The title of Terry Riley’s improvisation template Descending moonshine dervishes is rooted in several sources.
“Moonshine” may be considered a triple entendre referring to the mysticism of the shining moon, the ecstasy associated with U.S. moonshine liquor, and Riley’s property on Moonshine Road in the Yuba River country of California’s Sierra foothills, which he has dubbed Shri Moonshine Ranch.
Dervishes are adherents of Sufism, and although Riley subscribes to a general spirituality rather than any formal religious orientation the Sufi tradition has clearly been important to him, as evinced by his performances in mosques and with musicians more closely involved with Sufism. Riley has also used the word dervish in reference to his Hindustani music teacher, Pran Nath.
This according to “Terry Riley in the 70s” by Mark Alburger (21st-century music XI/3 [March 2004] pp. 4–7).
Today is Riley’s 80th birthday! Above, the…
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Many aficionados of Scottish traditional music regard Ewan MacColl as one of the foremost singers of his generation; fewer know of his pioneering radio work.
The ballad of John Axon was recorded and broadcast by the BBC in 1958 as the first of a group of programs known collectively as Radio Ballads. It tells the story of a railway accident in which the driver John Axon died heroically while attempting to avert disaster.
In the program, four actual ballads carry the narrative, supplemented by several self-contained songs that illustrate the story rather than tell it, sections of recitative that provide insight into the minds of Axton and his fellow railwaymen, and the recorded speech of Axon’s widow and workmates. Although MacColl and Charles Parker are often credited jointly with the authorship of the program, strong evidence suggests that MacColl wrote it in response to an idea suggested by…
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In the 1940s Bertrand Harris Bronson became one of the first scholars to use computers for musicological work.
For one of his projects he encoded melodic characteristics of hundreds of tunes collected for the traditional ballad Barbara Allen on punch cards, so a computer could ferret out similarities. His project resulted in four groups of tunes, members of which came from both sides of the Atlantic with varying frequency.
This according to “All this for a song?” an essay by Bronson reprinted in his collection The ballad as song (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1969, pp. 224–242).
Above, an illustration from the article (click to enlarge); below, the classic recording of the song by Jean Ritchie, a singer Bronson deeply admired.
This April forum, Acts of Sonic Intervention, explores what we over here at Sounding Out! are calling “Sound Studies 2.0”–the movement of the field beyond the initial excitement for and indexing of sound toward new applications and challenges to the status quo.
Two years ago at the first meeting of the European Sound Studies Association, I was inspired by the work of scholar and sound artist Linda O’Keeffe and her compelling application of the theories and methodologies of sound studies to immediate community issues. In what would later become a post for SO!, “(Sound)Walking Through Smithfield Square in Dublin,” O’Keeffe discussed her Smithfield Square project and how she taught local Dublin high school students field recording methodologies and then tasked them with documenting how they heard the space of the recently square and the displacement of their lives within it. For me, the idea was electrifying, and I worked to enact a public praxis of my…
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HBD Alan Lomax… the Bibliolore post:
When Alan Lomax accepted a position as the Assistant in Charge of the Archive of American Folk Song at the Library of Congress in 1936 he became a gatekeeper to the largest repository of recorded traditional music in the country.
He subsequently worked to infuse traditional music into mainstream culture and, in so doing, to publicize his interpretation of American culture and society—an interpretation that placed the American people, a category that included racial and ethnic minorities as well as the economically dispossessed and politically disenfranchised, at the center of the nation’s identity.
During the 1930s and 1940s he pursued this goal by developing radio programs that highlighted the music of American traditional communities. These included shows designed for children, including Folk Music of America, which aired weekly on CBS radio’s American School of the Air.
Lomax used this program as a forum to teach children about American cultural…
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Umm Kulthum’s birthday…
Following a long historical tradition of well-known, respectable female singers, Umm Kulṯūm’s repertoire revolved around Arabic poems with historic themes and colloquial Egyptian Arabic songs. Performed during a time of rejection of all things colonial in favor of all things Egyptian, her songs, both textually and melodically, reflected this emphasis.
The role of listeners is crucial in constructing the identity of her voice and their usage of live and recorded performances for their own purposes. Songs from Umm Kulṯūm’s repertory illustrate how social identity may be embedded in music using specific musical cues understood by the performer and her audience.
This according to “Voices of the people: Umm Kulthūm” by Virginia Danielson, an essay included in Women’s voices across musical worlds (Boston: Northeastern University…
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New edition edited by a cool commentator!
Songs in the key of Los Angeles: Sheet music from the collection of the Los Angeles Public Library (Santa Monica: Angel City, 2013) presents historical popular songs, including facsimiles of sheet music covers and original manuscripts, in hardcover and e-book form.
The book is an outgrowth of Songs in the key of Los Angeles, a multi-platform collaboration between the Library Foundation of Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Public Library, and USC professor Josh Kun that brings to life the Library’s extraordinary Southern California Sheet Music Collection.
Comprising sheet music pieces that range from the 1840s through the 1950s, the Collection offers a singular portrait of Los Angeles history and culture rendered in music and visual art.
Below, Lupe Vélez performs Chiapanecas, one of the songs included in the collection.
Cool post about an article on trumpet iconography in Mayan paintings, courtesy of Bibliolore. Check out the video!
Provided mostly by vase paintings and murals, pictorial evidence of the musical practices of the Mayan Classic (ca. 250–900 C.E.) and especially of the Late Classic (ca. 600–800 C.E.) is abundant.
These depictions allow the identification of instrument types—many of them not found as artifacts in archaeological contexts—and their association with specific musical occasions.
What is not always as clear as it may appear is the past musical combination practice of the instruments (and vocal forms) represented in a given picture. Many representations of groups of musicians and musical instruments arouse doubts about their band-like organization or, put positively, give rise to questions about the possible devices used by their painters to indicate musical and social differentiations of such groups.
This according to “Trumpets in Classic Maya vase painting: The iconographic identification of instrumental ensembles” by Matthias Stöckli (Music in art: International journal for music iconography XXXVI/1–2 [spring–fall…
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Apropos to my own blog’s “classification system” of categories and tags! (Take a look at right if you haven’t…) Shall we call this a “Sachs-ophone”?
Systematik der Musikinstrumente: Ein Versuch is 100 years old this year! This system of musical instrument classification, devised by Erich Moritz von Hornbostel and Curt Sachs, is still the most widely used by ethnomusicologists and organologists. It was issued in Zeitschrift für Ethnologie XLVI/4–5  pp. 553–590; the first pages of the system are shown above (click to enlarge).
The system is based on one devised in the late 19th century by Victor-Charles Mahillon, the curator of musical instruments at the Conservatoire Royal de Bruxelles/Koninklijk Conservatorium Brussel. Mahillon divided instruments into four broad categories according to the sound-producing material—air column, string, membrane, or the instrument’s body. For the most part, Mahillon’s system was limited to instruments used in Western classical music; Hornbostel and Sachs expanded Mahillon’s system to make it applicable to any instrument from any culture.
The Hornbostel– Sachs system is formally modeled…
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