Music

Bob Dylan | Bob Dylan

May 24, 2012
By
Bob Dylan | Bob Dylan

Robert Allen Zimmerman (b. May 24, 1941) GEMINI GEMINI GEMINI GEMINI GEMINI “Oh, the streets of Rome are filled with rubble,/Ancient footprints are everywhere./You can almost think that you’re seein’ double/On a cold, dark night on the Spanish Stairs.”—”When I Paint My Masterpiece” (1971) On August 30, 1964, a Sunday, Manhattan lay swathed in the heat of a summer afternoon. In their air-conditioned luxury suite high above the intersection of Park Avenue and 59th Street, the Beatles could hear the faint screams of fans who had gathered reverently on the sidewalks around the Delmonico Hotel, hoping to catch a glimpse of Paul, George, John, or Ringo peering from behind a curtain. Those screams had rung in the Beatles’ ears for seven months as the cresting wave of Beatlemania rose higher and higher with no end yet in sight. In April the top five places in Billboard Magazine’s Top One Hundred chart were Beatles songs. On August 12, the film A Hard Day’s Nighthad opened in more than 500 theaters nationwide, earning more than $1.3 million its first week and making Beatlemania a performance for millions of fans to watch and join vicariously. In late August, the Beatles had five singles . . .

Read more »

The Wonderful World of Chemistry

May 23, 2012
By
The Wonderful World of Chemistry

“With Antron and Nylon and Lycra and Orlon and Dacron, the world’s a better place. You know we all have a smile on that started with Nylon and stretches across each happy face.” King of the jingle (and prince of the cabaret), Michael Brown wrote and directed DuPont’s “industrial musical” The Wonderful World of Chemistry, which would air an unprecedented 14,600 times, or 40 times per day, during the two-year run of the 1964–65 World’s Fair in New York City. (It should be pointed out that a bit of research on Timothy D. Taylor’s forthcoming The Sounds of Capitalism: Advertising, Music, and the Conquest of Culture led us here. The book hones in on the indiscriminate blurring between advertising copy and popular music, unearthing an as-yet unclaimed piece of our cultural history—the musical aesthetics of consumerism, and its buzz-buzz-buzzing.) Brown was a children’s book author, lyricist, and producer, who penned tales about Santa Mouse and put the words, literally, in Carol Channing’s mouth during a run of Sugar Babies. The Wonderful World of Chemistry was his masterpiece, among songs scribed for notable Broadway musicals (like “Lizzie Borden” in Leonard Sillman’s New Faces of 1952) and other “industrial” pieces. Even his . . .

Read more »

The Voice of Egypt

January 31, 2011
By
The Voice of Egypt

It’s nearly impossible to turn away from the tumultuous events in Cairo, and to make sense of rights and freedoms on the line from an international vantage. We’ve been following the feeds at the Guardian and most recently reading PEN International’s statement, released this morning, and thinking about the March of Millions planned for Tuesday. In trying to stay present with the coverage and assessing where to begin to solidify our understanding of a nation’s culture and a movement for its people, we came across the music of Umm Kulthum, whose fallahah (peasant) perspective imbued her life and work, offering insight into the cultural and political studies that Egypt faced only a generation or two before. Kulthum, the “voice of Egypt” (also “the Star of the East” and the “Nightingale of the Nile”), was one of the most celebrated performers of the twentieth-century Arab world. The idiom she created from local culture and traditions helped her to develop a populist musical practice that was heralded as a crowning example of a new, yet authentically Arab-Egyptian culture, during tumultuous changes mid-century. Perhaps most pressingly, Kulthum’s music and public persona helped to contribute to the artistic, societal, and political forces that surrounded . . .

Read more »

A tribute to Puccini and Patti Smith

December 15, 2010
By
A tribute to Puccini and Patti Smith

Did anyone else watch Patti Smith on the Colbert Report Monday night? We’re Luddites without a TV, we admit, and this pales in comparison to her insanely gracious impromptu live appearance with the Tiny Cover Band at Columbia College in Chicago, but. . . . Sigh. Ms. Smith. May all of our cultural heroes continue to inspire with such ferocity. Speaking of: if you haven’t read Just Kids yet, why are you waiting? In the book’s opening, Robert Mapplethorpe is dying—going, going—and then (heart wrenches): gone. Smith wakes up, knowing and undone, to “Vissi d’arte” from Puccini’s Tosca: “I have lived for love, I have lived for art.” I admit to having read Just Kids three times over within 72 hours of purchase. I admit to my own repeated listening to the music that informs the work, Smith’s own life: Puccini; Tim Hardin; an awkward, failed reevaluation of the Doors; Radio Ethiopia again and again. But the Puccini—there must be something in the air. One-hundred years ago, this past Friday, Puccini’s la Faniculla del West (adapted from David Belasco’s play, The Girl of the Golden West) premiered at the Metropolitan Opera. From the New York Times‘s recent centenary commemoration: Toscanini . . .

Read more »

Mahler Mania!

October 13, 2010
By
Mahler Mania!

Saturday’s Wall Street Journal featured a lengthy appreciation of the work of Gustav Mahler, tied to a new book by Norman Lebrecht, Why Mahler?. In the article, Leon Botstein points out that this year and next offer two Mahler anniversaries, first of his birth and then of his death, But even without an anniversary to celebrate, Mahler’s music dominates the symphonic repertoire all over the world. Indeed, we have been experiencing Mahler mania for almost four decades now. Fortunately for Mahler fans, Mahler mania extends to books as well, and Botstein’s article comes with a useful sidebar listing of key works on Mahler’s life and music. One of those is our own Mahler: A Musical Physiognomy, by Theodor Adorno, which Botstein calls “the most challenging interpretation of the music.” Given the depth of Adorno’s engagement with music throughout his career, it’s no surprise that his writings on Mahler are challenging—nor that they’re insightful enough to be worth the trouble. For Adorno, writes Botstein, “Mahler’s music was unsentimental: a reaction against Romanticism and a harbinger of Modernism. . . an exercise in the use of art as an instrument of ethics.” For more information about Adorno’s book, go here. And if . . .

Read more »

Duke Ellington’s America reviewed in the Telegraph

July 12, 2010
By
Duke Ellington’s America reviewed in the Telegraph

The Telegraph recently ran a review of two new books on two of the greatest names in twentieth century jazz. In his review Ian Thomson sets Harvey G. Cohen’s Duke Ellington’s America alongside a new book on Thelonious Monk, both of which, Thomson argues, eloquently demonstrate how these “two giants of jazz … reinvented black American music.” The review begins: At a funeral in New Orleans in 1901, Joe “King” Oliver played a blues-drenched dirge on the trumpet. This was the new music they would soon call jazz. A century on, from the hothouse stomps of Duke Ellington to the angular doodlings of Thelonious Monk, jazz survives as an important musical voice of America. Ellington was the first jazz composer of real distinction. No other bandleader so consistently redefined the sound and scope of jazz. As a classically trained pianist he fused the hot, syncopated sounds of Jazz Age Harlem with an element of dissonance to produce something unique: a dance music of trance-inducing charm, originality and attack. Continue reading at the telegraph.co.uk and read this excerpt from Cohen’s book. . . .

Read more »

Harvey Cohen on BBC’s Nightwaves

May 18, 2010
By
Harvey Cohen on BBC’s Nightwaves

Harvey G. Cohen, author of Duke Ellington’s America was recently interviewed by Philip Dodd on the BBC Radio 3 program Nightwaves. In the program Cohen discusses the profound influence Ellington and his music had on American culture and the complex role he played in America’s civil rights movement. You can find the archived audio from the interview on their site. (You’ll want to fast forward to about 17.10 for the beginning of Cohen’s interview.) Read an excerpt. . . .

Read more »

Duke Ellington’s America in the New Yorker

May 13, 2010
By
Duke Ellington’s America in the New Yorker

Duke Ellington’s influence on the world of music is well documented, but less so his impact on race relations in twentieth century America. In his new biography, Duke Ellington’s America, cultural historian Harvey G. Cohen shows how, as Ellington’s music propelled him to international fame, he was able to harness his unique social status and artistic genius to influence issues of race, equality and religion. A recent article on Ellington in the New Yorker draws on Cohen’s biography to offer a glimpse into Ellington’s life and his strategies for manipulating American cultural attitudes towards race. In the article, Claudia Roth Pierpont paints a picture of Ellington as a man constantly struggling to maintain a broad appeal, (even in the American south where he occasionally played for segregated audiences), while making his music the front on which he waged war against the racism that inevitably shaped his compositions, performances, and his life. Read it online at the New Yorker website. Also read an excerpt from the book. . . .

Read more »

Martha Feldman awarded 2010 Laing Prize

April 30, 2010
By
Martha Feldman awarded 2010 Laing Prize

Since 1963, the Press has awarded the annual Gordon J. Laing Prize to the Chicago faculty author, editor, or translator whose book has brought the greatest distinction to the Press’s list. This year, at a ceremony held at the International House on the University of Chicago campus, the prize honored U of C professor of music Martha Feldman for her book Opera and Sovereignty: Transforming Myths in Eighteenth-Century Italy. Performed throughout Europe during the 1700s, Italian heroic opera, or opera seria, was the century’s most significant musical art form, profoundly engaging such figures as Handel, Haydn, and Mozart. Opera and Sovereignty is the first book to address this genre as cultural history, arguing that eighteenth-century opera seria must be understood in light of the period’s social and political upheavals. Taking an anthropological approach to European music that’s as bold as it is unusual, Martha Feldman traces Italian opera’s shift from a mythical assertion of sovereignty, with its festive forms and rituals, to a dramatic vehicle that increasingly questioned absolute ideals. She situates these transformations against the backdrop of eighteenth-century Italian culture to show how opera seria both reflected and affected the struggles of rulers to maintain sovereignty in the face . . .

Read more »

Philip Gossett—resurrecting the masterpieces of the 19th-century Italian opera

April 5, 2010
By
Philip Gossett—resurrecting the masterpieces of the 19th-century Italian opera

Though he works behind the scenes, Philip Gossett, the Robert W. Reneker Distinguished Service Professor in Music and the College at the University of Chicago, has become nearly a household name amongst aficionados of the modern opera, for decades having played an instrumental role in bringing to the stage some of the greatest masterpieces of the nineteenth century Italian repertoire. As this article from the University of Chicago News Office points out, among his many contributions to the stage, Gossett has acted as a consultant to some of the worlds most renown opera companies and superstars—including conductor Riccardo Muti, and soprano Renée Fleming—as well as taken on a role as general editor of the critical editions of the works of Verdi and Rossini—work which has attached his name to nearly every contemporary performance of 19th-century Italian opera. The piece from the U of C’s News Office, (complimented by a nice slideshow and video from the Chicago Multimedia Initiatives Group), offers an interesting look at Gossett’s career and the important role he has played in producing some of the most critically acclaimed modern operatic productions, but in his 2006 book, Divas and Scholars—Performing Italian Opera, you can find Gossett’s own first-hand . . .

Read more »

Search for books and authors