Tag Archives: Instant Classics

Instant Classics: RILM’s Top 13 Reviewed Texts, 2022–23

Amidst a summer break flying by all too quickly, RILM presents another installment of its Instant Classics series—posts comprising annotated bibliographies of books, indexed in RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, that have received the most reviews in academic literature across a given time span. The content of these books exemplifies RILM’s commitment to disseminating publications that are truly international in scope, with coverage that embraces a diversity of languages, nations, subject matter, and approaches to music research. This 2022—23 list contains a little something for everyone, and we hope it will inspire some welcomed additions to your summer reading list.

As always, this collection should be approached with a critical eye. As reviews continue to be written, the order of the books included here will continuously be in flux and, over time, some could be replaced by others. Further, access to resources, familiarity with conventions of proposal writing that are attractive to publishers, and innumerable other factors vary considerably across music research communities around the world. Indeed, closing the gap in such disparities, particularly regarding publications coming from the Global South, is an essential component of RILM’s mission. Despite the inherent limitations, collecting these texts in this way is valuable, as it generates an archive of the topics, methodologies, and perspectives that earned the attention of music scholars, writers, and journalists during a brief period in time. 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. 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.

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 submissions page, making sure records of your publications appear there, and adding abstracts and reviews to them as necessary. We thank you in advance and wish you a happy summer of reading!

P.S.: Sympathies to Arnold Schoenberg, the book on whom, either predictably, eerily, coincidentally, or uncannily, placed at number 13, the one number he avoided more than any other while he was alive.

– Written, compiled, and edited by Michael Lupo, Assistant Editor/Marketing & Media, RILM


#13. Sachs, Harvey. Schoenberg: Why he matters (New York: Liveright, 2023). [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2023-4761]

Abstract: In his time, Arnold Schoenberg (1874–1951) was an international icon. His twelve-tone system was considered the future of music itself. Today, however, leading orchestras rarely play his works, and his name is met with apathy, if not antipathy. Within the context of this interpretative account, Schoenberg’s reputation is restored to his rightful place in the canon, revealing him as one of the 20th century’s most influential composers and teachers. Schoenberg, a thorny character who composed thorny works, raged against the “Procrustean bed” of tradition. Defying his critics—among them the Nazis, who described his music as “degenerate”—he constantly battled the antisemitism that eventually precipitated his flight from Europe to Los Angeles. Yet Schoenberg, synthesizing Wagnerian excess with Brahmsian restraint, created a shock wave that never quite subsided, and his compositions must be confronted by anyone interested in the past, present, or future of Western music.

#12. Broad, Leah. Quartet: How four women changed the musical world (London: Faber & Faber, 2023). [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2023-1400]

Abstract: A group biography of four women composers who changed the modern musical landscape: Ethel Smyth (1858–1944), famous for her operas, was a trailblazing queer Victorian composer and a larger-than-life socialite, intrepid traveller, and committed Suffragette. Rebecca Clarke (1886–1979) was a talented violist and Pre-Raphaelite beauty, and one of the first women ever hired by a professional orchestra, later celebrated for her modernist experimentation. Dorothy Howell (1898–1982) was a prodigy who shot to fame at the 1919 Proms. She earned a reputation as the “English Strauss”, and after retiring she tended Elgar’s grave alone. Doreen Carwithen (1922–2003) was one of Britain’s first woman film composers, who scored Elizabeth II’s coronation film; her success hid a 20-year affair with her married composition tutor. In their time, these women were celebrities. They composed some of the century’s most popular music and pioneered creative careers; but today, they are ghostly presences, surviving only as muses and footnotes to male contemporaries like Elgar, Vaughan Williams, and Britten.

#11. Proksch, Bryan. The golden age of American bands: A document history (1835–1935) (Chicago: GIA Publications, 2022). [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2022-10133]

Abstract: The story of the American wind band, told chronologically by those who experienced it in real time from 1835 to 1935. The volume explores how bands became bands, how they rose in popularity, and which figures had insights and specific impacts on the development of the genre. Through source documents and articles, the volume surveys the ensemble’s history from the time of the first brass bands in the 1830s, through the Civil War and the golden ages of Patrick S. Gilmore and John Philip Sousa, to the cusp of the wind ensemble just before World War II. Musicians such as Frederick Fennell, Allessandro Liberati, Karl L. King, Patrick Conway, Fredrick Neil Innes, Jules Levy, Alan Dodworth, and Herbert L. Clarke are included. Numerous rare and unknown illustrations show the places where band history happened. Documents include rare periodical excerpts, handwritten letters, and other writings taken from archives throughout the United States.

#10. Bonnette-Bailey, Lakeyta Moninque and Adolphus G. Belk, Jr., eds. For the culture: Hip-hop and the fight for social justice. Music and social justice (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2022). [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2022-4800]

Abstract: Documents and analyzes the ways in which hip hop music, artists, scholars, and activists have discussed, promoted, and supported social justice challenges worldwide. Drawing from diverse approaches and methods, the contributors in this volume demonstrate that rap music can positively influence political behavior and fight to change social injustices, and then zoom in on artists whose work has accomplished these ends. The volume explores topics including education and pedagogy; the Black Lives Matter movement; the politics of crime, punishment, and mass incarceration; electoral politics; gender and sexuality; and the global struggle for social justice. Ultimately, the book argues that hip hop is much more than a musical genre or cultural form: hip hop is a resistance mechanism.

#9. Vera Aguilera, Alejandro and David Andrés Fernández. Los cantorales de la Catedral de Lima: Estudio, reconstrucción, catálogo (Madrid: Sociedad Española de Musicología, 2022). [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2022-1557]

Resumen: Los cantorales de la Catedral de Lima estudia, por primera vez, la colección de libros de coro de la Catedral Metropolitana de Lima, que está formada por cuarenta volúmenes manuscritos copiados en su mayor parte en el siglo XVII. En el estudio inicial, se aborda su historia, confección y escribas responsables. Seguidamente, se indaga sobre su forma de interpretación en la época colonial a través de la reconstrucción de un servicio litúrgico de suma importancia en su contexto. Finalmente, se ofrece un catálogo crítico de la colección que incluye sus contenidos íntegros en forma de índices analíticos y alfabéticos que facilitan su localización. En suma, este trabajo constituye un estudio integral sobre una colección de libros de canto llano conservada en Sudamérica. Además, representa una útil herramienta de investigación en la que se exhuman numerosos documentos históricos y se presentan transcripciones de repertorio tanto monódico como polifónico, razón por la que será de interés para musicólogos, historiadores e intérpretes, entre otros.

Abstract: Studies, for the first time, the collection of choir books of the Catedral Metropolitana de Lima, which consists of 40 manuscript volumes copied mostly in the 17th century. The history, physical features, and scribes who worked on the manuscripts are discussed. The way this collection was used in colonial times is examined through the reconstruction of a liturgical service from its context. An annotated catalogue of the collection is offered, which includes its complete contents in the form of analytical and alphabetical indexes that facilitate its location.

#8. Marissen, Michael. Bach against modernity (New York: Oxford University Press, 2023). [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2023-3999]

Abstract: Many scholars and music lovers hold that Bach is a modern figure, as his music seems to speak directly to the aesthetic, spiritual, or emotional concerns of today’s listeners. But, by 18th-century standards, Bach and his music in fact reflected and forcefully promoted a premodern world and life view. A new look at Bach is presented that considers problems of inattentiveness to historical considerations in academic and popular writing about Bach’s relation to the present. Also put forward are interpretive reassessments of key individual works by Bach, examining problems in modern comprehension of the partly archaic German texts that Bach set to music. Lastly, Bach’s music is explored in relation to premodern versus enlightened attitudes toward Jews and Judaism, and the theological character of Bach’s secular instrumental music is examined. Overlooked or misunderstood evidence is provided of Bach’s private engagement with religious and social issues that he also addressed in his public vocal compositions. While we are free to make use of Bach and his music in whatever ways we find fitting, we ought also to guard against miscasting Bach in our own ideological image and proclaiming the authenticity of that image, and therefore its prestige value, in support of our own agendas.

#7. Goodman, Karen D., ed. Developing issues in world music therapy education and training: A plurality of views (Springfield: Charles C. Thomas, 2023). [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2023-7332]

Abstract: Reflects on current or necessary changes in music therapy training that come about because of history, society, economy, generational shifts, and the workplace. The subject matter questions the nature of music therapy itself; examines challenges to education and training; suggests critical thinking (vs. repetition or repackaging of information) for students, educators, clinicians, researchers and supervisors in the field of music therapy; respects the past but looks to the future; and offers perspectives from others in the field through such vehicles as surveys, interviews, and reviews of literature.

#6. Mathew, Nicholas. The Haydn economy: Music, aesthetics, and commerce in the late eighteenth century. New material histories of music (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2022). [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2022-10831]

Abstract: Reimagines the world of Joseph Haydn and his contemporaries, with its catastrophic upheavals and thrilling sense of potential. Critical questions are addressed, such as how we tell the history of the European Enlightenment and Romanticism; the relation of late 18th-century culture to incipient capitalism and European colonialism; and how the modern market and modern aesthetic values were—and remain—inextricably entwined. The study weaves a vibrant material history of Haydn’s career, extending from the sphere of the ancient Esterházy court to his frenetic years as an entrepreneur plying between London and Vienna to his final decade as a venerable musical celebrity, during which he witnessed the transformation of his legacy by a new generation of students and acolytes, Beethoven foremost among them. Ultimately, Haydn’s historical trajectory compels us to ask what we might retain from the cultural and political practices of European modernity—whether we can extract and preserve its moral promise from its moral failures. And it demands that we confront the deep histories of capitalism that continue to shape our beliefs about music, sound, and material culture.

#5. Dylan, Bob. The philosophy of modern song (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2022). [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2022-9712]

Abstract: Comprises over 60 essays written by the Pulitzer Prize winning songwriter, focusing on songs by other artists spanning from Stephen Foster to Elvis Costello, from Hank Williams to Nina Simone. Among many other subjects, the trap of easy rhymes is analyzed, breaking down how the addition of a single syllable can diminish a song, while also explaining how bluegrass relates to heavy metal. Over 100 photos are included, as well as a series of dream-like riffs that, taken together, resemble an epic poem—characteristic of the author’s own work in the field of songwriting—adding to the work’s transcendence.

#4. Denk, Jeremy. Every good boy does fine: A love story, in music lessons (New York: Random House, 2022). [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2022-954]

Abstract: Pianist Jeremy Denk traces an implausible journey. His life is already a little tough as a precocious, temperamental six-year-old piano prodigy in New Jersey, and then a family meltdown forces a move to New Mexico. There, Denk must please a new taskmaster, an embittered but devoted professor, while navigating junior high school. At 16 he escapes to college in Ohio, only to encounter a bewildering new cast of music teachers, both kind and cruel. After many humiliations and a few triumphs, he ultimately finds his way as a world-touring pianist, a MacArthur genius, and a frequent performer at Carnegie Hall. But under all this struggle is a love letter to the act of teaching. Denk dives deeply into the pieces and composers that have shaped him—Bach, Mozart, and Brahms, among others—and offers lessons on melody, harmony, and rhythm. How do melodies work? Why is harmony such a mystery to most people? Why are teachers so obsessed with the metronome? Denk shares the most meaningful lessons of his life, and tries to repay a debt to his teachers. He also reminds us that we must never stop asking questions about music and its purposes: consolation, an armor against disillusionment, pure pleasure, a diversion, a refuge, and a vehicle for empathy.

#3. Cypess, Rebecca. Women and musical salons in the Enlightenment (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2022). [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2022-4905]

Abstract: A broad overview of musical salons between 1760 and 1800, placing the figure of the salonnière at its center. The author presents a series of in-depth case studies that meet the salonnière on her own terms. Women such as Anne-Louise Brillon de Jouy in Paris, Marianne von Martínez in Vienna, Sara Levy in Berlin, Angelica Kauffman in Rome, and Elizabeth Graeme in Philadelphia come to life in multidimensional ways. Crucially, the author uses performance as a tool for research, and her interpretations draw on her experience with the instruments and performance practices used in 18th-century salons. The book explores women’s agency and authorship, reason and sentiment, and the roles of performing, collecting, listening, and conversing in the formation of 18th-century musical life.

#2. Vela González, Marta. La jota, aragonesa y cosmopolita: De San Petersburgo a Nueva York (Zaragoza: Pregunta, 2022). [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2022-14921]

Resumen: En este libro, la pianista, escritora y docente Marta Vela nos lleva tras los pasos de renombrados compositores (Liszt, Mahler, Debussy, Ravel, Satie?) que, a lo largo del siglo XIX, visitaron España, descubrieron la jota aragonesa y, fascinados, la integraron en sus obras, desde óperas hasta sinfonías, pasando por ballets y música de salón. Un libro lleno de curiosidades, erudición, anécdotas y hallazgos inéditos, narrado de forma amena y precisa.

Abstract: In this book, the pianist, writer, and teacher Marta Vela takes us in the footsteps of renowned composers (Liszt, Mahler, Debussy, Ravel, Satie?) who, throughout the 19th century, visited Spain, discovered the Aragonese jota and, fascinated, integrated it into their works, from operas to symphonies, including ballets and salon music. A book full of curiosities, erudition, anecdotes, and unpublished discoveries, narrated in a pleasant and precise way.

#1. Simon, Andrew. Media of the masses: Cassette culture in modern Egypt. Studies in Middle Eastern and Islamic societies and cultures (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2022). [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2022-3929]

Abstract: Investigates the social life of an everyday technology—the cassette tape—to offer a multisensory history of modern Egypt. Over the 1970s and 1980s, cassettes became a ubiquitous presence in Egyptian homes and stores. Audiocassette technology gave an opening to ordinary individuals, from singers to smugglers, to challenge state-controlled Egyptian media. Enabling an unprecedented number of people to participate in the creation of culture and circulation of content, cassette players and tapes soon informed broader cultural, political, and economic developments and defined modern Egyptian households. Drawing on a wide array of audio, visual, and textual sources that exist outside the Egyptian national archives, it provides a new entry point into understanding everyday life and culture. Cassettes and cassette players did not simply join other 20th century mass media, like records and radio; they were the media of the masses. Comprised of little more than magnetic reels in plastic cases, cassettes empowered cultural consumers to become cultural producers long before the advent of the Internet. Positioned at the productive crossroads of social history, cultural anthropology, and media and sound studies, it ultimately shows how the most ordinary things may yield the most surprising insights.

Leave a Comment

Filed under 20th- and 21st-century music, Africa, Baroque era, Musicology, North America, Pedagogy, Popular music, Romantic era, South America, Therapy

Instant Classics: RILM’s Top 8 Reviewed Texts, 2020–21

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.

Comments Off on Instant Classics: RILM’s Top 8 Reviewed Texts, 2020–21

Filed under 20th- and 21st-century music, Analysis, Classic era, Ethnomusicology, Jazz and blues, Mass media, Musicology, Opera, Opera, Politics, Popular music, Religious music, Romantic era, World music

Instant Classics: RILM’s Top 8 Most Reviewed Music Pedagogy Texts, 2016-19

“Rejoice in what you learn, and spray it.” – Tim Minchin

The multifarious methods used to communicate, transmit, and preserve musical knowledge reflect the diversity of this knowledge and the assumptions that lie behind what constitutes it. Students around the world learn about music in a wide range of settings—on stage, in the classroom, one-on-one with a specialist, and through personal reflection and rehearsing, to name only some examples. Music pedagogy, whether practiced within or outside of formalized institutions of learning, is a vibrant and important field of study. Those who teach pass on traditions, provide opportunities for economic advancement, exercise neurological pathways, and even instill ethical values on communities large and small. With music teachers and students in mind, and in recognition of the value of book reviews, this installment of our Instant Classics series highlights RILM’s eight most reviewed music pedagogy texts from 2016 to 2019. Although merely a snapshot of a moment in a dynamic publication environment, it is one worth taking.

And as always, an important reminder: We need your help! RILM always welcomes your reviews or reviews of your publications. Notice an omission? Help us fill in our gaps by submitting your review.


#8. Campbell, Patricia Shehan. Music, education, and diversity: Bridging cultures and communities. Multicultural education series (New York: Teachers College Press, 2018). [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2018-685]

Abstract: Music is a powerful means for educating citizens in a multicultural society and meeting many challenges shared by teachers across all subjects and grade levels. By celebrating heritage and promoting intercultural understandings, music can break down barriers among various ethnic, racial, cultural, and language groups within elementary and secondary schools. This book provides important insights for educators in music, the arts, and other subjects on the role that music can play in the curriculum as a powerful bridge to cultural understanding. The author documents key ideas and practices that have influenced current music education, particularly through efforts of ethnomusicologists in collaboration with educators, and examines some of the promises and pitfalls in shaping multicultural education through music. The text highlights World Music Pedagogy as a gateway to studying other cultures as well as the importance of including local music and musicians in the classroom. It chronicles the historical movements and contemporary issues that relate to music education, ethnomusicology, and cultural diversity; offers recommendations for the integration of music into specific classes, as well as throughout school culture; examines performance, composition, and listening analysis of art (folk/traditional and popular) as avenues for understanding local and global communities; and documents music’s potential to advance dimensions of multicultural education, such as the knowledge-construction process, prejudice reduction, and an equity pedagogy.

#7. Abrahams, Frank and Paul D. Head, eds. The Oxford handbook of choral pedagogy. Oxford handbooks (New York: Oxford University Press, 2017). [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2017-925]

Abstract: Explores varied perspectives on teaching, learning, and performing choral music. Authors are academic scholars and researchers as well as active choral conductors. Topics include music programming and the selection of repertoire; the exploration of singer and conductor identity; choral traditions in North America, Western Europe, South America, and Africa; and the challenges conductors meet as they work with varied populations of singers. Chapters consider children’s choirs, world music choirs, adult community choirs, gospel choirs, jazz choirs, professional choruses, collegiate glee clubs, and choirs that meet the needs of marginalized singers. Those who contributed chapters discuss a variety of theoretical frameworks including critical pedagogy, constructivism, singer and conductor agency and identity, and the influences of popular media on the choral art. The text is not a how-to book. While it may be appropriate in various academic courses, the intention is not to explain how to conduct or to organize a choral program. While there is specific information about vocal development and vocal health, it is not a text on voice science. Instead, the editors and contributing authors intend that the collection serve as a resource to inform, provoke, and evoke discourse and dialogue concerning the complexity of pedagogy in the domain of the choral art.

#6. Ódena Caballol, Óscar. Musical creativity revisited: Educational foundations, practices and research. SEMPRE studies in the psychology of music (Abingdon: Routledge, 2018). [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2018-4287]

Abstract: How is creativity understood and facilitated across music education settings? What is the power of creativity in enhancing individual and group learning? How is musical creativity used as a tool for cross-community integration? How can we research the interactions of those engaged in musical activities aimed at creative development? These are just some of the questions addressed in this book, which includes insights from theory, practice-based research, and methodological analyses. Its chapters celebrate the diversity of the many different ways in which young and adult learners develop musical creativity. Following on from the volume cited as RILM 2012-8068, the author offers novel examples from practice and precise suggestions on how to research it. Chapters are organized into three sections: Foundations, Practices, and Research. They include examples from in-depth studies focused on a secondary school in England, higher music education in Spain, and out-of-school settings in Northern Ireland.

#5. Kertz-Welzel, Alexandra. Globalizing music education: A framework. Counterpoints: Music and education (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2018). [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2018-2953]

Abstract: How do globalization and internationalization impact music education around the world? By acknowledging different cultural values and priorities, the author’s vision challenges the current state of international music education and higher education, which has been dominated by English-language scholarship. Her framework uses an interdisciplinary approach and emphasizes the need for developing a pluralistic mode of thinking, while underlining shared foundations and goals. She explores issues of educational transfer, differences in academic discourses worldwide, and the concept of the global mindset to help facilitate much-needed transformations in global music education. This thinking and research, she argues, provides a means for better understanding global transfers of knowledge and ways to avoid culturally and linguistically hegemonic standards.

#4. Downing, Sonja Lynn. Gamelan girls: Gender, childhood, and politics in Balinese music ensembles. New perspectives on gender in music (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2019). [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2019-10637]

Abstract: In recent years, girls’ and mixed-gender ensembles have challenged the tradition of male-dominated gamelan performance. The change heralds a fundamental shift in how Balinese think about gender roles and the gender behavior taught in children’s music education. It also makes visible a national reorganization of the arts taking place within debates over issues like women’s rights and cultural preservation. The author draws on over a decade of immersive ethnographic work to analyze the ways Balinese musical practices have influenced the processes behind these dramatic changes. Girls and young women assert their agency within the gamelan learning process to challenge entrenched notions of performance and gender. One dramatic result is the creation of new combinations of femininity, musicality, and Balinese identity that resist messages about gendered behavior from the Indonesian nation-state and beyond. Such experimentation expands the accepted gender aesthetics of gamelan performance but also sparks new understanding of the role children can and do play in ongoing debates about identity and power.

#3. Wallbaum, Christopher, ed. Comparing international music lessons on video. Hochschule für Musik und Theater “Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy” Leipzig: Schriften 14 (Hildesheim: Georg Olms, 2018). [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2018-58022]

Abstract: Video-recorded music lessons (on multi-angle DVDs) were used to inspire and improve understanding among experts from different cultures and discourses of music education. To make the process manageable and focused, we developed the Analytical Short Film (2–3 minutes) to address particular areas of interest and starting points for debate. We asked selected music teachers from seven nation-states to allow a typical and (in their opinion) good lesson to be recorded. We also asked the students and their parents for permission. At a symposium, held at Leipzig’s Hochschule für Musik und Theater Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy in September 2014, national experts and researchers presented views on their lessons through Analytical Short Films. Discussion followed which included implicit and explicit comparisons. Each presenter also used a lesson from one of the other countries to stimulate discussion about assumptions in and challenges to their own views. We documented all comparisons made and compared these to derive cross-cultural categories. These categories should be relevant for understanding what makes a music lesson “good”. The different perspectives and discussions offered by the authors in this book—together with ten DVDs, interviews with the teachers and students, and associated research—provide rich and diverse material for researchers, teachers, and teacher educators. A related article is abstracted as RILM 2015-83222.

#2. Cook, Nicholas. Music as creative practice. Studies in musical performance as creative practice 5 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2018) [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2018-2373]

Abstract: Until recently, ideas of creativity in music revolved around composers in garrets and the lone genius. But the last decade has witnessed a sea change: musical creativity is now overwhelmingly thought of in terms of collaboration and real-time performance. This book synthesizes both perspectives. It begins by developing the idea that creativity arises out of social interaction—of which making music together is perhaps the clearest possible illustration—and then shows how the same thinking can be applied to the ostensibly solitary practices of composition. The book also emphasizes the contextual dimensions of musical creativity, ranging from the prodigy phenomenon, long-term collaborative relationships within and beyond the family, and creative learning, to the copyright system that is supposed to incentivize creativity. This book encompasses the classical tradition, jazz, and popular music, and music emerges as an arena in which changing concepts of creativity—from the old myths about genius to present-day sociocultural theory—can be traced with particular clarity. The perspective of creativity tells us much about music, but the reverse is also true, and this book offers an approach to musical creativity that is attuned to the practices of both music and everyday life.

#1. Allsup, Randall Everett. Remixing the classroom: Toward an open philosophy of music education. Counterpoints: Music and education (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2016). [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2016-3531]

Abstract: Provides alternatives for the traditional master-apprentice teaching model that has characterized music education. By providing examples across the arts and humanities, the author promotes a vision of education that is open, changing, and adventurous at heart. He contends that the imperative of growth at the core of all teaching and learning relationships is made richer, though less certain, when it is fused with a student’s self-initiated quest. In this way, the formal study of music turns from an education in teacher-directed craft and moves into much larger and more complicated fields of exploration. The author advocates for an open, quest-driven teaching model that has repercussions for music education and the humanities more generally.

Comments Off on Instant Classics: RILM’s Top 8 Most Reviewed Music Pedagogy Texts, 2016-19

Filed under Analysis, Asia, Ethnomusicology, Musicology, Pedagogy, Performance practice, Performers, World music

Instant Classics: RILM’s Top 10 Most Reviewed Texts, 2017–19

Reviews serve many valuable functions in music scholarship, from sparking critical discourse, to revealing topics of interest at a particular historical moment, to providing summaries and assessments for further inquiries, to shining a light on superlative (or, in some cases, substandard) research. Reviews collect and constitute interpretive communities, which arguably play a role in constructing the very meaning of a text.

In recognition of the importance of reviews, RILM inaugurates its Instant Classics series—a collection of the ten most-reviewed monographs indexed in the extensive international holdings of RILM Abstracts of Music Literature. The current list of books spans the two-year period from 2017 to 2019 and is ordered from least to most reviewed. Since it takes some time for texts to be assessed and reviews to be released, going back a few years provides a fuller and more accurate picture of a book in review.

This list is inherently limited, dynamic, and subject to continuous revision as more reviews potentially accrue for these and other texts. What we offer here is merely an inchoate snapshot, one that reflects the biases and areas of interest in music research at a specific time and place in history. With that in mind, it is also more than simply another “Top Ten” list, as it may hold a degree of historiographic value.

And finally, an important reminder: We need your help! RILM always welcomes your reviews or reviews of your publications. Notice an omission? Help us fill in our gaps by submitting your review.

– Compiled and edited by Michael Lupo, Assistant Editor and Marketing Coordinator, RILM


#10. Wheeler, Barbara L., Donna W. Polen, and Carol L. Shultis. Clinical training guide for the student music therapist (2nd ed., rev.; Dallas: Barcelona, 2017). [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2017-43779]

Abstract: Covers planning, assessment, goals and objectives, improvisation, composing, listening, individual and group work, documentation, and self-assessment.

#9. Borge, Jason R. Tropical riffs: Latin America and the politics of jazz (Durham: Duke University Press, 2018). [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2018-1970]

Abstract: This book traces how jazz helped forge modern identities and national imaginaries in Latin America during the mid-20th century. Across Latin America jazz functioned as a conduit through which debates about race, sexuality, nation, technology, and modernity raged in newspapers, magazines, literature, and film. For Latin American audiences, critics, and intellectuals—who often understood jazz to stem from social conditions similar to their own—the profound penetration into the fabric of everyday life of musicians like Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, and Charlie Parker represented the promises of modernity while simultaneously posing a threat to local and national identities. Brazilian anti-jazz rhetoric branded jazz as a problematic challenge to samba and emblematic of Americanization. In Argentina, jazz catalyzed discussions about musical authenticity, race, and national culture, especially in relation to tango. And in Cuba, the widespread popularity of Chano Pozo and Dámaso Pérez Prado challenged the United States’s monopoly on jazz. Outlining these hemispheric flows of ideas, bodies, and music, this book elucidates how the art form was, and remains, a transnational project and a collective idea.

#8. Chua, Daniel K.L. Beethoven & freedom (New York: Oxford University Press, 2017) [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2017-28046]

Abstract: Over the last two centuries, Beethoven’s music has been synonymous with the idea of freedom, in particular a freedom embodied in the heroic figure of Prometheus. This image arises from a relatively small circle of heroic works from the composer’s middle period, most notably the Eroica symphony. However, the freedom associated with the Promethean hero has also come under considerable critique by philosophers, theologians, and political theorists; its promise of autonomy easily inverts into various forms of authoritarianism, and the sovereign will it champions is not merely a liberating force but a discriminatory one. Beethoven’s freedom, then, appears to be increasingly problematic; yet his music is still employed today to mark political events from the fall of the Berlin Wall to the attacks of 9/11. Even more problematic, perhaps, is the fact that this freedom has shaped the reception of Beethoven’s music to such an extent that we forget that there is another kind of music in his oeuvre that is not heroic, a music that opens the possibility of a freedom yet to be articulated or defined. By exploring the musical philosophy of Theodor W. Adorno through a wide range of the composer’s music, this book arrives at a markedly different vision of freedom. The author suggests that a more human and fragile concept of freedom can be found in the music that has less to do with the autonomy of the will and its stoical corollary than with questions of human relation, donation, and a yielding to radical alterity. This work makes a major and controversial statement by challenging the current image of Beethoven, and by suggesting an alterior freedom that can speak ethically to the 21st century.

#7. Talle, Andrew. Beyond Bach: Music and everyday life in the eighteenth century (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2017). [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2017-24136]

Abstract: Reverence for J.S. Bach’s music and its towering presence in our cultural memory have long affected how people hear his works. In his own time, however, Bach stood as just another figure among a number of composers, many of them more popular with the music-loving public. Eschewing the great composer style of music history, the book takes us on a journey that looks at how ordinary people made music in Bach’s Germany. The author focuses in particular on the culture of keyboard playing as lived in public and private. Ranging through a wealth of documents, instruments, diaries, account ledgers, and works of art, he brings a fascinating cast of characters to life. These individuals—amateur and professional performers, patrons, instrument builders, and listeners—inhabited a lost world, and this book teases out the diverse roles music played in their lives and in their relationships with one another. At the same time, the author’s nuanced recreation of keyboard playing’s social milieu illuminates the era’s reception of Bach’s immortal works. An excerpt is abstracted as RILM 2018-7846.

#6. Watt, Paul. Ernest Newman: A critical biography. Music in Britain, 1600–2000 (Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 2017). [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2017-24973]

Abstract: Ernest Newman (1868–1959) left an indelible mark on British musical criticism in a career spanning more than 70 years. His magisterial (a reprint of which is cited as RILM 1976-2951), published in four volumes between 1933 and 1946, is regarded as his crowning achievement, but Newman wrote many other influential books and essays on a variety of subjects ranging from early music to Schoenberg. In this book, the geneses of Newman’s major publications are examined in the context of prevailing intellectual trends in history, criticism, and biography. Newman’s career as a writer is traced across a wide range of subjects including English and French literature; evolutionary theory and biographical method; and French, German, and Russian music. Underpinning many of these works is Newman’s preoccupation with rationalism and historical method. By examining particular sets of writings such as composer-biographies and essays from leading newspapers such as the and the Manchester guardian and the Sunday times, this book illustrates the ways in which Newman’s work was grounded in late–19th-century intellectual paradigms that made him a unique and at times controversial figure.

#5. García, David F. Listening for Africa: Freedom, modernity, and the logic of Black music’s African origins (Durham: Duke University Press, 2017) [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2017-38670]

Abstract: Explores how a diverse group of musicians, dancers, academics, and activists engaged with the idea of Black music and dance’s African origins between the 1930s and 1950s. The author examines the work of figures ranging from Melville J. Herskovits, Katherine Dunham, and Asadata Dafora to Duke Ellington, Dámaso Pérez Prado, and others who believed that linking Black music and dance with Africa and nature would help realize modernity’s promises of freedom in the face of fascism and racism in Europe and the Americas, colonialism in Africa, and the nuclear threat at the start of the Cold War. In analyzing their work, the author traces how such attempts to link Black music and dance to Africa unintentionally reinforced the binary relationships between the West and Africa, white and black, the modern and the primitive, science and magic, and rural and urban. Counter to the movement’s goals, it was modernity’s determinations of unraced, heteronormative, and productive bodies, and of scientific truth, that helped defer the realization of individual and political freedom in the world.

#4. Tunbridge, Laura. Singing in the age of anxiety: Lieder performances in New York and London between the World Wars (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2018). [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2018-4190]

Abstract: In New York and London during World War I, the performance of lieder was roundly prohibited, representing as they did the music and language of the enemy. But as German musicians returned to the transatlantic circuit in the 1920s, so too did the lieder of Schubert, Wolf, and Strauss. Lieder were encountered in a variety of venues and media—at luxury hotels and on ocean liners, in vaudeville productions and at Carnegie Hall, and on gramophone recordings, radio broadcasts, and films. The renewed vitality of this refugee musical form between the World Wars is examined here, offering a fresh perspective on a period that was pervaded by anxieties of displacement. Through richly varied case studies, it traces how lieder were circulated, presented, and consumed in metropolitan contexts, shedding new light on how music facilitated unlikely crossings of nationalist and internationalist ideologies during the interwar period.

#3. Eidsheim, Nina Sun. The race of sound: Listening, timbre, and vocality in African American music. Refiguring American music (Durham: Duke University Press, 2019). [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2019-7187]

Abstract: Traces the ways in which sonic attributes that might seem natural, such as the voice and its qualities, are socially produced. The author illustrates how listeners measure race through sound and locate racial subjectivities in vocal timbre—the color or tone of a voice. The author examines singers Marian Anderson, Billie Holiday, and Jimmy Scott as well as the vocal synthesis technology Vocaloid to show how listeners carry a series of assumptions about the nature of the voice and to whom it belongs. Outlining how the voice is linked to ideas of racial essentialism and authenticity, the author untangles the relationship between race, gender, vocal technique, and timbre while addressing an under-theorized space of racial and ethnic performance. In so doing, she advances our knowledge of the cultural-historical formation of the timbral politics of difference and the ways that comprehending voice remains central to understanding human experience, all the while advocating for a form of listening that would allow us to hear singers in a self-reflexive, denaturalized way.

#2. Kreuzer, Gundula. Curtain, gong, steam: Wagnerian technologies of nineteenth-century opera (Oakland: University of California Press, 2018). [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2018-5417]

Abstract: Argues for the foundational role of technologies in the conception, production, and study of 19th-century opera. The author shows how composers increasingly incorporated novel audiovisual effects in their works and how the uses and meanings of the required apparatuses changed through the 20th century, sometimes still resonating in stagings, performance art, and popular culture today. Focusing on devices (which she dubs “Wagnerian technologies”) intended to amalgamate opera’s various media while veiling their mechanics, the author offers a practical counternarrative to Wagner’s idealist theories of total illusionism. At the same time, the book’s multifaceted exploration of the three titular technologies repositions Wagner as catalyst more than inventor in the history of operatic production. With its broad chronological and geographical scope, this book deepens our understanding of the material and mechanical conditions of historical operatic practice as well as of individual works, both well known and obscure.

#1. Iverson, Jennifer. Electronic inspirations: Technologies of the Cold War musical avant-garde. New cultural history of music (New York: Oxford University Press, 2019). [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2019-1204]

Abstract: For a decimated post-War West Germany, the electronic music studio at the WDR radio station in Cologne was a beacon of hope. This book traces the reclamation and repurposing of wartime machines, spaces, and discourses into the new sounds of the mid-century studio. In the 1950s, when technologies were plentiful and the need for reconstruction was great, West Germany began to rebuild its cultural prestige via aesthetic and technical advances. The studio’s composers, collaborating with scientists and technicians, coaxed music from sine-tone oscillators, noise generators, band-pass filters, and magnetic tape. Together, they applied core tenets from information theory and phonetics, reclaiming military communication technologies as well as fascist propaganda broadcasting spaces. The electronic studio nurtured a revolutionary synthesis of science, technology, politics, and aesthetics. Its esoteric sounds transformed mid-century music and continue to reverberate today. Electronic music—echoing both cultural anxiety and promise—is a quintessential Cold War innovation.


Filed under 20th- and 21st-century music, Acoustics, Africa, Analysis, Baroque era, Classic era, Jazz and blues, Musicology, Opera, Opera, Politics, Popular music, Romantic era, Therapy