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Academic Insights for the Thinking World


The wooden box strung with taut wire and scraped with horse-hair tied to a stick

After a recent performance, a member of the audience came up to tell me that he’d enjoyed my playing. “I always think,” he said, as if he were being original, “that the violin is the instrument that most closely resembles the human voice.” Outwardly I nodded assent and smiled; inwardly I groaned. If you happen to be a violinist, then you’ll be only too familiar with this particular cliché.

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The Mind's Ear

Beyond the page: music students and emotion

Even though I recently turned sixty and have taught at colleges and conservatories, when I hear the words “back to school,” the image that springs to mind is of my teenage self as a Juilliard student in the 1970s. If I ask that self what my main educational breakthrough from those years was, the answer surprises me: discovering what actors learn. Actors study their own emotions.

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Hard Times Cover

The desnudas of Times Square

Because nothing noteworthy occurred anywhere in the world through the month of August and the first half of September, the local news in New York City turned its attentions to a few women who have apparently been bothering people in the otherwise calm, decent section of Manhattan known as Times Square.

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The direct link between income and impact: savvy music teachers

On the surface, the suggestion that the best independent music teachers are those who earn the most money seems ludicrous. No obvious, mathematical correlation can be drawn between fiscal and pedagogical success. We have all encountered incredible educators who struggle to make ends meet, or financially comfortable ones who are mediocre instructors at best.

Yet I argue that there is indeed a parallel. When done right, impact and income are closely related bedfellows. Savvy Music Teachers (SMTs) find ways to make them both go up, in harmony.

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In praise of SoundCloud

When you’re a musician, you’re constantly passing between the private and the public spheres. Practicing by yourself in a soundproof room is a private activity. Playing an audition is a public act. Reading a score silently is private; releasing a CD is public.

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How well do you know the James Bond songs? [quiz]

Very soon now, we’ll find out who sings the next James Bond song. SPECTRE, the superspy’s twenty-fifth outing, will be coming out in the fall. But the song will be more like the thirtieth or so, depending on how you count.

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9781561592630 oxford grove music online logo

Ten facts about the steel drum

The steel drum originated in the late 1930s on the island of Trinidad and was played as part of a steel band, a percussion ensemble contrived by lower-class rebellious teens. Learn more about the steel drum’s complex history, development, and current form with our 10 fun facts.

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Good health is a creative act

Musicians lead demanding lives. Practicing, sight-reading, rehearsing, and auditioning all can be stressful and, at times, actually painful. How to stay healthy and free from pain? I think the answer lies in realizing that your health is completely tied in with your creative efforts, or the way you respond to music itself. In brief, good health is a creative act. Here are seven tips to get you started.

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Misty Copeland dances On the Town

Misty Copeland captured the world’s attention this summer when she became the first black female principal dancer at the American Ballet Theatre. In late August, Copeland will once again be in the headlines when she stars in Leonard Bernstein’s On the Town for a limited engagement at New York’s Lyric Theatre, where she will bring the show’s nearly year-long run to a close.

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Technology and the evolving portrait of the composer

It’s a cartoon image from my childhood: a man with wild hair, wearing a topcoat, and frantically waving a baton with a deranged look on his face. In fact, this caricature of what a composer should look like was probably inspired by the popular image of Beethoven: moody, distant, a loner… a genius lost in his own world.

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Jazz at the BBC Proms

Celebrating their 120th birthday this year, the BBC Promenade Concerts – universally known as “The Proms” – rank as the world’s biggest classical music festival. With 76 concerts, running from July to September, of which the vast majority focus on classical music, not only do the events reach a sizeable audience live in London’s Royal Albert Hall, or for the earlier daytime concerts, the Cadogan Hall, but there’s a much bigger audience for the nightly live broadcasts on BBC radio and for the highlights on television.

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A rare treat in Berlioz’s The Trojans

The San Francisco Opera has undertaken the enormous challenge of mounting Berlioz’s The Trojans. It consists of two complete operas, The Capture of Troy and The Trojans at Carthage. They are being performed together, which is most unusual, but is how Berlioz envisioned it. The forces involved are enormous. In this production there are 72 instrumentalists in the pit and 23 backstage including 4 trumpets.

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The Beatles, the Watts Riots, and America in transition, August 1965

Fifty years ago during their North American tour, The Beatles played to the largest audience in their career against the backdrop of a nation shattering along economic, ethnic, and political lines. Although on the surface the events of August 1965 would seem unconnected, they nevertheless illustrate how the world was changing and how music reflected that chaotic cultural evolution.

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Who will be singing the next Bond song? Who should be?

Now’s the moment to be a fan of the Bond songs. SPECTRE, the new film, comes out this November. That means we’ll hear an official unofficial leak of the title song sometime this summer. Everybody’s been guessing who the singer is. Twitter says it’ll be Sam Smith or Lana Del Rey. Sam Smith says it isn’t him and claims that he “heard Ellie Goulding was going to do it.” The Telegraph wants to know why no one has considered Mumford and Sons (don’t answer that). Even Vegas is paying attention. Who would you put your money on?

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Ethnomusicology’s queer silences

An audible silence lingers in the field and fieldwork of ethnomusicology. Queer subjects and topics have made few appearances in the literature to date. Such paucity doesn’t owe to an absence of LGBTQ-identified members and allies; by and large, ethnomusicologists are as fabulous and open-minded as scholars come. So why has queer ethnomusicology arrived late to the party?

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What’s your go-to summer concert?

It’s that time of year again! Summer concerts are warming up and festivals are in full swing. Cities around the world are putting on some of the best shows for locals and tourists to enjoy. Check out what concerts Oxford University Press employees love attending every year. You just might stumble upon your new favorite band.

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