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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

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A composer’s thoughts on re-presentation and transformation

My father, Paul Bullard, was a landscape and portrait painter, and on family holidays he would sit and sketch, sometimes with me by his side, filling my music manuscript paper. As a child, I used to think that his task was easier than mine: all he had to do was to put on paper what he could see in front of him, whereas on the other hand I had to imagine a whole sound world, hearing music in my head, and then put it down on paper.

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An inside look at music therapy

We have all experienced the effect music can have on our emotions and state of mind. We have felt our spirit lift when a happy song comes on the radio, or a pinging sense of nostalgia when we hear the songs of our childhood. While this link between music and emotion has long been a part of human life, only in recent decades have we had the technology and foundational knowledge to understand music’s effect on our brains in concrete terms.

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Once upon a time, part 1

I’m writing from Palermo where I’ve been teaching a course on the legacy of Troy. Myths and fairy tales lie on all sides in this old island. It’s a landscape of stories and the past here runs a live wire into the present day. Within the same hour, I saw an amulet from Egypt from nearly 3000 years ago, and passed a young, passionate balladeer giving full voice in the street to a ballad about a young woman – la baronessa Laura di Carini – who was killed by her father in 1538. He and her husband had come upon her alone with a man whom they suspected to be her lover.

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Early blues and country music

Beginning in the early 1920s, and continuing through the mid 1940s, record companies separated vernacular music of the American South into two categories, divided along racial lines: the “race” series, aimed at a black audience, and the “hillbilly” series, aimed at a white audience. These series were the precursors to the also racially separated Rhythm & Blues and Country & Western charts.

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2014 AES Convention: shrinking opportunities in music audio

Checking the website for the upcoming Audio Engineering Society (AES) convention in Los Angeles, I took note of the swipes promoting the event. Each heading was framed as follows: If it’s about ____________ it’s at AES. The slide show contained nine headings that are to be a part of the upcoming convention (in no particular order because you start at whatever point in the slide show you happened to log-in to the site).

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An interview with Tracey Laird

In honor of the 40th anniversary of Austin City Limits, the longest running live music show on television, we spoke to author Tracey E. W. Laird, author of Austin City Limits: A History, about the challenges the show has faced, the ways that it has adapted to a rapidly changing music industry, and what makes ACL perennially appealing to viewers.

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In person online: the human touch

What is the human touch in online learning? How do you know if it’s there? What does it look and feel like? My epiphany on this topic occurred when a student told me “I thought I would have done better if I had a real teacher.”

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An inside look at AMS/SMT Meeting

In about a month, the American Musicological Society will again gather to confer, listen, perform, and celebrate. Our Annual Meeting this year will be held in Milwaukee, Wisconsin’s largest city. We meet from Thursday to Sunday, 6-9 November, downtown at the Wisconsin Center and the Hilton Hotel. This year we are joined by the Society for Music Theory in what promises to be a very special meeting.

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Temperamental artists, unexpected hits, and Bond

Today, 5 October, we celebrate James Bond Day, and this year has been a great one for 007. In January, both song and score for Skyfall won Grammys, and 18 September marked the 50th anniversary of the general release of the film Goldfinger in UK cinemas. Shirley Bassey’s extraordinary rendition of the title song played a key role in its success.

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Austin City Limits through the years

Austin City Limits is the longest running musical showcase in the history of television, spanning over four decades and showcasing the talents of musicians from Willie Nelson and Ray Charles to Arcade Fire and Eminem. The show is a testament to the evolution of media and popular music and the audience’s relationship to that music, and to the city of Austin, Texas.

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Seven fun facts about the ukulele

The ukulele, a small four-stringed instrument of Portuguese origin, was patented in Hawaii in 1917, deriving its name from the Hawaiian word for “leaping flea”. Immigrants from the island of Madeira first brought to Hawaii a pair of Portuguese instruments in the late 1870s from which the ukuleles eventually developed.

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On the Town, flashpoint for racial distress

When the first production of On the Town in 1944 featured the Japanese American ballerina Sono Osato as its star, as part of a cast that also included whites and blacks, it aimed for a realistic depiction of the diversity among US citizens during World War II.

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On the Town and the long march for civil rights in performance

As we celebrate the golden anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a significant aspect of the struggle for racial equality often gets ignored: racial activism in performance. Actors, singers, and dancers mobilized over the decades, pushing back against racial restrictions that shifted over time, and On the Town of 1944 marked an auspicious but little-recognized moment in that history.

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United Airlines and Rhapsody in Blue

As anyone who has flown United in the past quarter-century knows, the company has a long-standing history with George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. The piece appears in its television advertisements, its airport terminals, and even its pre-flight announcements. However, the history of United’s use of the piece is far from straight forward.

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Celebrating Julie Andrews

This month marks the 50th anniversary of Disney’s beloved film Mary Poppins, starring the legendary Julie Andrews. Although Andrews was only twenty-nine at the time of the film’s release, she had already established herself as a formidable star with numerous credits to her name and performances opposite Richard Burton, Rex Harrison, and other leading actors […]

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