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Bibliolore turns 10!

by Jim Cowdery, Senior Editor, RILM Abstracts of Music Literature

Sometime in the summer of 2009, Zdravko Blažeković, RILM’s Executive Editor, casually said to me “You know, we should have a blog.” He was thinking about how simply by virtue of what we do, RILM editors have a unique perspective on music literature, and how others might enjoy our insights along with us.

I agreed, and started looking into how we might make that happen. We weren’t sure exactly how our blog would turn out, but we decided to start with some news about RILM. Our first blog post was published ten years ago this week!

Today Bibliolore includes subjects of practical interest to music researchers and librarians and writings on music that have piqued our curiosity or made us smile, along with original contributions from our team of musicologists. Most posts have direct relationships to content found in RILM’s resources, which include our flagship RILM Abstracts of Music Literature and its enhancement, RILM Abstracts with Full Text, as well as RILM Music Encyclopedias, MGG Online, and Index to Printed Music.

Below, we celebrate our first ten years with Ten Years After’s performance at Woodstock, 50 years ago!

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Doktor Eisenbarth’s musical clock

The ancient city of Hann. Münden was home to one Johann Andreas Eisenbarth, who was a surgeon of some repute despite never having any formal medical training.

In 1980, a musical clock was installed in the upper story of the Rathaus in Hann that honors the legendary doctor. At a few minutes past noon, an automatic carillon plays the tune of the drinking song Ich bin der Doktor Eisenbarth. Automata depict the doctor extracting a huge, bloody tooth from the mouth of a terrified, gesticulating patient.

This according to “Dr Eisenbarth’s automated musical clock in Hann. Münden” by Mark Singleton and Sven Heinmann (The music box: An international journal of mechanical music XXVIII/5 [spring 2018] pp. 185–87).

Above and below, the good doctor in action.

BONUS: A chance to sing along!

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Angklung and modernity

The musical style associated with the bamboo frame rattle called angklung embodies the egalitarian cooperation so essential for the agriculture that sustained Sundanese people in West Java for centuries. In the early twentieth century, Indonesian nationalists reimagined the sound of the angklung to index a connection to a distinctly Sundanese modern identity rooted in rural values.

The kind of angklung ensemble now popular in Indonesian schools and universities, which was designated an item of intangible heritage by UNESCO in 2010, is an elaboration of the innovations of the Sundanese music educator Daeng Soetigna. Current incarnations of angklung ensembles feature large numbers of performers, often playing arrangements of classical and popular hit songs as well as well-known Indonesian songs.

Angklung’s persistent appeal to Sundanese citizens has much to tell us about the relationship of humans to the places in which they live, the social structures that sustain them, and the strategies they concoct to remain grounded in a changing world.

This according to “From the rice harvest to Bohemian rhapsody: Diachronic modernity in angklung performance” by Henry Spiller, an essay included in Making waves: Traveling musics in Hawaiʻi, Asia, and the Pacific (Honolulu: University of Hawaiʻi Press, 2018, pp. 19–38).

Above, a children’s angklung ensemble; below, Queen’s Bohemian rhapsody.

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Creative improvised music: An international bibliography

In 2019 African Diaspora Press issued Creative improvised music: An international bibliography of the jazz avant-garde, 1959–present by John Gray, a companion volume to Gray’s Fire music (Westport: Greenwood, 1991).

Creative Improvised Music picks up where Fire music left off, focusing on the literature on American free jazz and European free improvisation published since the early 1990s, as well as older works and archival material not included in its predecessor. Users will find information on the music’s pioneers as well as hundreds of other improviser-composers, ensembles, and collectives that have emerged in recent years.

The volume includes a detailed subject index that offers a key to all of the book’s sections and a way to quickly pinpoint citations by topic, geographical location, personal name, and instrument.

Above and below, the Mary Halvorson Octet; Halvorson is one of the more recent musicians covered in the book.

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Music & science

 

In 2018 Sage launched Music & Science, a peer-reviewed open access online journal dedicated to the idea that the sciences can help us to make sense of music and its significance in our lives.

The journal’s goal is to be truly interdisciplinary: to give researchers from the many different scientific traditions that have been applied to music the opportunity to communicate with—and to learn from—each other, while encouraging dialogue with music scholars whose work is situated in artistic, performative or humanistic domains. In short, it aims to publish research from any discipline or perspective that can illuminate—or that can be illuminated by—scientific approaches to understanding music.

Music & science is a member of the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE).

Below, Charles-Valentin Alkan’s Petits préludes sur les 8 gammes du plain-chant pour orgue, the subject of an article in the inaugural issue.

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Cuadernos de análisis y debate sobre músicas latinoamericanas contemporáneas

 

In 2018 the Instituto Nacional de Musicología Carlos Vega launched Cuadernos de análisis y debate sobre músicas latinoamericanas contemporáneas (ISSN 2618-4583), an international peer-reviewed journal dedicated to contemporary Latin American classical music.

The Instituto Nacional de Musicología Carlos Vega is part of the Argentine government’s Secretaría de la Cultura. The journal encourages the participation of music researchers as well as composers, performers, and conductors, fostering collaboration between public and private initiatives.

Above and below, Diario de un proceso by Juan Ortiz de Zárate, which is loosely based on Kafka’s Der Process (The trial); the work is discussed in the journal’s inaugural issue.

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Sanguma and cultural identity

 

During the turbulent decades of the 1970s and 1980s, Papua New Guinea gained political independence from a colonial hold that had lasted almost a century. It was an exciting time for a diverse group of pioneering musicians who formed a band they named Sanguma.

These Melanesian artists heard an imagined future and performed it during a socially and politically critical time for the region. They were united under one goal: to create a sound that represented the birth of a new, sovereign, and distinctly Melanesian nation; and to express their values, identities, and cosmology through their music and performance.

Sanguma’s experimental music sounded the complex expectations and pressures of their modern nation and helped to steer its postcolonial journey through music. Drawing from rock, jazz, and nascent world music influences, Sanguma reached audiences far from their home nation, introducing the world to modern music, Melanesia-style, with its fusion of old and new, local and global.

Their performances ranged from ensembles of Melanesian log drums (garamuts) to extended songs and improvisations involving electric guitars, synthesizers, saxophone, trumpet, bamboo percussion, panpipes, and kuakumba flutes. The band sang in a variety of local vernacular languages, as well as in Tok Pisin and English. To further emphasize their ancestral style, the musicians wore decorative headdresses and body decorations from all around the nation.

This according to Hearing the future: The music and magic of the Sanguma band by Denis Crowdy (Honolulu: University of Hawaiʻi Press, 2016).

Below, excerpts from live performances.

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Eubie Blake and the florid cry

Writing in 1945, Willis Laurence James recalled giving a lecture demonstration attended by Eubie Blake:

I sang a florid Negro cry. Eubie Blake leaped halfway from his seat and yelled “Oh, professor, professor, you hit me, you hit me!”

He placed both hands over his heart and continued with great emotion: “You make me think of my dear mother. She always sang like that. I can hear her now. Thaťs the stuff I was raised on.” He sat down quietly, except for a deep sigh that had no audible competition from anyone.

Blake was a living testimony to the influences that had made him musically unique even without formal training (which he did not acquire until he was old and famous and did not really need it). He knew all along that it was the cry that had guided him.

Quoted from “Cries in speech and song” by Willis Laurence James (Black sacred music IX/1–2 [1995] pp. 16–34).

Above, an undated photograph of Blake from the Maryland Historical Society; below, James demonstrates two florid cries.

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Schizophonic transmogrifications of Balinese kecak

Audio recordings of Balinese kecak performances are de- and re-contextualized in two landmark films: Federico Fellini’s Satyricon (1969) and Joel and Ethan Coen’s Blood simple (1984).

Kecak’s use in these soundtracks is a case of schizophonic transmogrification: the rematerialization and thorough reinvention of people and places whose voices and sounds, as inscribed on sound recordings, have been separated from their original sources of identity and meaning and resituated in entirely alien contexts—real or imaginary or somewhere in between.

This according to “The abduction of the signifying monkey chant: Schizophonic transmogrifications of Balinese kecak in Fellini’s Satyricon and the Coen Brothers’ Blood simple” by Michael Bakan (Ethnomusicology forum XVIII/1 [June 2009] pp. 83–106).

Above, a performance of kecak in Bali. Below, the Minotaur scene from Satyricon; further below, the failed abduction scene from Blood simple.

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An Afro-Andean Christmas ritual

Every year from Christmas to Epiphany, the communities descended from the African slaves who mined gold for the Spaniards celebrate the Adoraciones al Niño-Diós in the Andean valleys of Cauca in southwestern Colombia.

The celebrants sing and dance until dawn in front of a creche set up in one of the village houses. A group of six musicians, unusual because it includes violins, accompanies the women who are the singers and the leaders of the ritual.

The tradition is documented on the CD Colombie: Adoration à l’enfant-Dieu (Département du Cauca) (VDE-Gallo 1349 [2011]). Below, a brief documentary on Auroras al Amanecer, the group featured in the recordings.

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