hold a degree of historiographic value.
And finally, an important reminder: We need your help! RILM always welcomes your reviews or reviews of your publications. Notice an omission? Help us fill in our gaps by submitting your review.
– Compiled and edited by Michael Lupo, Assistant Editor and Marketing Coordinator, RILM
#10. Wheeler, Barbara L., Donna W. Polen, and Carol L. Shultis. Clinical training guide for the student music therapist (2nd ed., rev.; Dallas: Barcelona, 2017). [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2017-43779]
Abstract: Covers planning, assessment, goals and objectives, improvisation, composing, listening, individual and group work, documentation, and self-assessment.
#9. Borge, Jason R. Tropical riffs: Latin America and the politics of jazz (Durham: Duke University Press, 2018). [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2018-1970]
Abstract: This book traces how jazz helped forge modern identities and national imaginaries in Latin America during the mid-20th century. Across Latin America jazz functioned as a conduit through which debates about race, sexuality, nation, technology, and modernity raged in newspapers, magazines, literature, and film. For Latin American audiences, critics, and intellectuals—who often understood jazz to stem from social conditions similar to their own—the profound penetration into the fabric of everyday life of musicians like Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, and Charlie Parker represented the promises of modernity while simultaneously posing a threat to local and national identities. Brazilian anti-jazz rhetoric branded jazz as a problematic challenge to samba and emblematic of Americanization. In Argentina, jazz catalyzed discussions about musical authenticity, race, and national culture, especially in relation to tango. And in Cuba, the widespread popularity of Chano Pozo and Dámaso Pérez Prado challenged the United States’s monopoly on jazz. Outlining these hemispheric flows of ideas, bodies, and music, this book elucidates how the art form was, and remains, a transnational project and a collective idea.
#8. Chua, Daniel K.L. Beethoven & freedom (New York: Oxford University Press, 2017) [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2017-28046]
Abstract: Over the last two centuries, Beethoven’s music has been synonymous with the idea of freedom, in particular a freedom embodied in the heroic figure of Prometheus. This image arises from a relatively small circle of heroic works from the composer’s middle period, most notably the Eroica symphony. However, the freedom associated with the Promethean hero has also come under considerable critique by philosophers, theologians, and political theorists; its promise of autonomy easily inverts into various forms of authoritarianism, and the sovereign will it champions is not merely a liberating force but a discriminatory one. Beethoven’s freedom, then, appears to be increasingly problematic; yet his music is still employed today to mark political events from the fall of the Berlin Wall to the attacks of 9/11. Even more problematic, perhaps, is the fact that this freedom has shaped the reception of Beethoven’s music to such an extent that we forget that there is another kind of music in his oeuvre that is not heroic, a music that opens the possibility of a freedom yet to be articulated or defined. By exploring the musical philosophy of Theodor W. Adorno through a wide range of the composer’s music, this book arrives at a markedly different vision of freedom. The author suggests that a more human and fragile concept of freedom can be found in the music that has less to do with the autonomy of the will and its stoical corollary than with questions of human relation, donation, and a yielding to radical alterity. This work makes a major and controversial statement by challenging the current image of Beethoven, and by suggesting an alterior freedom that can speak ethically to the 21st century.
#7. Talle, Andrew. Beyond Bach: Music and everyday life in the eighteenth century (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2017). [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2017-24136]
Abstract: Reverence for J.S. Bach’s music and its towering presence in our cultural memory have long affected how people hear his works. In his own time, however, Bach stood as just another figure among a number of composers, many of them more popular with the music-loving public. Eschewing the great composer style of music history, the book takes us on a journey that looks at how ordinary people made music in Bach’s Germany. The author focuses in particular on the culture of keyboard playing as lived in public and private. Ranging through a wealth of documents, instruments, diaries, account ledgers, and works of art, he brings a fascinating cast of characters to life. These individuals—amateur and professional performers, patrons, instrument builders, and listeners—inhabited a lost world, and this book teases out the diverse roles music played in their lives and in their relationships with one another. At the same time, the author’s nuanced recreation of keyboard playing’s social milieu illuminates the era’s reception of Bach’s immortal works. An excerpt is abstracted as RILM 2018-7846.
#6. Watt, Paul. Ernest Newman: A critical biography. Music in Britain, 1600–2000 (Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 2017). [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2017-24973]
Abstract: Ernest Newman (1868–1959) left an indelible mark on British musical criticism in a career spanning more than 70 years. His magisterial (a reprint of which is cited as RILM 1976-2951), published in four volumes between 1933 and 1946, is regarded as his crowning achievement, but Newman wrote many other influential books and essays on a variety of subjects ranging from early music to Schoenberg. In this book, the geneses of Newman’s major publications are examined in the context of prevailing intellectual trends in history, criticism, and biography. Newman’s career as a writer is traced across a wide range of subjects including English and French literature; evolutionary theory and biographical method; and French, German, and Russian music. Underpinning many of these works is Newman’s preoccupation with rationalism and historical method. By examining particular sets of writings such as composer-biographies and essays from leading newspapers such as the and the Manchester guardian and the Sunday times, this book illustrates the ways in which Newman’s work was grounded in late–19th-century intellectual paradigms that made him a unique and at times controversial figure.
#5. García, David F. Listening for Africa: Freedom, modernity, and the logic of Black music’s African origins (Durham: Duke University Press, 2017) [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2017-38670]
Abstract: Explores how a diverse group of musicians, dancers, academics, and activists engaged with the idea of Black music and dance’s African origins between the 1930s and 1950s. The author examines the work of figures ranging from Melville J. Herskovits, Katherine Dunham, and Asadata Dafora to Duke Ellington, Dámaso Pérez Prado, and others who believed that linking Black music and dance with Africa and nature would help realize modernity’s promises of freedom in the face of fascism and racism in Europe and the Americas, colonialism in Africa, and the nuclear threat at the start of the Cold War. In analyzing their work, the author traces how such attempts to link Black music and dance to Africa unintentionally reinforced the binary relationships between the West and Africa, white and black, the modern and the primitive, science and magic, and rural and urban. Counter to the movement’s goals, it was modernity’s determinations of unraced, heteronormative, and productive bodies, and of scientific truth, that helped defer the realization of individual and political freedom in the world.
#4. Tunbridge, Laura. Singing in the age of anxiety: Lieder performances in New York and London between the World Wars (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2018). [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2018-4190]
Abstract: In New York and London during World War I, the performance of lieder was roundly prohibited, representing as they did the music and language of the enemy. But as German musicians returned to the transatlantic circuit in the 1920s, so too did the lieder of Schubert, Wolf, and Strauss. Lieder were encountered in a variety of venues and media—at luxury hotels and on ocean liners, in vaudeville productions and at Carnegie Hall, and on gramophone recordings, radio broadcasts, and films. The renewed vitality of this refugee musical form between the World Wars is examined here, offering a fresh perspective on a period that was pervaded by anxieties of displacement. Through richly varied case studies, it traces how lieder were circulated, presented, and consumed in metropolitan contexts, shedding new light on how music facilitated unlikely crossings of nationalist and internationalist ideologies during the interwar period.
#3. Eidsheim, Nina Sun. The race of sound: Listening, timbre, and vocality in African American music. Refiguring American music (Durham: Duke University Press, 2019). [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2019-7187]
Abstract: Traces the ways in which sonic attributes that might seem natural, such as the voice and its qualities, are socially produced. The author illustrates how listeners measure race through sound and locate racial subjectivities in vocal timbre—the color or tone of a voice. The author examines singers Marian Anderson, Billie Holiday, and Jimmy Scott as well as the vocal synthesis technology Vocaloid to show how listeners carry a series of assumptions about the nature of the voice and to whom it belongs. Outlining how the voice is linked to ideas of racial essentialism and authenticity, the author untangles the relationship between race, gender, vocal technique, and timbre while addressing an under-theorized space of racial and ethnic performance. In so doing, she advances our knowledge of the cultural-historical formation of the timbral politics of difference and the ways that comprehending voice remains central to understanding human experience, all the while advocating for a form of listening that would allow us to hear singers in a self-reflexive, denaturalized way.
#2. Kreuzer, Gundula. Curtain, gong, steam: Wagnerian technologies of nineteenth-century opera (Oakland: University of California Press, 2018). [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2018-5417]
Abstract: Argues for the foundational role of technologies in the conception, production, and study of 19th-century opera. The author shows how composers increasingly incorporated novel audiovisual effects in their works and how the uses and meanings of the required apparatuses changed through the 20th century, sometimes still resonating in stagings, performance art, and popular culture today. Focusing on devices (which she dubs “Wagnerian technologies”) intended to amalgamate opera’s various media while veiling their mechanics, the author offers a practical counternarrative to Wagner’s idealist theories of total illusionism. At the same time, the book’s multifaceted exploration of the three titular technologies repositions Wagner as catalyst more than inventor in the history of operatic production. With its broad chronological and geographical scope, this book deepens our understanding of the material and mechanical conditions of historical operatic practice as well as of individual works, both well known and obscure.
#1. Iverson, Jennifer. Electronic inspirations: Technologies of the Cold War musical avant-garde. New cultural history of music (New York: Oxford University Press, 2019). [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2019-1204]
Abstract: For a decimated post-War West Germany, the electronic music studio at the WDR radio station in Cologne was a beacon of hope. This book traces the reclamation and repurposing of wartime machines, spaces, and discourses into the new sounds of the mid-century studio. In the 1950s, when technologies were plentiful and the need for reconstruction was great, West Germany began to rebuild its cultural prestige via aesthetic and technical advances. The studio’s composers, collaborating with scientists and technicians, coaxed music from sine-tone oscillators, noise generators, band-pass filters, and magnetic tape. Together, they applied core tenets from information theory and phonetics, reclaiming military communication technologies as well as fascist propaganda broadcasting spaces. The electronic studio nurtured a revolutionary synthesis of science, technology, politics, and aesthetics. Its esoteric sounds transformed mid-century music and continue to reverberate today. Electronic music—echoing both cultural anxiety and promise—is a quintessential Cold War innovation.
Founded in Saratoga Springs by Bill and Lena Spencer in 1960, Caffè Lena is the longest continuously running folk coffeehouse in the United States. With its longstanding tradition of nurturing new talent, the venue hosted some of the first performances of Bob Dylan, Arlo Guthrie, and Ani DiFranco, as well as some of the last appearances of the legendary Delta bluesmen Skip James and Mississippi John Hurt.
In August 2009, just in time for its 50th anniversary, the Caffè Lena Collection arrived at the American Folklife Center. This collection—a collaborative effort of the Center, the Caffè Lena History Project, and the Saratoga Springs History Museum—includes vintage photographs, articles, and letters; rare reel-to-reel recordings of performances; and oral history recordings with musicians, patrons, and staff members. The Center is making plans for digitizing the materials.
This according to “Celebrating 50 years of American folk music history: The Caffè Lena Collection arrives at the Library of Congress” by Jocelyn Arem (Folklife Center news XXXII/1–2, pp. 3–6; RILM Abstracts of Music Literature 2010-8282).
Above, Dylan, Suze Rotolo, Spencer, and Pasha, 1962. (All rights reserved by the Joe Alper Photo Collection LLC; may not be reproduced in any manner whatsoever without the written permission of the Joe Alper Photo Collection LLC.)
The first concertinas to arrive in County Clare, Ireland, were inexpensive German instruments, a far cry from the elegant parlor instrument invented by Sir Charles Wheatstone in 1829 and popularized among the social elite of Victorian England. They were disseminated by traveling peddlers and local and more distant shops—and probably by maritime traffic, given Clare’s position at the mouth of the Shannon estuary, the last port of call for tall ships about to cross the Atlantic.
By the end of the nineteenth century the concertina had all but replaced the uilleann pipes in popularity there, and Clare had already developed a reputation as a treasure-trove of concertina music and the home of some of the instrument’s finest players. After its completion in 1892 the West Clare Railway carried concertinas into formerly inaccessible rural areas, and before World War II the instrument became particularly popular among women musicians, earning it the nickname bean-cháirdin (female accordion).
This according to “Clare: Heartland of the Irish concertina” by Gearóid Ó hAllmhuráin (Papers of the International Concertina Association III  pp. 1–19; RILM Abstracts of Music Literature 2006-5495).
Among the people of Aceh, Sumatra, four concepts of space—cardinal directional, upstream-downstream, central-point-in-circle, and geometric—guide dance formations, the making of rapa’i Pasè frame drums, and the colors and associations of performing costumes and stage decorations.
The upstream-downstream concept, which stems from the tendency to travel upstream for raw materials and downstream for trade, associates upstream spaces with an inward-looking, mystical attitude and downstream spaces with an outward-looking attitude and commercial success. The cardinal directional concept, which is related to the upstream-downstream concept since most rivers in Aceh run between north and south, relates specific colors and metals to the four directions.
The central-point-in-a-circle concept enacts Perso-Arabic models, such as the building of towns around a central mosque, connecting Aceh with its historical links to the larger Muslim world. The dominant geometric concept, which probably dates to before 300 B.C.E., is expressed in straight lines, parallelograms, diamonds, and curved forms including figure-eights, ovals, and leaf and flower shapes.
Further eighteenth-century versions appear in other collections; in the nineteenth century others, always with the same stock chorus but differing in other particulars, emerged in blackface minstrelsy. A version from a 1917 book of soldiers’ songs produced in London gives the first direct predecessor of the modern version, with a similar tune for the chorus and an identification of the farmer as “Old MacDougal”; it also explains the nonsensical “ee-i-ee-i-o”: Old MacDougal’s farm was “in O-hi-o-hi-o.”
This according to “Farmyard cacaphonies: Three centuries of a popular song” by Vic Gammon (Folk music journal XI/1, 42-72; RILM Abstracts of Music Literature 2011-2628).
Above, D’Urfey, who claimed—perhaps unreliably—to have written the original song. Below, Sesame Street’s justly neglected Old MacDonald cantata.
Seven strings/Сім струн (dedicated to Uncle Michael)* For thee, O Ukraine, O our mother unfortunate, bound, The first string I touch is for thee. The string will vibrate with a quiet yet deep solemn sound, The song from my heart … Continue reading →
From 4 to 8 October 2021, The Barry S. Brook Center for Music Research and Documentation hosts the virtual conference Responses in Music to Climate Change. The event brings together scholars, performers, composers, and activists, with the goal of exchanging … Continue reading →
Introduction: Dr. Philip Ewell, Associate Professor of Music at Hunter College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, posted a series of daily tweets during Black History Month (February 2021) providing information on some under-researched Black … Continue reading →
For it [the Walkman] permits the possibility…of imposing your soundscape on the surrounding aural environment and thereby domesticating the external world: for a moment, it can all be brought under the STOP/START, FAST FOWARD, PAUSE and REWIND buttons. –Iain Chambers, “The … Continue reading →