When Lennon met McCartney

On the afternoon of 6 July 1957 a group called The Quarrymen performed at the garden fete of St. Peter’s Church in Woolton, Liverpool; the group’s singer and guitarist was the 16-year-old John Lennon.

As the group was setting up their equipment to play again that evening, one of the members introduced Lennon to one of his classmates, the 15-year-old Paul McCartney. The pair chatted for a few minutes, and McCartney showed Lennon how to tune a guitar (Lennon’s instrument was in G banjo tuning). McCartney then sang some popular songs, including a medley of songs by Little Richard.

The two were impressed with each other, and after the Quarrymen’s show the group and some friends, along with McCartney, went to a Woolton pub where they lied about their ages to get served.

This according to “John Lennon meets Paul McCartney” (The Beatles bible, s.n., s.l.).

These events occurred 60 years ago today! Above, Lennon at the afternoon performance (click to enlarge); below, excerpts from The Quarrymen’s show that night, recorded by an audience member—the recording was acquired by EMI in 1994, but was not released commercially since the sound quality was deemed unacceptable.

Leave a comment

Filed under Performers, Popular music

The Dancing Queens of Mumbai

For many Indian hijras—a casteless and classless queer minority—badhais (ritualistic music and dance) are the only available means of revenue aside from sex work and bar dance; this has been the practical reality for hijras for nearly two centuries of legal persecution.

While the current reality does not bode well for the continuation of hijra badhais as we once knew them, newly emerging transgender ensembles like Mumbai’s Dancing Queens are introducing new possibilities for hijra performativity and empowerment.

Established within a reconstituted urban Indian context, new adaptive strategies are predicated on the exchange of devalued ways of encoding hijra difference for updated, modern ones based upon the distinctly LGBTIQ discourse of pehchān (acknowledgement of the self, or identity). The Dancing Queens’s staging of pehchān empowers hijras through a global transgender lexicon while simultaneously renewing particular preexisting performance repertoires of homo-sociality.

This according to “The Dancing Queens: Negotiating hijra pehchān from India’s streets onto the global stage” by Jeff Roy (Ethnomusicology review XX [2015] pp. 69–91). This journal, along with many others, is covered in our new RILM Abstracts of Music Literature with Full Text collection.

Above and below, the Dancing Queens in action.

BONUS: Ready for more? Here’s a full performance.

Leave a comment

Filed under Asia, Curiosities, Dance

Lena Horne’s second act

 

“I was the first black sex symbol, the first black movie star, and the first black to integrate saloons…I had to take a lot of flak from my own people, and everybody else’s people.” Thus spoke the very forthright, five-feet, five-inches Lena Horne, a musician’s singer who overcame deep-seated prejudice to establish herself professionally. “I was always told to remember I was the first of my race to be given a chance in the movies, and I had to be careful not to step out of line, not to make a fuss. It was all a lie. The only thing that wasn’t a lie was that I did make money—if I didn’t, they wouldn’t have kept me.”

Horne’s artistry deepened over the years as she came into her own. In 1974, at peace with herself and liberated, she reckoned, “In my early days I was a sepia Hedy Lamarr. Now I’m black and a woman, singing my own way.” In 1980, shortly after she had been named one of the world’s ten most beautiful women, she announced her retirement and embarked on a farewell tour.

But she had a change of heart, and in May 1981 Horne opened on Broadway in Lena Home: The lady and her music. She performed a host of songs associated with her (Stormy weather, The lady is a tramp), interspersed with sharp talk and direct reflections on her life. Newsweek raved that she was “the most awesome performer to hit Broadway in years.” The New York times added, “The lady’s range, energy, originality, humor, anger, and intelligence are simply not to be believed.”

For her one-woman production, Horne received a special Tony Award and a Grammy (for the LP album set), and the show was taped for cable TV. Lena Home: The lady and her music ran on Broadway for 333 performances, closing on her 65th birthday. She went on tour with the production in 1984; that December she received the Kennedy Center Honors Award for Lifetime Achievement.

This according to “Lena Horne” by James Robert Parish and Michael R. Pitts (Hollywood songsters: Singers who act and actors who sing—A biographical dictionary [New York: Routledge, 2003] p. 380–90); this resource is one of many included in RILM music encyclopedias, an ever-expanding full-text compilation of reference works.

Today is Horne’s 100th birthday! Above, the lead publicity shot for her 1981 show; below, an excerpt.

BONUS: Your wish is our command—here’s the whole show.

1 Comment

Filed under Black studies, Performers, Popular music

Medieval interventions: New light on traditional thinking

In 2016 Peter Lang launched the series Medieval interventions: New light on traditional thinking with The power and value of music: Its effect and ethos in classical authors and contemporary music theory by Andreas Kramarz.

The series publishes innovative studies on medieval culture broadly conceived—works espousing, for example, new research protocols, especially those involving digitized resources; revisionist approaches to codicology and paleography; reflections on medieval ideologies; fresh pedagogical practices; digital humanities; advances in gender studies; and fresh thinking on animal, environmental, geospatial, and nature studies. In short, the series will seek to set rather than follow agendas in the study of medieval culture.

Since medieval intellectual and artistic practices were naturally interdisciplinary, the series welcomes studies from across the humanities and social sciences. Recognizing also the vigor that marks the field worldwide, the series endeavors to publish work in translation from non-Anglophone medievalists.

Below, Dr. Kramarz engagingly introduces himself and his subject matter.

BONUS: In an example of Apollonian aesthetics cited in the book, Tamino controls the elements with his magic flute in Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte.

Leave a comment

Filed under Antiquity, New series

Tritonal crime

In an experiment, over 100 listeners reported associations with crime and detectives when presented with musical examples that were not originally intended to evoke such responses. These examples all involved melodic and harmonic tritones or half-diminished seventh chords, which have long been standard features of the music of crime-themed films, radio programs, and television shows.

The use of tritones and half-diminished chords in these contexts owes as much to their function as a style indicator of certain types of jazz—and as a genre synecdoche of people, places, and activities associated with that style—as it does to its history of harmonic ambiguity and associations with drama and woe in the European classical tradition.

This according to “Tritonal crime and music as music” by Philip Tagg, an essay included in Norme con ironie: Scritti per i settant’anni di Ennio Morricone (Milano: Suvini Zerboni, 1998, pp. 273–309).

Above and below, The man from U.N.C.L.E. brought a plethora of tritones to family televisions in the mid-1960s.

Leave a comment

Filed under Film music, Popular music, Theory

Jason Mraz, avocado farmer

When Jason Mraz bought a 5½-acre ranch northeast of San Diego in 2004, he thought it would be “a place to be isolated when you have a crazy life.” The densely packed property is planted mostly with avocados, along with Meyer lemons, pomegranates, guavas, and mangoes.

In his early performing days Mraz had regularly subsisted on fast food, soda, and cigarettes, but as he began to tour he realized that a better regimen was essential to maintaining his health, and in 2008 “we decided to bring a chef out on tour with us for 30 days and go vegetarian and raw to see what would happen. And I mean, a dramatic transformation. Not just in weight loss, but in overall health and energy.”

Mraz became a dedicated locavore, and an avid cultivator and consumer of his avocados and other crops. “The first time I was served a big chunk of avocado on my salad, I didn’t know what to do with it. Now I’m among them all the time, experimenting with them, making meals and adding spices and whatnot. You know, your palate evolves.”

This according to “The accidental avocado farmer” by Jim Romanoff (Eating well XIV/1 [January–February 2015] pp. 88–94).

Today is Mraz’s 40th birthday! Below, performing Back to the earth at his avocado ranch.

Leave a comment

Filed under Food, Performers, Popular music

Svensk jazzbibliografi

Svensk jazzbibliografi is a new online resource that covers writings about Swedish jazz in Swedish and in other languages, in the areas of jazz history; biographies and memoirs; jazz-related literature, photographs, and art; anthologies, essays, and other literature; discographies; and periodicals.

Published by Svenskt Visarkiv, this open-access bibliography was compiled and annotated by the Swedish composer, arranger, and conductor Mats Holmquist.

Above and below, Holmquist in action.

Leave a comment

Filed under Jazz and blues, Performers, Resources

Roll over, Stradivari?

Old Italian violins are routinely credited with playing qualities supposedly unobtainable in new instruments. These qualities include the ability to project their sound more effectively in a concert hall—despite seeming relatively quiet under the ear of the player—compared with new violins.

Although researchers have long tried to explain the mystery of Antonio Stradivari’s sound, it is only recently that studies have addressed the fundamental assumption of tonal superiority. Results from two studies show that, under blind conditions, experienced violinists tend to prefer playing new violins over Old Italians. Moreover, they are unable to tell new from old at better than chance levels.

In two separate experiments, three new violins were compared with three by Stradivari. Projection was tested both with and without orchestral accompaniment. Projection and preference were judged simultaneously by dividing listeners into two groups.

The results were unambiguous. The new violins projected better than the Stradivaris whether tested with orchestra or without, the new violins were generally preferred by the listeners, and the listeners could not reliably distinguish new from old. The single best-projecting violin was considered the loudest under the ear by players, and on average, violins that were quieter under the ear were found to project less well.

This according to “Listener evaluations of new and Old Italian violins” by Claudia Fritz, Joseph Curtin, Jacques Poitevineau, and Fan-Chia Tao. (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 8 May 2017).

Above, detail from Antonio Stradivari in his atelier by Antonio Rinaldi; below, a report on one of the experiments, including excerpts from interviews with Fritz and Curtin.

Leave a comment

Filed under Curiosities, Instruments

Cherubini studies

In 2016 Studio-Verlag launched the series Cherubini studies (ISSN 2509-6117) with Luigi Cherubini: Vielzitiert, bewundert, unbekannt, edited by Helen Geyer and Michael Pauser.

The book presents papers from the Internationale Cherubini-Kongress Weimar 2010. Topics include aesthetic questions such as Cherubini’s relationship to the Italian musica-antica tradition, the possibilities and limitations of a musical aestheticization of natural catastrophes, and the reception of Cherubini in the contemporary press.

Below, the finale of Cherubini’s Requiem in C minor, one of the works discussed in the collection.

Leave a comment

Filed under Classic era, New series

Why ladies love country boys

The emergence of a strikingly cohesive set of gender narratives on country radio in the late 2000s and early 2010s can be linked to the impact of globalization and economic crisis during those years.

In redneck-blueblood anthems, the country boy wins over the wealthy, cosmopolitan woman despite her material success and his limited economic and social prospects. This popular narrative extends the long-standing tradition in which down-home country masculinity is defined partly through its relationship to the character of the upwardly mobile woman who has moved from working-class to middle- or upper-class status.

Whereas some critics view country culture as articulating a form of working-class male abjection or degradation, the redneck-blueblood songs provide a narrative of success that directly reclaims the value of working-class masculinity. This narrative resonates with audiences confronting intensely threatening economic and social dislocation in the global economy.

This according to “Why ladies love country boys: Gender, class, and economics in contemporary country music” by Jocelyn R. Neal, an essay included in Country boys and redneck women: New essays in gender and country music (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2016, pp. 3–25).

Above, a screen shot from Trace Adkins’s Ladies love country boys; below, Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood’s Remind me. Both songs serve as case studies in the article.

Leave a comment

Filed under Popular music