Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World


The music next door

It was midnight and I had just slumped into bed, exhausted after one of my first days on-call as a new intern, and still adjusting to life in a new apartment. As my nagging reflections on the day were just beginning to subside, insistent knocking at my door jolted me back to alertness. Dragging myself out of bed to open the door, I was surprised to see a diminutive elderly lady who appeared quite perturbed.

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A mapping of musical modernity

What has history got to do with music? Music, surely, has to do with the present moment. We value it as a singularly powerful means of intensifying our sense of the present, not to learn about the past. If we listen to Mozart, it’s for pleasure, not for a snapshot of Viennese life in the 1780s. Nevertheless, that begs the question why we take pleasure in something from such a distant time and place.

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Cuban cultural capital and the renewal of US-Cuba relations

This year, 2015, has been quite a year for Cuba. Starting in January with President Obama’s announcement that the United States and Cuba will re-establish diplomatic and economic relations, followed by Pope Francis’s visit to the island earlier this month, Cuba has been under the global spotlight.

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Trick or treat – Episode 27 – The Oxford Comment

From baristas preparing pumpkin spiced lattes to grocery store aisles lined with bags of candy, the season has arrived for all things sweet-toothed and scary. Still, centuries after the holiday known as “Halloween” became cultural phenomenon, little is known to popular culture about its religious, artistic, and linguistic dimensions.

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The James Bond songs: Best of the forgotten and underrated

If you’re getting ready for the new Bond movie—and its recently released James Bond song—you might want to sift through the history of this 50-year-old franchise and think about your favorite Bond films and songs. But how many songs do you remember once you get past “Goldfinger” and “Live and Let Die”? We dug into the ones you might not recall, and those we believe deserve another listen. Here are our top 10.

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Henry Cowell

New appreciation for composer Henry Cowell

The extraordinarily innovative American composer Henry Cowell took Europe by storm as a touring pianist in the 1920s, playing his unforgettable compositions that often required using the entire forearm to play dozens of keys simultaneously. In later years he returned to give talks about his music and American music under the auspices of the State Department.

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Gershwin and color: how blue is the Rhapsody?

Everyone knows George Gershwin as a composer, songwriter, pianist and icon of American music. But few know of his connections to the world of paintings and fine art. As a practicing artist himself, Gershwin produced over 100 paintings, drawings, and photographs.

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Ten fun facts about the xylophone

You’d probably recognize the rainbow-patterned, lap-size plastic xylophone in the playroom, popular among music-minded toddlers. But what do you know about the real thing? The xylophone is a wooden percussion instrument with a range of four octaves, and can be used in a variety of musical genres.

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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.

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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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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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