The Wiener Staatsoper has conceived of its stage curtain as an exhibition space for a museum-in-progress.
Every year since 1998 its safety curtain, which measures 176 meters square, has been used as an exhibition space for a large-format artwork by a contemporary artist. The series has represented a symbolic interface between performance and visual arts, and creates a link between historical questions and contemporary ways to address them.
This according to Curtain/Vorhang by Kaspar Mühlemann Hartl (Wien: Verlag für moderne Kunst, 2017). All of the curtains in the series may be viewed here.
Above, Graduation by John Baldessari, the curtain for the 2017–2018 season. Below, a brief video provides the curtain’s context.
Afrocubanismo was an early 20th-century Cuban aesthetic movement that focused on the recognition, assimilation, and validation of the African cultural features present in Cuban society.
The new ethos found musical expression in a seminal group of composers whose works reflected neonationalistic musical concerns that emphasized the manipulation of timbral and rhythmic elements in a modern harmonic vocabulary. These experiments marked a significant juncture in the evolution of the Cuban concert repertoire, forging the representation of race and class at the intersection of art/popular and rural/urban music dichotomies and establishing a discursive site for the negotiation of national identities.
Ultimately, afrocubanismo provided a transition from nationalism to cosmopolitanism in Cuban concert music, and mediated between ethnicity and social class to articulate a Cuban national musical identity founded on the hybridity of African and Iberian-derived cultures.
This according to “The rhythmic component of afrocubanismo in the art music of Cuba” by Mario Rey (Black music research journal XXVI/2 [fall 2006] pp. 181–212).
Above, Wilfredo Lam’s La jungla, a celebrated example of afrocubanismo in painting; below, excerpts from Almadeo Roldán’s Ritmicas, one of the works discussed in the article.
Stravinsky’s Svadebka/Les noces—an assault of nonsense syllables, snatches of conversation, and ritual fragments—is a cubist reconstruction of a Russian peasant wedding. Despite its invocation of Christian saints, the work might be Neolithic or even Australopithicine, so backward-looking is its range of auditory allusion.
All of the action is accompanied by chatter, out of which a whoop or intelligible phrase may emerge—we hear pet names, silly games, much commentary on the wine and beer, and some veiled sexual talk; it is the auditory equivalent of the strips of newsprint that Picasso glued to some of his canvases.
This according to Stravinsky: The music box and the nightingale by Daniel Albright (New York: Gordon and Breach, 1989).
This year marks the 110th anniversary of cubism! Above and below, Bronislava Nijinska’s original choreography for the work.
Starting in 1912, Marcel Duchamp incorporated musical concepts and structures into his work, thereby promoting the emancipation of noise and confirming composition and music-making as a cottage industry.
Duchamp’s Avoir l’apprenti dans le soleil (To have the apprentice in the sun, 1914) was created at a time when the artist was concerned with the challenges of combining elements of various arts. The cyclist is a symbol of the French avant-garde and the modern spirit; the viewer sees the cyclist’s effort to mount the staff lines as a contrast between silence and noisy corporeality. The battle between the arts is not to be ironed out by means of assimilation, but must be fought out or brought to a détente in the artwork itself.
This according to “Marcel Duchamp, John Cage und eine Kunstgeschichte des Geräusches/Marcel Duchamp, John Cage and an art history of noise” by Michael C. Glasmeier, an essay included in Resonanzen: Aspekte der Klangkunst/Resonances: Aspects of sound art (Heidelberg: Kehrer, 2002, pp. 49–70).
Today is Duchamp’s 130th birthday! Above, the drawing in question; below, the artist describes his readymade À bruit secret (With hidden noise, 1916): “Before I finished it Arensberg put something inside the ball of twine, and never told me what it was, and I didn’t want to know.”
Ballet manga, in which the heroine withstands numerous trials to become a notable dancer, is very popular among Japanese girls and women, and has greatly contributed to the establishment of ballet in Japan.
The genre emerged during the 1950s; with an increase in its popularity, more children began attending private ballet classes, since Japan had no official ballet schools. After some decades now, many Japanese dancers have begun winning international dancing competitions.
While most ballet manga is fictional, some examples have been based on the lives of famous ballet dancers such as Vaclav Nižinskij and Maria Tallchief.
This according to “The relationship between ballet and manga in Japan” by Yukiyo Hoshino, an essay included in Writing dancing/Dancing writing (Birmingham: Society of Dance History Scholars, 2014, pp. 103–106).
Above, the first volume of Swan, a popular serialized ballet manga from the 1970s; below, the related genre of ballet anime.
When Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau was a little boy he was, as he described himself, “shy, clumsy, obedient, and uninterested in sport.”
He started piano lessons when he was nine, and these led indirectly to his second great artistic pursuit, drawing and painting. It took many years for him to try his hand at oils, but by the 1970s his two homes were filled with many testimonies to his skill. “It helps to release the tensions and strains of my profession,” he told an interviewer.
This according to Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, mastersinger by Kenneth Whitton (New York: Holmes & Meier, 1981, pp. 16–17).
Today would have been Fischer-Dieskau’s 90th birthday! Above, a self-portrait from 1985; below, a brief film presenting several of his portraits.
BONUS: Fischer-Dieskau’s much-celebrated recording of Schubert’s Die Winterreise with Gerald Moore, from 1962.
Bach’s Brandenburgische Konzerte are not the epitome of absolute music, as some scholars contend; rather, they comprise an allegory of princely virtues. This reading of the works puts them in the framework of both Bach’s cantatas and the allegorical iconography that was common in the decorations of Baroque palaces.
Although not all the concertos were conceived in relation to the Margrave Christian Ludwig of Brandenburg, they were chosen for the cycle dedicated to him and are meant to reflect themes connecting him to particular figures in classical mythology: the hunter (Diana), the hero (Hercules), the patron of the arts (Apollo and the Muses), the shepherd (Pan), the lover (Venus and Mars), and the scholar (Athena).
This according to “Bachs mythologisches Geheimnis: Philip Pickett, Reinhard Goebel und das verborgene Programm der Brandenburgischen Konzerte” by Karl Böhmer (Concerto: Das Magazin für Alte Musik XII/109 [December–January 1995–96] pp. 15–17).
Above, Venus and Mars presenting arms to Aeneus by Gérard de Lairesse (1641–1711; click to enlarge). Below, the Freiburger Barockorchester performs the corresponding concerto.
Mozart’s wittiness is famously illuminated through many of his letters. Less known are his small humorous sketches, which appear here and there throughout his correspondence.
The sketches range from mysterious stick figures to bizarre caricatures; some are still riddles to scholars.
This according to “Mozart, der Zeichner” by Gabriele Ramsauer, an essay included in Mozart-Bilder–Bilder Mozarts: Ein Porträt zwischen Wunsch und Wirklichkeit (Salzburg: Pustet, 2013, pp. 25–28).
Above, a drawing at the top of a letter from Mozart to his cousin Maria Anna Thekla Mozart, known as Bäsle, dated 10 May 1780, titled Engel (Angel), with labels fig. I Kopf (head), fig. II Frißur (hairdo), fig. III Nasn (nose), fig. IV Brust (breast), fig. V Hals (throat), fig. VI Aug (eye); inscribed below VI: Hier ißt leer (Here is empty).
The full text of the letter (untranslated) is here; below, the finale of Mozart’s Ein musikalischer Spaß, which ends with his celebrated foray into polytonality.
The Archives de Paris holds 1200 registrations, mainly by instrument builders working in the former département of the Seine. The same company could have several different trademarks or hallmarks, either to differentiate among products or their quality, or due to various acquisitions or inheritances. In the 1890s trademarks for phonographic machines using cylinders or records, as well as for player pianos, were also registered.
These trademarks are rendered by labels, stamped imprints, dry point, and other means. They include various combinable elements: initials, patronyms, handwritten signatures, instrument names, common names or qualifying adjectives, names of cities, proverbs, or maxims. There are also figurative elements: notes, emblems, coats-of-arms, instruments, stars, animals, photographs, exhibition medals, certificates, and so on.
Les marques de fabrique des facteurs d’instruments de musique déposées au greffe du Tribunal de Commerce de Paris de 1860 à 1914 is an open-access online resource that includes a detailed chronological inventory of 1200 trademarks with illustrations and three indices: of names, of cities, and of figurative elements. The site is published by the Institut de Recherche en Musicologie (IREMUS).
Above, a trademark registered by La Compagnie Générale de Cinématographes, Phonographes et Pellicules in 1898 (click to enlarge).
“Sculpture, music, text: Winckelmann, Herder, and Gluck’s Iphigénie en Tauride” by Simon Richter (Goethe yearbook VIII  pp. 157–71) considers Gluck’s opera in the context of Johann Joachim Winckelmann’s writings on the statue known as Laocoön, widely regarded as the measure for classical beauty in the second half of the 18th century, and Johann Gottfried Herder‘s writings on the human voice as a common origin for both music and language.
According to Richter, Gluck’s Iphigénie enacts a musical version of Winckelmann’s classical aesthetics, which in turn may have consequences for the way in which Iphigénie is performed, staged, and interpreted. Gluck is in every respect staging the allegorical triumph of his opera reform as the musical counterpart of Winckelmann’s classical aesthetics.
This year we celebrate the 250th anniversary of the publication of Winckelmann’s Geschichte der Kunst des Althertums (Dresden, 1764)! Winckelmann revolutionized the understanding of stylistic changes in Greco-Roman art and deeply influenced archaeological studies. His concept of edle Einfalt und stille Grösse (noble simplicity and quiet grandeur) put the excessive complexities of Baroque aesthetics to rest, influencing Gluck and others.
Above, the sculpture in question (click to enlarge); below, Véronique Gens as Iphigénie.