Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

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The meanings behind the anthems of Fourth of July

On the Fourth of July, Americans will celebrate Independence Day at picnics, concerts, fireworks displays, and gatherings of many kinds, and they almost always sing. “America the Beautiful” will be popular, and so will “Our County, ’Tis of Thee” and of course the national anthem, “Star-Spangled Banner” (despite its notoriously unsingable tune). The words are so familiar that, really, no one pays attention to their meaning. But read them closely and be surprised how the lyrics describe the meaning of America in three very different ways.

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100 years of black music

Celebrate the end of Black Music Month with this timeline highlighting over 100 years of music created and produced by influential African-Americans. Kenny Gamble, Ed Wright, and Dyana Williams developed the idea for Black Music Month back in 1979 as a way to annually show appreciate for black music icons. After lobbying, President Jimmy Carter hosted a reception to formally recognize the month.

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A West Ender’s stop on Broadway

We’ve got one day here and not another minute…”. Well, not one day exactly, but just five—a short week’s stay in NYC from England, and four nights to catch a few shows. So how to choose? The first choices were easy: two new productions of classic musical comedies, and as it happens, shows by the same team of writers. Betty Comden and Adolph Green were veterans of Broadway by the time they came to write On the Twentieth Century (1978), though merely young starlets when they first scored a hit with On the Town (1944).

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Music mentorship and the learning process

At age 23 I had finished my second degree in vocal performance from a distinguished music program, but so what? I felt that I was too young and inexperienced in the professional world to embark on a solo career. As luck (and connections) would have it, a well-known recording group in the Midwest, The Roger Wagner Chorale, eventually offered me that on-the-road experience and performance confidence that would also allow me to meet one of the greatest singing actors of the 20th century.

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In memoriam: Gunther Schuller

Gunther Schuller (1925-2015) was one of the most influential figures in the musical world of the past century, with a career that crossed and created numerous genres, fields, and institutions. Oxford offers heartfelt condolences to his family, and gratitude for the profound impact his work continues to have on music performance, study, and scholarship.

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Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Pipe Dream

The seventh of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s stage works, Pipe Dream came along at a particularly vulnerable time in their partnership. After the revolutionary Oklahoma! (1943) and Carousel (1945)—with, above all, two of the most remarkable scores ever heard to that point—they disappointed many with Allegro (1947).

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My Mandolin & I

The first time I held a mandolin was at a rehearsal for Mozart’s opera Don Giovanni. In the second act, the Don is trying to seduce the maid Zerlina by singing a serenade under her mistress’ window (the canzonetta “Deh, vieni alla finestra”).

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Composition, performance, and mashups

What does it mean to create an artwork? For centuries, we thought we knew the answer. In literature, an author recorded words on a page. In the visual arts, an artist put paint to canvas. In music, a composer jotted down notes and rhythms on a staff as the raw material for his/her creations.

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Giving up control

One of the great joys of classical composing is the plotting and planning of new sounds, harmonies, and rhythms. Many composers delight in working out exactly which instrument will sound when, which voice forms what part of a harmony, or how a motif will be created, twisted, and perhaps developed, morphed, or abandoned.

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It’s time to play the (Broadway) music

Whether you think the Tony Awards is the epitome of Broadway talent or just another marketing device, it’s a night where everyone has a front row seat to the creative, the lively, the emotional moments that have made a home on the Great White Way.

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The Stones’ “Satisfaction,” June 1965

In the spring of 1965, The Rolling Stones could be forgiven their frustration. Even though they had scored three number-one UK hits in the past year, the American market remained a challenge. Beatles recordings had already thrice dominated the US charts since New Year’s Day and Brits Petula Clark, Herman’s Hermits, Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders, and Freddie and the Dreamers had all topped Billboard between January and May.

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Tales of two Europes: sameness and difference at the Eurovision Song Contest 2015 Vienna

The negotiation of sameness and difference seemingly moved to Central Europe again with the 60th Eurovision Song Contest (ESC) in Vienna, which took as its motto “Building Bridges.” Austria became the host of the 2015 Eurovision after the sensational victory at the 2014 ESC in Copenhagen by Conchita Wurst, whose winning entry, “Rise like a Phoenix,” ascended to continent-wide popularity as an anthem for the diversity of sexual identity.

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All about that Double Bass

Distinguished musicians Domenico Dragonetti (1763-1846) and Giovanni Bottesini (1821-1889) established a long-standing tradition of playing the double bass that was carried on into the 20th and 21st centuries. From the 1500s, this deep-toned string instrument has made its way from European orchestras to today’s popular music to retain a more natural acoustic sound in performances.

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Julius Eastman: Gay Guerrilla

Julius Eastman (27 October 1940-28 May 1990)—composer, pianist, vocalist, improviser, conductor, actor, choreographer, and dancer—has left a musical legacy worthy of special attention. Now is a prime moment to attend to Eastman and his work, as we recognize and honor the loss of this significant musical figure just twenty-five years ago from today.

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OUPMusic

A behind-the-scenes look at OUP’s recording sessions of new choral music for 2015

Bob Chilcott, as conductor, and John Rutter, as producer and engineer, join forces with some talented freelance professional singers in a church in Highgate, London every February. For three days these singers become The Oxford Choir, formed to record Oxford University Press’s latest choral publications so that choral directors worldwide can discover new repertoire.

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Bessie Smith: the Empress of the Blues

The filming and recent airing of the HBO film Bessie, which stars Queen Latifah as Bessie Smith, serves as a perfect excuse to look back at the music and life of the woman who was accurately billed as the Empress Of The Blues. When Bessie Smith made her recording debut in 1923, she was not the first blues singer to record.

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