Consistent with its mission to cover all types of publications about music, RILM is now abstracting and indexing podcasts.
Podcasts are serial digital media files that can be downloaded for use on local computers or portable media players. They are typically in audio or video formats, but they may involve other file formats as well.
RILM inaugurated its podcast coverage with Ethnomusicology today, which is published by the Society for Ethnomusicology; this open-access series features interviews with the authors of articles recently published in the society’s journal, Ethnomusicology.
Working with a top collector and specialist in the field, RILM has created a new document type abbreviated JZ, standing for Journal Zine—zine being the recognized short version of fanzine, which refers to the self-published fan magazines that proliferated in the 1980s, 1990s, and early 2000s (when the Internet made them largely obsolete).
Much like the thriving music-journal culture that developed in 19th-century Europe, these low-circulation publications were produced and consumed by key players in the music cultures they took as their subject; today they serve as primary sources that provide valuable insights into the subcultures that shaped the sound of the late 20th century (in the case of punk rock, it was the New York-based zine Punk that provided the name for the nascent musical movement).
We are in the first stage of entering JZ records that give bibliographic information and detailed summaries of key zines in popular music history. A growing number of universities have begun acquiring collections of these important documents.
Above, Joey Ramone, drawn by John Holstrom for Punk #3 (April 1976; click to enlarge). Below, the Ramones at Max’s Kansas City the same year.
Today it was our sad duty to add Joan Sutherland’s obituary to our database. Dubbed “La Stupenda” by the Italian press in 1960, Dame Joan was one of the greatest bel canto sopranos of all time. Above, we celebrate her artistry with a video clip from her farewell performance of her signature role, Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor.
A note on obituaries in RILM: While we normally do not cover news items, we index obituaries because they often serve as important research sources—particularly those for less-known figures. Since we cannot possibly cover obituaries in all news sources, we focus on those published by the New York times. As always, anyone can add further items to the database through our Submissions webpage.
According to “Humorous reflections on laughing records” by Abigail Cooke (ARSC journal 32/2 [winter 2001], pp. 232–242, three types of sound recordings involving laughter were produced between 1904 and 1923: (1) laughing songs, in which stylized laughter is integrated into the song; (2) spoken comedy routines with laughing audiences; and (3) laughing records, in which apparently genuine laughter spirals out of control.
The classic model for the latter genre, The Okeh laughing record (Okeh, 1922)—which may have originated in a real situation where the recording engineer continued to record a botched session—begins with a man playing a slow, melancholy cornet solo that is quickly interrupted by a woman’s giggle. He continues to play, but she is unable to control herself, and soon is laughing aloud; this causes him to flub a note and join her in laughing, occasionally attempting to continue playing, until the two are utterly hysterical.
Below, The Okeh laughing record.
Generally, Festschriften fall into three categories: memorial volumes, issued shortly after the death of the honoree, and often comprising personal tributes and reminiscences; commemorative volumes, published to honor some milestone in the deceased dedicatee’s life; and Festschriften proper, presented to a living recipient on the occaision of a birthday, anniversary, or transitional event. For more about this publication type, see the Preface to RILM’s Liber amicorum, the first volume in our retrospective Festschriften project.
Above is a reproduction of the frontispiece for Beethoven-Album: Ein Gedenkbuch dankbarer Liebe und Verehrung für den grossen Todten, a commemorative volume published in 1846; the book includes poems and compositions dedicated to the composer, including works by Liszt, Meyerbeer, and Czerny.
Like souvenir books, program notes may be considered ephemera, but often they are the best sources for information about important productions, festivals, and other events. Some, like Playbill, are issued as numbered periodicals that libraries and individuals subscribe to. Others include original essays by distinguished scholars—for example, the program book for the Smithsonian Institution’s 1997 Festival of American Folklife (above) included articles by the ethnomusicologists Angela Impey, Joyce Marie Jackson, and Jeff Todd Titon.
With their dramatic action and vivid characters, operas have inspired a number of graphic novels, including books by P. Craig Russell and a series (now out of print) produced in collaboration with England’s Royal Opera House. The most noteworthy examples of this genre are not just illustrations of libretti; they are autonomous works of art in the graphic novel tradition.
Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen is particularly suited to the treatment it receives in The ring of the Niebelung by Roy Thomas and Gil Kane; set in a mythological time, with illustrious characters who can alter their physical forms, defy gravity, and survive without oxygen, it fits naturally into the medium’s world of fantasy and superheroes.
In some cases this drammata in pittura brings a powerful new dimension to Wagner’s drammata in musica—for example, the action that the audience must imagine during the Vorspiel of Die Walküre is fully depicted over the course of four textless pages. The cycle was first published in four installments by DC Comics.
Above, the opening of Act II of Die Walküre (click to enlarge); below, part of the 2011 production by the Metropolitan Opera.
Related article: The Ring recast