Indigenous artists are often placed within the tidy binary of traditional vs. modern. Indigenous culture is considered frozen and incompatible with modernity. The creative and communicative outputs of Inuk avant-garde vocalist Tanya Tagaq demonstrate a larger political project of undermining mainstream representational practices regarding Indigenous identity (particularly in Canada) and presenting Indigenous-centered sounds and perspectives. While Tagaq has constructed an artistic identity that challenges the simple binaries of past/present and traditional/modern, mainstream media has relied on representational practices of a settler colonialist mindset. Tagaq makes her agency clear in both her artistic output and in her social media activity. Media coverage of Indigenous artists and Tagaq in particular, dismantle the self/other and modern/traditional binaries with reference to her albums–Animism (2014) and Retribution (2016)–and social media wars in which Tagaq’s celebrity status has incited both reactive and active critique of Indigenous (and specifically Inuit) representation in Canada. In turn, she presents her own narrative as a deliberate strategy of cultural and political self-determination.
Tagaq’s music often tackles themes of environmentalism and Indigenous rights. The Inuk throat singer uses live performance and audiovisual media to engage themes of climate change and environmental violence. Her work diversifies the discourse of environmentalism to include the voices and environmental trauma experienced by marginalized peoples, specifically North American Indigenous-centered sounds and perspectives. Songs such as Fracking and Nacreous respectively are simultaneously expressions of ecological protest and healing, as Tagaq listens with urgency and uses embodied musical practice to explore the aurality of pipeline politics and other forms of ecological imbalance and harm.
Read on in “Welcome to the tundra: Tanya Tagaq’s creative and communicative agency as political strategy” by Alexa Woloshyn (Journal of popular music studies 29/4 ) and “The aurality of pipeline politics and listening for nacreous clouds: Voicing indigenous ecological knowledge in Tanya Tagaq’s Animism and Retribution” by Kate Galloway (Popular music XXXIX/1 , 121–144).
Below is an improvised throat singing performance by Tagaq, followed by the video for the song Colonizer (from her 2022 album Tongues).
Gloria Coates was born in 1933 in Wausau, Wisconsin and later studied composition with Alexander Tcherepnin and Otto Luening, as well as singing, musicology, acting, and painting, receiving degrees from Columbia University and Louisiana State University. Coates initially worked as a composer, singer, actress, author, and painter. In 1969, she settled in Munich and focused on composing. This period of her life yielded 17 symphonies and ten string quartets, as well as other instrumental chamber music, vocal works, and electroacoustic music. In 2014, the Los Angeles Times music critic Mark Swed referred to Coates as “our last maverick”.
Coates used microtonality, scordatura, and glissandi on string instruments, and experimented with multiphonic vocal techniques, yet without ever entirely abandoning tonality. In a 2010 interview, she described her distinct approach to composition and use of glissandi. As Coates described, “I would say that my initial work with glissandi had to do with the fact that I’m also a visual artist. I’ve never really analyzed it, but, in a way, I was building structures visually that could also exist in sound. I think that’s how it all began.”
The premiere of her first symphony Music on Open Strings at the Warsaw Autumn Festival in 1978 brought her international fame. The symphony was included in the Bayerischer Rundfunk’s 1980 Musica Viva concert series, becoming the first orchestral composition by a woman in the 35-year history of the series. Coates became involved in Munich’s musical life by directing a series on U.S. contemporary music there from 1971 to 1984. Invitations to concerts and lectures in the early 1980s took her to Moscow (1981), India (1982), and Harvard University (1984).
Coates, who shared her time between the United States and Germany, died in Munich on 19 August 2023. Read the full obituary on MGG Online.
Listen to Gloria Coates’ composition Time advances to no destiny (performed by Lavinia Mallegni) below.
Irish singer Sinéad O’Connor’s expressive cover of the ballad Nothing compares 2 U, originally composed by Prince for his 1985 album The Family, turned into a worldwide hit in 1990. The song, which explored the pain of separation, received platinum and gold album awards in numerous countries and became O’Connor’s biggest hit. Her album I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got (featuring Nothing compares 2 U) was one of the world’s best selling albums of 1990 and was nominated for four Grammys. Sinéad spent parts of her youth in boarding schools and busking locally. At age 20, she moved to London and released her debut album The Lion and the Cobra, which went certified gold in the United States in 1987.
In 1992, she appeared on the popular U.S. sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live where famously she drew attention to sexual abuse in the Catholic Church by tearing up a picture of the Pope on live national television. Some of her songs explored her experiences with abuse as a child and denounced war. Sinéad also publicly campaigned for women’s rights and especially the right to abortion in Ireland. Together with musicians from the bands Coldplay, Led Zeppelin, One Direction, Queen, U2, and others, she took part in Bob Geldof’s Band Aid 30 project in 2014 to raise funds to combat the Ebola epidemic in West Africa. The documentary Nothing Compares, about her life and career, directed by Kathryn Ferguson, was released in 2022 and received two British Independent Film Awards (BIFA).
In Sinéad’s final interview in 2023, she discussed how in childhood she realized the power of music and her voice. As she described, “My first musical memory is my father singing to me [the folk ballad] Scarlet ribbons. I just remember being blown away . . . lying on my pillow and my dad singing this song to me. I was like, ‘Oh my God, the angels came in the window.’ My mother was a very violent woman, not a healthy woman; she was physically, verbally, psychologically, spiritually, and emotionally abusive. My mother was a beast. And I was able to soothe her with my voice. I was able to use my voice to make the devil fall asleep.”
Sinéad O’Connor passed away in London on 26 July 2023. Read her obituary in MGG Online and stay tuned for a full article.
Listen to Don’t give up, recording that features O’Connor with Willie Nelson below.
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.
Related previous posts in Bibliolore:
Comments Off on Ellis Marsalis, jazz pianist, educator, and Marsalis family patriarch
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.
Comments Off on Live film music at the Hollywood Bowl
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.
Comments Off on Amália Rodrigues and the politics of fado
The British newspaper The Independent once described Jenő Jandó as “the most prolific recording pianist alive”. Born in Pécs, southern Hungary in 1952, he founded the Naxos record label in 1987 and became the label’s house pianist over the next 15 years, during which he recorded more CDs than any other pianist in the world. He produced complete recordings of the piano sonatas of Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, and Schubert, Bach’s Wohltemperirtes Clavier and Goldberg variations, and recordings of all Bartók’s piano works and large parts of Liszt’s piano oeuvre. On one occasion, Jandó was asked once what he would inquire of Liszt if he were alive. He replied, “I wouldn’t ask Liszt a question, but would instead point to the piano and ask him to play me something! I could ask him about the tempo, for example, but what for? I’m sure he never played anything twice the same way. If he were sitting here with us, I would be watching and listening to him attentively from the corner of the room to observe how he makes tones sound, to what extent he feels aware of himself, and what sounds he would get from the piano in this small room.”
Jandó also recorded the complete piano concertos by Mozart and Bartók as well as the better-known concertos by Schumann, Brahms, Grieg, Dvořák, and Rachmaninov. He also recorded all of Mozart’s and Grieg’s violin sonatas with the violinist Takako Nishizaki. As a result of his outstanding playing technique, quick comprehension, and a straightforward, objective, and clarity-oriented approach to interpretation, Jandó was able to record one CD every month on average. He received his training at the Budapest University of Music from Bartók’s student Katalin Nemes and later Pál Kadosa. Jandó won prizes in piano competitions in Hungary, France, Italy, and Australia; he taught at the Budapest University of Music from 1975 onward and was appointed professor there in 2003.
Jenő Jandó passed away at the age of 71 in Budapest on 4 July 2023. Read his obituary in MGG Online.
Below is a video of Jandó performing Béla Bartók’s “Allegro barbaro” with the Muzsikás Hungarian folk music ensemble.
Comments Off on Jenő Jandó, prolific pianist and Naxos Records founder
When people ask me about an introduction to Thai classical music, I (and many others) suggest watching a film entitled The Overture. It is indeed a good beginning into the world of Thai classical music.
The Overture (โหมโรง Hom Rong), released in 2004, is a fictional film based on the life of the legendary Thai classical musician, Sorn Silpabanlen (1881-1954), also known as Luang Pradit Pairoh. The film parallels two different eras in which Sorn lived: the late 19th century, when he was young and Thai classical music was under patronage, and the 1940s, when Sorn became an old master and Thai classical music was regarded as uncivilized in the face of modernization programs led by Field Marshal Plaek Pibulsonggram. Below is a brief synopsis and analysis of key scenes and themes in the film.
As a young man born into a musical family, Sorn is a talented ranat ek (Thai xylophone) player, who has gained great recognition for his skills. His confidence, however, is shaken after losing a spontaneous public match to the ranat ek master Khun In. This defeat leads Sorn to devote himself to more rigorous practice. Ultimately, a chance for a revenge comes when Sorn joins the Royal ensemble leading to a one-on-one ranat ek match with Khun Inn with elites, locals, and even foreigners in the audience. After an intense performance, Sorn finally defeats Khun In. The scene then changes to the 1940s, where an older Sorn reflects on the day of the match while looking at photographs of his masters, including Khun In, hanging on the wall of his home. One night, a military officer visits his home to request that Thai classical music be abandoned for the purpose of promoting modernization in Thailand. The officer emphasizes to Sorn the need to civilize the nation. To this request Sorn replies, “If rooted deep and strong, a tree can stand still to any forces. If we do not take care of the roots, how can we survive?”
The performance of ranat ek throughout the film depicts several glamorous aspects of Thai classical music: virtuoso techniques (especially when playing in octaves at a faster tempo), various improvisations, and exciting Ranat ek matches. The breathtaking intensity of the ranat ek match is thrilling and a high point of the film. The Overture also introduces other instruments such as saw ou, a Thai fiddle that plays a very sweet and romantic song as the young Sorn meets his future wife.
Although Sorn and other Thai classical musicians oppose the governmental recognition of Thai classical music as uncivilized, it does not hinder their exploration of Western music. In a scene from the 1940s, the elderly Sorn plays the ranat ek alongside a piano brought by his son, who had studied Western music in Japan. This encounter is depicted as peaceful and filled with possibilities for the further development of Thai classical music. They appear open to any musical possibilities, as long as they have the autonomy to do so.
The film also reminds us about how Thai classical music and its position have been deeply embedded in the society and changes that have occurred to the tradition–once a symbol of the elites and royalty, it later became the unrefined object to be civilized and abandoned. This simultaneously raises questions about whether any authority can truly control music. When the military officer leaves Sorn’s house, Sorn plays ranat ek with the windows open, as if challenging the officer and the desire for modernization—this leaves Sorn open to arrest under government regulations. The officer looks around to find that local residents have gathered in front of Sorn’s house to enjoy the spontaneous performance. The enjoyment is clear on their faces. Instead of arresting Sorn, the officer and his cadets leave the house in their military automobiles while the sound of Thai classical music resonates and fills the air.
–Written by Shiho Ogura, RILM intern and MA student in Southeast Asian Studies at the National University of Singapore. Her research interests include Thai classical music, intercultural music-making in contemporary Asia, Japanese ethnomusicology, nationalism, and music education.
Below is the classic scene of the match between Sorn and Khun In. The video below it is the ranak ek and piano duet scene.
Comments Off on “The Overture” and Thai classical music
Last year, I visited New Orleans, the birthplace of jazz music and the legendary Louis Armstrong (1901-1971). Known as the “Father of Jazz,” Armstrong began his musical journey in New Orleans and later moved to Chicago and New York. Through his tours, Armstrong also brought jazz music to audiences worldwide.
Upon returning to New York, I discovered that the Louis Armstrong House was in the nearby Corona neighborhood in the borough of Queens. Coincidentally, an extension of the House, the Louis Armstrong Center had just opened, so I decided to explore it.
Corona is a working-class community, and it’s quite unusual for a celebrity like Louis Armstrong to have lived there. It’s worth noting that by that time, Armstrong had already achieved a high social status, so his residence in Corona was somewhat unique. I learned from the guide that Armstrong’s wife, Lucille, grew up in Corona and had purchased the house before they got married. Lucille had initially planned to move to a different house after their marriage, but Armstrong had a special affection for this place. He liked it because it wasn’t as formal as upscale neighborhoods, and at the same time, it offered him a good amount of privacy.
The Armstrong couple lived here for over twenty years, right up until Louis Armstrong passed away in 1971. Influenced by Armstrong, another renowned jazz musician, Dizzy Gillespie, later moved to this community as well.
Today, the Louis Armstrong House continues to contribute to the cultural life of the community. There are regular outdoor concerts in the yard during the summer, and across from the residence, inside the Louis Armstrong Center, there is a performance space where concerts will be held after summer.
Armstrong rose to fame in his early years as a trumpet player, but later became a renowned jazz singer with his distinctive gravelly voice, even winning the Grammy Award for Best Male Vocal Performance in 1965. Armstrong had a famous song called What a wonderful world, and he mentioned in an interview that he often felt this way while living in hisj Corona home.
Coincidentally, he had a Chinese painting in his home depicting four musicians playing the xiao, pipa, guqin, and sheng, along with a dancer. The accompanying poem reads, “A fairyland on earth exists; why search for Penglai (a place in Chinese mythology where immortals live)?” The sentiment of this artwork aligns with the message of What a wonderful world. Armstrong never visited mainland China, but he did visit Hong Kong, and it is possible that he acquired this painting during this visit in 1963.
Research on Armstrong is abundant, but it seems there has not been much study on this Chinese painting in his possession. If Chinese scholars are interested in researching Armstrong, this painting could serve as an excellent starting point. However, before embarking on this study, it’s advisable to consult existing literature. Below are ten English books about Louis Armstrong that are included in Répertoire International de Littérature Musicale (RILM) Abstracts for reference.
–Written and compiled by Mu Qian, Editor, RILM.
Armstrong, Louis. Swing that music (New York: Da Capo, 1993). [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 1993-3006]
Abstract: English: Originally published in 1936 (London: Longmans; New York: Green), this is Louis Armstrong’s first autobiography and the first autobiography by a jazz musician in history. Armstrong’s life living in the South Side of Chicago with “King” Oliver, his marriage to Lil Hardin, moving to New York in 1929, forming his own band, European tours, and the success he achieved internationally are chronicled.
Armstrong, Louis. Satchmo: My life in New Orleans (New York: Prentice-Hall, 1954). [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 1954-00411].
Abstract: “In all my whole career the Brick House was one of the toughest joints I ever played in. It was the honky-tonk where levee workers would congregate every Saturday night and trade with the gals who’d stroll up and down the floor and the bar. Those guys would drink and fight one another like circle saws. Bottles would come flying over the bandstand like crazy, and there was lots of just plain common shooting and cutting. But somehow all that jive didn’t faze me at all, I was so happy to have some place to blow my horn”. So says Louis Armstrong, a tough kid who just happened to be a musical genius, about one of the places where he performed and grew up. This raucous, rich tale of his early days concludes with his departure to Chicago in August 1922 to play with his boyhood idol King Oliver. Armstrong was a man of minimal formal education who was born on a dirt street in the poorest section of New Oreleans, very close to the House of Detention. From the age of five until his departure for Chicago he lived mostly at Liberty and Perdido in the heart of the black vice district–a world of pimps, hustlers, prostitutes, saloons, and gambling joints. His unique mix of personal attributes–toughness, sensitivity, drive, and strength of character–helped make possible a truly inspiring rags-to-riches story told by a discerning critic of human nature.
Cogswell, Michael. Louis Armstrong: The offstage story of Satchmo (Portland: Collectors, 2003). [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2003-03459].
Abstract: A pictorial biography of the jazz musician, much of which is drawn from the Louis Armstrong House and and the associated archives at Queens College (Flushing, New York).
Willems, Jos. All of me: The complete discography of Louis Armstrong (Lanham: Scarecrow Press, 2006). [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2006-01901].
Abstract: Listing of all known recordings, both studio and live performances of the jazz musician. Entries include a complete description of the recording session, the date, its location, the personnel involved, titles of tunes, and lists of commercial releases in various formats.
Collier, James Lincoln. Louis Armstrong: An American genius (New York: Oxford University Press, 1983). [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 1983-01371].
Abstract: To millions of fans, Louis Armstrong (“Satchmo”) was just a great entertainer. But to jazz aficionados, he was one of the most important musicians of our times–not only a key figure in the history of jazz but a formative influence on all of 20th-century popular music. Set against the backdrop of New Orleans, Chicago, and New York during the Jazz Age, the saga of an old-fashioned black man making it in a white world is re-created. Armstrong’s rise as a musician is chronicled, along with scrapes with the law, his relationships with four wives, and frequent relationships with fellow musicians including Fletcher Henderson, Earl Hines, and Zutty Singleton. Light is also shed on Armstrong’s endless need for approval, his streak of jealousy, and perhaps most important, what some consider his betrayal of his gift as he opted for commercial success and stardom.
Riccardi, Ricky. Heart full of rhythm: The big band years of Louis Armstrong (New York: Oxford University Press, 2020). [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 1983-01371].
Abstract: Nearly 50 years after his death, Louis Armstrong remains one of the 20th century’s most iconic figures. Popular fans still appreciate his later hits such as <Hello, Dolly!> and <What a wonderful world>, while in the jazz community, he remains venerated for his groundbreaking innovations in the 1920s. The achievements of Armstrong’s middle years, however, possess some of the trumpeter’s most scintillating and career-defining stories. But the story of this crucial time has never been told in depth, until now. Between 1929 and 1947, Armstrong transformed himself from a little-known trumpeter in Chicago to an internationally renowned pop star, setting in motion the innovations of the swing era and bebop. He had a similar effect on the art of American pop singing, waxing some of his most identifiable hits such as <Jeepers creepers> and <When you’re smiling>. However, as this book shows, this transformative era wasn’t without its problems, from racist performance reviews and being held up at gunpoint by gangsters to struggling with an overworked embouchure and getting arrested for marijuana possession. Utilizing a prodigious amount of new research, the author traces Armstrong’s mid-career fall from grace and dramatic resurgence. Featuring never-before-published photographs and stories culled from Armstrong’s personal archives, the book tells the story of how the man called “Pops” became the first “King of Pop”. An excerpt is cited as RILM 2020-61930.
Riccardi, Ricky. What a wonderful world: The magic of Louis Armstrong’s later years (New York: Pantheon, 2011). [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2011-04068].
Abstract: A comprehensive account of the final 25 years of the life and art of one of America’s greatest and most beloved musical icons. Much has been written about Louis Armstrong, but the majority of it focuses on the early and middle stages of his long career. This in-depth look at the years in which Armstrong was often dismissed as a buffoonish, if popular, entertainer, demonstrates instead the inventiveness and depth of expression that his music evinced during this time. These are the years (from after World War II until his death in 1971) when Armstrong entertained crowds around the world and recorded his highest-charting hits, including <Mack the knife> and <Hello, Dolly!>; years when he collaborated with, among others, Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, and Dave Brubeck; years when he recorded with strings and big bands, and, of course, with the All Stars, his primary recording ensemble for more than two decades. During this period, Armstrong both burnished and enhanced his legacy as one of jazz’s most influential figures.
Armstrong, Louis. Louis Armstrong in his own words: Selected writings (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999). [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 1999-05124].
Abstract: Drawn from the archives of the master trumpeter, band leader, and entertainer, a collection of ARMSTRONG’s own writings presents his life as a musician, entertainer, civil rights activist, and cultural icon. These writings, many of which were previously unpublished, include some of his earliest letters, personal correspondence with one of his first biographers during 1943 and 1944, autobiographical writings, magazine articles, and essays. This work presents the jazz musician’s own thoughts on his life and career–from poverty in New Orleans to playing in the famous cafes, cabarets, and saloons of Storyville; from his big break in 1922 with the King Oliver band to his storming of New York; from his breaking of color barriers in Hollywood to the infamous King of the Zulus incident in 1949; and finally, to his last days in Queens, New York. In his writings ARMSTRONG recorded revealing portraits of his times and offered candid, often controversial, opinions about racism, marijuana, bebop, and other jazz artists such as Jelly Roll Morton and Coleman Hawkins.
Berrett, Joshua. The Louis Armstrong companion: Eight decades of commentary (New York: G. Schirmer). [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 1999-05125].
Abstract: An anthology compiled using the rich resources of the Armstrong Archives, including Armstrong’s autobiographical writings from the 1920s, letters to friends and family, interviews with others about Armstrong, and more, many of which have never been published. The reprints articles, interviews, and reviews stem from 1927 to 1999.
Meckna, Michael. Satchmo: The Louis Armstrong encyclopedia (Westport: Greenwood, 2004). [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2004-07292].
Abstract: Details every aspect of Armstrong’s life and music, along with a discography, chronology, film listings, a guide to online resources, a bibliography about Armstrong, and more.
Comments Off on A Chinese painting in the Louis Armstrong House
The main entrance to the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts’s exhibition Lou Reed: Caught between the twisted stars opens up on Lincoln Plaza, directly adjacent to the The Metropolitan Opera house. On a sunny day, the Met’s … Continue reading →
Seven strings/Сім струн (dedicated to Uncle Michael)* For thee, O Ukraine, O our mother unfortunate, bound, The first string I touch is for thee. The string will vibrate with a quiet yet deep solemn sound, The song from my heart … Continue reading →
Introduction: Dr. Philip Ewell, Associate Professor of Music at Hunter College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, posted a series of daily tweets during Black History Month (February 2021) providing information on some under-researched Black … Continue reading →
For it [the Walkman] permits the possibility…of imposing your soundscape on the surrounding aural environment and thereby domesticating the external world: for a moment, it can all be brought under the STOP/START, FAST FOWARD, PAUSE and REWIND buttons. –Iain Chambers, “The … Continue reading →