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.
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Metal Blade Records was founded in 1982 by Brian Slagel, who felt that Los Angeles metal scene was not receiving the attention it deserved from the record industry. Slagel–then employed at the metal emporium, Oz Records, and developing one of the earliest metal fanzines, The New Heavy Metal Revue–enlisted friends to distribute a recorded compilation of unsigned acts. The label’s first release, The New Heavy Metal Revue Presents Metal Massacre, included Black ‘N’ Blue, Metallica, and Ratt. Although intended as a side project to promote his fanzine, favorable response spurred Slagel to release more Metal Blade compilations as well as separate LPs by bands such as Dark Angel, Demon Seed, Destruction, Fates Warning, Flotsam and Jetsam, Hellhammer (aka Celtic Frost), Lizzy Borden, The Obsessed, Omen, Sacred Reich, Slayer, Sodom, Trouble, and Voivod.
By the mid-1980s, the label was considered a linchpin of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, providing an alternative to the AM-friendly hard rock of Def Leppard, Motley Crue, and Quiet Riot. Metal Blade’s commercial potential was greatly enhanced by a distribution agreement with Enigma/Capitol Records in 1985. Not only was the label now able to better promote established artists, but its newly created subsidiary, Death Records, aggressively pursued cutting-edge talent, including Atheist, Cannibal Corpse, Corrosion of Conformity, Cryptic Slaughter, and The Mentors. In addition, the company broadened its roster to encompass alternative and AOR fare as exemplified by the likes of Armored Saint, Goo Goo Dolls, Junk Monkeys, Nevada Beach, and Princess Pang.
In 1990 Metal Blade signed a multitiered distribution deal with Warner Bros. which freed the label to concentrate on artist development. Dissatisfaction with the arrangement, however, led Metal Blade to return to independent status with distribution by R.E.D. In the meantime, the company continued to cultivate talent, most notably Amon Amarth, Cradle of Filth, Goatwhore, 200 Stab Wounds, Crisis, The Crown, Cirith Ungol, God Dethroned, Whitechapel, King Diamond, Mercyful Fate, Six Feet Under, and The Black Dahlia Murder. It also helped facilitate the revival of powermetal by acquiring Destiny’s End, Labyrinth, and Sacred Steel.
Metal Blade celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2022. When asked about label’s longevity, Slagel said, “In the very beginning, none of us [in] the L.A. metal scene ever thought metal was going to get as big as it has. Looking back on it, it was just amazing to be in that city at that time. You had Mötley Crüe and Ratt on one front, and then Metallica, Slayer, and everything else on the other coming from the same city at the same time. We were all just dumb, young kids, and we loved the music. I couldn’t play an instrument, so I figured, well, I guess I’m going to try [doing a record label]. . . I think metal is in a really good spot now. There are a lot of new bands coming up that we’re pretty excited about.”
Read more in Encyclopedia of recorded sound (2005). Find it in RILM Music Encyclopedias (RME).
Below is a short documentary featuring Brian Slagel and others discussing the origins and significance of Metal Blade Records on heavy metal history.
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La biondina in gondoletta is likely the most famous gondola song in Europe. The music had long been attributed to the German-born composer Johann Simon Mayr, whose authorship, however, can be ruled out. Until now, the composer of the tune has remained anonymous, but the lyrics in Venetian dialect were written by Antonio Lamberti and date back to the 1770s. They appear to address Contessa Marina Querini Benzon, whose salon near San Beneto in Venice, had been frequented by the poet and other local but also foreign artists and intellectuals.
Because of its salacious verses and wide dissemination, La biondina in gondoletta was prohibited during the Napoleonic occupation of Venice (1805–15). Nonetheless, the song with its catchy melody made a truly European career in the course of the 19th century. Abroad, it functioned as a symbol of Venetian vitality and Italian lightheartedness, combining stereotyped imaginations of an Italian national character with a nostalgic view of the glorious past. Many European composers worked with the melody of La biondina in gondoletta, cited it, or improvised on the theme. Beethoven, for instance, used the song, referring to it as the epitome of Venetian popular music, without ever traveling to Italy. Given the manifold versions and settings of the piece, it can be considered an early transnational hit song.
The astonishing success of La biondina in gondoletta continued into the 20th century, when it was used within the Festival Internazionale della Canzone di Venezia, held for the first time in July 1955. Six European nations, namely Italy, Netherlands, Austria, Belgium, Monaco and France (or rather their radio stations), competed in this first edition of the popular song festival, which was broadcast in all participating countries. With a festive ceremony the song contest came to an end, when musicians of all six nations played La biondina in gondoletta together. In the following years, the custom of ending the event by intoning the famous gondola song was maintained, clearly demonstrating how La biondina in gondoletta, in the course of the 19th century, on a Europe-wide scale, had been deeply rooted in the collective memory as a clichéd musical symbol of Venice.
Read on in “La biondina in gondoletta: The transnational success story of a popular gondola song” by Henrike Rost, an essay included in the volume Popular song in the 19th century (Turnhout: Brepols, 2022).
Celebrate the La Biennale di Venezia (Venice Biennale) and the Biennale Musica 2023 (www.labiennale.org/en/music/2023) taking place in Venice October 16-29. Listen to a performance of La biondina in gondoletta below.
In Macunaíma, o herói sem nenhum caráter (Macunaíma, the hero without character) by the Brazilian musicologist, ethnomusicologist, poet, and cultural activist Mário de Andrade (1893–1945), the title character leaves his home deep in the jungle for a mystical quest to São Paulo to retrieve the muiraquitã, an amulet said to embody all of the history and traditions of his culture. Macunaíma succeeds in his mission, but in the process he undergoes a series of dramatic transformations; finally, he is changed into a constellation. He leaves for the firmament with a cryptic remark: He was not brought into the world to be a stone.
The story can be read as a metaphor for the cultural developments that Andrade helped to shape: He advocated bringing the jungle to the city to create the modernist aesthetic of brasilidade that informed the growth of the Brazilian creative arts and the parallel development of musicology and ethnomusicology there. Like Macunaíma, Brazilian modernism did not come into the world to be a stone, with all its implications of rigidity, contour, and well-defined boundaries—rather, brasilidade relishes improvisation, exploration, and fluid boundaries that can be perpetually transformed.
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.
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Indigenous hip hop in recent years has created a space for unpacking ideas of authenticity, contemporary Indigenous identity, links between indigeneity and U.S. Blackness, and urban Indigenous experiences. But what is Indigenous hip hop and what does it represent? Indigenous Hip Hop is a culture first adopted and then produced by Native people to challenge settler colonialism, white supremacy, and heteropatriarchy, among other issues. One of the primary objectives of Indigenous hip hop has been to assert the sovereign rights of Indigenous people and to assert their humanity as modern subjects. Indigenous hip hop takes on many flavors throughout the Indigenous world. Some artists may sound like what listeners hear on commercial radio, while other may include elements of Native sounds including powwow music. Indigenous hip hop provides an anthem, a voice, a literary and decolonial movement—it is not merely Native people mimicking hip hop culture. For some Indigenous hip hop musicians in Detroit, Michigan, the connections between settler colonial logics in Detroit and Palestine allow for hip hop in these spaces to serve as a decolonial art form.
Contemporary Detroit, nicknamed the “Motor City”, has gone through many changes since the 20th century. In the 1950s, its streets were lined with vehicles produced by nearby Chrysler, Ford, and General Motors factories and driven by nearly 2 million people who called the city home. After the 1967 Detroit riots, parts of the city resembled ghost towns and the city’s population dwindled to around 670,000 as many residents fled to surrounding suburbs. Detroit has experienced a rebirth over the past two decades drawing local investment and new residents to the downtown area. What remains remarkably consistent, however, is the invisibility of the Motor City’s Indigenous population. Indigenous erasure, in this context, combined with rhetoric and policies that continue to marginalize African Americans in Detroit, create a place rooted in multiple colonialisms.
In 2014, an Anishinaabeg (Walpole Island) and Chicanx rapper from Detroit named Sacramento Knoxx collaborated with Palestinian rapper Sharif Zakot on a music video entitled From stolen land to stolen land. Sharif is a youth organizer and coordinator in the San Francisco Bay Area’s Arab Youth Organizing (AYO!) program. Similar to Indigenous youth, many Palestinian youth also have turned to hip hop culture to express their anguish and marginalization. The images in Sacramento Knoxx and Sharif’s video travel from New York City to Detroit to Palestine. Sharif scribbles “Free Palestine” with a black marker on a metal object while the video cuts to a scene of Knoxx standing on the Brooklyn Bridge and to the words “Free Rasmea Odeh”, a long-time Palestinian activist who was arrested and indicted on federal charges in October 2013. As the words appear on the screen, a blurred view of the Statue of Liberty appears in the background, a symbol of a loss of freedom for many of North America’s Indigenous people. The song’s lyrics connect white supremacy with the occupation and displacement of Indigenous land while the two rappers lyrically interweave the ongoing processes of settler colonialism in both settings. Although they acknowledge that the colonization of the Americas and Palestine happened at different times and in different contexts, the similarities of occupation join the two disparate lands.
Celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day by reading Kyle T. Mays’ article “Decolonial hip hop: Indigenous hip hop and the disruption of settler colonialism” in Cultural studies (33.3, 2019).
Below is the video for Sacramento Knoxx and Sharif Zakot’s From stolen land to stolen land. Check out more from Sacramento Knoxx at https://sknoxx.bandcamp.com/music
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Digital humanities is an umbrella term for branches of humanities disciplines (such as linguistics, literature, history, music, art and religious studies) in which digital technologies are used: as the application of digital technologies and methods humanities objects (e.g., works of music, literature, art) or as the application of humanities methods to digital objects (e.g. digital sound recordings, videos, websites and graphics). Examples of such interdisciplinary applications include digital coding, storage, archiving, searching, processing, and analysis of humanities objects as well as historical, linguistic, cultural research into digital objects.
Today, digital humanities methods are a part of all humanities research. The digital humanities emerged from the first applications of digital calculators and computers in humanities research in the 1950s, primarily in linguistics, but soon also included music research and other disciplines. Since then, its importance has grown steadily with the development of new computer and software technologies.
The basis of many digital music research projects is the digital storage and notation of music. In the mid-1950s, a project at Bell Telephone Laboratories led by Max Matthews (1926–2011, pictured above) developed technology to transmit telephone conversations in digitized form, the MUSIC-N series was the first computer program to generate digital audio through direct synthesis. MUSIC I (1957) and MUSIC II (1958) synthesized simple sounds over a limited number of triangular wave functions. However, it was not until MUSIC III (1960) that the first comprehensive synthesis program emerged. MUSIC IV (mid-1960s) was rewritten in the FORTRAN programming language and revised and expanded as MUSIC V in 1969 at Bell Laboratories. MUSIC V offered more global sound control, the ability to represent individual notes and note patterns, and supported the simulation of performance nuances (such as ritardando and crescendo). MUSIC V’s global parameter differentiation and event list were also precursors to the standard MIDI file format. Today, SAOL (1999) is a MUSIC-N programming language that is part of the MPEG-4 audio standard.
The Plaine & Easy Code was developed by Murray Gould in the early 1964s and later expanded by Gould and Berry S. Brook. It was intended to enable the transfer of musical bibliographic data to electronic data processing devices. The Plaine & Easy Code was a purely monolinear notation, encoded with normal typewriter symbols, with which not only tempo, key, meter, pitch, and durations could be encoded but also some phrasing and ornamentation symbols. Below is an example of the notation.
Below Max Mathews demonstrates his Radio Baton Controller and Conductor software program and performs brief selections by Bach, Chopin, and Beethoven.
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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.
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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.
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The music of Central America tends to borrow heavily from the music of Mexico to the north, Colombia to the south, and the Caribbean Islands to the east, and, in the case of Nicaragua, from the politically motivated nueva canción (new song) movement. Additionally, some traces of the ancient Mayan culture can still be found in Nicaragua and Belize, and more strongly in Guatemala. People of Mayan background form around half of the population of Guatemala. Their cultural heritage has been preserved to an extraordinary extent because of their great reverence for their cultural heritage, mythology, and rituals. Their instruments include various slit-drums, gongs, rattles, and cane flutes that sometimes have the rattles of rattlesnakes enclosed in a hollow space above the embouchure. This is then closed off with a thin membrane, and the resulting menacing buzz is heard in the music of the Baile de venada (dance of the deer).
Along with Indian traditions in Guatemala is the equally thriving music of the Ladino population, which is Hispanic in origin and is found mostly in the country’s urban centers. The instrument that is central to Ladino music, namely the marimba de tecomates, which has a keyboard of wooden bars with gourds suspended underneath, is thought to be of African origin. Although Ladino groups have now adopted more contemporary marimbas, there is still a great variety among them. The largest, the marimba grande, has a range similar to a piano and is usually played by four players.
The son guatemalteco is the national dance of Guatemala, and dancers bring out the son rhythm with zapateadas or foot stamping. These indigenous rhythms and themes have also been incorporated into classical music. The brothers Jesús and Ricardo Castillo were Guatemalan classical composers of the early 20th century. Jesús wrote a treatise on the Mayan music of the country, and both brothers wrote pieces using Indian themes (Suites indigenas) and even operas such as Quiché Vinak. In Nicaragua, composers such as Luis Delgadillo (1887–1962) included Inca themes and other indigenous Nicaraguan music in their work.
The country furthest south in Central America, Panama, was previously part of Colombia until 1903, and is considered by some to be the source of Colombia’s cumbia genre. Its musical traditions are a mix of Spanish, Indian, and African, but as one of the most cosmopolitan countries of the region, folk music is now mainly the preserve of schools and folklore societies.
Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month by reading through the Latin America section of the Encyclopedia of music in the 20th century (2013). Find it in RILM Music Encyclopedias (RME).
Below is a performance of son guatemalteco and a piece entitled Fiesta de pajaros composed by Jesús Castillo.
Previous related Bibliolore posts to check out:
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