Anton Szandor LaVey was the most outspoken and most notorious apostle of Satan in the twentieth century. On his life before founding the Church of Satan in 1966, LaVey liked to spun wild tales, but he did actually work as a professional and semi-professional musician in the carnival circuit. The High Priest of Satan was fond of bombastic classic music in the Wagnerian mould and popular tunes from the thirties, forties, and fifties, the period in which he himself had been young.
We have all attended concerts where a performer dazzled us with technique that seemed hardly humanly possible – a phenomenon that has been a part of musical performances throughout history. In a 1783 anecdotal memory by Johann Matthias Gesner, the ability of J. S. Bach’s playing was described to “effect what not many Orpheuses, nor […]
This weekend, the 32nd International Society for Music Education World Conference will be hosted in Glasgow, Scotland. Researchers, practitioners, and performers will gather to present concerts, talks and discussions. We asked a few attendees for their pre-ISME thoughts and plans. What are you looking forward to at the conference?
Shakespeare’s characters can often appear far-removed from our modern day world of YouTube, Beyoncé and grime. Yet they were certainly no less interested in music than we are now, with music considered to be at the heart of Shakespeare’s artistic vision. Of course our offerings have come a long way since Shakespeare’s day, but we think it is a shame that they never had a chance to hear the musical delights of Katy Perry or Slipknot.
The documentary Twenty Feet from Stardom (2013) gave us a glimpse of how backing singers—performers who provide vocal harmonies and responses for featured artists—have contributed to twentieth-century American popular music.
The bass guitar is often thought to be a poor musician’s double bass or a poor musician’s guitar. Nonetheless, luthiers and performers have explored its expressive possibilities within a wide range of musical styles and performance traditions, some of which we chart below.
When we look at the so-called “miraculous gifts” of musical prodigies, it is easy to get caught up in the nature vs. nurture debate: are these prodigies born or made? But we won’t be entering here into the discussion as to whether genetics or education plays the greater role. Instead, there may be a secondary element to this debate that is often overlooked, an element that intrinsically ties together these two conflicting sides.
Music at that time was special— magical even— and its effect would have been diminished by constant presence even if that were possible for the musicians, which it was not. David Lindley, indeed, points out that, in contrast to the modern use of filmic underscoring, music in Shakespearean theatre was ‘always part of the world of the play itself, heard and responded to by the characters on- stage’.
Recent months have seen the release of two movies about great jazz trumpeters from the 1950s and 60s: Miles Ahead (Don Cheadle, 2015) focusing on Miles Davis, and Born to Be Blue (Robert Budreau, 2015) focusing on Chet Baker (although Miles plays an important role in the latter too: his second cinematic revival in one year). The similarities don’t end there: both films are semi-fictional, homing in on a moment of crisis in their respective protagonists’ real lives and spinning a mostly fictional story around it.
Over the past few years, Britain has commemorated Shakespeare’s life, works, and death in parallel with an extensive remembrance of the First World War and those who served in it. The elision of Shakespeare’s work with this particular conflict is not a new trend: 100 years ago, similar celebrations of Shakespeare were occurring in the midst of wartime, and both Britain and Germany were employing his image and plays for propaganda and recruitment purposes.
Whenever a public event requires a speech from Shakespeare to articulate the profundity of human experience, or to illustrate the cultural achievements of humankind (or perhaps Britain), there is a very good chance that someone will turn to Caliban.
Psalm 137 begins with one of the more lyrical lines in the Hebrew Bible: “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion.” It ends eight lines later with one of the thorniest: “Happy shall he be, who taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones.” Partly because it deals with music—another famous verse asks, “How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?”—the psalm has been like poetic catnip, a siren song luring musicians and composers.
The astounding success of Hamilton, its capacity to engage audiences from third graders to the president and first lady, reminds us that Broadway musicals have a healthy tradition of mining political history. From 1776 to Evita, songwriters have been fascinated by political power. What drives people to become leaders? How do they rally supporters around them? What reservations do they have about their failures and successes?
The simple design and intuitive process of the maracas have made it a familiar favorite around the world, but may often lead to an underestimation of its value in creating variety of rhythmic expression.
Music is everywhere and nowhere in Jane Austen’s fiction. Everywhere, in that pivotal scenes in every novel unfurl to the sound of music; nowhere, in that she almost never specifies exactly what music is being performed. For film adaptations this absence of detail can be a source of welcome freedoms, since the imaginative gap can be variously filled by choosing more or less appropriate historical repertoire
Almost everyone swears, or worries about not swearing, from the two-year-old who has just discovered the power of potty mouth to the grandma who wonders why every other word she hears is obscene. Whether they express anger or exhilaration, are meant to insult or to commend, swear words perform a crucial role in language. But swearing is also a uniquely well-suited lens through which to look at history