György Ligeti freely acknowledged the influence of African music on his work—an influence that is seldom readily obvious, though it can be teased out by analysis.
After he listened to recordings of African drumming, Ligeti began exploring the use of various rhythms through multiplication of the basic pulse, a concept that resonated with the additive rhythms of the traditional music that he grew up with in Hungary.
In one of his few passages involving the use of an African-sounding instrument, the third movement of his piano concerto includes an Africanesque pattern played on bongos. He marked the part to be played very quietly, so rather than being foregrounded it serves almost subliminally to reinforce patterns being played simultaneously on other instruments. Unlike most African drumming, this bongo pattern evolves over time, so that its end is quite different from its beginning.
Ligeti’s works from the 1960s onward were distinguished by a palette of musical motives and ideas that he half-ironically referred to as Ligeti signals. Starting in the 1980s, he expanded this palette to include African devices along with others that share an extraordinary openness to external ideas and influences. He avoided copying these influences wholesale, instead working on a higher conceptual level. This abstraction implied an objective respect for the powerful ideas he was working with, as well as indicating a strong personality able to hold its own with them.
This according to “Ligeti, Africa, and polyrhythm” by Stephen Andrew Taylor (The world of music XLV/2  pp. 83–94; RILM Abstracts of Music Literature 2003-4435).
Today is Ligeti’s 100th birthday! Below, Mihkel Poll performs the concerto movement discussed above.
BONUS: RILM is a sponsor of the Ligeti Festival Transylvania celebrating György Ligeti’s 100th birthday! More information is here.
Scholars have long known that Wagner had a deep and lasting interest in Buddhism; less known are the specific insights garnered from Buddhism that are manifested in Parsifal. The key to understanding this connection is the enigmatic figure of Kundry.
Contrary to the common interpretation of Kundry as the incarnation of the will, and in light of Wagner’s admiration for Schopenhauer, she may be seen as the personification of desire. Desiring, which is different from wanting, is a fundamental aspect of Buddhism. As Buddha explained in his very first sermon, desire is the cause of suffering (dukkha). Buddhist teaching holds that suffering can only be overcome when desire is vanquished.
Kundry appears in three forms in Parsifal; these correspond to the three forms of desire in Buddhism. This interpretation aligns the work’s Christian, pagan, and Buddhist symbolism as an expression of the inner way that is shared by all who tread the path of religious mysticism. Through extensive study of Buddhism, Wagner came to understand the deeper side of all religions, a universal truth that all mediators of religious traditions come to understand.
This according to “Kundry: The personification of the role of desire in the holy life” by Pandit Bhikkhu (Cittasamvaro) (Wagnerspectrum III/2  pp. 97–114; RILM Abstracts of Music Literature 2007-20593).
Brahms’s correspondence reveals that he was very fond of railroad travel; nowadays he might be called a railfan.
In an 1881 letter to George Henschel, Brahms noted that he was spending the summer in the Viennese suburb of Pressbaum, observing that “I shall be only a short distance by rail, which, however, I always travel with great pleasure.”
Advising his father on taking a train to visit him in 1867, the composer wrote:
Now you get a ticket direct to Vienna by way of Berlin, Dresden, Prague. The ticket must be valid for 5–8 days. Be sure of both things! Costs about 30 thaler second class all the way.
There are only two trains. You can of course travel through in one go—in about 32 hours. That works only if you have rainy, cool weather! Otherwise you couldn’t stand it. But since the ticket is good for a week, you can also stop over for a day or half a day in each city, and look around it. But if so, go first of all to a good hotel and make use of porters and [public] servants for hire as guides. If you continue on right away in Berlin you must take a hackney to the other station. A policeman hands out the voucher at the exit.
Before you travel the night through, as is practical in the heat, drink a glass of grog so you sleep well. But take along very little, for example no scruffy things for the trip! No cigars, nothing new, nothing that is taxable. You’ll find every conceivable thing here with me. Don’t let that make your journey uncomfortable.
With the advent of railroad travel, musicians like Brahms enjoyed travel opportunities that previously were possible only through complex logistical arrangements, sometimes involving significant physical hardship. As a symbol of the industrial age, the railway did not threaten him; he was comfortable with steam propelling him, not least when he traversed the distance between Vienna and his beloved Hamburg.
James Brown had an uncanny ability to synthesize the talents of musicians from disparate musical fields into a cohesive ensemble. Still, many of his peers had little regard for his own musical abilities.
“He has no real musical skills…yet he could hold his own onstage with any jazz virtuoso—because of his guts” one of his former bandleaders explained. Indeed, many of Brown’s own players dreamed of eventually moving from pop to jazz, where their individual abilities would shine more brightly.
There is a certain irony in the fact that someone maligned by his colleagues for his apparent musical ineptitude would end up influencing the very musicians that they looked up to: Miles Davis, for example, changed the bebop world when he took the radical step of incorporating Brown’s rhythmic innovations into his music. Further, Brown’s influence is explicitly acknowledged by rap musicians, spawning developments in popular music that continue to reverberate around the world.
A compelling valorization of Brown’s approach is suggested by Gilles Deleuze’s account, in Différence et répétition, of the Idiot as the pedant’s polar opposite. As a musical Idiot, Brown’s naive immunity to conceptual rules or institutionally dominant forms of thinking—his capacity for thought without presupposition—enabled modes of conceptual originality that evaded the musically trained.
“Funk was not a project” he explained. “It happened as part of my ongoing thing…I wasn’t going for some known sound, I was aimin’ for what I could hear.”
Brown’s bravado and innovations were necessary because he lacked the musical and cultural capital of his peers. Deleuze’s Idiot is self-assured because he is not bothered with any image of thought that cannot see him; for Brown, reason yielded to experimentation because his poverty-stricken childhood had demonstrated that abstractions were useless for solving the immanent problems at hand.
Brown had a superlative ability to forge new connections, to make music work regardless of its orthodoxy. This is what Deleuze attributed to the great artist—one who could make new and unforeseen connections.
This according to “James Brown: The illogic of innovation” by John Scannell (New formations: A journal of culture/theory/politics 66 [spring 2009] pp. 118–133; RILM Abstracts of Music Literature 2009-17662).
Today would have been Brown’s 90th birthday! Below, the Godfather of Soul defies logic in his heyday.
Tall enough to pass as a teenager, he found a temporary job as a substitute cellist in an amusement-park orchestra, and when the former cellist returned he was offered a job playing violin. Piatigorsky accepted gamely, and found that he could play the unfamiliar instrument easily in undemanding passages; but for more difficult ones he had to revert to playing it between his knees, like a cello. For distracting attention from the conductor and eliciting unwelcome applause, the boy was fired.
Still lacking the funds to return to Moscow, he found a job in a café orchestra. To keep the underaged cellist from seeing the nude dancers onstage, the owner had him turn to face the wall of the pit and provided a mirror so he could see the conductor. When he quit in sympathy for a fired dancer he had developed a crush on, he was given a week’s pay.
Piatigorsky used the money to buy a train ticket as far north toward Moscow as he could; he finally arrived home after about 12 days of hitching rides on freight trains by night, sleeping during the day, and selling everything but his cello for food.
This according to Gregor Piatigorsky: The life and career of the virtuoso cellist by Terry King (Jefferson: McFarland, 2010, pp. 8–10; RILM Abstracts of Music Literature 2010-6179).
Today is Piatigorsky’s 120th birthday! Above, the cellist in his school uniform before he moved to Moscow. Below, excerpts from the film Heifitz & Piatigorsky (Kultur, 1953).
The Bavarian composer Max Reger was famous for his appetite. According to his biographer Fritz Stein, he was capable of consuming up to 30 little Bavarian weißwürste or up to 12 Regensburger würste at one sitting. Such meals needed to be washed down with up to ten liters of beer, but after giving up alcohol while he was living in Meiningen (as conductor of the Hoforchester of Duke Georg II, from 1911 to 1915), he kept up with the sausage habit.
Thus, from a letter to the Duke of 27 May 1912: “Yesterday afternoon we took another walk to the Helenenhöhe, where I sampled the Thuringian Rostbratwürste for the first time, and immediately devoured ten of them, to my wife’s disgust. But they agreed with me extremely well; I worked until ten o’clock last night, woke up fit as a fiddle, and feel fine, although everybody warned me that the bratwurst was too greasy. They were revolted by my drinking cold milk with the ten sausages. I thus brilliantly disproved the old myth that says one has to have alcohol with greasy foods, in the form of schnapps.”
The Duke replied “In the name of God, don’t repeat that Würstiade very often, if you don’t want to get popped underground or into the crematorium soon. Mass-produced sausages often contain nasty things.”
This according to Über die Lebensgewohnheiten eines Genies by Hans-Joachim Marks (Mitteilungen der Internationalen Max-Reger-Gesellschaft XXI  pp. 23-27).
Today is Reger’s 150th birthday! Below, Hans-Dieter Bauer performs Reger’s Humoresque for the left hand alone—presumably composed so he could continue to eat würste with his right hand.
In 1963 Eunice Waymon, a classically-trained pianist who had recently achieved recognition as a jazz singer under the stage name Nina Simone, learned that four young African American girls had been killed in the bombing of a Baptist church in Alabama.
She immediately wrote the song Mississippi Goddam “in a rush of fury, hatred, and determination.” The lyrics—filled with anger and despair in stark contrast to the fast-paced and rollicking rhythm—vehemently rejected the notions that race relations could change gradually, that the South was unique in terms of discrimination, and that African Americans could or would patiently seek political rights. Simone also challenged principles that are still strongly associated with liberal civil rights activism in that period, especially the viability of a beloved community of Whites and Blacks.
With both her music and her self-presentation, Simone offered a vision of Black cultural nationalism within and outside the U.S. that insisted on female power. Her story demonstrates how events and issues from the 1960s that are often treated as separate were in fact deeply intertwined—the development of Black cultural nationalism, the role of women in Black activism more generally, and the emergence of second-wave feminism.
This according to “‘I don’t trust you anymore’: Nina Simone, culture, and Black activism in the 1960s” by Ruth Feldstein (Journal of American history XCI/4  1349–79; RILM Abstracts of Music Literature 2005-23369).
With a professional career spanning over four decades, Allan was a researcher, teacher, performer, academic officer, and mentor. Directly after receiving a Ph.D. in musicology from New York University in 1971 with the dissertation Rome, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Cappella Giulia XIII.27 and the dissemination of the Franco-Netherlandish chanson in Italy, ca. 1460-ca. 1530, he began teaching at Brooklyn College, a post he continued to hold after joining the faculty of the CUNY Graduate Center in fall of 1974. He would go on to serve as the Executive Officer for The Graduate Center’s Ph.D.-D.M.A. programs in music for much of his time there. Additionally, in 1998 he founded the Center for the Study of Free-Reed Instruments within the Barry S. Brook Center for Music Research and Documentation, which he led until 2014. In 1998, The Graduate Center bestowed on him the title Distinguished Professor of Music. From 1999, he also was editor of The free-reed journal: A publication by the Center for the Study of Free-Reed Instruments.
These accomplishments and responsibilities hardly encapsulate Allan’s range of talents as a scholar and teacher. He was just as generous with his ideas on music, which have been published in many prestigious sources, as he was with his guidance. At The Graduate Center, his Introduction to Music course taught budding musicologists in the music program to gather, organize, and edit research; stay current with trends in the discipline; prepare a critical edition; become familiar with the canon of founding musicologists; and evaluate and analyze historic texts. The course challenged and inspired, and many of his students will still have his patented emails in comic sans etched in their memories.
His knowledge seemed boundless: from Italian Renaissance music, to Puccini’s La Fanciulla del West, to the music of Ralph Vaughn Williams, to Requiem Masses in the last 1000 years or so, to the concertina (which he plays), to Robert Moses. And this merely scratches the surface. The bibliography below is a selection of some of Allan’s contributions to music research. However inchoate, it is hoped to inspire further research, archive just a small snippet of his production, and reveal aspects of trends in the discipline.
Allan remains an active scholar and orienting guide (dare we say an “atlas”?) in musicology, who has not yet finished sharing his valuable perspectives. Throughout all the changes in musicology over the years, he was always diligently aware of research trends, as well as the field’s limitations and possibilities. This was partially a result of his close relationship with RILM and its staff. Allan was consistently a strong advocate for RILM throughout his tenure at the Music Department of The Graduate Center, unceasingly arguing for RILM’s significance for global music research within the university administration. Whenever Allan would come to teach classes at The Graduate Center, he would stop by the shelf of publications that had just arrived at the RILM office to learn what was new in musicological research. These moments were opportunities for beneficial conversations about a variety of topics, and we always knew that Allan’s opinions were important. He could be relied upon to train his eagle editorial and musicological eye on RILM’s database when he was using it for his own scholarship, letting us know if he saw areas for improvement, correction, or enhancement.
In more official capacities, Allan served as RILM’s Area Editor for publications on Renaissance music during the 1980s and early 1990s and was a member of both the RILM Commission Mixte (1997-2000) and the Board of Directors (2000-16).
Thank you, and happy birthday, Allan. Here’s to many more.
– Introduction by Michael Lupo, Assistant Editor/Marketing & Media, RILM and Zdravko Blažeković, Executive Editor, RILM. Compiled by Lupo
Atlas, Allan W. “La provenienza del manoscritto Berlin 78.C.28: Firenze o Napoli?”, Rivista italiana di musicologia: Organo della Società Italiana di Musicologia 13/1 (1978) 10–29. [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature with Full Text, 1978-320]
Abstract: Considers the question of the provenance of the chansonnier Berlin, Kupferstichkabinett, MS 78.C.28. Takes issue with Reidemeister’s claim that, on the grounds that it contains the arms of two Florentine families and a miniature which can be associated with a Florentine workshop, the manuscript originated in Florence (see RILM 1975-607). Argues instead that it was compiled at Naples—this on the grounds of its “internal” relationship with other Neapolitan sources—and was only later removed to Florence. Evidence for such a transfer and break in the compilation of the source is supported by certain of its physical features.
_____. “Mimì’s death: Mourning in Puccini and Leoncavallo”, The journal of musicology: A quarterly review of music history, criticism, analysis, and performance practice 14/1 (winter 1996) 52–79. [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 1996-190]
Abstract: Seeks to answer the following question: Why do people cry at the end of Puccini’s La bohème but not at the end of Leoncavallo’s? Puccini spends the entire opera leading up to the moment where tears can be shed, while Leoncavallo miscalculates—musically and dramatically (he fashioned his own libretto)—at virtually every turn. The issues of voice/person/agent, psychic/aesthetic distance, and pacing/timing just before the final curtain are also discussed.
_____. “Multivalence, ambiguity and non-ambiguity: Puccini and the polemicists”, Journal of the Royal Musical Association 118/1 (1993) 74–93,  [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature with Full Text, 1993-10663]
Abstract: Takes issue with recent articles that polemically link the idea of multivalency in opera with ambiguity and disjunction, privilege the latter over unity and coherence, and write off large-scale tonal relationships as meaningful vehicles of overall coherence. A more open-minded approach is called for; polemics simply substitute one brand of dogmatic orthodoxy for another. Puccini’s Manon Lescaut and La fanciulla del West are analyzed to show that a multivalent approach will uncover instances of both ambiguity and nonambiguity and that the two ideas can coexist. There is in fact a continuum of approaches, each of which has its own contribution to make.
_____. Music at the Aragonese court of Naples (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985). [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 1985-1259]
Abstract: When Alfonso V of Aragon defeated René I of Anjou in 1442 and thereby established the kingdom of Naples as part of that of Aragon, he revived Neapolitan cultural life and made his court one of the leading centers of humanism. A survey of the historical-cultural background precedes discussions of the royal chapel and its musicians, the chapel composers and other musical worthies, secular music, sources, and repertoire. Musicians mentioned include Pietro Oriola, Joan Cornago, Johannes Vincenet, Johannes Tinctoris, Bernard Ycart, Franchino Gaffori, Serafino Dall’Aquila, Fiorenzo De’ Fasoli, Josquin Des Prez, and Alexander Agricola. An edition of musical works representative of the repertoire concludes the volume.
_____., ed. Music in the Classic period: Essays in honor of Barry S. Brook (New York: Pendragon Press, 1985). [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 1985-664]
_____. “On the reception of Vaughan Williams’s symphonies in New York, 1920/1–2014/15”, The Royal Musical Association research chronicle 47/1 (2016) 24–86. [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2016-37340]
Abstract: Considers the reception of Ralph Vaughan Williams’s nine symphonies (and a few non-symphonic works) in New York City (and, occasionally, its suburban environs), from the American premiere of on December 30th, 1920 to a performance of symphony no. 6 on December 10th, 2014. The reception rolls out across five distinct periods: (1) 1920/1–1922/3: the New York premieres of A London symphony, A sea symphony, and A pastoral symphony (in that order), all to greetings that were lukewarm at best; (2) 1923/4–1934/5: Vaughan Williams’s reputation grew meteorically, and A London symphony became something of a staple; during this period Olin Downes of The New York times became Vaughan Williams’s most ardent champion among New York’s music critics; (3) 1935/6–1944/5: symphonies 4 and 5 made their New York debuts, and a rift opened between the pro-Vaughan Williams and the negative criticism of the New York herald tribune, one that would follow Vaughan Williams to the grave and beyond; (4) 1945/6–1958/9: premieres of symphonies 6, 8 and 9, as Vaughan Williams’s reputation in New York reached its honors- and awards-filled zenith; and (5) the long period from 1959/60 to the present day, which can be described as 20 years of decline (1960s–1970s), another 20 in which his reputation reached rock bottom (1980s–1990s) and, since the beginning of the new millennium, something of a reassessment, one that is seemingly unencumbered by the ideologically driven criticism of the past. Finally, Appendix I provides a chronological inventory of all New York Philharmonic programs (along with those of the New York Symphony prior to the two orchestras’ merger in 1928) that include any music (not just the symphonies) by Vaughan Williams. Appendix II then reorganizes the information of the chronological list according to work, conductor, venue, and premieres.
_____. “Ralph Vaughan Williams’s The house of life: Four levels of cyclic coherence”, Acta musicologica 85/2 (2013) 199–225. [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2013-12048]
Abstract: Explores aspects such as motive, recitative, tonality, and proportion, which develop the coherence of the song cycle by Vaughan Williams setting the poetry of Rossetti.
_____. Renaissance music: Music in Western Europe (1400-1600). Norton introduction to music history (New York: W.W. Norton, 1998). [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 1998-4334]
Abstract: Renaissance music, a textbook for today’s classroom, focuses first and foremost on the music, then on the social, political, and economic forces that combined to produce it. Readers are immediately drawn into the subject through Professor Atlas’s vivid, energetic writing. Atlas addresses the student directly, in language that is clear and understandable even when it treats complex topics such as isorhythm and hexachords. Renaissance Music is sensibly organized, avoiding the great composer approach. Most chapters are devoted to musical genres; others center on specific geographical areas or on categories such as patronage, music theory, and music printing. Like all the books in Norton’s introduction to music history series, this text includes bibliographies and incorporates the latest scholarship in the field. A Spanish translation is cited as RILM 2002-20881; a French translation is cited as RILM 2011-18309.
_____. The Wheatstone English concertina in Victorian England (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996). [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 1996-3066]
Abstract: A comprehensive survey of the career of the so-called English concertina from its invention by the English physicist Charles Wheatstone, Jr. in the late 1820s to its use in the early 20th c. by Ives and Grainger. Attention is given to its changing social status (from upper-crust to working-class), art-music repertoire (concertos, sonatas, and character pieces by George Alexander Macfarren, Bernhard Molique, Julius Benedict, John Barnett), virtuoso performers and their works (Giulio Regondi and Richard M. Blagrove), and critical reception. Two chapters explain the concertina’s technical capabilities and certain problems of concertina-specific performance practice. An appendix contains five works for concertina by Joseph Warren, George Alexander Macfarren, Giulio Regondi, Richard M. Blagrove, and John Charles Ward.
_____., ed. Victorian music for the English concertina. Recent researches in the music of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries (Middleton: A-R Editions, 2009). [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2009-47579]
Abstract: Developed by the physicist Charles Wheatstone around 1830, the English concertina was extremely popular in art-music circles of Victorian England until late in the 19th century. This edition includes 15 works that present a cross section of the instrument’s concert and salon repertories, and includes music by the “mainstream” composers George Alexander Macfarren, Julius Benedict, and Bernhard Molique, as well as original compositions by such concertina virtuosos as Giulio Regondi and Richard Blagrove. There are also pieces by two little-known women composers and arrangers, Hannah Rampton Binfield and Rosina King (the instrument was particularly popular with women), and an arrangement by George Case of a well-known hymn tune, which shows how the baritone concertina was used in small parish churches. Finally, there are two works for concertina ensembles, a duo for treble and baritone concertina by Blagrove and a transcription by Regondi for concertina quartet of the final movement of Mozart’s Prague symphony.
Pergolesi, Giovanni Battista. Salve Regina, ed. by Allan W. Atlas. Giovanni Battista Pergolesi: Complete works/Opere complete 15 (Stuyvesant: Pendragon Press; Milano: Ricordi, 1994). [RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 1994-15656]
Dubbing himself “The Architect of Rock & Roll,” Little Richard had an incalculable impact on musicians and singers black and white with his wild, flamboyant performances and outrageous costumes, which included sequined tuxedos, velvet capes, pancake make-up, eyeliner, and a six-inch pompadour hairdo.
He was one of the first artists to make the androgynous look popular, and his influence could be experienced in the music and performances of Mick Jagger, The Beatles, Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis Presley, James Brown, Jimi Hendrix, and David Bowie—who all cited him as their inspiration.
But Little Richard also had demons he struggled with throughout his career: his complicated relationship with his sexual orientation, and its effect on his faith. He left secular music 18 months after his first hit to sing “for the Lord” in an effort to suppress his homosexuality; but four years later he was back on stage in London with The Beatles as his opening act, shaking his hips and singing Tutti frutti, a song that originated as a testament to gay sex.
This according to Awop bop aloo mop: Little Richard—A life of sex, drugs, rock & roll…and religion by Tina Andrews (New York: The Malibu Press, 2020; RILM Abstracts of Music Literature 2020-55689).
Today is Little Richard’s 90th birthday! Above, an uncredited photo from 1967; below, performing in 1957 (the year John Lennon met Paul McCartney around some of Little Richard’s songs).
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Having once considered himself “one of the staunchest opponents of classical music”, Charles Schultz discovered the symphonies of Beethoven in 1946 and became an avid fan of classical music with a prodigious record collection. He also created the piano-playing Schroeder, a Beethoven fanatic, for his comic strip Peanuts.
A well-worn 1951 LP in Schultz’s collection by the pianist Friedrich Gulda of Beethoven’s Hammerklavier sonata may have inspired a series of strips from the early 1950s in which Schroeder is seen playing this work. The one reproduced above is the only one in which the piece is named, though it still relies on the reader to read music—and German!—for a full identification. Note Schultz’s imitation of German Fraktur script for both the work title and his signature.
This according to “Michaelis’ Schulz, Schulz’s Beethoven, and the construction of biography” by William Meredith (The Beethoven journal XXV/2 [winter 2008], pp. 79–91; RILM Abstracts of Music Literature 2008-8914).
Today is Schultz’s 100th birthday! Below, Gulda performs the Hammerklavier sonata in 1970.
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