Le style ballets russes

The influence of Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes on the worlds of dance and music has been well-documented; less known today are the reverberations that the company’s productions sent straight to the heart of Parisian fashion and interior design. Schèhèrezade, the hit of the 1910 season, epitomized the exoticism of “le style ballets russes” for designers and their galvanized patrons.

The first, and perhaps the foremost, to espouse the company’s saturated hues, sumptuous fabrics, and seductive Orientalism was Paul Poiret, who daringly introduced harem pants and turbans (inset), with boldly colored silks and velvets. Poiret also popularized brightly colored interiors, replacing conventional furniture with divans and tasselled cushions.

The company’s visits to London had a similar impact. “Before you could say Nijinsky” Osbert Lancaster recalled in Homes, sweet homes (London: Murray, 1939) “the pastel shades which had reigned supreme on the walls of the Mayfair for almost two decades were replaced by a variety of barbaric hues—jade green, purple, every variety of crimson and scarlet, and, above all, orange.” He added that the style’s adherents had “a tendency to regard a room not so much as a place to live in, but as a setting for a party.”

This according to “The wider influence of the Russian ballet” by Stephen Calloway, an essay included in Diaghilev and the golden age of the Ballets Russes, 1909–1929 (London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 2010; RILM Abstracts of Music Literature 2010-20723).

Above, one of George Lepape’s illustrations for Les choses de Paul Poiret vues par Georges Lepape (Paris: 1911), a book commissioned and published by Poiret in a limited edition of 300.

Below, a reconstruction of Schèhèrezade.

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It’s now easier than ever to get the latest news from RILM’s blog, Bibliolore. Just enter your email and hit the subscribe button on the right so you won’t miss out on our continuously expanding content. From highlights in RILM Abstracts of Music Literature enhanced by Web-based media, to our “Instant Classics” series of reviews, to annotated bibliographies on international current events sourced directly from our products, you’ll hear all about it—without delay. The world of writings on music awaits you inside our pages—see you there!

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Oliver Mtukudzi: Instruction and reconstruction

Oliver “Tuku” Mtukudzi left a vast and rich body of music produced over a long and illustrious career. Through his skillful use of traditional Shona proverbs, textured idiomatic expressions, metaphor, and ingenious word play, he was able to teach while simultaneously entertaining his audience.

Through its dialogic nature, Mtukudzi’s music positioned itself at the service of both instruction and reconstruction in ways that differed markedly from those offered by Western formal education.

These pedagogical and reconstructive potentials are located in traditional forms of knowledge generation and knowledge transfer. Mtukudzi’s music must be viewed as a reconstructive pedagogy that raises the social consciousness of its listeners. Framed against current trends in Africa and other formerly colonized spaces for the decolonization of ways of learning and teaching, Mtukudzi’s music articulates reconstructive ways of thinking about knowledge, knowledge generation, knowledge transfer, and the archiving of lived experiences in Africa.

This according to “Music as pedagogy: The life, times, and music of Oliver Mtukudzi” by Gibson Ncube and Yemurai Gwatirisa, an essay included in The life and music of Oliver Mtukudzi: Reconstruction and identity (Cham: Palgrave Macmillan, 2022, 39–50; RILM Abstracts of Music Literature 2022-407).

Today would have been Oliver Mtukudzi’s 70th birthday!

Below, Mtukudzi’s Todii (What shall we do?) evokes the world of traditional proverbs to convey new messages of social commentary.

BONUS: In a collaboration with Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Mtukudzi’s Neria raises vital themes involving women, family relations, and politics.

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Globalization of the Rising Sun

Most people know the The House of the Rising Sun as a 1964 hit by The Animals about a place in New Orleans—a whorehouse or a prison or a gambling joint that has been the ruin of many poor girls or boys—but few songs have traveled such an intricate journey.

The launch of the song’s world travels can be traced to Georgia Turner (above), a poor 16-year-old daughter of a miner living in Middlesboro, Kentucky, when the young folk music collector Alan Lomax captured her voice singing The Rising Sun blues in 1937. Lomax deposited the song in the Library of Congress and included it in the 1941 collection Our singing country.

In short order, Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Lead Belly, and Josh White learned the song and each recorded it. From there it began to move to the planet’s farthest corners. Today, hundreds of artists have recorded House of the Rising Sun, and it can be heard in the most diverse of places—Chinese karaoke bars, Gatorade ads, and as a ring tone on cell phones. The song’s journey is a case study of how a cultural artifact moves through the modern world, propelled by technology, globalization, and recorded sound.

This according to Chasing the Rising Sun: The journey of an American song by Ted Anthony (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2007; RILM Abstracts of Music Literature 2007-6177). Below, Lomax’s original recording of Georgia Turner.

BONUS: The Animals’ classic recording.

Related article: Kumbaya: A song’s evolution

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Filed under Curiosities, Jazz and blues, Popular music

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.

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#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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The signifyin(g) rabbit

Bugs Bunny has been recuperated as a queer cultural icon, a parodic diva whose campy excesses and canny games are profoundly though tacitly indebted to the African American rhetorical tradition of signifyin(g).

Interrogation of Bugs Bunny’s characteristic strategies of trickstering demonstrates the connections, both theoretical and material, between the queer camp of gender bending and the slippery strategies of resistance, the semiotic play of signifying as back-talk.

The rabbit of Seville (1950, directed by Chuck Jones and scored by Carl Stalling) presents specific situations of parody and allusion, illustrating the ways in which transvestic performance, inflected through camp, participates in a highly queer mode of phallic divestiture.

This according to “The signifying rabbit” by Eric Savoy (Narrative 2 [May 1995] 188–209; RILM Abstracts of Music Literature 1996-12504).

Below, excerpts from the cartoon classic in question, with live accompaniment!

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“God Save the Queen”

Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II (1926-2022) Credit: Avalon/ABACA

On 8 September 2022, the world learned of the passing of Queen Elizabeth II, Britain’s longest ruling monarch. As one of any number of public displays of gratitude to her seven decades of service, communities across the globe, large and small, sang God save the Queen, the first song in the world to serve in the function of a nation’s anthem. A kind of prayer en-masse, the singing of the text is an expression of national devotion.

Christopher (Kit) Kelen, in his article “‘And ever give us cause’: Understanding the investments of the Ur-anthem God save the King/Queen” (National identities: Critical inquiries into nationhood, politics, and culture XVII/1 [2015] 45–61; RILM Abstracts of Music Literature 2015-86813), explores the kind of work the anthem’s text does to construct a sense of nationalism and national commitment, in a British context and beyond. A glance at the abstract brings the essay’s scope and goals into focus:

This close analytical reading of the lyrics of God save the King/Queen seeks to understand what the functional survival of this song reveals about the rhetorical-affective investments of national devotion in the British sense; it examines the lyrics’ meaning in the context of the general definition of anthem and the generic classification of anthems worldwide. Because of the song’s international distribution, and status as Ur-anthem, it provides insight into the nature of the speech act entailed in the prayer-type of anthem and the nature of anthem quality (defined as that soul-stirring effect which certain combinations of music and lyrics achieve, most typically in the service of national affiliation) more generally. Theories of nation and nationalism serve to frame affective relations between nation, state, and citizenry as implied by, fostered by, and used in anthems.

The three public performances of God save the Queen below vary in terms of setting, historical moment, and function. But each one reveals, in its own way, the anthem effect about which Kelen writes. They produce a sense of national closeness and identity, reverence, and pride, demonstrating how lyrics and music can be combined to stir the soul.

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Hogarth and dance

William Hogarth explicitly positioned his aesthetic theory in opposition to those of his contemporaries.

He disagreed both with philosophical treatments that viewed beauty and taste in moral terms and with art treatises that relied on exemplification and lacked causal explanation; further, he attacked the mystification of the concept of grace in both approaches.

He argued that understanding beauty did not require initiation into a new body of knowledge: It simply involved exercising a natural reflective vision that finds pleasure in the forms of the human body and related designs and ornamentations.

It was natural, therefore, that—unlike other aestheticians of his time—he drew extensively on dance examples in his treatise The analysis of beauty: Dance, particularly in its use in deportment training, belonged to a sphere of relatively everyday polite culture, as opposed to the rarefied and mystifying culture of art appreciation. Anyone open to dance and deportment could learn how to appreciate them, just as anyone open to Hogarth’s theory could apply its illuminations to their everyday lives.

This according to “An aesthetics of performance: Dance in Hogarth’s Analysis of beauty” by Annie Richardson (Dance research: The journal of the Society for Dance Research XX/2 [winter 2002] 38–87; RILM Abstracts of Music Literature 2002-11454).

Above, an illustration of a country dance from Hogarth’s treatise (click to enlarge). Below, an English country dance that he might have seen—or participated in!

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John Cage’s microtonal rāgas

John Cage’s 18 microtonal rāgas are found in Solo for voice 58 from Song books (1970).

To perform them, the dhrupad and experimental music specialist Amelia Cuni decided to apply experimental procedures to dhrupad vocalism and to elaborate her Indian music background in a new music context. She also wanted to explore an influential contemporary composer’s take on rāgas and step back from her personal involvement with the tradition and observe it from another perspective.

In collaboration with the Berliner Festspiele and several other contemporary music venues, Cuni’s interpretation of Solo for voice 58 was premiered in Berlin in 2006 and has been performed since then at several European and U.S. festivals.

This according to Cuni’s “Chance generated ragas in Solo for voice 58: A dhrupad singer performs John Cage” (Journal of the Indian Musicological Society  XLI [2011–12] pp. 127–54; RILM Abstracts of Music Literature 2011-23192).

Today is Cage’s 110th birthday!

Below, a studio recording of Cuni’s realization; a full live performance can be viewed here (the performance starts at 10:00).

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Filed under 20th- and 21st-century music

Moroccan insult contests

Marrakech

A performance that occurred almost daily in a public square in Marrakech in the early 1980s traded on ethnic identity for fun and profit.

The performance began with an Arab duo singing in Arabic; as a crowd began to gather around them, a Berber—a member of a rival ethnic group—leaped into the circle with a song in Tashlit. After a few moments of cacaphony a shouting match began, with the Berber and one of the Arabs trading insults while the other Arab took one side and then the other, upping the ante.

“Monkey, block-headed windbag, long-fingernailed King Kong, hick, salt stealer, son of a whore!” Each string of insults was preceded by an ethnic designator, and audience members were encouraged to contribute money to the aggrieved party to demonstrate their own ethnic pride. Occasionally fisticuffs between audience members ensued.

The high point of the performance came when the monetarily losing antagonist was figuratively turned into a donkey and the winner climbed onto his back and called for his instrument; victory, however temporary, meant both being on top and singing one’s own song there.

This according to “Saints, prostitutes, and rotten sardines: The musical construction of place and ethnicity in a Moroccan insult contest” by Philip D. Schuyler, an essay included in Ethnomusicological encounters with music and musicians: Essays in honor of Robert Garfias (Farnham: Ashgate, 2011, pp. 249–259; RILM Abstracts of Music Literature 2011-5436).

Above and below, examples of street music in Marrakech.

Related article: 50 best literary insults

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Filed under Africa, Curiosities, Humor