Tag Archives: Musicology

Journal of research in music

Launched in 2023 by the Faculty of Music, University of the Visual and Performing Arts, Sri Lanka, Journal of research in music (JRM) is a peer-reviewed open-access journal that seeks to preserve cultures by presenting research examining how music is intertwined with value systems. It is published online twice a year, in January and June.

JRM accepts research, review articles, and scientific findings of scholars of the performing arts. The journal welcomes article submissions and does not charge any submission fee nor publication fee. A double-blind peer review process is used to review journal articles; according to the reviewer’s comments, all authors should revise the manuscripts and resubmit.  The editorial board of JRM reserves the right to refuse the publication of an article. All accepted articles will be available open access under the Creative Commons License CC BY-NC. Authors retain the copyright without restrictions.

Below, one of the highlights of Berlin’s 2022 Festival of Lights, the subject of an article in the inaugural issue.

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Filed under Ethnomusicology, Musicology, New periodicals

Celebrating 80 years of Dr. Allan W. Atlas, Professor Emeritus, The Graduate Center (CUNY)

Professor Allan W. Atlas’s CUNY ID Card

With a professional career spanning over four decades, Allan was a researcher, teacher, performer, academic officer, and mentor. Directly after receiving a Ph.D. in musicology from New York University in 1971 with the dissertation Rome, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Cappella Giulia XIII.27 and the dissemination of the Franco-Netherlandish chanson in Italy, ca. 1460-ca. 1530, he began teaching at Brooklyn College, a post he continued to hold after joining the faculty of the CUNY Graduate Center in fall of 1974. He would go on to serve as the Executive Officer for The Graduate Center’s Ph.D.-D.M.A. programs in music for much of his time there. Additionally, in 1998 he founded the Center for the Study of Free-Reed Instruments within the Barry S. Brook Center for Music Research and Documentation, which he led until 2014. In 1998, The Graduate Center bestowed on him the title Distinguished Professor of Music. From 1999, he also was editor of The free-reed journal: A publication by the Center for the Study of Free-Reed Instruments

These accomplishments and responsibilities hardly encapsulate Allan’s range of talents as a scholar and teacher. He was just as generous with his ideas on music, which have been published in many prestigious sources, as he was with his guidance. At The Graduate Center, his Introduction to Music course taught budding musicologists in the music program to gather, organize, and edit research; stay current with trends in the discipline; prepare a critical edition; become familiar with the canon of founding musicologists; and evaluate and analyze historic texts. The course challenged and inspired, and many of his students will still have his patented emails in comic sans etched in their memories.

His knowledge seemed boundless: from Italian Renaissance music, to Puccini’s La Fanciulla del West, to the music of Ralph Vaughn Williams, to Requiem Masses in the last 1000 years or so, to the concertina (which he plays), to Robert Moses. And this merely scratches the surface. The bibliography below is a selection of some of Allan’s contributions to music research. However inchoate, it is hoped to inspire further research, archive just a small snippet of his production, and reveal aspects of trends in the discipline.

Allan remains an active scholar and orienting guide (dare we say an “atlas”?) in musicology, who has not yet finished sharing his valuable perspectives. Throughout all the changes in musicology over the years, he was always diligently aware of research trends, as well as the field’s limitations and possibilities. This was partially a result of his close relationship with RILM and its staff. Allan was consistently a strong advocate for RILM throughout his tenure at the Music Department of The Graduate Center, unceasingly arguing for RILM’s significance for global music research within the university administration. Whenever Allan would come to teach classes at The Graduate Center, he would stop by the shelf of publications that had just arrived at the RILM office to learn what was new in musicological research. These moments were opportunities for beneficial conversations about a variety of topics, and we always knew that Allan’s opinions were important. He could be relied upon to train his eagle editorial and musicological eye on RILM’s database when he was using it for his own scholarship, letting us know if he saw areas for improvement, correction, or enhancement.

In more official capacities, Allan served as RILM’s Area Editor for publications on Renaissance music during the 1980s and early 1990s and was a member of both the RILM Commission Mixte (1997-2000) and the Board of Directors (2000-16).

Thank you, and happy birthday, Allan. Here’s to many more.

– Introduction by Michael Lupo, Assistant Editor/Marketing & Media, RILM and Zdravko Blažeković, Executive Editor, RILM. Compiled by Lupo


  • Atlas, Allan W. “La provenienza del manoscritto Berlin 78.C.28: Firenze o Napoli?”, Rivista italiana di musicologia: Organo della Società Italiana di Musicologia 13/1 (1978) 10–29. [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature with Full Text, 1978-320]

Abstract: Considers the question of the provenance of the chansonnier Berlin, Kupferstichkabinett, MS 78.C.28. Takes issue with Reidemeister’s claim that, on the grounds that it contains the arms of two Florentine families and a miniature which can be associated with a Florentine workshop, the manuscript originated in Florence (see RILM 1975-607). Argues instead that it was compiled at Naples—this on the grounds of its “internal” relationship with other Neapolitan sources—and was only later removed to Florence. Evidence for such a transfer and break in the compilation of the source is supported by certain of its physical features.

  • _____. “Mimì’s death: Mourning in Puccini and Leoncavallo”, The journal of musicology: A quarterly review of music history, criticism, analysis, and performance practice 14/1 (winter 1996) 52–79. [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 1996-190]

Abstract: Seeks to answer the following question: Why do people cry at the end of Puccini’s La bohème but not at the end of Leoncavallo’s? Puccini spends the entire opera leading up to the moment where tears can be shed, while Leoncavallo miscalculates—musically and dramatically (he fashioned his own libretto)—at virtually every turn. The issues of voice/person/agent, psychic/aesthetic distance, and pacing/timing just before the final curtain are also discussed.

  • _____. “Multivalence, ambiguity and non-ambiguity: Puccini and the polemicists”, Journal of the Royal Musical Association 118/1 (1993) 74–93, [1] [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature with Full Text, 1993-10663]

Abstract: Takes issue with recent articles that polemically link the idea of multivalency in opera with ambiguity and disjunction, privilege the latter over unity and coherence, and write off large-scale tonal relationships as meaningful vehicles of overall coherence. A more open-minded approach is called for; polemics simply substitute one brand of dogmatic orthodoxy for another. Puccini’s Manon Lescaut and La fanciulla del West are analyzed to show that a multivalent approach will uncover instances of both ambiguity and nonambiguity and that the two ideas can coexist. There is in fact a continuum of approaches, each of which has its own contribution to make.

  • _____. Music at the Aragonese court of Naples (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985). [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 1985-1259]

Abstract: When Alfonso V of Aragon defeated René I of Anjou in 1442 and thereby established the kingdom of Naples as part of that of Aragon, he revived Neapolitan cultural life and made his court one of the leading centers of humanism. A survey of the historical-cultural background precedes discussions of the royal chapel and its musicians, the chapel composers and other musical worthies, secular music, sources, and repertoire. Musicians mentioned include Pietro Oriola, Joan Cornago, Johannes Vincenet, Johannes Tinctoris, Bernard Ycart, Franchino Gaffori, Serafino Dall’Aquila, Fiorenzo De’ Fasoli, Josquin Des Prez, and Alexander Agricola. An edition of musical works representative of the repertoire concludes the volume.

  • _____., ed. Music in the Classic period: Essays in honor of Barry S. Brook (New York: Pendragon Press, 1985). [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 1985-664]
  • _____. “On the reception of Vaughan Williams’s symphonies in New York, 1920/1–2014/15”, The Royal Musical Association research chronicle 47/1 (2016) 24–86. [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2016-37340]

Abstract: Considers the reception of Ralph Vaughan Williams’s nine symphonies (and a few non-symphonic works) in New York City (and, occasionally, its suburban environs), from the American premiere of on December 30th, 1920 to a performance of symphony no. 6 on December 10th, 2014. The reception rolls out across five distinct periods: (1) 1920/1–1922/3: the New York premieres of A London symphony, A sea symphony, and A pastoral symphony (in that order), all to greetings that were lukewarm at best; (2) 1923/4–1934/5: Vaughan Williams’s reputation grew meteorically, and A London symphony became something of a staple; during this period Olin Downes of The New York times became Vaughan Williams’s most ardent champion among New York’s music critics; (3) 1935/6–1944/5: symphonies 4 and 5 made their New York debuts, and a rift opened between the pro-Vaughan Williams and the negative criticism of the New York herald tribune, one that would follow Vaughan Williams to the grave and beyond; (4) 1945/6–1958/9: premieres of symphonies 6, 8 and 9, as Vaughan Williams’s reputation in New York reached its honors- and awards-filled zenith; and (5) the long period from 1959/60 to the present day, which can be described as 20 years of decline (1960s–1970s), another 20 in which his reputation reached rock bottom (1980s–1990s) and, since the beginning of the new millennium, something of a reassessment, one that is seemingly unencumbered by the ideologically driven criticism of the past. Finally, Appendix I provides a chronological inventory of all New York Philharmonic programs (along with those of the New York Symphony prior to the two orchestras’ merger in 1928) that include any music (not just the symphonies) by Vaughan Williams. Appendix II then reorganizes the information of the chronological list according to work, conductor, venue, and premieres.

  • _____. “Ralph Vaughan Williams’s The house of life: Four levels of cyclic coherence”, Acta musicologica 85/2 (2013) 199–225. [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2013-12048]

Abstract: Explores aspects such as motive, recitative, tonality, and proportion, which develop the coherence of the song cycle by Vaughan Williams setting the poetry of Rossetti.

  • _____. Renaissance music: Music in Western Europe (1400-1600). Norton introduction to music history (New York: W.W. Norton, 1998). [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 1998-4334]

Abstract: Renaissance music, a textbook for today’s classroom, focuses first and foremost on the music, then on the social, political, and economic forces that combined to produce it. Readers are immediately drawn into the subject through Professor Atlas’s vivid, energetic writing. Atlas addresses the student directly, in language that is clear and understandable even when it treats complex topics such as isorhythm and hexachords. Renaissance Music is sensibly organized, avoiding the great composer approach. Most chapters are devoted to musical genres; others center on specific geographical areas or on categories such as patronage, music theory, and music printing. Like all the books in Norton’s introduction to music history series, this text includes bibliographies and incorporates the latest scholarship in the field. A Spanish translation is cited as RILM 2002-20881; a French translation is cited as RILM 2011-18309.

  • _____. The Wheatstone English concertina in Victorian England (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996). [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 1996-3066]

Abstract: A comprehensive survey of the career of the so-called English concertina from its invention by the English physicist Charles Wheatstone, Jr. in the late 1820s to its use in the early 20th c. by Ives and Grainger. Attention is given to its changing social status (from upper-crust to working-class), art-music repertoire (concertos, sonatas, and character pieces by George Alexander Macfarren, Bernhard Molique, Julius Benedict, John Barnett), virtuoso performers and their works (Giulio Regondi and Richard M. Blagrove), and critical reception. Two chapters explain the concertina’s technical capabilities and certain problems of concertina-specific performance practice. An appendix contains five works for concertina by Joseph Warren, George Alexander Macfarren, Giulio Regondi, Richard M. Blagrove, and John Charles Ward.

  • _____., ed. Victorian music for the English concertina. Recent researches in the music of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries (Middleton: A-R Editions, 2009). [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2009-47579]

Abstract: Developed by the physicist Charles Wheatstone around 1830, the English concertina was ‎extremely popular in art-music circles of Victorian England until late in the 19th ‎century. This edition includes 15 works that present a cross section of the ‎instrument’s concert and salon repertories, and includes music by the “mainstream” ‎composers George Alexander Macfarren, Julius Benedict, and Bernhard Molique, as well ‎as original compositions by such concertina virtuosos as Giulio Regondi and Richard ‎Blagrove. There are also pieces by two little-known women composers and arrangers, ‎Hannah Rampton Binfield and Rosina King (the instrument was particularly popular with ‎women), and an arrangement by George Case of a well-known hymn tune, which shows ‎how the baritone concertina was used in small parish churches. Finally, there are two ‎works for concertina ensembles, a duo for treble and baritone concertina by Blagrove and ‎a transcription by Regondi for concertina quartet of the final movement of Mozart’s ‎‎Prague symphony.‎

  • Pergolesi, Giovanni Battista. Salve Regina, ed. by Allan W. Atlas. Giovanni Battista Pergolesi: Complete works/Opere complete 15 (Stuyvesant: Pendragon Press; Milano: Ricordi, 1994). [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 1994-15656]


Filed under Analysis, Dramatic arts, Musicologists, Musicology, Opera, Opera, Renaissance, Romantic era, Source studies, Uncategorized

Barry & Claire Brook’s excellent incipit adventure

The practice of using music incipits for identifying compositions occupies an important place among the many musicological research tools that Barry S. Brook conceived. “The thematic index derives its superiority over non-thematic lists because it can not only arrange a body of music in a systematic order,” he wrote, “but it provides, at the same time, positive identification in a minimum of space and symbols. It does so by the use of the incipit, or musical citation of the opening notes. For most music, an incipit of no more than a dozen pitches is required. When rhythmic values accompany the pitches, the incipit’s uniqueness quotient is astonishingly high” (Notes, 29/3, 1973).

He promoted this idea through the publication of facsimile editions of The Breitkopf thematic calagoue (1967) and The Ringmacher catalogue (1773; 1987); he organized the index to his edition The symphony, 1720–1840 (1986) in the form of a thematic catalogue; and he published the definitive catalogue of thematic catalogues (1973; 2nd ed. 1997). In 1970 he made a proposal for his Plaine and Easie Code, a computer-readable coding system for music incipits in modern or mensural notation, and when RISM initiated the cataloguing of manuscripts in the A/II series he was a strong advocate for the inclusion of the incipit in the bibliographic description of each work.

Brook’s enthusiasm for incipits was sparked when he was writing his dissertation in Paris. His daily correspondence of 1958/59 with his wife Claire—whom he married only a few months before the trip to France—was full of notated incipits for works that he mentioned in his work, La symphonie française dans la seconde moitié du XVIIIe siècle, and she patiently copied them and organized them in the thematic finder to be included with the final dissertation. His system of organizing incipits was a response to the index of eighteenth-century compositions that Jan LaRue was working on at the time, and the Dictionary of musical themes by Sam Morgenstern and Harold Barlow, both of which he found unsatisfactory.

In February of 1959 he told Claire in a letter about his thoughts for organizing the index:

“I think it will be number of #’s + ♭’s, with minor in with the majors since in some instances it is not immediately apparent from incipit if it is in minor; then subdivided into 2/4, 3/44/4, 3+6/8; then in alphabetical order note by note. If you run into LaRue you might ask him to explain his system—or even better ask him how he would do it if he were to start all over again….Then there is that crazy suggestion of Chailley, which he put very strongly, to transpose all themes into C and list them by letters alphabetically. — Take a look at appendix of Morgenstern-Barlow Dictionary of musical themes that we have and you’ll see what he wants. This looks like another big job for you. 

e.g. EFGGGGGGGGABGBA = Gossec #1
        GCCDGDDEGEEF = Gossec #2
        CDCGCDE♭F = Gossec #3” (15 February 1959).

A week later Barry returned to the topic and again asked Claire to have a talk with LaRue about how his finding system works, and whether or not he counted grace notes in alphabetizing. As LaRue was at the time still collecting incipits for his thematic identifier, he warned Claire not to reveal all that he was doing: “A little birdie keeps tweeting me about what Chailley said about keeping everything (i.e. finds) under wraps until after the thèse” (21 February 1959).

As Barry studied scores in Parisian libraries, he found more works that needed to be included in the finding aid for his thèse, and more incipits were included in his trans-Atlantic letters to Claire. Almost every letter he sent her in the late winter and spring of 1959 included a few handwritten incipits, a new consideration about their ordering, or a question about this or that detail.

A page of incipits sent to Claire on 14 March.

Replies from Claire included “just finished cutting a complete set of corrected insipids [sic], wrapped, stored, and next set ready to go” (19 April 1959), and “I refused to allow myself to sit down and write to you until the thematic index was cut and packed for mailing. A sort of external discipline—childish but effective. Just finished tying the string and lettering in the beloved name of my husband, and here I am” (27 March 1959). It seems that Claire worked on his dissertation in New York as hard as Barry did in Paris! It is impressive to see how they worked together on the intricate project of organizing the musical index of incipits, without having instant messaging, a possibility of online conversations in real time, and any other benefit of communications that we take for granted today.

At one point he was frustrated with difficulties in sorting incipits, and described to Claire his idea about an incipit box. Claire was confused by his eccentric idea and asked him to describe his concept better. In his second attempt he drew the design of the box along with his explanation of the concept: “Incipits are arranged in order in the box like file cards in a filing box or fiches in a fichier. Only the box is very flat—just high enough for the incipits to stand up in” (24 March 1959). As the deadline for submitting the dissertation was approaching fast, there was no time for constructing the box.

Brook’s drawing of the incipit box.

On 29 June the thesis—which included some 60 pages of incipits in addition to some 800 items that converted incipits to alphanumeric strings—was “delivered to [Jacques] Chailley at 5:30 in the afternoon”. This might have been one of the earliest dissertations that included such an extensive catalogue of incipits. A week after it was delivered, Claire landed in Paris for their belated honeymoon.

Above, one of Barry and Claire Brook’s wedding photographs from June 1958.


Filed under From the archives, Musicologists, Musicology

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.

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

Acusfere: Suoni_culture_musicologie

In 2022 Libreria Musicale Italiana launched Acusfere: Suoni_culture_musicologie, a multilingual, annually published, peer-reviewed print and online journal with abstracts in English. The journal’s scope is purposely broad; however, there are several general elements around which it coheres, including emphases on:

  • Research from the fields of musicology and anthropology
  • Musical writing, invention, improvisation, and composition in the contemporary world
  • Local and peripheral music traditions
  • Relationships between music and many other artistic and expressive activities
  • Musical instruments and technologies
  • Vocal expression as manifested in individual and polyphonic contexts
  • The processes of thought, theories, aesthetics, and structures that shape musical meanings
  • The multifarious behaviors detectable in the music-making of diverse cultures
  • The spaces and places of music, stable and concrete, but also mobile and ephemeral
  • Projections of music in media, rapidly changing and integrated into multiple perspectives

The journal’s tripartite subtitle—suoni (sounds), culture (cultures), and musicologie (musicologies)—reflects the pluralities and variabilities of viewpoints, processes, scenarios, contexts, and knowledges at the center of the critical reflection of music making.

Below, Marco Tomassi performs on his reconstruction of the 17th-century sordellina, the subject of an article in the journal’s inaugural issue.

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Filed under Ethnomusicology, Instruments, Musicology, New periodicals

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

Playing at work: An annotated bibliography on music and labor

Over 150 countries around the world celebrate Labor Day, or International Workers’ Day, on 1 May. With origins in the mid–19th-century eight-hour workday movement, this date (May Day) was established in 1889 by the first congress of the Second International to commemorate the 1886 Haymarket affair in Chicago. Today, the holiday functions largely to recognize the struggle and achievements of laborers everywhere. The criteria by which music making is judged as work, the power of collectives to safeguard the rights of music workers, and the determination of appropriate remuneration for musical services are constantly being negotiated by musicians and institutions. Simon Frith’s article “Are workers musicians?” (cited below)—an exploration of how UK musicians’ unions have been shaped by the conceptual division of the musician as laborer-craftsperson, or professional—ends with a familiar opposition: music as work versus music as play. Frith elaborates:

The belief that music—making music—is in itself, fun, a pleasurable activity that shouldn’t be thought of as work is embedded in our culture. Music is something humans do; we are all musicians—hence the vast number of amateur musicians, people who play for love. Such love of music is, of course, why people are willing to pay for musical labour in the first place, but it also means, perhaps, that they don’t really regard or music as work. Its value is precisely as non-work. Musicians may, then, be workers, but they shouldn’t be!

Aside from the reductive tone of this quote’s opening sentence (one might rightly question, “Whose ‘cultures’?” and “In which contexts?”), the musician as non-laborer (or player, rather than worker), is a common trope encouraged by the music industry, fans, journalists, and even pop musicians themselves. To cite just one examples of the latter, Lou Reed, in an interview for the documentary Rock & Roll, recounts the conditions that led to his place in The Velvet Underground. He recalls, “I had a real problem with authority. Always have. I had a real problem with being able to hold a job, a normal job. I only had, I think, three in my life. Some lasted a half hour and some half a day. I had often thought, like, ‘What are you going to do, for a job? You can’t do anything’. And I fell into the band thing.” The positioning of popular music making as a desirable alternative to the repressive power structures foisted upon those with “normal” jobs facilitates the notion that pop offers a high (or relatively high) degree of autonomy to its practitioners. Reed’s experimental—some would say, and did at the time, “unlistenable”—1975 album Metal machine music would serve as just one of innumerable sonic examples of musicians complicating this putative autonomy. Whether resulting from an interest in drones, noise, minimalism, and the postwar avant-garde, or a defiant gesture to RCA Records, pop audience expectation, and genre boundaries (or some, all, or none of these), it made a statement on the (perceived or real) options available to a pop musician.

Frith’s remarks on music’s pleasurability and Reed’s appeal to autonomy are tenacious elements of discourses surrounding popular music making that have at times led to pop musicians being denied the status of worker. This denial is worthy of inspection and holds implications for other forms of music-related activities, but it is also glaringly limited. A more complete picture of a topic as complex, wide-ranging, and wide-reaching as music and labor would include numerous genres (traditional, art, and pop musics), activities (composition, performance, editing, recording), organizations (unions, libraries, private companies, state institutions), and functions (entertainment, ritual, edification). And of course, in the spirit of the holiday, it is worth remembering that music may be mobilized to serve the struggle for workers’ rights more broadly, through protests and activist movements that operationalize the emotionality embedded in chants, songs, and melodic speech. People sound defiance, and that too does work.

The following bibliography presents a selection of texts taken from RILM Abstracts of Music Literature that may advance our knowledge and awareness of specific aspects of music and labor. It comprises publications that are international in scope and that detail varying perspectives, genres, collective activities, and economies. It is hoped that they will serve as a spark for further research. But perhaps leave that for tomorrow and take today off.

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


  • Absher, Amy. “Traveling jazz musicians and debt peonage”, American music: A quarterly journal devoted to all aspects of American music and music in America 37/2 (summer 2019) 172–196. [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature with Full Text, 2019-18326]

Abstract: The story of three brothers—Charles, Chester, and Morgan Jones—and their lives as itinerant jazz musicians in the 1930s reveals the ways in which Black musicians were still effectively enslaved by white club owners and law enforcement. In 1937, they were jailed as a result of debt peonage, wherein an employer, Dewey Helms, withheld pay supposedly in the service of debt owed by the musicians. Rarely does jazz scholarship document this system of debt peonage, and in this case, the documentation relies heavily on records of the FBI, who interviewed the brothers, Helms, and others as part of an FBI investigation. The kind of coerced labor involved in this story is well-documented in histories of the Reconstruction through World War II. Stories of Black musicians during this period, however, are often colored with a romanticized illusion of freedom rooted in the creative nature of their work. The difficulties in studying musicians such as the Jones brothers without access to oral histories, accounts of their performances, or memoirs are explored. One of the only ways to examine a story such as this is through the lens of slavery and labor culture.

  • Alisch, Stefanie. “‘I opened the door to develop kuduro at Jupson’: Music studios as spaces of collective creativity in the context of electronic dance music in Angola”, Contemporary music review 39/6 (December 2020) 663–683. [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2020-61691]

Abstract: Demonstrates how studios producing the Angolan electronic dance music (EDM) kuduro (hard arse) in the capital Luanda are usefully investigated as social spaces of collective creativity. Interviews, observations, close listening, and ethnographic participation are triangulated. Researchers often portray kuduro and other EDM styles in the Global South using what I name the–scarcity-resilience narrative. This narrative gives short shrift to the rich cultural resources that feed into EDM styles. It perpetuates problematic stereotypes about African people and occludes the deliberate labor that kuduro practitioners (kuduristas) invest in their craft. As kuduristas routinely affirm that sociability drives their interpersonal creative processes, kuduro studios are portrayed as social spaces and kuduro’s collective creativity is construed through extended mind theory (EMT). In the analysis, first kuduro studios in Luanda are introduced broadly and then the focus is on two influential kuduro studios: JUPSON and Guetto Produções. It is shown how kuduristas mobilize their collective creativity inside the studio by tapping into aesthetic strategies and conventions of the rich popular culture that surrounds them. Via EMT, aesthetic dueling is portrayed through puto-kota (elder-younger) relationships, call-and-response, and urban vocal strategies as collectively maintained social institutions. Inside the studio, kuduristas translate these rich resources into the sonic materiality of kuduro tracks which, in turn, are designed to achieve maximum audience response through mobilizing the social institutions when radiating out into the world. The scarcity-resilience narrative of Global South EDM is de-centered by focusing on collective creativity and, as such, a fresh epistemological position is offered on the study of music studios, Global South EDM, and popular music in Angola.

  • Ayer, Julie. More than meets the ear: How symphony musicians made labor history (Minneapolis: Syren Book Co., 2005). [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2005-7672]

Abstract: A history of the grassroots movement that transformed labor relations and the professional lives of U.S. and Canadian symphony musicians. The struggles and accomplishments experienced by many visionary leaders of the 1950s to 1970s offer inspiration to new generations of musicians, students, teachers, music lovers, labor historians, and orchestra administrators. Minnesota Orchestra case history documents the growth of a major American orchestra in dramatic detail and anecdotes, showing the profound effect the musician’s labor movement has had on the profession.

Hugh Ramapolo Masekela (4 April 1939–23 January 2018), South African trumpeter, flugelhornist, cornetist, composer, and singer

Abstract: What is the ultimate song to celebrate Workers’ Day? Many will suggest “The Internationale” which had its roots as a poem written in the aftermath of the Paris Commune in 1871 by Eugène Pottier, a transport worker. Set to music a few years later, it became the anthem for the wider progressive movement. But I would argue that trumpeter Hugh Masekela’s iconic and internationally popular song “Stimela”—the coal train—is perhaps a more appropriate anthem for Workers’ Day in southern and Central Africa. The song speaks about local history and the migrant labour system on the mines. “Stimela” reminds everyone that South Africa’s wealth and infrastructure was built on the back of labour from all over Africa. They were the force that modernized the country. But the song is also internationalist in focus. Later recordings of the song typically begin with bass rhythms and percussion mimicking the sound of a train on its tracks.

  • Dedić, Nikola. “Muzika između proizvodnog i neproizvodnog rada”, Challenges in contemporary musicology: Essays in honor of prof. dr. Mirjana Veselinović-Hofman/Izazovi savremene muzikologije: Eseji u čast prof. dr Mirjane Veselinović-Hofman, ed. by Sonja Marinković, Vesna Mikić, Ivana B. Perković, et. al. Muzikološke studije: Monografije. (Beograd: Univerzitet Umetnosti, 2018) 472–484. [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2018-11468]

Abstract: Identifies three models through which music is connected with the economy. Autonomy of art is shown as utterly relative autonomy, while the labor in art (music) is treated as a socially and economically determined labor. Those three models are: art (1) as a simple commodity exchange that rests on the law of simple supply and demand, then art as (2) redistribution of income through the intervention of modern state that carries with it a certain social division of labor (productive and non-productive classes) and finally, (3) it is art as a social practice of forming a monopoly rent. In our contemporary, capitalist society all three models coexist. However, in the history of Western art this was not always the case, and that is why our three-part system can be applied historically: the first model, we call it premodern, is characteristic of most precapitalist societies (at a time when there was no art, only techne, and when there was no idea of the autonomy of art which is obviously a consequence of a very specific social division of labor); the second model, we call it modern, appears with the administrative, bureaucratic state; the third model arises with the evolution of capitalist forms of production that, at one point, through art markets and the culture industry, begin to co-opt and commodify cultural products. The second and third models are, therefore, historically extremely specific and occur exclusively in bourgeois, capitalist societies.

  • Dreyfus, Kay. “The foreigner, the Musicians’ Union, and the state in 1920s Australia: A nexus of conflict”, Music and politics 3/1 (winter 2019) 1–16. [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature with Full Text, 2009-3759]

Abstract: In September 1929, the general secretary of the Musicians’ Union of Australia (MUA) announced in the official journal, “there are no orchestras of any foreign nationality here now…the fight is over”, an extraordinary statement given that the nonindigenous musical traditions of this former British colony are entirely transplanted. The proximity of the date to the advent of sound films suggests a causal relationship, but the facts are more complex. The issue of foreign musicians became the site of a struggle for control of the labor market, a struggle rooted in the institutionalized racism of the Immigration Restriction Act of 1901 (the infamous so-called White Australia Policy), legitimized by the distinctive structures of the arbitration system and sanctioned by legal recognition of trade union autonomy with regard to membership regulation. The evolution and consequences of the MUA’s policy on foreign labor through the 1920s and its efforts to mobilize legislative support by appeals to popular concerns are examined.

  • Frith, Simon. “Are musicians workers?”, Popular music 36/1 (January 2017) 111–115. [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2016-20901]

Abstract: Discusses working musicians in light of being considered laborers versus being considered professionals, and the historical role played by musicians’ labor unions.

  • Hildbrand, Sebastián Mauricio. “‘Todos unidos triunfaremos…’: La música para los gremios en el Teatro Colón durante el primer peronismo”, Recorridos: Diez estudios sobre música culta argentina de los siglos XX y XXI, ed. by Omar Corrado and Jorge Dubatti (Buenos Aires: Editorial de la Facultad de Filosofía y Letras UBA, 2019) 273–309. [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2019-27072]

Abstract: In 1946, Colonel Juan Domingo Perón came to power legitimately through the efforts of various sectors of society that promoted his presidential candidacy; among them the fundamental support of an as yet dispersed and inorganic labor movement. From then until the coup that ended his first period in office in 1955, he served as an effective channel for union demands on the state, as is well known; less familiar are his efforts on behalf of labor rights for the musicians’ union, in particular at the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires, which constitutes a significant chapter in the reconstruction not only of the history of the opera house, but of musical life during those first Perón years.

  • Kahn, Si. Habits of resistance: Cultural work and community organizing (Songspeech) (Ph.D. diss., Union Institute, Cincinnati, 1994). [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 1994-4550]

Abstract: Songspeech is a communication mode that is useful in multicultural communication and consciousness-raising. It draws on a number of traditional cultural forms, such as oral poetry, southern storytelling, midrash, theater, preaching, and unaccompanied song. Songspeech is located at the crossroads of cultural work, community organizing, and power, where multicultural communication forms an integral part of social change organizing. At the heart of this work are issues related to race, gender, class, and the complex interplay between them. Three southern contexts are discussed: black studies (emphasizing the 1960s civil rights movement), women’s studies, and labor studies. Examples are drawn from popular culture, multicultural studies, and social change theory and practice, including oral history, poetry, storytelling, and musical performance styles. Additional examples of the use of songspeech include the Dutch resistance to the Nazis, occupational stress, the relationship between social work and social change, the relationship between culture and community, and the need to develop habits of resistance to injustice.

  • Karmy, Eileen. “Musical mutualism in Valparaiso during the rise of the labor movement (1893–1931)”, Popular music and society 40/5 (December 2017) 539–555. [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2017-28773]

Abstract: The Musicians’ Mutual Aid Society of Valparaíso was active from 1893 to well into the 20th century in what was then Chile’s main port city. I examine the characteristics of this social organization of Chilean musicians during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and its relationship to the rising labor movement. Moreover, I report some relevant findings based on a range of archival material. To conclude, I discuss the role of the Mutual Aid Society of Valparaíso as a forerunner to the creation of the country’s first Musicians’ Union in 1931.

  • Milohnić, Aldo. “Performing labour relations in the age of austerity”, Performance research: A journal of the performing arts 17/6 (December 2012) 72–79. [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2012-15379]

Abstract: Discusses labor in relation to the performance projects Call cutta (2005) and Call cutta in a box (2008) by the collective of theater directors Helgard Haug, Stefan Kaegi, and Daniel Wetzel, know as Rimini Protokoll.

  • Scherzinger, Martin. “Music, labor, and technologies of desire”, Sound and affect: Voice, music, world, ed. by Judith Lochhead, Eduardo Mendieta, and Stephen Decatur Smith (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2021) 197–223. [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2021-3926]

Abstract: Speculatively and critically diagnoses new forms of labor, affect, and technology that have taken shape in recent decades, arguing that musical practices are at once historical precursors of current mutations across these domains, key players in the crystallization of their new contemporary forms, and sites where their new shapes may be discerned and critiqued today. In particular, the ways are critiques in which the indeterminacy of affect, along with the kinds of connection that such open affective experience can facilitate, might now fall prey to new forms of harvesting, extraction, and exploitation, which were unforeseen in earlier affect theory and in some musicological literature that valorized affective and emotional experience. Writing with an eye to recent developments at intersections of machine learning, advertising, and cognitive science, it is cautioned that affective arousal could be colonized by militarized adaptation in the same way that interactive instincts could be colonized by industrial interpellation.

  • Schinasi, Michael. “Zarzuela and the rise of the labour movement in Spain”, Popular entertainment studies 8/2 (2017) 20–37. [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2017-26626]

Abstract: Zarzuela—Spanish lyric theatre—traces its extraordinary popularity on the Iberian Peninsula to the reign of Isabel II (1844–68). Thereafter it never lost its public appeal. In the 19th century cultural commentators debated its debt to 17th-century antecedents. Notwithstanding differing opinions on this, clearly its modern form emerged from Spanish musicians’ attempts to found a new national opera. When they failed to popularize a genre entirely in music, what remained was the zarzuela, which has both singing and spoken dialogue. This article focuses on the social nature of musicians’ hopes for a national opera, the way this arises from their difficult material situation in the face of competition from foreign music and artists, and the politics of early Spanish liberalism. After documenting the depth of artists’ concern with material life and the social language of their plan for action it suggests that we view the rise of the mature zarzuela in the light of Spain’s incipient labor movement. By doing so we in turn gain insight into an important aesthetic feature of zarzuela.

  • Schwab, Heinrich W. “Das Lied des Berufsvereine: Ihr Beitrag zur ‘Volkskunst’ im 19. Jahrhundrets”, Zeitschrift für Volkskunde 63 (1967) 1–16. [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 1968-2481]

Abstract: Investigation of the song repertoire of the labor organizations from the standpoint of the history of the genre and in its sociological and qualitative aspects. Describes the various organizational song books (chemists, post and telegraph assistants, railway workers, surveyors) and interprets the textual and musical symbolism of the special club” or “class” songs.

  • Stahl, Matt. Unfree masters: Recording artists and the politics of work. Refiguring American music (Durham: Duke University Press, 2013). [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2013-9073]
American Idol Experience: Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Abstract: Examines recording artists’ labor in the music industry as a form of creative work. It is argued that the widespread perception of singers and musicians as free individuals doing enjoyable and fulfilling work obscures the realities of their occupation. Stahl begins by considering the television show American idol and the rockumentary Dig! (2004), tracing how narratives of popular music making in contemporary America highlight musicians’ negotiations of the limits of autonomy and mobility in creative cultural-industrial work. Turning to struggles between recording artists and record companies over the laws that govern their contractual relationships, Stahl reveals other tensions and contradictions in this form of work. He contends that contract and copyright disputes between musicians and music industry executives, as well as media narratives of music making, contribute to American socioeconomic discourse and expose basic tensions between the democratic principles of individual autonomy and responsibility and the power of employers to control labor and appropriate its products. Attention to labor and property issues in relation to musicians and the music industry can stimulate insights about the political, economic, and imaginative challenges currently facing all working people.

  • Toynbee, Jason. “The labour that dare not speak its name: Musical creativity, labour process and the materials of music”, Distributed creativity: Collaboration and improvisation in contemporary music, ed. by Eric F. Clarke and Mark Doffman. Studies in musical performance as creative practice (New York: Oxford University Press, 2017) 37–51. [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2017-34150]

Abstract: Explicitly offers a predominantly macro-social account, with musical creativity approached through the lens of labor. The author presents a broadly Marxist critique of the traditional romantic ideology of creativity (IOC), pointing out some of the contradictions of a capitalist system that presents all labor as alienated while regarding creative production as no kind of labor at all. As a consequence, creativity is conceived of and presented as entirely individualist and psychic, despite its organization in terms of an industrial labor market (the cultural industries). This organization of labor is manifestly a system of distributed creativity, which nonetheless clings to the radical individualism of the IOC. Through an analysis of the creative labor processes in diverse musical genres (the symphony orchestra, singer-songwriters, rock bands), the author points out the ways in which musical production, though thoroughly assimilated into contemporary capitalism, demonstrates outlier, or eccentric, tendencies, in which the primary creative agents operate with a high degree of autonomy, and in which artisanal forms of working are perpetuated. From this macro analysis of the contradictorily distributed nature of musical creativity, the essay moves to material production, making extensive use of the idea of coded voices. He points to both the abstract (schematic) and the concrete character of the coded voice, and he identifies translation (intercultural borrowing) and intensification (intercultural development) as the two primary generative processes that act upon them.

  • Woolhouse, Matthew and Jotthi Bansal. “Work, rest and (press) play: Music consumption as an indicator of human economic development”, Journal of interdisciplinary music studies/Disiplinlerarası müzik araştırmaları dergisi 7/1–2 (spring–fall 2013) 45–71. [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature with Full Text, 2013-39541]

Abstract: Human development is addressed with respect to the United Nation’s Human Development Index (HDI), a composite statistic ranging from 0 (undeveloped) to 1 (highly developed). Rather than merely industrial output, the HDI expresses the level of human wellbeing within a country (and is therefore arguably better suited to the study of music downloading than a purely monetary indicator such as Gross Domestic Product). HDI depends on three main factors: life expectancy, educational opportunity, and standard of living. We explore relationships between music consumption, human development, work and leisure, and unemployment levels in 27 geographically and economically diverse countries. We hypothesize (1) that countries with high HDI values will have increased download variability between periods of work and non-work, due to elevated levels of consumption-based leisure, and (2) that countries with high levels of unemployment will have decreased download variability between periods of work and non-work, due to a decrease in the population for whom there is a clear distinction between work and non-work. A music database, consisting of over 180 million mobile-phone downloads, is used to investigate our hypotheses. We discuss our findings in respect of HDI, the European Sovereign Debt Crisis, literature on paid and unpaid work, and the types of leisure enjoyed by people in different countries.

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Olympics and music: A brief history. II

Each Olympic Games is an excellent opportunity for the host country to showcase its soft power; we saw the pop music elements in the opening ceremony of London 2012, a combination of local and international performances in the opening ceremony of Seoul 1988, as well as the German works presented by the Nazis through the music competition of Berlin 1936. Of course, the Olympics cannot be divorced from politics, and the Los Angeles, Moscow, and Munich Games were inevitably colored by the Cold War. What role did music play in this? And finally, what is the relationship between the individual and the times in these grand narratives?

– Qian Mu, Editor, RILM


  • Porta Navarro, Amparo, José María Peñalver Vilar, and Remigi Morant Navasquillo. “Music of the inaugural ceremony of London 2012: A performance among bells”, International review of the aesthetics and sociology of music 44/2 (December 2013) 253–276. [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2013-15376]

Abstract: The music of the Olympic Games, especially that of their grandiose rituals and ceremonies, can be considered a great study laboratory due to its relevance, selection of contents, production forms, diffusion, and also because of its capacity of being a synthesis of mediums, supports, and musical tendencies. This research studies the music of the inaugural ceremony of London 2012, and examines it by means of musical analysis and also content revision, studying the music that is listened to and its characteristics, the way it is built up, and its effects and tendencies. This ceremony would not make any sense without music. Music acts as an emotional catalyst and also as a metronome of the dynamism of the show and, finally, it shows its capacity to persuade, to move, and to become a symbol of identity, achievements, and agreements among cultures.

  • Dilling, Margaret. “The script, sound, and sense of the Seoul Olympic ceremonies”, Contemporary directions: Korean folk music engaging the twentieth century and beyond, ed. by Nathan Hesselink. Korea research monograph (Berkeley: University of California, 2001) 173–234. [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2001-10756]

Abstract: From the outset, the scenario planning committee for the 1988 Games of the XXIV Olympiad in Seoul identified three crucial desiderata: a universal theme, a distinctly Korean approach, and a sense of something new and different. Musically, the first goal was met with the official song, Hand in hand with music by Georgio Moroder and lyrics by Tom Whitlock; the second by the inclusion of modified examples of indigenous Korean music and dance genres; and the third by the inclusion of music by contemporary Korean composers. The processes through which these elements were implemented are explored through interviews with those involved; particular attention is given to the controversies surrounding new works by Kang Sukhi and Hwang Byung-ki (Hwang Byeong-gi).

  • Gilbert, Janet Monteith. “New music and myth: The Olympic Arts Festival of Contemporary Music”, Perspectives of new music 22/1–2 (fall–winter–spring–summer 1983–1984) 478–482. [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature with Full Text, 1984-14276]

Abstract: Report on the festival held in Los Angeles in June 1984. Many of the works programmed expressed a common theme: the creation of mythological or cosmic music produced or supported by a sophisticated technology.

  • Kuharskij, Vasilij Feodos’evič. “Vospevaja idei mira, družby, gumanizma…”, Sovetskaâ muzyka: Organ Soûza sovetskih kompozitorov i Sektora iskusstv Narkomprosa 6 (1980) 2–5. [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 1980-20149]

Abstract: Deals with the tasks and goals of the cultural program for the Moscow Olympic Games in 1980. Surveys the musical undertakings, concert programs, and the participation of well-known Soviet performers.

  • Wichmann, Siegfried, ed. World cultures and modern art: The encounter of 19th and 20th century European art and music with Asia, Africa, Oceania, Afro- and Indo-America—Exhibition on the occasion of the games of the 20th Olympiad, Munich 1972: June 16 to September 30, Haus der Kunst (München: Bruckmann, 1972). [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 1974-43]

Abstract: Abbreviated version of the German exhibition catalogue. Contains several additional contributions. The relevant chapters are Orientalism in music, Asia and music since Debussy, Music of Negroes and American Indians, and Sound Centre (an attempt at a synthesis of global music cultures). Contributions are by Ramón Pelinsky, Claus Raab, and Dieter Schnebel.

  • Lazzaro, Federico. “800 mètres d’André Obey: Drame sportif, grec et musical”, Les cahiers de la Société Québécoise de Recherche en Musique 20/1 (printemps 2019) 57–80. [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature with Full Text, 2019-23489]

Abstract: 800 mètres is a sports drama born out of the stadium for the stadium, staged at Roland-Garros in 1941 together with Aeschylus’s The suppliants. The music for both plays, now lost, was by Arthur Honegger. Inspired by Greek tragedies in both its formal and dramaturgical conception, 800 mètres is the translation into words, gestures, and sounds of the thoughts that André Obey expressed at the time of the 1924 Olympic Games in Paris. Obey was one of the main actors in the reflection on the relationship between music and sport. In promoting sports among French intellectuals, Obey advocated for the birth of an Olympic art and elaborated a rich metaphorical portrait of sport as music. Based on textual, iconographic, and sound archival documents, the genesis of 800 mètres is reconstituted, how this drama stages Obey’s philhellenic ideas is shown, and the complex musical-dramatic conception of the work is discussed.

  • Heinze, Carsten. “Der Kunstwettbewerb Musik im Rahmen der Olympischen Spiele 1936”, Archiv für Musikwissenschaft 62/1 (2005) 32–51. [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2005-1103]

Abstract: Although the Olympic Art Competitions were introduced in 1912, they generated little public interest until 1932. The Nazis were determined to set new standards with this concomitant event in 1936 and used the forum to present to the world the towering achievements of German art, which in the meantime had been purged of all elements considered degenerate. The exploitative process is reconstructed as it pertained to the musical segment of the competition, which culminated in a grand Olympic concert, the first of its kind. Leaving nothing to chance in their erection of a new monumental style, the Nazis awarded medals to each of the four German works submitted.

  • Jiang, Zhiguo. “Taiwan wuqu hesheng yanjiu”, Zhongguo yinyuexue/Musicology in China 1:82 (2006) 32–42. [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2006-3847]

Abstract: Analyzes harmonic material in Jiang Wenye’s orchestral work Taiwan wuqu (Taiwan dances), op. 1 (1934). Jiang Wenye (1910–83) was a pioneer among Chinese composers using modern composition techniques, and his was the first Chinese work to receive a top prize in international competition, at the Olympic International Music Competition in Berlin, 1936.

Part I is here.

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Olympics and music: A brief history. I

The Beijing Winter Olympic Games have become one of the biggest hot spots in the world’s attention at the moment, and among musicians it is no exception. The Olympic Games and music have always been inextricably linked. In ancient Greek times, music was an essential part of the Olympics. The large crowds brought by the Olympics made it an ideal venue for musicians to perform as well. At the same time, many competitions were called by trumpeters to start.

For the modern Olympics, music is even more ubiquitous. Coubertin‘s Olympic ideology was directly inspired by the opera libretto L’Olimpiade; the Olympic Games from 1912 to 1948 included musical competitions and medals were awarded like sporting events; and today’s Olympic-related musical events are a constant source of cultural and commercial competition.

Let’s take a glimpse at the relationship between music and the Olympics through relevant literature included in RILM.

– Qian Mu, Editor, RILM


  • Segrave, Jeffrey O. “Music as sport history: The special case of Pietro Metastasio’s L’Olimpiade and the story of the Olympic Games”, Sporting sounds: Relationships between sport and music, ed. by Anthony Bateman and John Bale (Abingdon; New York: Routledge, 2009) 113–127. [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2009-1570]

Abstract: Pietro Metastasio’s popular 18th-century libretto L’Olimpiade publicized and transmitted a particular ideological and historicized conception of the Olympic Games that would ultimately contribute to the rationalization and legitimization of Pierre de Coubertin’s own idiosyncratic Olympic ideology, a philosophical religious doctrine that embraced a noble and honorable conception of sport at the same time as it served discrete class, race, and gendered ends. The hegemony of the contemporary Olympic Games movement is grounded in part on the appropriation of the classicism and Romanticism transmitted in Metastasio’s work. Musicological readings of opera, sociolinguistic conceptions of meaning, and postmodern social perspectives on material culture are addressed. Metastasio’s L’Olimpiade, in narrative, music, and production, sustained a particular image of the games, an image that nourished Coubertin’s own ideological formulation at the same time as it paved the way for further musical representations of the Games that to this day lend authority to the hegemony of the Olympics by appealing to a musically transmitted, mythologized, and Hellenized past.

  • Charkiolakīs, Alexandros. “Music in the first modern Olympiad in Athens in 1896: Cultural and social trends”, Mousikos logos 1 (January 2014) 51–64. [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature with Full Text, 2014-4634]

Abstract: Music, without any doubt, has been one of the main features during both the opening ceremony and on the concert that was given in the end of the first day in the Olympic Games of 1896 in Athens. Actually, there were two new works commissioned for performance during that first day: the Olympiakos ymnos (Olympic hymn) by Spyridōn Samaras on a text of Kōstis Palamas and Pentathlon by Dionysios Lauragkas on poetry of Iōannīs Polemīs. Here, we show the cultural and social trends that are implied in these two works and are characteristic of the developing ideologies in Greece of that time. Furthermore, we emphasized our scope towards the impact that these two works had on the contemporary Athenian society of that time.

  • Segrave, Jeffrey O. “‘All men will become brothers’ (“Alle Menschen werden Bruder“): Ludwig van Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and Olympic Games ideology”, Sport, music, identities, ed. by Anthony Bateman. Sport in the global society, contemporary perspectives (London: Routledge, 2015) 38–52. [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2015-99]

Abstract: First performed in an Olympic context as part of the opening ceremonies of the 1936 Berlin Olympics, the Finale of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony has become a popular mainstay of modern Olympic protocol. Part of a ritualized entertainment spectacle that enhances the appeal and popularity of the Games, the Ninth Symphony elevates the prestige of the Games and helps to sustain the Olympic Movement’s political and commercial dominance within the panoply of institutionalized sport. It is argued here that the normalization of the Finale of the Ninth Symphony in the opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games not only transmits and reinforces the traditional Olympic ideology, but also reaffirms the ascendant hegemony of the Olympic movement within the world of elite international sport. This study is a critical reading of the Olympic musical ceremonial as a site of ideological production, especially as it pertains to Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.

  • Dümling, Albrecht. “Zwischen Autonomie und Fremdbestimmung: Die Olympische Hymne von Robert Lubahn und Richard Strauss”, Richard Strauss-Blätter 38 (Dezember 1997) 68–102. [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature with Full Text, 1997-52827]

Abstract: When the Olympic Games were to be held in Berlin in 1936 Strauss was chosen as composer of an Olympic Hymn. Early in 1933 he agreed in principle, but on the condition that he was provided with an appropriate text. Four poems out of 3,000 entries were selected and sent on to Strauss with no mention of the poets’ names. He decided on a text, written by the hitherto unknown poet Robert Lubahn. Despite the favorable response of committees and German music critics, the belongs to Strauss’s weaker works.

  • Barney, Katelyn. “Celebration or cover up? My island home, Australian national identity and the spectacle of Sydney 2000″, Aesthetics and experience in music performance, ed. by Elizabeth Mackinlay, Denis Collins, and Samantha Owens (Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2005) 141–150. [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2005-18443]

Abstract: Addresses the conflicts and complexities inherent in musical statements of Australian national identity as represented by Neil Murray’s My island home and Christine Anu’s performance of it at the closing ceremony of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. Her performance functioned simultaneously as a site for celebration of indigeneity and Australian national identity yet also as a concealment or cover-up of the social and political positioning of indigenous Australians within Australian history and contemporary society. As it celebrated localized Torres Strait Islander culture and identity as part of the Australian national imagination, it also concealed the realities of indigenous issues and race relations within Australia.

  • Newman, Melinda and Michael Paoletta. “Goodsports”, Billboard: The international newsweekly of music, video and home entertainment 118/5 (4 February 2006) 22–23. [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2006-2393]

Abstract: Established stars including Andrea Bocelli, Bon Jovi, Whitney Houston, and Lou Reed, as well as new and developing acts like James Blunt, Switchfoot, Flipsyde, Morningwood, the Donnas, Rock ‘N Roll Soldiers, We Are Scientists, and OK Go are hoping for a career boost from their ties to the Olympic Winter Games in Torino, Italy. By using hip, under-the-radar acts, NBC hopes to connect with the much-coveted youth demographic. NBC uses music in four ways for the Olympics: network campaigns in advance of the Games; co-branding opportunities; features and interstitial footage broadcast during the athletic events; and nightly concerts.

  • Lawson, Francesca R. Sborgi. “Music in ritual and ritual in music: A virtual viewer’s perceptions about liminality, functionality, and mediatization in the opening ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games”, Asian music: Journal of the Society for Asian Music 42/2 (summer–fall 2011) 3–18. [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2011-12007]

Abstract: Concepts such as liminality, functionality, and mediatization were clearly exemplified in the opening ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. The fascinating use of the ancient practice of liminal integration of music and ritual in a modern mediatized performance illustrates both indigenous Chinese and contemporary Western performance theories. Despite the spectacular nature of the opening ceremony, however, it is doubtful that international viewers fully understood the complex messages communicated through this modern ritual performance.

  • Juzwiak, Rich. “Village Person says Y.M.C.A. isn’t about gays, is probably lying”, http://gawker.com/village-person-says-y-m-c-a-isnt-about-gays-is-pro-1493380284. [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2014-293]

Abstract: A common reading of the Village People’s Y.M.C.A. (1978) posits the song as a post-Stonewall stealth attack on heteronormative America. From discos to weddings to sports arenas across the country, millions have contorted in acronymal glee, singing the praises of the male-only fitness center/boarding house where you can “hang out with the boys” and “do whatever you feel”. The song first appeared on an album titled Cruisin’. Despite the seemingly obvious subtext, members of the Village People deny any subtextual intent. Victor Willis, the first lead singer of the Village People who played the role of “cop” and co-wrote Y.M.C.A., recently spoke out against using the song as Team USA’s entrance music at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics–intended in protest of Putin’s anti-gay mandate and the rash of violent hate crimes in its wake (not to mention the Sports Minister’s threat to jail gay athletes). The author notes that “the inherent gayness of the Village People has been a point of contention between the people who were (and are) in the group and its creators, Jacques Morali and Henri Belolo. Morali, who died in 1991, was gay and in last year’s documentary about the politics of disco, Secret disco revolution, Belolo said that the Village People were Morali’s statement of his own gay pride, as well as an exercise in double entendre”.

  • Cottrell, Stephen. “Glad to meet you: North Korea’s pop orchestra warms hearts in the South”, The conversation (UK) (9 February 2018) https://theconversation.com/glad-to-meet-you-north-koreas-pop-orchestra-warms-hearts-in-the-south-91499. [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2018-52079]

Abstract: Describes a performance by Samjiyon Band, a well-known fixture from North Korea’s cultural scene, on the first night of the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang.

Part II is here.


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Queer musicology: An annotated bibliography

Drummers of Fogo Azul perform at the New York Pride Parade on June 30, 2019. Photo credit: Luiz C. Ribeiro/New York daily news

The word queer originally meant strange, or odd, and was used as a derogatory term for non-heterosexuals. Beginning in the 1980s, scholars and activists began using the term to refer to sexual or gender identity minorities, such as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, etc., as a way to combat social stigma.

Since the emergence of queer theory in the 1980s, a growing number of music scholars have begun to focus on the connections among gender identity, sexual orientation, and music/sound. Critical of biologically-based orientations, and emphasizing social gender roles and sexual orientations, queer theory has inspired music scholars to re-examine musicians, music, sound, narrative, and aesthetics through the lens of sex and gender. Below, we share some literature of queer musicology collected by RILM.

– Qian Mu, Editor, RILM


  • Moon, Steven. “Queer theory, ethno/musicology, and the disorientation of the field”, Current musicology 106 (2020) 9–33. [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2020-13066]

Abstract: Examines the development of ethno/musicologies’ (queer) theoretical borrowings from anthropology, sociology, and literary/cultural studies in order to historicize the contemporary queer moment both fields are experiencing, and demonstrates the ways in which it might disorient the field. It traces the histories of this queering trend by beginning with early conceptualizations of the ethno/musicological projects, scientism, and quantitative methods. This is in relation to the anthropological method of ethnocartography in order to understand the historical difficulties in creating a queer qualitative field, as opposed to those based in hermeneutics. The first section places the problematics of this enumeration in dialogue with the ethno/musicologies’ tendencies towards nationalizing and globalizing narratives that often run contrary to a queer project. The second section steps back in time to understand how music studies, broadly, entered the queer conversation through early feminist literature in ethnomusicology and historical musicology, as well as literary/cultural studies and anthropology.

  • Maus, Fred Everett. “Classical concert music and queer listening”, Transposition: Musique et sciences sociales 3 (mai 2013) 11p. [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature with Full Text, 2013-31866]

Abstract: The norms of the classical music concert, familiar from the 20th century onward in European and United States contexts, favor an apparently uniform practice of attentive, silent listening, the audience seated in rows with a uniform visual focus. However, within this appearance of quiet conformity, listeners have diverse, intense experiences. The discontinuity between experience and demeanor reflects powerful cultural oppositions between inner and outer, public and private. The discontinuity is particularly stark in light of the erotic qualities of music, as described in brilliant work by Susan McClary (Feminine endings, 1991; RILM 1991-2755) and Suzanne Cusick (On a lesbian relationship with music, 1994; RILM 1994-2517). My essay returns to their work, expanding their accounts to consider a broader range of sexual subjectivities, including bottom subjectivity as described by Trevor Hoppe and femme subjectivity as described by Ann Cvetkovich.

  • Hankins, Sarah. “Ethnographic positionality and psychoanalysis: A queer look at sex and race in fieldwork”, Queering the field: Sounding out ethnomusicology, ed. by Gregory F. Barz and William Cheng (New York: Oxford University Press, 2020) 353–363. [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2020-170]

Abstract: Explores the queer dynamics of heterosexual interactions, thinking through issues of race by way of gender. The author further complicates matters by weaving ethnographic discourses of positionally together with psychoanalytic theories of sexuality and the subject. She seeks to bring psychoanalysis—a process she has relied on in her private life to address painful experiences—into some kind of consonance with the academic discourses that have long been touchstones of her professional life. By investigating the multivalent, confusing, and sometimes contradictory dimensions of her own fieldwork, she hopes to encourage further conversations about how sexuality and race intersect in known and unknown ways for other queer ethnographers, in other cross-cultural contexts. Her case study of the Rasta Club in south Tel Aviv is a vivid reflection on queer identity within the context of heterosexual interactions, especially violent ones.

  • Künzig, Bernd. “New queer music: Homosexualität und Neue Musik—Eine Ästhetische Spurensuche”, Neue Zeitschrift für Musik 178/1 (2017) 12–16. [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature with Full Text, 2017-40456]

Abstract: The degree to which sexual orientation affects artistic production has been discussed in various contexts—especially in the anglophone world. However, with respect to composition it remains an open question. This is true of homosexuality, too, which could be openly discussed after the sexual revolution of the 1968 movement. Even today, if one pursues the inquiry, one comes across many not so obvious connections between music and sexuality.

  • Sullivan, James. “The queer context and composition of Samuel Barber’s Despite and still“, Twentieth- and twenty-first-century song cycles: Analytical pathways toward performance, ed. by Gordon Sly and Michael Callahan (New York: Routledge, 2021) 79–96. [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2021-264]

Abstract: The author’s approach to Barber’s Despite and still (1968) foregrounds Barber’s autobiographical connection to the cycle, particularly his sexuality and his relationship with Gian Carlo Menotti. With regard to the texts that Barber chose, which include poems by Robert Graves and Theodore Roethke and an excerpt from James Joyce’s Ulysses, the author shows how each text touches upon a particular point of tension in Barber’s relationship with Menotti. Musically, he then demonstrates how Barber’s settings dramatize that tension through the manipulation of perceived meter, especially via close imitation. The essay thus integrates musical analysis with poetic structure and biography.

  • Jones, Matthew J. “‘Something inside so strong’: The Flirtations and the queer politics of a cappella”, Journal of popular music studies 28/2 (June 2016) 142–185. [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2016-19760]

Abstract: Initially formed in 1987, The Flirtations billed themselves as “the world’s most famous, openly-gay, all-male, politically active, multicultural, a cappella singing doo-wop group”. Over the course of the next decade, The Flirts—as they were affectionately known—recorded three albums, crisscrossed the globe to perform at gay pride events and AIDS rallies, sang in small theaters and concert venues, and even appeared in a Hollywood film (Jonathan Demme’s Philadelphia released in 1993). Committed advocates of LGBT rights, feminism, multiculturalism, and AIDS activism, The Flirtations used the nostalgic sounds of close-harmony a cappella singing to deliver political messages, enlighten listeners, and entertain audiences. Through fluctuations in membership, personality conflicts, and the AIDS-related deaths of two founding members, The Flirtations kept singing and left behind a unique repository of queer music at the end of the 20th century. Drawing on previously unavailable archival materials, new interviews with surviving members of the group, and close readings of select musical examples, I situate The Flirtations within the history of U.S. close-harmony singing and examine the queer politics of a cappella in their music.

  • Doyle, JD. “Queer music radio: Entertainment, education, and activism”, Journal of popular music studies 18/2 (2006) 215–219. [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2006-5846]

Abstract: Queer music heritage, hosted by the author on KPFT-FM, Houston, Texas, seeks to educate and entertain audiences in the name of LGBT activism. The radio program is designed as a way to share music from a variety of genres—including blues, country, and disco—with gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, and questioning lyrical themes. Music and interviews are organized into themed shows that address issues such as the concept of “gay music”, expressing sexual identity, and the shifting cultural place of sexual identity in history.

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