Saturday, July 4, 2015

“The Star-Spangled Banner” and “God Save the King”: Glenn Gould’s Quodlibet

by Benjamin Givan

Some years ago, Sony Classical re-released both of the Canadian pianist Glenn Gould’s recordings of J. S. Bach’s Goldberg Variations (BWV 988) on a three-CD set. Along with remastered discs of Gould’s classic 1955 performance and his valedictory rendition of 1981, the reissue’s producers added some out-takes from the earlier recording sessions, including an interesting exchange that took place when it came time for Gould to record the last of the thirty variations, the famous quodlibet incorporating popular German songs of Bach’s day. The twenty-two-year-old pianist whimsically demonstrated an interesting musical relationship between the British national anthem, “God Save the King” (known in the US as “My Country ’Tis of Thee”), and that of the UK’s former colony, “The Star Spangled Banner.” This July 4—239 years after the two nations parted ways and sixty years after Gould entered Columbia Records’ 30th St. studio in New York City—let’s take a look at what he discovered.



On the session tapes, while bantering with Columbia’s recording engineers about Bach’s musical sources for the quodlibet, Gould tells them:
By the way, I have a quodlibet of my own which came to me in the bath tub the other night. One of these times I’m going to be invited to give a concert on the fourth of July, I am sure, and when I do, I’ve figured out that, by leaving out the repeats in “The Star-Spangled Banner,” and starting your entry at the thirteenth bar of “God Save the King,’ and then playing “God Save the King” over again, and altering the harmony in the second half of “The King” to modulate to the supertonic region, it has the most marvelous effect. Listen to this—I’ll start from halfway through “The King” the first time, before “The Star-Spangled Banner”...

Gould then proceeds to play.
Just as he describes, Gould begins his quodlibet midway through “God Save the King,” playing it in G major in the upper voice with octave doublings. He brings in “The Star-Spangled Banner” in an inner voice on the third beat of bar 6 with a pick-up to the penultimate measure of “God Save the King,” which begins over in bar 9. At m. 15 he continues into the second half of “The Star-Spangled Banner” without the customary repeat of its first half.  For the most part, the anthems are harmonically compatible when so aligned; the example below isolates their melodies from the full keyboard texture and provides Roman numeral and figured-bass indications corresponding to Gould’s harmonization.

In five places, one of the melodies receives a non-standard harmonization so as to conform with the other. The first reharmonization is at m. 9, where Gould supports the opening bar of “God Save the King” with an E-minor chord (VI), rather than the usual tonic, G major; the E♮ in the bass, from the third measure of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” takes precedence in determining the harmony. Then, at m. 12, he uses a secondary dominant, chord, B-major (V of VI), to harmonize the F♯ in “The Star-Spangled Banner,” whose more orthodox setting would be a dominant harmony; here the melodic B♮ in “God Save the King” takes precedence. In the next bar, m. 13, where the third line of “God Save the King” ordinarily has a pre-dominant supertonic harmony on beat 1, Gould plays II 6-5. This again reharmonizes “The Star-Spangled Banner,” which conventionally uses a tonic harmony at this point. Three bars later, at mm. 16–17, Gould tonicizes A minor by means of its dominant, an E-seventh chord. This “modulat[ion] to the supertonic region,” as he calls it, arises because, on the downbeat of m. 16, the note D♮ in “God Save the King” coincides with E♮ in “The Star-Spangled Banner”—a dominant seventh on E is the most logical harmonization since it contains both of these pitches. The former melody is often supported by a tonic harmony at this point (see, for instance, m. 8 of Beethoven’s Seven Variations on “God Save the King” (WoO 78)), while the latter usually uses the subdominant.

Gould’s final non-standard harmonization occurs in bar 21, the next-to-last measure of both anthems, where “God Save the King” contains an E♮ on the downbeat while “The Star-Spangled Banner” has a B♮ that would ordinarily be supported by a cadential V6-4 harmony. Here, “God Save the King” takes precedence—the pianist plays a subdominant major-seventh harmony in root position. Rather than progressing directly to V on the next beat, he interpolates VII7 of V before arriving on the dominant on beat three. This results in an ambiguous treatment of the subdominant scale degree on the fourth eighth note of the bar, where a C♮ escape tone in “The Star-Spangled Banner” occurs simultaneously with the bass-note C♯.
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The two anthems fit together quite well, mutatis mutandis, because of their similar harmonic foundations. How did Gould happen across this apparent coincidence? Maybe he noticed that the beginnings of both melodies’ second halves are clearly suited to a I-VI-II-V-I harmonic progression and then he extrapolated backward, realizing that their first halves—whose similarity is less self-evident—can also be superimposed. When the melodies are combined in this way, “The Star Spangled Banner” will end up starting two measures before “God Save the King” because the American anthem’s first half is eight bars long whereas the British anthem’s is only six.

Happy Fourth of July!



Benjamin Givan is Associate Professor of Music at Skidmore College. He is author of The Music of Django Reinhardt (U. Michigan Press, 2010).

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Jimi Hendrix and “The Star-Spangled Banner”

by Mark Clague

NOTE: The most recent lecture in the series co-sponsored by the American Musicological Society and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum took place on 25 March 2015. Mark Clague's title was “'This Is America': Jimi Hendrix’s Reimaginings of the 'The Star-Spangled Banner' as Social Comment for Woodstock and Beyond.“ We present it here on the occasion of the holiday weekend.


Timeline: The video is 1 hour, 30 minutes, 35 seconds long. Contents are as follows:
01:03: Introduction by Andy Leach, Director of the Library and Archives
04:31: Introduction by Jason Hanley, Director of Education & Public Programs
08:53: Clague’s lecture
58:18: Q&A

Clague writes:

An act of both patriotism and protest, Jimi Hendrix’s ideology-shattering rendition of the U.S. national anthem at Woodstock in 1969 is only the best known of more than sixty Banner performances by the iconic psychedelic guitarist. Analyzing both studio takes and commercial releases, as well as surviving live-audience tapes featuring not only anthem renditions but the stage banter Hendrix used to introduce them, I propose that the dominant mythology surrounding the Woodstock Banner has distorted the understanding of what was Hendrix’s two-year fascination with “The Star-Spangled Banner” from August 1968 until his death. Rather than a single, soaring improvisation, Hendrix’s renditions draw from a pre-composed set of sonic possibilities in which melody, form, quotation, pictorialisms, and ornament were reimagined week-to-week and night-to-night as a changing portrait of America that pictured not only national developments in the struggle for civil rights and the war in Vietnam, but local histories, happenings, and even personal details from Hendrix’s biography.

I argue that as an ongoing process of commentary, the many Hendrix Banners move deftly between protest and patriotism. At once, Hendrix’s reconceptions show great sensitivity to Francis Scott Key’s lyrics while exploding this text to question who is American and how one should practice the art of citizenship. I reconsider the Woodstock Banner in context of Hendrix as a political commentator by comparing this singular, well-known version to dozens of lesser-known renditions that shed light on his thought and artistry. I argue that Hendrix’s Banners start as an offshoot of the eulogistic Civil War bugle call “Taps,” and develop in an aesthetic of free jazz as a wide-ranging pictorial improvisation. By Woodstock, Hendrix’s Banner had coalesced as a set of compositional possibilities, offering an eloquent statement that resonated deeply with the counter-cultural energies of Woodstock as youth utopia.

Yet most fans experienced the Woodstock Banner not at the festival—which ran behind schedule such that Hendrix’s closing set did not occur until Monday morning, after most had left the muddy rain-soaked festival—but through the 1970 documentary film Woodstock, for which Hendrix’s anthem performance serves as a philosophical and musical climax. For Hendrix’s 1970 The Cry of Love tour, which followed the film’s release, his Banner renditions became increasingly calcified as an echo of Woodstock, but retained a political edge as part of an explicitly anti-war closing set, including “Machine Gun” and “Purple Haze.” My analysis concludes that the Woodstock Banner is an optimistic outlier—less a musical vision of dystopia than a balanced expression of democracy in action and a statement of hope toward a future America shaped by psychedelic activism.

Mark Clague is Associate Professor of Musicology at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and executive editor of MUSA: Music of the United States of America. His recent article on the same subject for the Journal of the Society for American Music is HERE.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

AMS presidents ponder

by Richard Freedman

Last week in New York City hundreds of members of the International Association for Music Libraries (IAML) and international Musicological Society (IMS) gathered for a week’s worth of presentations, meetings, and discussion to consider “Music Research in the Digital Age” (our previous coverage HERE). It's a statement of fact, of course: these days whose work is not somehow inflected by new digital media, and new ways of interacting with them? And whose interactions with colleagues has not been made more rapid and frequent by the advent of the digital domain?

Over the course of the conference, reports on individual initiatives, like these—
Fons de Música Tradicional at the Institució Milà i Fontanals (CSIC-IMF) in Barcelona

Boston Symphony Orchestra Archives
—were framed by plenary sessions that sought to get everyone thinking in a more intentional way about where we've been, and where we might be in another decade, both here and abroad.

At one session American Musicological Society president Ellen Harris assembled three of her predecessors in the office to offer individual and institutional perspectives on all of this: past presidents Anne Walters Robertson, Elaine Sisman, and Christopher Reynolds. Their remarks were rounded out with responses from Philippe Vendrix (Centre d'Études Supérieures de la Renaissace [CESR], Tours) and myself. We had agreed in advance on three intersecting headings:
  • Collections. In the last decades we’ve watched the explosive growth of new kinds of digital resources: sound and image archives, facsimiles of print and manuscripts editions, digital encodings of musical notation and other information, and new modes of scholarly communication in blogs, multimedia journals, and beyond. How do we make sure that these resources are visible and discoverable? How is ubiquitous access to materials manifest in current work, and what kinds of research questions are scholars asking?  What questions might they ask next? How are new modes of publication changing the material aspect of our work?
  • Collaborations. Musicologists are working together in new ways. We’re also working more than ever with library and IT specialists, and with a widerning range of scholars from other disciplines (not just literary and historical studies, but the social and hard sciences as well). How have digital technologies in particular encouraged such collaboration? How might participation in multi-authored publications or projects change the character of our work? What possibilities seem especially ripe for international collaboration? What barriers are there to such work, and how could the AMS and IMS/IAML work to reduce them? How are state (private) funding bodies likely to view such work?  How sustainable is any of this?
  • Communities. What good is our work in the world at large? Who has access to it (here I am thinking of the open-access and open-source movement)? In the age of Wikipedia, who will bother to look at current musicological publications? How do we communicate with peers in other disciplines, with professional and amateur musicians, and with the public at large? How can digital modes of publication help us reach such folks? And what of the next generation of students and scholars? How is the teaching of musicology and the formation of musicologists changing? How are North American graduate programs changing?

The presidents offered personal reflections on the old and new cultures:

Using examples from plainchant to Machaut, Robertson explained how medieval readers would have been completely at home with the idea of a “web” of knowledge, texts, and images, for this simple reason: “in the pre-modern period,” she reminded us, “words that are set to music are connected to other words, much more so, I would argue, than they are in the modern era, when copyright rules and notions of individuality among authors and composers have eroded the fundamental principles of scholarship and exegesis that dominated in earlier times.”

Sisman related her own tale of digital discovery, which began with an attempt to put Haydn’s earliest Esterhazy contract—and his earliest symphonies—into their original time and place. The results took her sent her skipping through star maps and other observational aids, eventually returning to illuminate Haydn’s music, no less than the circumstances of his employment.

Reynolds (with UC Davis music specialist Michael Colby, immediate past president of the Music Library Association) told the story of how a chance flea-market encounter with sheet music published by women went from hobby to database. (The Christopher A. Reynolds Collection of Women's Song, 1850 -1950 is now part of Special Collections at Davis; permalink to database HERE). Colby told the parallel story of how this valuable collection found a home, and is becoming visible, thanks to innovative approaches to the cataloging and electronic publication of meta-data. Together they helped reflect on important issues of curation, sustainability, and publication.

Vendrix and I took turns responding to these presentations. Among our reactions:
New technologies of writing have always complicated the relationship between authors and readers. This is especially true of the performing art of music. From the beginnings of western musical notation, to the advent of the printing press, to sound recording, and now to the digital domain, new technologies of transcription brought about means for controlling the effects and purposes of music, even inaugurating a new sense of it as intellectual property. Each was a "new medium" of its day, and each brought with it new ways for composers, performers, and listeners to interact around musical ideas. Now it is transforming scholarship, too.
Now music scholars and scholarship are also being drawn into the process of technological change: we once viewed print (books, journals, editions) as the durable means through which we put our best ideas before colleagues and the wider musical public in durable form. But as digital texts remake the world of scholarship as surely as YouTube and Spotify have remade the curatorial function of the recording industry, critical authority and responsibility are changing, too. Editions prepared with open-source standards like the Text Encoding Initiative and Music Encoding Initiative editions, for instance, can be shared across any computer system, and can preserve with remarkable detail almost any level of intervention in a text, and distinguish my vision of a text from yours. Linked Open Data standards permit the interoperation of giant arrays of digital projects, connecting information about places, people, institutions, and musical works in complex ontologies of semantic tags. These are inherently destabilizing forms: layered and collaborative. The tools of the trade are reshaping scholarly cultures, no less than artistic ones.
We all know that the present is a notoriously poor vantage point for regarding the future. But it is tempting to predict the following developments:
  • New Modes of Reading and Writing. The advent of digital texts for music will open the medium will open the medium to new sorts of research questions make possible by the interaction of close and distant modes of reading. We will be forced to imagine new ways of searching in musical texts, new ways of citing them, and new ways of representing our findings.
  • New Forms of Publication and New Scholarly Communities. These new modes of reading will engender new forms of publication. Here we might think not only of digital alongside print, but the creation of new multi-author works, and publication in which the same author might take part in various ways, as editor, annotator, analyst, and respondent. Old distinctions between scholarly and pedagogical publications will also be blurred, and in turn the line between research and teaching will be porous. Process and community building will matter as much as finished work. This in turn will have profound effects on the ways in which we evaluate and credential our work, with special impact on the younger scholars best prepared to participate in the digital domain.
  • New Disciplinary Intersections. The AMS, IMS, and IAML will foster dialogue among the tools and methods of its constituent members in the craft and study of music. But modes of inquiry will be put in counterpoint with digital disciplines practiced elsewhere in the academy, and beyond, including branches of Literary Studies and Linguistics (topic modeling, studies of style and authenticity, and syntax), Cognition and Brain Science (with computationally intensive investigation of neural networks that might inform our understanding of listening, composition, and the history of style), and Informatics (through big data techniques like clustering, similarity networks, and machine learning systems).
Music historians are uniquely poised to take a leadership role in all this. No one knows which of these predictions will hold up, but I for one will make a beeline to the next congress to see what will have been accomplished.

Richard Freedman is John C. Whitehead Professor of Music at Haverford College in Pennsylvania; webpage HERE. He is author of Music in the Renaissance in the W. W. Norton series Western Music in Context (2012). When not busy in the classroom or with research he enjoys giving public lectures on music, notably a series of pre-concert talks for the Philadelphia Orchestra and for the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society and work with One-Day-University (a traveling set of continuing education panels). More than Mozart, a set of 14 recorded talks for those curious to be better listeners, can be purchased through Barnes and Noble and Recorded Books.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

“Eili, Eili” as a “Traditional Yiddish Melody”

by Joshua Walden

In 1918 the renowned St. Petersburg-trained violinist Toscha Seidel published a work for violin and piano titled “Eïli, Eïli.” The phrase “Traditional Yiddish Melody” appeared under the title, and the plaintive tune featured the augmented seconds and alternating duple and triple rhythms long associated with eastern European Jewish song. When Seidel performed the work at Carnegie Hall that same year, the critic for the New York Times identified the piece as “his own arrangement of the Hebrew prayer ‘Eili Eili.’” The violinist Mischa Elman, who like Seidel was a former pupil in the St. Petersburg Conservatory studio of Leopold Auer, published a new adaptation “Eili, Eili” in 1922, in a score that described the music as “A Traditional Jewish Melody” (LISTEN).

 During the 1910s and 1920s, “Eili, Eili” was performed and recorded repeatedly by violinists as well as vocalists, who sang the melody’s original Hebrew text, an adaptation of Psalm 22, verse 2, which begins, “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?” This text and melody were also the subject of ethnographic collection, included in 1910 and 1917 in published anthologies of Jewish religious and folk songs. In live performances and on records produced by major labels, noted cantors including Yossele Rosenblatt intoned the melancholy song. It was later reported: “When Yossele Rosenblatt chanted ‘Eili, Eili,’ angels in heaven seemed to sing along with him” (LISTEN).

Opera singers also performed “Eili, Eili,” beginning with Sophie Breslau’s acclaimed 1917 rendition at the Metropolitan Opera. In some contexts the music was identified as a “Religious Prayer,” while vaudevillian Belle Baker’s 1919 record stated that the text was “In Jewish” and opera singer Rosa Raisa’s called it a “Traditional Hebrew Melody.” The music made its way into other genres, too: for example, it was performed hundreds of times by the orchestra that accompanied screenings of the silent film The Golem, based on a Jewish legend, during its New York run at the Criterion Theatre. By 1920 the melody had become so ubiquitous that it was the subject of a playful parody in Leo Wood and Archie Gottler’s number “That Eili Eili Melody,” whose chorus began, “That melody called ‘Eili, Eili,’/ Is always haunting me.”

How, then, did this cherished Jewish folksong find itself at the center of a heated copyright infringement case brought by the Yiddish operetta composer Jacob Koppel Sandler against the music publisher Joseph P. Katz, argued before the Honorable John C. Knox, in a New York City federal courtroom in 1925? Sandler claimed that “Eili, Eili” was in fact an original composition he had written in 1896 for a production of M. Horowitz’s Yiddish operetta The Hero and Brocha, or the Jewish King of Poland for a Night, directed by the Yiddish theater impresario Boris Thomashefsky at the Windsor Theatre in New York. He had composed the number for the actress Sophie Karp to sing as she hung from a crucifix, enacting a young woman’s medieval martyrdom for refusing to repudiate her Jewish faith. Sandler only attempted to copyright “Eili, Eili” in 1919, however, after learning that it had become an international success, and he was suing Katz for violating his copyright by continuing to publish arrangements of the music.

Katz testified that he had no knowledge that the melody was by Sandler; to the contrary, his father, an immigrant from eastern Europe, had hummed it to him decades earlier, and he had assumed it was a folksong. At trial, the prominent musician and author Lazare Saminsky recounted that he first heard the song in St. Petersburg and had “concluded that the composition was a folksong,” following which it was published in “a Russian encyclopedia.” At the same time, however, it was established by Yiddish theater participants testifying for the plaintiff that a number of musicians who had played in the orchestra for The Hero and Brocha had returned to Russia in the intervening years. Perhaps it was through them that the melody became known there.

On the last day of the trial, the defense attorney for the publisher charged with copyright infringement, himself a former concert violinist, brought his instrument into the courtroom and performed an arrangement of the disputed melody. As the Times recounted:
Abraham I. Menin, counsel for the defendant … took his violin and with the score of “Eili, Eili,” propped against a pile of law books, played the Jewish lament. The notes reached the corridors and attracted a crowd. An attendant closed and locked the doors of the courtroom and there was a silence until the music ceased. A tendency to applaud was checked by Judge Knox.

Judge Knox ultimately decided in favor of the defendant, the publisher Katz, on a technicality of copyright law: too much time had elapsed between the alleged composition of the tune and the filing of the lawsuit.

In response to the verdict, Sandler lamented, “What I feel is—is like a father that’s told he can’t have his own child.” Judge Knox later wrote in his memoir that he felt sorry for Sandler: “It is probable … that Sandler … really wrote it, but I did not have to decide the matter. The injunction was asked for on the basis of Sandler’s copyright.” By the time Sandler applied for copyright, the music had entered public domain, in legal terms; in the terms used by musicians who arranged and performed it, the music had become a folksong, as its origins were rapidly forgotten and its melody became increasingly familiar.

My book Sounding Authentic: The Rural Miniature and Musical Modernism takes the curious story of “Eili, Eili” as a point of departure from which to examine a genre of arrangements of folk music and original “folk-like” pieces for solo or small ensemble that I call the “rural miniature.” Works in the genre, such as Elman’s and Seidel’s versions of “Eili, Eili,” Manuel de Falla and Paul Kochanski’s Suite populaire espagnole, Joseph Achron’s “Hebrew Melody,” and Béla Bartók’s Romanian Folk Dances, were played frequently in recitals in the early twentieth century, and many have persisted to this day as canonic “encore” pieces and pedagogical exercises for students of violin, cello, piano, and other instruments. They can be difficult to master, incorporating flashy, virtuosic techniques. The composition of rural miniatures in the early twentieth century emerged from the synthesis of contemporary developments in methodologies of folksong collecting, evolving ideologies of political nationalism, and the rapid emergence of sound recording technologies. In Sounding Authentic, the rural miniature provides the basis for a study of the search for authenticity that preoccupied so many musicians during the modernist period—including those who wrote, performed, and listened to the various versions of “Eili, Eili”—in their exploration of folk music and their incorporation of new ethnographic findings into the composition and performance of art music.


Joshua Walden is on the Faculty of Musicology at the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University (webpage HERE).  He is the author of Sounding Authentic: The Rural Miniature and Musical Modernism (Oxford UP, 2014) and editor of The Cambridge Companion to Jewish Music (Cambridge UP, forthcoming in December) and Representation in Western Music (Cambridge UP, 2013).

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Attali in America

by Eric Drott
NOTE: Professor Drott’s “Rereading Jacques Attali's Bruits” appears in the current issue of Critical Inquiry (41/4 [Summer, 2015]: 721-56.
Few books have had as significant an impact on music and sound studies in the past thirty years as Jacques Attali’s Noise. Musicologists, ethnomusicologists, scholars of popular music, media theorists, sound studies scholars, cultural theorists, and countless others have drawn inspiration from Attali’s call for music and noise to be resituated from the margins to the center of social life. But there is something curious about the impact Attali’s book has had on Anglo-American scholarship. This point was driven home to me a few years back, when I was having a drink one night with a French colleague, Jedediah Sklower, in a café in the Belleville district of Paris. When the subject of Attali’s book came up, Jedediah expressed incredulity at the enthusiasm with which the book had been embraced outside France. What, he wondered, could possibly explain the enormous influence that Noise has exercised abroad?

I imagine that part of his puzzlement was motivated by the strange trajectory of Attali’s political and intellectual career in France since the first edition was published in 1977. It is no exaggeration to say that nowadays Attali is one of the most visible public intellectuals in France. But he is also one of the most controversial. Particularly on the left, Attali is regarded with a mixture of derision and contempt, seen as an exemplar of the sort of neoliberal thinking that mistakes the liberation of entrepreneurial energies for human liberation tout court. One author has even coined a neologism, le jacquattalisme, to describe the kind of Pollyannaish belief-system Attali’s present-day thought embodies. According to the tenets of jacquattalisme, all the social problems, ecological catastrophes, and human suffering caused by the global flow of capital will be remedied by the same economic forces that created them in the first place. And if neoliberal capitalism hasn’t sorted these issues out already, we are assured that its much vaunted market-based solutions simply need a little more time to work their elusive—which is to say illusory—magic.<1>

I’ve long shared Jedediah’s perplexity regarding the distance separating the status Attali’s work enjoys in Anglo-American academia and that which it is accorded in France. It was this perplexity that led me to write the critical reassessment of Noise and its legacy that appears in the summer 2015 issue of Critical Inquiry. To make sense of this riddle required an unpacking of the book’s political and ideological commitments, situating them in the context of debates taking place within the French left at the time of its publication. And of all the commitments that needed unpacking, the most significant was Attali’s anti-materialism, his inversion of the classic Marxian model that holds ideas, beliefs, and culture—including music—to be subordinate to economic relations. Famously, for Attali, music has a leg up on the economy, to the point that it is possible to hear in its sonic patterns presentiments of future social orders. Furthermore, the engine driving this forward movement of history is the noise referenced by the book’s title, which in politics as well as music represents a force whose disturbance of a prevailing socio-musical order lays the foundations for the one that will succeed it.

What is revealed by a reconstruction of the sociohistoric context to which Noise responded is that Attali's assertion that music is "ahead of society" was less a hypothesis to be tested and perhaps verified, than a stake in a political struggle whose outcome would have enormous consequences for the future of France. Also revealed is the extent to which our embrace of Attali's theses has involved a misreading of the politics that animated them. To be sure, this has proven to be a productive misreading. But it is one whose disclosure raises questions we can no longer afford to ignore. What kind of ideological work do we perform in adopting for our own purposes Attali's anti-materialist theses, no matter how comforting a picture they paint of music's social significance? And to what extent can noise still be said to possess the disruptive potential Attali ascribes to it in an age when the greatest force for disruption is the reigning market system itself?


Eric Drott is Associate Professor of Music Theory at the University of Texas, Austin, where he is head of the Division of Theory/Composition. His research focuses on contemporary music culture, avant-garde movements in music, French cultural politics, and the sociology of music. His Music and the Elusive Revolution (University of California Press, 2011) examines music and politics in France after May ’68, in particular how different music communities (jazz, rock, contemporary music) responded to the upheavals of the period.



<1> Frédéric Lordon, “Avec Thomas Piketty, pas de danger pour le capital au XXIe siècle,” Le Monde Diplomatique (April 2015), pp. 19–20. Another anecdotal piece of evidence testifying to the animosity Attali’s work is capable of generating occurred last Thursday at a study day I attended at the Bibliotheque Nationale de France. At one point during a round-table discussion on the history of independent record labels in France, an invited speaker described Noise as “the stupidest book on music” ever written (“le livre le plus con sur la musique”). Judging from the response this remark garnered among attendees, he is not alone in feeling this way.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Thoughts on Gunther Schuller

in memoriam
Gunther Schuller
22 November 1925 – 21 June 2015

by Barry Kernfeld

After suffering through an endless string of jazz concerts ruined by overly aggressive sound men, I gave up entirely on live jazz and am spending the last part of my life going to classical concerts in Massachusetts, anything from Blue Heron’s Ockeghem to the Tanglewood Festival of Contemporary Music. Most often, I go to the New England Conservatory, where the professional and student music-making is routinely off the charts, ridiculous in the best sense of the word: Alisa Weilerstein giving a free concert with her parents, who are on the faculty; the BSO’s John Ferrillo as guest oboist in a historical performance of a Bach cantata that was one of the greatest musical experiences of my life; the NEC Philharmonia in Jordan Hall more or less outdoing the BSO at Tanglewood in their rendition of Brahms’s German Requiem. Last month (May), 19-year-old violinist In Mo Yang was still a member of an NEC student string quartet, despite having taken first prize at the Paganini competition in March. I marvel at all this stuff, and time and again I think, Gunther Schuller did this. He took a floundering institution and as its president (1967–77) turned it into a musical powerhouse.

Born into a musical family in New York, Gunther Schuller was a prodigy on French horn. He first played with the New York Philharmonic at age 16. He was never important as a jazz instrumentalist—his claim to fame in that area was as a member of the brass section on Miles Davis’s historic “Birth of the Cool” tracks—but he loved jazz, he became deeply immersed in the scene, and he made pioneering contributions as an educator and musicologist, bringing the breadth of his talent and discipline to bear upon this newly evolving field.

In the late 1950s, after having taken Aaron Copland’s place on the composition staff at Tanglewood, Schuller founded the Lenox School of Jazz, a short-lived shadow jazz parallel to Tanglewood. He brought in many of the leading lights of jazz to teach jazz history, composition, and arranging in the Berkshires, and from the West Coast he brought in a little-known student who would turn everyone’s head around: Ornette Coleman.

In 1968 he published Early Jazz. Schuller believed passionately that the only way to write about a jazz artist was to listen first to every single available recording. This idea would become unwieldy for eras in which jazz recordings proliferated, but for Early Jazz it worked great. The book is filled with unprecedented insights. Schuller singlehandedly established the idea that jazz might be a topic for serious musicological investigation.

In 1971, through Vera Lawrence and William Russell, Schuller tracked down a copy of the Red Back Book, orchestrated versions of ragtime tunes. The following year he founded what would become the tremendously successful New England Ragtime Ensemble, which over the course of 25 years would provide professional careers for a cluster of those fabulous NEC students. So when Marvin Hamlisch got all the musical credit for The Sting and the worldwide popularization of ragtime, Schuller was not pleased.

We never met, except for one day in 1967 when he came over to our high school from San Francisco State College, to conduct his Meditation for concert band, and I feel unqualified to discuss his involvement in the avant-garde versus neo-classical wars. So I’ll break off here, and ask readers of this blog to celebrate other aspects of Gunther Schuller’s life and music. Leave a comment!


Barry Kernfeld edited the first and second editions of The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz (1988, 2001), the largest jazz dictionary ever published. Having concluded a long stint as staff archivist in the Special Collections Library at Penn State, he has returned to free-lance research, writing, and performance. And hoarding, he writes on his WEBSITE: “Some old men buy red sports cars; I keep acquiring more reed instruments.”

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Music Research in the Digital Age


A joint congress of the International Association of Music Libraries (IAML) and the International Musicological Society (IMS) is underway at the Juilliard School in New York City. It lasts just short of a full week, with a packed agenda. 
“Music Research in the Digital Age” not only focuses attention on the past, present, and future of digital musicology, but also evokes a long tradition of cooperation between the International Musicological Society and the International Association of Music Libraries, Archives, and Documentation Centers.

Barry S. Brook
(19181997)
On Thursday the conference commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Répertoire International de Littérature Musicale / International Repertory of Music Literature (RILM). RILM’s editor-in-chief, Barbara Dobbs Mackenzie, is the current president of IAML and director of the Barry S. Brook Center for Music Research and Documentation at The Graduate Center, City University of New York. The session “Barry S. Brook: A Tribute” celebrates his vast legacy as founder of RILM (1965) and co-founder of RIdIM (Répertoire International d'Iconographie Musicale, 1971), IAML president (1977–1980), and already a pioneer in computer applications to musicology in the 1960s. Brook's work stands as a symbol of the symbiotic relationship between musicology and music librarianship that has driven the work of many scholars before and since his time. The session includes, among others, a tribute from Catherine Massip, former head of the Music Department at the Bibliothèque Nationale in France, with which the Brooks had, as she describes it, “une affinité élective.
The Barry and Claire Brook Endowment of the American Musicological Society, established by their many admirers, supports research and publication in musical iconography.