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Penderecki, then and now

Polish composer Krzysztof Penderecki (pronunciation here) celebrated his 80th birthday over the weekend. As Tom Service has pointed out in the past, you’ve probably already heard some of Penderecki’s famous pieces from the 1960s, which feature in several films from directors such as David Lynch, Stanley Kubrick, and Martin Scorsese.

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The changing face of opera

Outreach and innovation are two buzzwords that pop up again and again in relation to established “classical” music institutions such as symphony orchestras and opera companies. In an effort to build younger audiences, many of these institutions have introduced new programs that attempt to do away with the of the concert-going experience, such as expensive tickets or the need for a certain type of attire, that might discourage younger or less experienced listeners from attending.

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Reflecting on 50 years of the Rolling Stones

This Thursday marks the 50th anniversary of the debut performance of the Rolling Stones at London’s Marquee club on Thursday, 12 July 1962. After putting out their first single two years later, the Rolling Stones would go on to release over two dozen studio albums, over 100 singles, and numerous compilation and live albums. We asked some staff at Oxford for their favorite Rolling Stones songs and why they think they’re so great; read on for their answers.

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Saving Sibelius: Software in peril

You may not have known it, but July was a pretty stressful month for the composers of this world. Or at least several thousand of them. The life of Sibelius, one of the leading music notation software programs, has seemingly come under threat of dissipation as Avid (who owns the software) has recently shut down Sibelius’ UK office, simultaneously laying off the software’s core development team.

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A festive Festivus music playlist

As the holiday season is upon us, we thought we would recognize a tradition often lost in the hustle and bustle: Festivus. We’ve compiled our favorite, slightly more obscure seasonal tunes to wish you all a very merry Festivus season.

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Keytar Appreciation 101

What is a keytar, anyway? Well, along with being (to me) the coolest electronic instrument ever, it’s a midi controller-sometimes-synthesizer that you can wear over your shoulder like a guitar.

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Bae in hip hop lyrics

Today we’re here to talk about the word “bae” and the ways in which it’s used in hip hop lyrics. “Bae” is another way of saying babe or baby (though some say it can also function as an acronym for the phrase “before anyone else”). Here are some examples.

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The king of instruments: Scary or sleepy?

By Meghann Wilhoite
Whenever I tell people I’m an organist, I usually get one of two reactions. The person I’m talking to hunches over and sings the formidable opening notes of J.S. Bach’s D minor prelude; or, the person relates the organ’s slumberous effect during seemingly interminable church services.

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John Zorn at 59

By Meghann Wilhoite

It’s difficult to pin a label onto John Zorn. Active since the early 70s, Zorn has effectively woven his peculiar style of musical experimentation into the fabric of New York City’s downtown scene. His work—in the general sense of the word—has varied from philanthropic to shocking, with a curatorial bent that has often held quite a bit of sway.

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Is it music? A listener’s journey

2012 has been a poignant year for avant-garde music. German composer Hans Werner Henze passed away in October at age 86; a little over a week later American composer Elliott Carter passed away at the age of 103. The late John Cage was, as Musical America put it, “feted beyond his own wildest dreams” this year in celebration of his birth centenary. All three of these composers wrote music that challenged listeners to reconsider the boundaries of what qualifies as music.

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To memorize or not to memorize

I have a confession to make: I have a terrible memory. Well, for some things, anyway. I can name at least three movies and TV shows that Mary McDonnell has been in off the top of my head (Evidence of Blood, Donnie Darko, Battlestar Galactica), and rattle off the names of the seven Harry Potter books, but you take away that Beethoven piano score that I’ve been playing from since I was 14, and my fingers freeze on the keyboard.

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Music we’re thankful for

Thanksgiving is upon us in the US. Before the OUP Music team headed home for some turkey and stuffing, we compiled a list of what we are most thankful for, musically speaking. Read on for our thoughts, and leave your own in the comments. Happy Thanksgiving!

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What’s so impressive about drumming?

November is International Drum Month, so declared by the Percussion Marketing Council. Percussionists are often the most underrated performers in the world of music, perhaps because specialized instruments aren’t strictly necessary: anyone with an upturned bucket or even just two hands to clap can engage in percussion pretty much anywhere. But drumming is harder than it looks.

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Lofty musing: Has it only been 467 years?

Imagine yourself in a lofty cathedral, silver voices echoing off of vaulted stone, with a slight chill in the close air. Are you there? Ok, now you’re ready for the music of English composer John Taverner. Touted as the most influential composer of his time, Taverner (c.1490-1545) was and continues to be admired for his skill in the creation of polyphonic (‘many-voiced’) music — that is, independent musical lines that layer on top of each other in a way that sounds harmonious; the lines fit together without losing any of their individuality.

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Follow-up: Is it music? A closer look

In December I blogged about composers whose works challenge listeners to reconsider which combinations of sounds qualify as music and which do not. Interestingly, The Atlantic recently ran an article relating the details of a study that tested how much of our perception of what is “music” – in this case, pleasant, consonant music – is learned (and thus not innate).

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