Fletcher Henderson, composer-arranger

While there is no question that Fletcher Henderson had substantial compositional impact on the development of jazz, the term composition, with its overtones of singular artistic control and privileged aesthetic and legal status, fits only a small proportion of his creative work.

Henderson’s career is best understood from the broader perspective of a composer-arranger; indeed, distinctions between composer and arranger—and composition and arrangement, with their implied hierarchy—are precisely the kinds of differences that African American music making continually challenges.

This according to “Fletcher Henderson, composer: A counter-entry to the International dictionary of black composers” by Jeffrey Magee (Black music research journal XIX [spring 1999] pp. 61–70).

Today is Henderson’s 120th birthday! Below, Wrappin’ it up, one of the works discussed in the article.

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Brill’s companions to the musical culture of medieval and early modern Europe

In 2017 Brill launched Brill’s companions to the musical culture of medieval and early modern Europe, a peer-reviewed series of volumes providing high-level and up-to-date surveys of research into all aspects of medieval and early modern musical culture in Europe—composers, schools, genres, instruments, education, dance, musical manuscripts and printing, and the musical cultures of given cities, chapels, religious orders, and courts.

Written by the foremost specialists, the books offer balanced accounts along with overviews of the state of scholarship and debates, pointing the way for future research. The books are normally multi-author volumes, thoroughly planned out at an editorial level to ensure comprehensiveness and cohesion and maximizing their value to the student and scholar.

The inaugural volume, Companion to music in the age of the Catholic monarchs, offers a major new study that deepens and enriches understanding of the forms and functions of music that flourished in late medieval Spanish society. The fifteen essays present a synthesis based on recently discovered material that throws new light on different aspects of musical life during the reign of Ferdinand and Isabel (1474–1516): sacred and secular music-making in royal and aristocratic circles; the cathedral music environment; liturgy and power; musical connections with Rome, Portugal, and the New World; theoretical and unwritten musical practices; women as patrons and performers; and the legacy of Jewish musical traditions.

Below, a work by Francisco de Peñalosa, one of the composers discussed in the book.

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American popular music

In 2017 the University of Oklahoma Press launched the series American popular music to explore the evolution of folk, blues, gospel, country, rock, jazz, and soul by looking at the ways music relates to the land and people. The primary focus is on music identified with Oklahoma, Texas, and surrounding regions, following regional influences to the farthest extent of their reach.

Of particular interest are individual artists and how they express their ties to land and people uniquely and collectively. This series therefore considers the role that music plays in the lives of artists and the communities that identify with them, and demonstrates how the business of music has shaped their careers and legacies.

The inaugural volume, Sing me back home: Southern roots and country music by Bill C. Malone, presents the story of the author’s working-class upbringing in rural East Texas, recounting how in 1939 his family’s first radio, a battery-powered Philco, introduced him to hillbilly music and how, years later, he went on to become a scholar on the subject before the field formally existed. The book draws on a hundred years of southern roots music history, exploring the intricate relationships between black and white music styles, gospel and secular traditions, and pop, folk, and country music.

Below, Joe Thompson, one of the musicians discussed in the book.

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The Original Pinettes Brass Band

Playing on male-gendered instruments, the members of the all-women Original Pinettes Brass Band contest the male domination of the New Orleans brass band scene, queering the normative relationship between instruments and musicians and carving out a space for female musicianship.

The group’s songs and performance decisions present agential and subjective sites of black feminist thought put into action to subvert the brass band patriarchy. The Pinettes force us to view the New Orleans brass band scene as an intersectional site where gender is a central element in the construction and consolidation of power relationships.

This according to “Street queens: New Orleans brass bands and the problem of intersectionality” by Kyle DeCoste (Ethnomusicology LXI/2 [summer 2017] pp. 181–206). Below, the Pinettes in 2016.

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Izabrana dela iz Hrenovih kornih knjig / Selected works from the Hren choirbooks

Hren

The Hren choirbooks comprise six large, well-preserved codices from the early seventeenth century; they are now held at the Narodna in Univerzitetna Knjižnica in Ljubljana (SI-Lnr MSS 339–44).

Hren choirbooksIn 2017 the Slovenska Akademija Znanosti in Umetnosti inaugurated the series Izabrana dela iz Hrenovih kornih knjig/Selected works from the Hren choirbooks with an edition of Annibale Perini’s Missa “Benedicite omnia opera Domini” and Pietro Antonio Bianco’s Missa “Percussit Saul mille”, two works whose sole source is the Hren Choirbooks.

Both works are parody Masses: the model for Perini’s Mass is Ruggiero Giovannelli’s motet Benedicite omnia opera Domini, while that for Bianco’s Mass is the motet Percussit Saul mille by Giovanni Croce.

Above, the statue of Tomaž Hren at the Stolnica Svetega Nikolaja, where the books originated; below, Croce’s Percussit Saul mille, the basis of the Bianco work.

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Hindustani music on the cello

After a chance encounter with a colleague who had studied Indian music, Nancy Lesh decided to spend a summer holiday in India. Having been trained in Western classical music for 12 years, she had assumed that Indian music was “less refined”—but she fell deeply for Hindustani music, and began training in dhrupad, transferring the vocal style to her cello.

Eventually she began to study with the renowned Zia Mohiuddin Dagar, modeling her playing on the rudra vīṇā, the only instrument on which dhrupad is played. “Sixteen years later,” she says, I realize that this music is just beginning to mature within me.”

This according to “Hindustani music on cello” by S. Sankaranarayanan (Sruti 179 [August 1999] pp. 39–41). Below, a performance from 2013.

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33 1/3 global

 

In August 2017 Bloomsbury launched 33 1/3 global, a series of short music-based books related to but independent from their series 33 1/3. The new series brings the focus to music throughout the world, starting with Supercell’s “Supercell” featuring Hatsune Miku by Keisuke Yamada, in the subseries 33 1/3 Japan.

The lead singer on Supercell’s eponymous first album is Hatsune Miku (初音ミク), a Vocaloid character created by Crypton Future Media with voice synthesizers. A virtual superstar, over 100,000 songs, uploaded mostly by fans, are attributed to her. By the time Supercell was released in March 2009, the group’s Vocaloid works were already well-known to fans.

This book explores the Vocaloid and DTM (desktop music) phenomena through the lenses of media and fan studies, looking closely at online social media platforms, the new technology for composing, avid fans of the Vocaloid character, and these fans’ performative practices. It provides a sense of how interactive new media and an empowered fan base combine to engage in the creation processes and enhance the circulation of DTM works.

Below, Hatsune Miku in action.

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Ottoman marches in Bosnia

Initially the Ottoman Empire lacked the important ceremonial symbol of a Western-style national anthem, and each sultan from Mahmud II onwards commissioned a march for that purpose. Accordingly, the imperial march of Abdülhamid II was Hamidiye marşı (or Ey velinimet-i âlem, the first words of the text). Before the annexation of Bosnia Hamidiye marşı was of marked political importance there, and the march’s symbolic value made it an integral part of the musical program of various Bosnian Muslim entertainments.

Another frequently performed Ottoman march was Cezayir marşı (Turkish Cezayir “Algiers, Algeria”, or Dezair, as it was known in Bosnia). This march is often attributed to Giuseppe Donizetti  (Gaetano’s brother, above); the reference to Algeria is probably due to the French invasion of that Ottoman province in 1830.

This according to “Ottoman music in Habsburg Bosnia-Herzegovina (1878–1918)” by Risto Pekka Pennanen, an essay included in 6. međunarodni simpozij “Muzika u Društvu”: Zbornik radova/6th international symposium “Music in Society”: Collection of papers (Sarajevo: Muzikološko Društvo BiH, 2009, pp. 81–91).

Below, the two marches in question.

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Obrecht and the sphinx

The symmetries of Jacob Obrecht’s Missa “Maria zart” can be deconstructed into constituent elements, like a puzzle, to re-create certain stages of the composer’s working methods.

Described by Rob Wegman as “the sphinx among Obrecht’s Masses”, the work ideally lends itself to this approach because of the simplicity of the melodic and rhythmic layout of its cantus firmus. These characteristics may have inspired the composer to write even more geometrically than is usual in his oeuvre.

This according to “Looking at the sphinx: Obrecht’s Missa “Maria zart” by János Bali (Journal of the Alamire Foundation II/2 [fall 2010] pp. 208–30).

According to some sources, today is Obrecht’s 560th birthday! Below, an excerpt from the work, conducted by Prof. Bali.

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Jazz and unexpected stimuli

Creativity has been defined as the ability to produce work that is novel, high in quality, and appropriate to an audience. While the nature of the creative process is under debate, many believe that creativity relies on real-time combinations of known neural and cognitive processes.

One useful model of creativity comes from musical improvisation, such as in jazz, in which musicians spontaneously create novel sound sequences. A study used jazz musicians to test the hypothesis that individuals with training in musical improvisation, which entails creative generation of musical ideas, might process expectancy differently.

Researchers used EEGs to compare the brain activity of 12 jazz musicians (with improvisation training), 12 classical musicians (without improvisation training), and 12 non-musicians while they listened to a series of chord progressions. Some of the examples followed typical Western chord progressions, while others followed atypical ones.

Jazz musicians had a significantly different electrophysiological response to the unexpected progressions, indicating that they had an increased perceptual sensitivity to unexpected stimuli along with an increased engagement with unexpected events.

This according to “Jazz musicians reveal role of expectancy in human creativity” by Emily Przysinda, Tima Zheng, Kellyn Maves, Cameron Arkin, and Psyche Loui (Brain and cognition CXIX [December 2017] pp. 45–53).

Below, the Miles Davis Quintet plays Wayne Shorter’s Nefertiti, a work often cited for its use of unexpected chords; above, Davis, Shorter, and Herbie Hancock in 1964.

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