Daniela Cascella’s 2017 book Singed: Muted voice-transmissions after the fire contemplates the silences and fissures that take disconnected works and tune them into a shared frequency. The book inspires a reading and listening that opens rather than closes the depths of a given work of art. In Soused (2014), the collaborative record between the eminently obscure singer-songwriter Scott Walker and the minimalist sub-bass drone group Sunn O))), the same types of disconnect and shared frequencies elicited in Cascella’s Singed are brought together.
Given the extremity of both Walker and Sunn O))), the meeting point of these extremes leaves listeners to wonder, as Cascella might, how one is able to write or speak after listening to Soused? This evocation is based on the way that both Walker and Sunn O))) push their listeners to various limits, be it lyrically, vocally, aesthetically, or sonically. Walker’s excess is a coalescence of all these things–his lyrics operate through what he calls “edge work”; his voice matures toward a depersonalized space voided of the usual predicates so that it resembles the sound “of just a man singing”. Walker’s aesthetic becomes increasingly dark with each of his albums, punctuated by long periods of reclusiveness and silence. The musical soundscapes, from the album Climate of hunter (1984) onward, become increasingly expansive, more experimental, and ultimately more difficult. Similar to Walker, excess and minimalism characterize Sunn O)))’s primal slabs of guitar and synth. Their maximalist drone doom collapses the boundaries between the aural and haptic, carving out an immersive physio-aural-haptic experience. The idea of an “apocalyptic tone” (inspired by Maurice Blanchot’s notion of disaster) becomes the basis of these imagined frequencies and resonates in the soundworld created by Walker and Sunn O))) on Soused.
Read on in “The apocalyptic tone of Scott Walker, Sunn O))) and Soused” by Adam Potts (Journal for cultural research XXIV/3 , 185–202).
Below is the music video for Brando, from the album Soused, by Gisèle Vienne.
Ellis Marsalis first learned to play the clarinet and saxophone but the piano later became his main instrument. From 1951 to 1955, he completed a bachelor’s degree in music education at Dillard University in New Orleans while receiving informal jazz lessons from saxophonist Harold Battiste. Together with Battiste, Marsalis performed as a pianist in the American Jazz Quintet, which also included clarinetist Alvin Batiste and drummer Ed Blackwell. The ensemble’s first recordings were made in 1956 in Cosimo Matassa’s recording studio in New Orleans, and during his subsequent military service in the United States Marine Corps, Marsalis performed with a show band as part of the CBS television show Dress blues and the radio show Leatherneck songbook. Among the guest musicians were the already well-known drummer Chico Hamilton and bass clarinetist Eric Dolphy. After completing military service in 1959, Marsalis returned to New Orleans and married Dolores Ferdinand, with whom he had six sons; four of them achieved successful careers as jazz musicians: the saxophonist Branford, trumpeter Wynton, trombonist Delfeayo, and drummer Jason.
Marsalis played regularly in various local New Orleans clubs and recorded the 1962 album In the bag with the trumpeter Nat Adderley, alto saxophonist Julian “Cannonball” Adderley, tenor saxophonist Nat Perriliat, bassist Sam Jones, and drummer James Black. In 1966, Marsalis appeared as a soloist with the New Orleans Symphony Orchestra performing his own compositions. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s he worked with several ensembles in New Orleans, including from 1967 to 1970 with the band of trumpeter Al Hirt. In 1978, Marsalis released his first album as a solo pianist and accepted an engagement at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in New Orleans, which lasted until 1980. Ellis Marsalis can be heard as a guest musician on the recording of a concert by his son Wynton with drummer Art Blakey’s band. The album Fathers & sons, recorded in New York in 1982, features Ellis together with Wynton and Branford—the first of several collaborations with his sons.
Besides working as a musician, Ellis Marsalis also was the director of the jazz studies program at the University of New Orleans. He also taught at Xavier University, Loyola University, and the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts. In 2007, he spoke about why New Orleans has provided a unique musical space for jazz to flourish. According to Marsalis, “I think that New Orleans is the best learning town in the country, if not the world, as far as jazz is concerned. The nature of the economy here, as well as the laws that have been established over many years, make it conducive for musicians to work. Anyplace where you have the legal means to party to excess, the opportunities for certain types of musicians increase. Now, we don’t have Carnegie Hall; we don’t have Lincoln Center; we don’t have Alice Tully; the Metropolitan is not here–all those things which attract huge orchestras. You see, we as a city cater to people who come in with a slightly different kind of budget . . . People who want food and music and a good time will come to New Orleans because it’s rather difficult to find what you can find here if you go to Little Rock, Arkansas, or Jackson, Mississippi.”
From 1990 onwards Marsalis increasingly began to release albums under his own name on major labels with a wide international reach including Blue Note, Columbia, and Verve. He also produced recordings as a solo pianist and bandleader and took part in various productions as an ensemble member or guest musician. As part of his regular appearances at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, Marsalis played with his sons and a host of established guest musicians.
Read the feature on Ellis Marsalis in MGG Online.
Below, Ellis Marsalis performs with his sons in New Orleans in 2001 and performs “Twelves it” in 2018.
Performances of Aboriginal musical traditions have become widespread in various national and international contexts and are significant to the ways in which Aboriginal people from distinct regions project their specific identities to a broader world. In recent decades, Warlpiri people, from the remote settlement of Yuendumu in the Tanami desert of Australia, have increasingly attracted interest in the performances of their ceremonial songs and dances in intercultural spaces, often for audiences with little understanding of their religious significance.
Against a historical backdrop of settlement history and the shifts that have occurred to public ceremonial forms during this period, performances of purlapa at the Aboriginal tent embassy in Canberra have foregrounded issues of Aboriginal politics, systematized racism, contemporary social movements, and the basic difficulties of running a tent embassy on meager donations, especially during the Canberra winter when firewood supplies were low. Purlapa is a genre of Warlpiri public ceremony involving a high-stepped dance style performed in circular movement with participants shifting their dancing sticks from side to side in rhythm with sung verses. Once held frequently for community entertainment, the performance of purlapa has declined drastically in recent years. Shifts in these performance opportunities show how Warlpiri people engage with a broader world in specific aspects of their identities while maintaining important links to a specific cultural heritage.
Read more in “Performing purlapa: Projecting Warlpiri identity in a globalized world” by Georgia Curran and Otto Jungarrayi Sims (The Asia Pacific journal of anthropology. XXII/2–3 ).
Below is a 1978 performance of a purlapa ceremony recorded on 8 mm film.
Italian opera has played an important role in Russian musical life since the early 17th century, but by the 19th century it was being promoted there more than Russian opera. In retaliation, Russian composers used their operas to make fun of Italian opera’s stock situations and styles, and brought Russian opera back into prominence.
For example, in his early comic farce Богатыри (Bogatyri, Heroic warriors), Alexander Borodin used familiar music and arias from Italian and French operas (by Rossini, Verdi, Offenbach, Meyerbeer, and others) to set up situations where the original intention of the music and its new setting were at humorous extremes.
Read more in “Italians in a Russian manner: One step from serious to funny” by Svetlana Sergeevna Martynova (Fontes artis musicae LVI/1 [January–March 2009] pp. 1–6). This post originally appeared in Bibliolore 10 years ago this week.
Below is the opening of his B-minor symphony, which Massine used for his ballet Bogatyri, illustrated with images of the heroic warriors of Russian folklore.
The Hollywood Bowl is one of the largest natural amphitheaters in the world, with seating for 18,000 people. The first concert season was held in 1922 and since that time, some of the greatest performers have appeared in this venue, including such diverse artists as Jascha Heifetz, Otto Klemperer, Leonard Bernstein, Judy Garland, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, The Beatles, The Doors, The Who, Ben Harper, and Halsey.
The Hollywood Bowl Orchestra was founded by Leopold Stokowski in 1945 and gained immediate recognition for its distinctive sound and exciting programs. In the 1950’s the orchestra was conducted by Carmen Dragon, who introduced the popular evening concerts. In 1991, John Mauceri took over the orchestra and greatly enhanced its proud tradition. The repertoire of the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra is quite diverse, ranging from Mozart to Motown. Each season, the orchestra can be heard performing Broadway favorites, film music, pop, jazz, classical music, and premieres by living composers. The specialty of the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, however, has been the live performance of film music that previously had been heard only on original soundtracks. Beginning in the early 1990s, the Hollywood Bowl (and Los Angeles Philharmonic) have restored and performed a number of neglected or lost film scores. Some of this repertoire has been performed live by the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra including the theme to Gone with the wind, the Dream ballet sequence from Oklahoma!, the Born in a trunk sequence from A star is born (1954), and many others.
Learn more in Conductors and composers of popular orchestral music: A biographical and discographical sourcebook (2013). Find it in RILM Music Encyclopedias.
Below is a medley of music from well-known movies performed by the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra.
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マタハリヌ チンダラカヌシャマヨ Mataharinu chindara kanushamayo (See you again, for you are beautiful)
Asadoya yunta (安里屋ユンタ), a folk song that originates from the Yaeyama Islands in Okinawa, is one of Japan’s most famous traditional songs. Believed to have been composed in the 18th century, the song’s popularity extends beyond Okinawa, especially after the Nippon Columbia label released a recording of it in 1934 with lyrics in standard Japanese written by Katsu Hoshi. Since then, Asadoya yunta has become a favorite among everyone from traditional Okinawan musicians to enka and contemporary J-pop artists.
The term asadoya refers to the name of a house and yunta is the name of a genre that peasants sing while working. In live performances of the song, singers are usually divided by gender and sing in a call-and-response manner, as if engaged in conversation. Later, the song was transformed into Asadoya bushi, with the sanshin (三線), an Okinawan banjo-like instrument, added as accompaniment along with a faster tempo. This transformation added a touch of grandeur and artistry, distinguishing it from the more straightforward original version.
The original lyrics to Asadoya yunta narrate the tale of a beautiful woman named Kuyama, believed to have lived in the 18th century. As the story goes, Kuyama received a marriage proposal from a local official but declined the offer. The official tried in earnest to persuade her, claiming that marriage would secure for her a better future. Kuyama, however, insisted that she was better off marrying a man from her village. Eventually the official gave up, and Kuyama married a villager.
In 1934, the Okinawan folklorist Eijun Kishaba was approached by the Nippon Columbia label to supervise the recording of a Ryukyu (Okinawa) music collection that included 76 songs from the prefecture. Nippon Columbia suggested re-recording Asadoya yunta as a contemporary pop song with new lyrics. Kishaba enlisted the help of Katsu Hoshi, a poet from Yaeyama, to craft a new set of lyrics depicting a young couple enjoying the setting of a peaceful rice field. The new version, performed by three singers and accompanied by piano and violin, quickly became a hit song across mainland Japan.
Interest in Okinawan music and culture grew in the 1960s, leading to the release of new recordings of Asadoya yunta, incorporating both the original and new lyrics while adding more traditional Okinawan instruments. The increased exposure of Okinawa corresponded with the 1971 Okinawa Reversion Agreement between Japan and the United States, which returned Okinawa prefecture to Japanese rule. Today, the song continues to be sung and recorded by musicians of various genres including Japanese pop, traditional folk, and enka music.
Asadoya yunta has even become an international phenomenon, inspiring foreign compositions such as Pleeng Sipsong Phasaa, a song in the Thai classical repertoire that draws musical and lyrical inspiration from the original version of Asadoya yunta. Considering that many contemporary versions of song feature revised lyrics in standard Japanese, it is especially quaint that Thai musicians chose to use the original lyrics.
Below are lyrical excerpts from two versions of Asadoya yunta in both original and standard Japanese.
安里屋のクヤマによ（サーユイユイ）あん美らさ生りばしよ マタハリヌ チンダラカヌシャマヨ
Asadoya no Kuyama niyo (Sa yuiyui) Anchuarasa maribashiyo Mataharinu chindarakanushamayo
(Kuyama was born in Asadoya house with such beauty…I will see you again, for you are beautiful).
Swazi Indigenous and popular music has been featured on the eSwatini Broadcasting Service since the radio station was founded in 1966. Many of the songs today addresses the political, economic, and social conditions (including gender relations) of eSwatini, a country located in southern Africa, formerly known as Swaziland. Swazi women historically have faced high rates of gender-based violence including femicides, rape, and physical and emotional abuse. The eSwatini government’s passing of the Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence Act of 2018 has done little to curb gender-based violence against women in the country. In response, various stakeholders, including musicians, have taken the initiative to comment on the empowerment (or disempowerment) of Swazi women. Musicians have composed songs that openly discuss and debate issues of female oppression, and many of the songs lyrically draw from the rich repertoire of Indigenous Swazi songs. In this sense, the empowerment of women remains a popular subject among many of the country’s contemporary younger artists, many of whom have incorporated elements of Indigenous music to articulate women’s perspectives.
Read more in “Content and reception of eSwatini’s Indigenous and popular music on women empowerment” by Telamisile P. Mkhatshwa and Maxwell Vusumuzi Mthembu, an essay included in the volume Indigenous African popular music. II: Social crusades and the future (Palgrave MacMillan, 2022). Find it in RILM Abstracts of Music Literature 2022-3233.
Below is a video for “Tinyembeti” by the singer Zamo. The song follows the contemporary trend of eSwatini artists addressing gender-based violence against women.
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Amália Rodrigues was born into a family of immigrants from the northern province of Beira Baixa in 1920. She initially performed as an amateur at local clubs before starting her self-taught professional career at the age of 19 in Lisbon’s fado clubs. From 1940 to 1946 she appeared in various productions of traditional Portuguese vaudeville (revista), playing the lead in the two films in 1947 Capas Negras and Fado. The film História de uma Cantadeira consolidated her reputation as a fado star. Amália’s first international performance took place in 1943 at the invitation of the Portuguese embassy in Madrid. From 1944 to 1946 she had two major engagements in Brazil, where she made her first recordings in 1945 for the Brazilian label Continental.
In 1950 she began recording for the Lisbon music label Valentim de Carvalho, to which she returned in 1961 after briefly switching to the French label Ducretet-Thompson in 1958. In 1949, Amália sang in Paris and London under the patronage of the Portuguese government. As part of the Marshall Plan cultural program in 1950, she gave a series of concerts in Berlin, Rome, Trieste, Dublin, Bern, and Paris. Some of these concerts were broadcast globally by The Voice of America (VOA) radio network, which contributed significantly to making her better known internationally. Although the Portuguese government supported her first international appearances, Rodrigues’ career was not dependent on political protection, especially considering her performances in communist Romania and the Soviet Union.
In 1952 she successfully performed a series of concerts at the New York club La Vie en Rose over the course of several weeks. This was followed by tours of Mexico and the United States, where she performed in 1953 as a guest on the Eddy Fisher Show. In 1955, she appeared in the French film Les Amants du Tage and recorded her hit song Barco negro. The film achieved record sales in France which led to an invitation to perform at the Olympia in Paris, the most renowned music hall in Europe at the time. Over the next two decades, Amália gave concerts throughout Europe, Brazil, the United States, Japan, the former Soviet Union, and the Middle East and performed at many festivals, including two appearances at the Brasov Festival in socialist Romania.
In the 1970s, Amália became a scapegoat for fado’s perceived ties to fascism after the genre became associated with the regimes of Antonio de Oliveira Salazar, the dictator who ruled Portugal from 1932 to 1968, and Marcelo Caetano until 1974. Contradicting her reputation as a fascist sympathizer, Amália tapped into fado’s earlier radical tradition staying ahead of the censors by singing artfully subversive songs with lyrics inspired by socialist and anarchist poets and donating to underground antifascist political organizations. She continued to record and perform until 1990 and retired from public life in 1994 for health reasons that had already affected the quality of her voice. Amália received numerous awards and decorations both in her native Portugal and internationally.
Read the newly published entry on Amália Rodrigues in MGG Online. Listen to her recording “Saudades de ti” below.
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During his life, Bach was primarily known as a dazzling organist with virtuoso improvising abilities. Not surprisingly, his prowess gave rise to a number of urban legends.
One such legend had him traveling incognito, dressed as a village schoolmaster, going from church to church to try out the organs—prompting one local organist to cry out, “I don’t know who’s playing, but it’s either Bach or the Devil!”
Read on in “Tod und Teufel” by Frieder Reininghaus, an essay included in Bach-ABC (Sinzig: Studio-Verlag, 2007, pp. 91–93). This post originally appeared in Bibliolore on March 21, 2015 but it seems appropriate for Halloween 2023.
In 2011, cultural heritage status was awarded to the wax cylinder collections of ethnographic recordings at The British Library by adding them to the “memory of the world” register. This value attributed to early ethnographic sound recordings provided the basis for continued research related to audiovisual material. The medium itself represents a multilayered document that can be re-examined from many different perspectives to discover new meaning. More importantly, the relevance of these recordings to the communities who are featured in them also has changed. Digitization of audio materials produced new opportunities to circulate the recordings and the potential to discover new and significant information through new levels of accessibility and metadata sharing. Developing access and discoverability is a challenge that archives have responded to predominantly through increasing access to recordings and associated metadata.
In this context, a “digital reconnection” project was initiated by the Music Museum of Nepal (MMN), a museum that began with Ram Prasad Kadel’s private collection of Nepali folk musical instruments in 1995. In 2011, the museum began searching for recordings of Nepalese material in British Library collections. They were particularly interested in filmed footage and sound recordings made by the Dutch ethnomusicologist Arnold Adriaan Bake, who recorded in Nepal in the 1930s and again in the 1950s. Through an agreement with the Music Museum of Nepal, the British Library deposited digital copies of Nepalese material in the museum, including wax cylinder recordings, 16mm film copies, and reel-to-reel digital files.
The existing documentation for some of the material was sparse and confusing in places, but with painstaking effort the Music Museum of Nepal honored the exchange by providing new detailed documentation to the British Library which has now been added to the sound and moving image catalogue (SAMI). The MMN also identified festivals and rituals which had long disappeared, those that were rarely performed, such as the Maruni dance, and highlighted areas where material would be considered culturally sensitive—for instance, in the films of carya (sacred and secret tantric hand gestures) which Bake was able to access through his privileged position as a foreign researcher.
Celebrate World Day for Audiovisual Heritage Day (October 27) by reading “Documenting the impact of reconnecting audiovisual cultural heritage material in the country of origin” by Isobel Clouter in Asian-European music research e-journal [winter 2018] pp. 1-10; RILM Abstracts of Music Literature 2018-11431.
Watch a video about the Music Museum of Nepal below.
Related previous Bibliolore posts:
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