Margaret Rosezarian Harris (1943–2000) was the first Black woman to conduct the orchestras of Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, and 12 other U.S. cities. Harris played solo piano recitals in the U.S. and abroad and served as musical director for the Broadway production of Hair. She was a composer of ballets, concertos, and an opera, and served as a U.S. cultural specialist for a production of Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess in Uzbekistan in 1995.
Harris was a child prodigy: she first performed in public when she was three years old and played a Mozart concerto movement with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra when she was ten. She received her musical education in the public schools of Chicago, Illinois; at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and at the Juilliard School of Music in New York. During the 1960s, Harris was active in New York as a musical director for the Negro Ensemble Company and the New York Shakespeare Festival Company and as a teacher at the the Dorothy Maynor School of the Performing Arts. She made her concert debut as a pianist in 1970 at Town Hall in New York, including some of her original compositions on her program.
The same year she made her debut as a conductor-musical director with the Broadway musical Hair. She also conducted several musicals, including Two gentlemen of Verona (1971) and Raisin (1973). In 1971, she made her debut as a symphony orchestra conductor with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in its Grant Park Concert Series. Harris toured widely at home and abroad as a guest conductor, appearing in concert halls, on college campuses, and at festivals where she frequently performed two roles, conductor and pianist-composer, playing her own piano concertos. She was active in radio and television music and served as the music director for Opera Ebony, and her honors include appointments to national advisory panels and an award from the National Association of Negro Musicians in 1972.
Today is Margaret Rosezarian Harris’ 80th birthday! Read more in the Biographical dictionary of Afro-American and African musicians (1982). Find it in RILM Music Encyclopedias (RME).
Below is her second piano concerto.
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As a singer and multi-instrumentalist, Mike Seeger played an important role in the folk revival of the 1950s and 1960s. Although Seeger was generally less known than his politically outspoken half-brother, Pete, he helped found the New Lost City Ramblers in 1958 and throughout his career recorded and produced dozens of albums of American music that he called “true vine”, which combined British and African storytelling traditions. Although only eight years older, Seeger had a strong influence on Bob Dylan. Recalling him in Chronicles. I (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2004), Dylan wrote:
“Mike was unprecedented. He was like a duke, the knight errant. As for being a folk musician, he was the supreme archetype. He could push a stake through Dracula’s black heart. He was the romantic, egalitarian, and revolutionary type all at once—had chivalry in his blood…”
“He played all the instruments, whatever the song called for—the banjo, the fiddle, mandolin, autoharp, the guitar, even harmonica in the rack….He played on all the various planes, the full index of old-time styles, played in all the genres and had the idioms mastered—Delta blues, ragtime, minstrel songs, buck-and-wing, dance reels, play party, hymns and gospel—being there and seeing him up close, something hit me. It’s not as if he just played everything well, he played these songs as good as it was possible to play them.”
Mike Seeger would have celebrated his 90th birthday on August 15. He passed away in 2009. Learn more about Seeger in Country music: A biographical dictionary–find it in RILM Music Encyclopedias.
Watch Seeger perform the song Freight Train and a performance on fiddle and banjo from the 1960s.
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In the world of 1970s rock, Freddie Mercury’s voice had few equals. After joining Queen in 1970, his voice quickly became the hallmark of the band. The song Bohemian rhapsody, from the LP A night at the opera (named after a Marx Brothers film) was a coming out for Mercury, whose poetic and dramatic vocal style on that song became a focal point of Queen’s music. In 1976, the band released the LP A day at the races, named for another Marx Brothers film, and performed in London’s Hyde Park in front of more than 150,000 people. Their singles and LPs took the top spots on the hit parades of many countries, millions of records were sold, and the band’s management booked the largest halls and stadiums for their tours.
The album News of the world, released in 1977, featured anthems for the large venues where the band performed, and included the hits We will rock you and We are the champions. Mercury’s flamboyant personality and performances along with his cross-dressing managed to avoid media witch hunts and even enhanced Queen’s public image. Mercury dressed as a ballet dancer and stormtrooper for the 1984 music video I want to break free and convinced the rest of the band to dress in drag for the video as well.
Despite his commitment to the Queen, Mercury nurtured a solo career beyond the band. Before the release of Queen’s 1973 debut album, he recorded a cover version of I can hear music by the Beach Boys under the pseudonym Larry Lurex, and solo work over the course of his career included tracks for a Dave Clark musical and the 1988 album Barcelona, which featured a duet with the Spanish soprano Montserrat Caballé.
Freddie Mercury’s 77th birthday was celebrated this week on September 5! Read on in the Lexicon of progressive rock: musicians, bands, instruments, terms (2013). Find it in RILM Music Encyclopedias (RME).
Watch the music video for Queen’s I want to break free below.
In case you missed it, here’s a related post on Bibliolore.
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The name Sara González is synonymous with the history of the Cuban nueva trova. The genre differed from the traditional trova mainly because of its political lyrics but some have described nueva trova as “a field of multiple, generic-stylistic confluences” (Gómez 2021:272). Many songs incorporate elements from jazz, pop, concert music, and protest songs–in nueva trova, these resources communicate the poetic message of the song.
Along with the male trovadores such as Silvio Rodríguez, Pablo Milanés, Noel Nicola, and Eduardo Ramos, Gonzalez helped to found and develop the nueva trova movement in the late 1960s. Born in Havana, she began singing as part of the Los Dimos group and later enrolled in Escuela Nacional de Instructores de Arte (the National School of Art Instructors) with the intention of becoming a music teacher. However, her interest in nueva canción, a genre of pan-Latin American popular music, led her in other directions. In 1972, Gonzalez joined other Cuban musicians on a project that allowed for the institutionalization of the nueva trova, specifically in the Instituto Cubano del Arte e Industria Cinematográficos (ICAIC) Sound Experimentation Group–Grupo de Experimentación Sonora del ICAIC (GESI). Between 1970 and 1978, she wrote songs that explored political themes and integrated ideas of the GESI into nueva trova. In this sense, GESI was important for the establishment of the genre and fundamental in shaping its stylistic features musically. The group also shaped Gonzalez’s musical and political identity. As she described at the time,
“[The Group] has been decisive for who I am. To have ideas of my own, [and] of what I was going to do with my life. . . And as for artistic accomplishment, it was decisive. For everything I have done afterwards, I have always had to resort to what I learned there. . . A school, a method, a way of being, of facing, also, my own creation, my own life. It defined me in every way. I left there with the seed, with the base, firm and secure, that I did not have. And from there everything can come out (González, cited in Sarusky 2005:81-82).
The trajectory of Gonzalez’s career also demonstrated interconnections between a deep knowledge of Western classical music and her devotion to Cuban music and pedagogy. She became an icon of what some considered “the new woman” in the context of the Cuban nueva trova. In this regard, Gonzalez negotiated the gendered political spaces of femininity and masculinity as a woman troubadour.
Read more about the life and work of Sara Gonzalez in Ivette Janet Céspedes Gómez’s chapter Sara González: A different song in the The Routledge Handbook of Women’s Work in Music (2022) and in Lorena Valdebenito Carrasco’s article ¿Hombre nuevo y Mujer nueva? Lo femenino y lo masculino en la Nueva Trova Cubana de Silvio Rodríguez y Sara González in the journal El oído pensante 8.2 (2021). Find the publications in RILM Abstracts and RILM Abstracts with Full Text (RAFT) respectively.
Watch a video of Sara Gonzalez performing Su nombre es Pueblo.
Other Bibliolore related posts to check out:
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Astrud Gilberto, born Astrud Evangelina Weinert in Salvador, in Bahia, Brazil to a Brazilian mother and German father, was the voice of bossa nova. As a genre, bossa nova combined Brazilian samba rhythms and U.S. cool jazz elements while featuring an understated vocal style that complemented an acoustic guitar technique that featured plucked chords with jazz-influenced harmonies and chord progressions. Her rendition of The girl from Ipanema was sung quietly and melancholically without vibrato, in complete contrast to the extroverted rock ‘n’ roll numbers of the time. The song was composed in 1962 by Antônio Carlos Jobim and two years later appeared on the album Getz/Gilberto by singer and guitarist João Gilberto and saxophonist Stan Getz. On the album–which marked the peak of the bossa nova craze, sold millions of copies, and won a Grammy for Album of the Year–Astrud sang two of the songs: The girl from Ipanema and Corcovado (Quiet nights of quiet stars).
As a young woman, she moved with her family to Rio de Janeiro in 1948 where she worked in the Brazilian Ministry of Agriculture. Astrud married João Gilberto in 1959 after meeting at a friend’s house with whom she had sung as an amateur in bossa nova shows. In 1963, she traveled to New York City and performed an English version of the song Garota de Ipanema on João’s LP with Stan Getz. The English release of The girl from Ipanema marked her international breakthrough, making both the song and bossa nova known throughout the world. Although The girl from Ipanema is one of the most covered songs, it was Astrud’s English version with a Brazilian accent that was first associated with the song.
Astrud continued her career with Getz Au Go Go (1964, with Stan Getz), The Astrud Gilberto Album (1965, nominated for a Grammy in the category Best Female Vocal Performance), and Look to the Rainbow (1966, with Gil Evans). Her hits included Água de beber (1965), The shadow of your smile (1965), and Desafinado (1966, with George Michael). Her final album, Jungle, was released in 2002. She received a Latin Grammy Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2008. Although Astrud never enjoyed massive success as a soloist, she was a prolific artist and collaborated with other major musicians throughout her long career as a vocalist.
Astrud Gilberto passed away on 5 June 2023 at the age of 83.
Read her obituary in MGG Online and locate information on her life and career in the Enciclopédia da música brasileira: Erudita, folclórica, popular (Encyclopedia of Brazilian music: Erudite, folkloric, popular, 2010) in RILM Music Encyclopedias (RME).
Watch the video of Astrud Gilberto performing Corcovado below!
By the late 1970s, hip hop’s five core elements had emerged, namely deejaying, emceeing, breaking, graffiti, and beatboxing. The first two originated primarily in New York City hip hop parties led by DJs (disc jockeys) who revolutionized the practice of record spinning through the art of turntablism, and MCs (master of ceremonies) who performed rhythmic call and response with audiences. Breaking (the dance element of hip hop), graffiti (the visual art of hip hop), and beatboxing (the ability to create beats with one’s mouth) also formed in tandem with early hip hop culture at these parties.
Emceeing, which later known as rap, had cultural roots in the Black verbal arts of the United States and the Caribbean region. Mainland U.S. traditions that remained visible in hip hop include “jive-talking” radio personalities of the 1940s and 1950s, oral traditions of storytelling, and “playing the dozens“, a competitive and recreational exchange of verbal insults. Jamaican traditions include toasting, mobile disk jockeys, and sound systems. Many hip hop pioneers were Caribbean immigrants who brought musical practices from their native countries and adapted them to new social and sonic contexts of New York City.
The mingling of Caribbean immigrant and native-born African American and Latinx communities in the United States set the stage for the development of hip hop and rap music. A large Caribbean community had developed in New York, where the first rap and dance parties were said to have begun, as early as 1972 in the Bronx. Rapping as a distinct musical form developed in New York as a cultural expression encompassed by hip hop. Socioeconomic conditions in the Bronx and Harlem in the 1960s and 1970s profoundly shaped the aesthetics and activities of hip hop culture. The construction of the Cross-Bronx Expressway in 1959 accelerated the deterioration of buildings and led to the displacement of communities of the south Bronx–in many of these areas, youth gangs and gang violence emerged. Despite the turbulence of the 1960s and 1970s, Bronx youth developed popularized expressions that eventually came to be associated with hip hop culture, then consisting primarily of graffiti and competitive dancing. Hip hop became a powerful cultural symbol of urban youth. Within a few years, it had spread far beyond the Bronx.
Rap largely incubated outside of the pop mainstream during the 1970s. Although commercial success eluded him, Kool DJ Herc is widely considered to be the godfather of rap. His ideology ultimately defined hip hop culture–he was a record collector, dedicated to finding jazz, rock, or reggae discs possessing a funky drum break ideal for dancing. When asked in an interview about how many times he would play a break, Herc replied, “I wouldn’t go too far. Two times. I’ll just extend it two times. And James Brown says “Clyde” [for drummer Clyde Stubblefield]–that’s my name. So James Brown shouted me out. Oooh. Then the break comes in. I used that to start me off, and then go into the Isley Brothers and [Babe Ruth’s] The Mexican. Oooh, I like this. And then Jimmy Castor Bunch. Them were the records, man. I lay claim to it: That’s a Herc record. I’d say, “You never heard it like this before, and you’re back for more.” That’s it.”
Spinning records at local venues, Herc attracted Black audiences largely from the Bronx and Harlem where so-called “b-boys” dominated club dance contests until Puerto Rican youth developed a new dance vocabulary of power moves known as breaking (or break dancing). “Some say hip hop some begins with the DJ. But actually hip hop culture itself begins with the b-boy. We’re the x factor,” says Cholly Rock (Anthony Horne), a first generation b-boy. Cholly traces breaking back to the 1960s when Latinos across New York started “rocking” or “uprocking,” creating moves inspired by mambo music to contemporary soul and rock. Rocking was inspired by battle dances and performed as type of showdown. Some dancers latched on to its more aggressive components referring to the elaborate dance-disses as “burning.” Provocative styles emerged among feuding New York City gangs, especially in the Bronx.
Grandmaster Flash (Joseph Saddler) provided the final impetus in making rap an art form. After moving to the Bronx from Barbados with his family as a child, Flash learned about electronics in a high school vocational class and quickly applied his knowledge to turntables and his father’s record collection. He extended and refined Herc’s breakbeat technique by incorporating a cross-fader system to monitor the mix on headphones and switch channels quickly–essentially inventing the turntable/mixer setup used by many hip hop DJs today. Flash specialized in playing breaks, the point when a DJ rapped, or a b-boy displayed his flashiest moves, and was adept at extending breaks and abruptly shifting records to the next break beat (or “cutting”). He also perfected “scratching” (see video below), the technique of taking the beginning of the beat, holding the record with your finger and making it go backward and forward with your finger.
Look out for upcoming posts celebrating hip hop’s 50th anniversary in the Hip hop at 50 series on Bibliolore. Find out more about the history of hip hop and contemporary scenes in RILM Music Encyclopedias (RME) and RILM Abstracts.
Skinny Puppy has long been considered a classic band in the electro-industrial genre. Formed in Vancouver, Canada in 1983 by cEVIN Key (Kevin Crompton) and Nivek Ogre (Kevin Ogilvie), Skinny Puppy was influenced early on by Kraftwerk, Throbbing Gristle, Cabaret Voltaire, and Suicide. The band soon created an innovative “hard electronic” sound that combined audio samples of films with heavy metal guitar aesthetics. When asked about the 1980s industrial scene, Ogre stated, “The original idea for industrial music was just a category for abstract ideas and abstract music. . . It didn’t matter what you used. Glass in your cupboard or a rat running across your floor.”
On their first tour, shortly after the release of the Remission EP, Wilhelm Schroeder (Billy Leeb) joined the band as a keyboardist in live performances. In 1986, he left the band to start Frontline Assembly and was replaced by Dwayne Goettel of Psyche. The first LP on which Goettel was involved, Cleanse, Fold and Manipulate, was Skinny Puppy’s worldwide breakthrough. Through this and the following albums and tours, the band garnered fans and gained a strong reputation globally.
In a 2020 interview, cEVIN Key described their songwriting process as having remained fairly consistent over the years. According to Key, “I still luckily own all the original equipment, so I can use that formula if I wish or can improvise with using elements of that formula. We were using a computer to sequence our [early albums] so in this case it’s quite the same even though technology has advanced greatly. . . Luckily, I was trained well by being in a band with five other guys who each had their own world. It’s in this training that I received writing albums, recording, and touring that I was able to grasp the experience to come and produce my own ideas. . . At the time Skinny Puppy was formed, the scene in Vancouver was so vibrant that our first goal literally was to have a song played at the local disco. So, I think, we all started with small goals, and they grew exponentially.”
Part of Skinny Puppy’s success has been that their music, politics, and song lyrics have engaged with the contemporary social issues that have driven them since the band’s foundation, especially animal rights—which inspired their name and albums such as VIVIsectVI. The band also famously billed the U.S. government $666,000 in 2014 for its use of their music played at intolerably high levels in the interrogation of accused terrorists at Guantanamo Bay. As one of the industrial genre’s most influential bands, Skinny Puppy have laid the groundwork for the mainstream success of acts such as Nine Inch Nails. Now celebrating 40 years together, the band has embarked on their farewell tour in 2023.
Read about Skinny Puppy and many other industrial and electronic artists in Das Gothic- und Dark Wave-Lexikon: Das Lexikon der schwarzen Szene (The gothic and dark wave lexicon: The lexicon of the black scene). Find it in RILM Music Encyclopedias.
Below is a classic video of Skinny Puppy performing Assimilate. Enjoy!
Once again, the reviews are in! Another installment has arrived of RILM’s Instant Classics series, which chronicles and collects the books indexed in RILM Abstracts of Music Literature that have received the most reviews in academic literature. This most recent list collects publications covering a wide range of musical topics that were released between 2020 and 2021, listed in order from least to most reviewed.
As always, this list should be viewed as a living document that will become outdated as reviews continue to be written. Despite the inherent limitations, collecting these texts in this way generates a valuable archive of the topics, methodologies, and perspectives that earned the attention of music scholars during a brief period in time. As we zoom out, patterns may emerge that provide insight into the topical trends that have contributed to music discourse in the early decades of the 21st century.
We may also pause over which voices are being heard in music research, the interests of the publishers who are amplifying them, and the types of audiences being targeted. Although this list may inevitably serve as means of promotion, it is not meant to be viewed uncritically. We can appreciate these texts’ contributions to musical knowledge while simultaneously being aware of the powers held and challenges faced by the publishing firms and university presses that sell them.
And finally, do keep in mind that RILM can only disseminate the writings on music to which it has access. You are invited to help make RILM Abstracts be as complete as it can be by visiting our website and submitting your review! We thank you in advance and wish you a happy summer of reading!
– Written, compiled, and edited by Michael Lupo, Assistant Editor/Marketing & Media, RILM
#8. Osborne, Richard and Dave Laing, eds. Music by numbers: The use and abuse of statistics in the music industry (Bristol: Intellect, 2021). [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2020-99384]
Abstract: Examines statistics within the music industry. Its aim is to expose the historical and contemporary use and abuse of these numbers, both nationally and internationally. It addresses their impact on consumers’ choices, upon the careers of musicians and upon the policies that governments and legislators make.
#7. Slominski, Tes. Trad nation: Gender, sexuality, and race in Irish traditional music. Music/culture (Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 2020). [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2020-54789]
Abstract: Just how “Irish” is traditional Irish music? This book combines ethnography, oral history, and archival research to challenge the longstanding practice of using ethnic nationalism as a framework for understanding vernacular music traditions. The author argues that ethnic nationalism hinders this music’s development today in an increasingly multiethnic Ireland and in the transnational Irish traditional music scene. She discusses early 21st-century women whose musical lives were shaped by Ireland’s struggles to become a nation; follows the career of Julia Clifford, a fiddler who lived much of her life in England, and explores the experiences of women, LGBTQ+ musicians, and musicians of color in the early 21st century.
#6. Lockwood, Lewis. Beethoven’s lives: The biographical tradition (Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 2020). [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2020-11238]
Abstract: When Beethoven died in March 1827, the world of music felt an intense loss. The composer’s funeral procession was one of the largest Vienna had ever witnessed, and the poet Franz Grillparzer’s eulogy brought the tensions between the composer’s life and music into sharp focus: the deaf and aloof genius, the alienated and eccentric artist, unable to form a lasting relationship with a woman but reaching out to mankind. These apparent contradictions were to attract many Beethoven biographers yet to come. The story of Beethoven biography is traced, from the earliest attempts made directly after the composer’s death to the present day. It casts a wide net, tracing the story of Beethoven biography from Anton Schindler as biographer and falsifier, through the authoritative Alexander Wheelock Thayer and down to the present. The list includes Gustav Nottebohm, the first scholar to study Beethoven’s sketchbooks. With his work, biography could begin to reflect on the inner life of the artist as expressed in his music, and in this sense, sketchbooks could be seen as artistic diaries. Even Richard Wagner thought of writing a Beethoven biography, and the late 19th and early 20th century saw the emergence of French and English traditions of Beethoven biography. In the tumultuous 20th century, with world wars and fractured politics, the writing of Beethoven biography was sometimes caught up in the storm. By bringing the story down to our time, it identifies traditions of Beethoven biography that today’s scholars and writers need to be aware of. Each biography reflects not only on the individual writer’s knowledge and interests, but also his inner sense of purpose as each writer works within the intellectual framework of his time.
#5. Brennan, Matt. Kick it: A social history of the drum kit (New York: Oxford University Press, 2020). [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2020-11043]
Abstract: The drum kit has provided the pulse of popular music from before the dawn of jazz up to the present day pop charts. This provocative social history of the instrument looks closely at key innovators in the development of the drum kit: inventors and manufacturers like the Ludwig and Zildjian dynasties, jazz icons like Gene Krupa and Max Roach, rock stars from Ringo Starr to Keith Moon, and popular artists who haven’t always got their dues as drummers, such as Karen Carpenter and J Dilla. Tackling the history of race relations, global migration, and the changing tension between high and low culture, the author makes the case for the drum kit’s role as one of the most transformative musical inventions of the modern era. He shows how the drum kit and drummers helped change modern music—and society as a whole—from the bottom up.
#4. Austern, Linda Phyllis. Both from the ears & mind: Thinking about music in early modern England (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2020). [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2020-8218]
Abstract: Offers a bold new understanding of the intellectual and cultural position of music in Tudor and Stuart England. The author brings to life the kinds of educated writings and debates that surrounded musical performance, and the remarkable ways in which English people understood music to inform other endeavors, from astrology and self-care to divinity and poetics. Music was considered both art and science, and discussions of music and musical terminology provided points of contact between otherwise discrete fields of human learning. This book demonstrates how knowledge of music permitted individuals to both reveal and conceal membership in specific social, intellectual, and ideological communities. Attending to materials that go beyond music’s conventional limits, these chapters probe the role of music in commonplace books, health-maintenance and marriage manuals, rhetorical and theological treatises, and mathematical dictionaries. Ultimately, the author illustrates how music was an indispensable frame of reference that became central to the fabric of life during a time of tremendous intellectual, social, and technological change.
#3. Frühauf, Tina. Transcending dystopia: Music, mobility, and the Jewish community in Germany, 1945–1989 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2021). [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2021-1]
Abstract: Discusses the role music played in its various connections to and contexts of Jewish communal life and cultural activity in Germany from 1945 to 1989. This history of the Jewish communities’ musical practices during the postwar and Cold War eras tells the story of how the traumatic experience of the Holocaust led to transitions and transformations, and the significance of music in these processes. As such, it relies on music to draw together three areas of inquiry: the Jewish community, the postwar Germanys and their politics after the Holocaust (occupied Germany, the Federal Republic, the Democratic Republic, and divided Berlin), and the concept of cultural mobility. Indeed, the musical practices of the Jewish communities in the postwar Germanys cannot be divorced from politics, as can be observed in their relations to Israel and U.S. On the grounds of these conceptual concerns, selective communities serve as case studies to provide a kaleidoscopic panorama of musical practices in worship and in social life. Within these pillars, a wide spectrum of topics is covered, from music during commemorations, on the radio and in Jewish newspapers, to synagogue concerts and community events; from the absence and presence of cantor and organ to the resurgence of choral music. What binds these topics tightly together is the specific theoretical inquiry of mobility.
#2. Robinson, Dylan. Hungry listening: Resonant theory for Indigenous sound studies. Indigenous Americas (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2020). [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2020-4582]
Abstract: Listening is considered from both Indigenous and settler colonial perspectives. In a critical response to what has been called the “whiteness of sound studies”, how decolonial practices of listening emerge from increasing awareness of our listening positionality are evaluated. This involves identifying habits of settler colonial perception and contending with settler colonialism’s “tin ear” that renders silent the epistemic foundations of Indigenous song as history, law, and medicine. With case studies on Indigenous participation in classical music, musicals, and popular music, structures of inclusion that reinforce Western musical values are examined. Alongside this inquiry on the unmarked terms of inclusion in performing arts organizations and compositional practice, examples of “doing sovereignty” in Indigenous performance art, museum exhibitions, and gatherings that support an Indigenous listening resurgence are offered. It is shown how decolonial and resurgent forms of listening might be affirmed by writing otherwise about musical experience. Through event scores, dialogic improvisation, and forms of poetic response and refusal, a reorientation is demanded toward the act of reading as a way of listening. Indigenous relationships to the life of song are sustained in writing that finds resonance in the intersubjective experience between listener, sound, and space.
#1. Ross, Alex. Wagnerism: Art and politics in the shadow of music (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2020). [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2020-4721]
Abstract: For better or worse, Wagner is the most widely influential figure in the history of music. Around 1900, the phenomenon known as Wagnerism saturated European and U.S. culture. Such colossal creations as Der Ring des Nibelungen, Tristan und Isolde, and Parsifal were models of formal daring, mythmaking, erotic freedom, and mystical speculation. A mighty procession of artists, including Virginia Woolf, Thomas Mann, Paul Cézanne, Isadora Duncan, and Luis Buñuel, felt his impact. Anarchists, occultists, feminists, and gay-rights pioneers saw him as a kindred spirit. Then Adolf Hitler incorporated Wagner into the soundtrack of Nazi Germany, and the composer came to be defined by his ferocious antisemitism. For many, his name is now almost synonymous with artistic evil. An artist who might have rivaled Shakespeare in universal reach is undone by an ideology of hate. Still, his shadow lingers over 21st-century culture, his mythic motifs coursing through superhero films and fantasy fiction. A German translation is cited as RILM 2020-61241.
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Hailing from a musical family in western Virginia, Ernest “Pop” Stoneman was a carpenter by trade and a musician by avocation. By his twenties, Stoneman could play the guitar, autoharp, mouth harp (or harmonica), and jaw harp. He contacted Okeh Records in 1924 and made some test recordings that were released early the following year, including the first recording of The Sinking of the Titanic. That first recording was not released as Stoneman and Okeh executives felt it was too soon after the tragic sinking of the “unsinkable” ship, but he subsequently rerecorded two versions in 1925 (entitled The Titanic) and in 1926, both of which were well received. Stoneman’s lyrics to The Titanic provided an account of the incident and social commentary on class differences between the ship’s travelers. For instance, in these two verses:
“When they were building the Titanic, they said what they could do. They were going to build a ship that no water could not go through, But God with his mighty hand showed to the world it could not stand. It was sad when that great ship went down.
When they left England, they were making for the shore. The rich they declared they would not ride with the poor. So they sent the poor below, they were the first that had to go. It was sad when that great ship went down.”
Like many country music stars who came from a rural background, Stoneman was not especially traditional in his approach to music making—instead of singing in a highly ornamented style, he sang in a relaxed, almost spoken manner, with clear pronunciation. His string-band recordings were more genteel than the rough-and-rowdy style preferred by many deep Southern bands.
During the Great Depression, the recording industry was severely crippled, and Stoneman’s initial career ended. He worked in a munitions factory through World War II, settling outside of Washington, D.C., and did not return to active performing until the first folk revival of the early 1950s. Stoneman had 13 children, many musically talented, so he formed a family band that performed in the Washington area. They recorded for various labels, but their most important and influential album came out in 1957 on the Folkways label, introducing their sound to the urban folk-revival audience. In 1962 they became members of The Grand Ole Opry and continued to perform through the 1960s for both country and folk-revival audiences. They also appeared on TV programs ranging from Shindig to Hootenany to The Jimmy Dean Show.
Read on in Country music: A biographical dictionary (2013). Find it in RILM Music Encyclopedias (RME).
Below is a recording of Stoneman’s The Titanic.
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Ryūichi Sakamoto was one of Japan’s most internationally influential musicians. Sakamoto’s career began in electronic pop music as a keyboardist with the band Yellow Magic Orchestra, which he co-founded in 1978, and which triggered a boom for this genre in Japan. At the same time he released his first solo album Thousand Knives. His understanding of music, which transcended genres, became evident on numerous other albums combining pop music, ambient, jazz, and electro-acoustic music, ranging to early forms of house and techno. His works in addition include the operas Life (1999) and Time (2021). Sakamoto studied composition and ethnomusicology at the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music from 1970 onward, where he first came into contact with synthesizers.
He is also known for his music for films by Nagisa Ōshima (Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence, 1983), Bernardo Bertolucci (The Last Emperor, 1987; The Sheltering Sky, 1990; Little Buddha, 1993), Pedro Almodóvar (High Heels, 1991), and Alejandro G. Iñárritu (The Revenant, 2015), as well as for his music for the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games in Barcelona in 1992. Sakamoto’s final studio album 12–comprising 12 miniatures for piano accompanied by synthesizer sounds–was released in January 2023. He died in Tokyo on 28 March 2023 at the age of 71.
Look out for a full article on Ryūichi Sakamoto’s life and musical activities coming soon to MGG online (www.mgg-online.com).
Below is a video of Sakamota performing his composition Blu with the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra.
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