Répertoire International de Littérature Musicale (RILM) is excited to announce its collaboration with Smithsonian Music for its 2019 Year of Music. This initiative aims to increase public engagement, advance understanding, and connect communities by highlighting and sharing the Smithsonian’s vast musical holdings. RILM, which documents and disseminates music research worldwide, supports this by drawing on its comprehensive digital resources to create blog posts, right here on Bibliolore, on a selection of the Year of Music’s Objects of the Day. Each post is enhanced with an expertly curated bibliography.
The bibliographic references stem from one of the richest and most exhaustive resources of global music research, RILM Abstracts of Music Literature with Full Text™, which contains over a million bibliographic records from relevant writings on music published from the early 19th century to the present in 178 countries and in 143 languages.
Consistent with its mission to cover all types of publications about music, RILM is now abstracting and indexing podcasts.
Podcasts are serial digital media files that can be downloaded for use on local computers or portable media players. They are typically in audio or video formats, but they may involve other file formats as well.
Working with a top collector and specialist in the field, RILM has created a new document type abbreviated JZ, standing for Journal Zine—zine being the recognized short version of fanzine, which refers to the self-published fan magazines that proliferated in the 1980s, 1990s, and early 2000s (when the Internet made them largely obsolete).
Much like the thriving music-journal culture that developed in 19th-century Europe, these low-circulation publications were produced and consumed by key players in the music cultures they took as their subject; today they serve as primary sources that provide valuable insights into the subcultures that shaped the sound of the late 20th century (in the case of punk rock, it was the New York-based zine Punkthat provided the name for the nascent musical movement).
We are in the first stage of entering JZ records that give bibliographic information and detailed summaries of key zines in popular music history. A growing number of universities have begun acquiring collections of these important documents.
Today it was our sad duty to add Joan Sutherland’s obituary to our database. Dubbed “La Stupenda” by the Italian press in 1960, Dame Joan was one of the greatest bel canto sopranos of all time. Above, we celebrate her artistry with a video clip from her farewell performance of her signature role, Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor.
A note on obituaries in RILM: While we normally do not cover news items, we index obituaries because they often serve as important research sources—particularly those for less-known figures. Since we cannot possibly cover obituaries in all news sources, we focus on those published by the New York times. As always, anyone can add further items to the database through our Submissions webpage.
According to “Humorous reflections on laughing records” by Abigail Cooke (ARSC journal 32/2 [winter 2001], pp. 232–242, three types of sound recordings involving laughter were produced between 1904 and 1923: (1) laughing songs, in which stylized laughter is integrated into the song; (2) spoken comedy routines with laughing audiences; and (3) laughing records, in which apparently genuine laughter spirals out of control.
The classic model for the latter genre, The Okeh laughing record (Okeh, 1922)—which may have originated in a real situation where the recording engineer continued to record a botched session—begins with a man playing a slow, melancholy cornet solo that is quickly interrupted by a woman’s giggle. He continues to play, but she is unable to control herself, and soon is laughing aloud; this causes him to flub a note and join her in laughing, occasionally attempting to continue playing, until the two are utterly hysterical.
Patent applications for new instruments—or for improvements to already existing ones—usually involve one or more technical drawings. These can be of historical interest for several reasons; for example, the article Piano wars: The legal machinations of London pianoforte makers, 1795–1806 by George S. Bozarth and Margaret Debenham (RMA research chronicle XLII, 45–108) makes use of original drawings and descriptions for patents by William Southwell (1794) and his son, William junior (1837), to reconstruct the issues and outcomes of legal actions involving many of England’s top piano manufacturers in the early nineteenth century.
Reproduced above is a page from Brian Hayden’s 1984 patent application for a new way of arranging the buttons on a concertina.
Generally, Festschriften fall into three categories: memorial volumes, issued shortly after the death of the honoree, and often comprising personal tributes and reminiscences; commemorative volumes, published to honor some milestone in the deceased dedicatee’s life; and Festschriften proper, presented to a living recipient on the occaision of a birthday, anniversary, or transitional event. For more about this publication type, see the Preface to RILM’s Liber amicorum, the first volume in our retrospective Festschriften project.
Above is a reproduction of the frontispiece for Beethoven-Album: Ein Gedenkbuch dankbarer Liebe und Verehrung für den grossen Todten, a commemorative volume published in 1846; the book includes poems and compositions dedicated to the composer, including works by Liszt, Meyerbeer, and Czerny.
Instrument makers’ catalogues can be important sources of iconography: they indicate what instruments people were making and buying at a given place and time, and sometimes they depict rare curiosities like the brass instruments in this 1867 catalogue from the Gautrot firm, reprinted in 1999 by Larigot. The mechanical organ pictured above comes from a catalogue issued by Limonaire Frères around the turn of the twentieth century, reprinted in 2009 by Das mechanische Musikinstrument.
With their dramatic action and vivid characters, operas have inspired a number of graphic novels, including books by P. Craig Russell and a series (now out of print) produced in collaboration with England’s Royal Opera House. The most noteworthy examples of this genre are not just illustrations of libretti; they are autonomous works of art in the graphic novel tradition.
Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen is particularly suited to the treatment it receives in The ring of the Niebelung by Roy Thomas and Gil Kane; set in a mythological time, with illustrious characters who can alter their physical forms, defy gravity, and survive without oxygen, it fits naturally into the medium’s world of fantasy and superheroes.
In some cases this drammata in pittura brings a powerful new dimension to Wagner’s drammata in musica—for example, the action that the audience must imagine during the Vorspiel of Die Walküre is fully depicted over the course of four textless pages. The cycle was first published in four installments by DC Comics.
Above, the opening of Act II of Die Walküre (click to enlarge); below, part of the 2011 production by the Metropolitan Opera.
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 →
In 1947 Ella Fitzgerald, already an acclaimed singer of jazz standards, toured with Dizzy Gillespie, immersing herself in the new style known as bebop. Like Dizzy, Ella responded to bebop’s complex harmonies with an infallible ear, and easily translated its … Continue reading →
Gertrude “Ma” Rainey’s Prove it on me blues affirms her independence from orthodox norms by boldly celebrating her lesbianism. Rainey’s sexual involvement with women was no secret with both colleagues and audiences. The advertisement for the song (above, click to … Continue reading →
The American traditional song Go tell Aunt Rhody originated as a gavotte composed by Jean-Jacques Rousseau for his opera Le devin du village (1752). An English version of the opera was produced in London in 1766; subsequently the melody attracted … Continue reading →