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Winner of Grove Music’s 2021 spoof article contest

It’s April Fool’s Day, which means the time has come to reveal the winner of the 20th anniversary edition of Grove Music Online’s Spoof Article Contest.

This year’s expert judges include:

  • Deane Root, Editor in Chief of Grove Music Online, and Professor of Music emeritus, Director and Fletcher Hodges, Jr. Curator of the Center for American Music, University of Pittsburgh, has been immersed in Grove style since he worked under Stanley Sadie on the first New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians.
  • Musicologist Suzanne Cusick is the Samuel Rudin Professor in the Humanities at New York University and the most recent past president of the American Musicological Society. Shehas published extensively on gender and sexuality in relation to the musical cultures of early modern Italy and contemporary North America and has authored or coauthored 15 articles in Grove Music Online, including “Feminism in American Music.”
  • Anna-Lise Santellais Senior Editor for Music Reference at OUP, a position that includes serving as publishing editor of Grove Music Online. She spends a lot of time with style guides and once read the 1927 edition of Grove cover-to-cover for fun.

First, a heartfelt thank you to everyone who submitted an article. We have thoroughly enjoyed reading every one. This year’s crop of articles was truly exceptional and made the judges’ job especially hard.

Typically, we find some trends in our submissions that suggest some kind of Zeitgeist of humor and this year was no different. It was hard to miss that the biographies took a turn for the macabre, perhaps inevitable as we begin year two of a pandemic. Whereas our 2016 contest saw a surprising number of flatulence artists among its biographees, this year we saw an unprecedented attention to the mode of death. Some of the more notable included:

  • Arrhythmia (a drummer)
  • Digititis (a pianist)
  • Friendly fire, World War I
  • Head injury due to a fall from an organ loft
  • Hit by a car (“it is believed accidentally”) driven by an audience member.

While biographies made up the bulk of submissions, as they typically do, we were also treated to a number of articles on several theoretical topics. We would like to give a special acknowledgement to one of these, Ian Sapiro’s article on the Treksachord (from Kl. trek: ‘boldly go’, and Gk. chordē: ‘string’), which just missed the top three. Ian Sapiro is Associate Professor of Music of Stage and Screen at the University of Leeds and provided us with this stellar musical example of the chord in question:

For the first time in the history of the contest, our judges split three ways. After some internal squabbling rational, well-reasoned argument, we selected “Lip Synch” by Lisa Colton, Reader in Musicology and Director of Graduate Education at the University of Huddersfield. Although Colton’s article misses one key Grove style point—all Grove articles begin with a definition sentence that succinctly explains the subject—it made us laugh so long and so loud, that we feel it is indeed deserving of this great honor. “A quite clever and evocative parody of a performance practice article, replete with medieval terminology, Latin texts, and modern drag references,” noted Judge Root. Judge Cusick called it “an imaginative pseudo history of the performance practice as originating in a queerly illicit mix of ecclesiastically silenced nuns and the monks on the other side of many monastic institutions’ walls; parodies the ventriloquization of women in music studies, the quest for origins that drives a certain kind of musicology, the elision of technology that characterizes another kind of musicology and the elision of gender that characterizes still another kind.  Needs only a mention of the theorist/practitioner of the genre, Lypsinka, whose name before monachization was John Epperson.”

Lip Synch

The popular origins of Lip Synch, or Lip Synchronization, lie in the violent Crumhorn Battles of early modern Flanders, but comparable practices can be found much earlier in northern Britain, probably arriving there with the Vikings during the tenth century. The socio-cultural impetus for combining the voice of one singer with the performance of another individual seems to have been in the exclusion of women from all vocal performance, especially in religious settings, between the edict of St Paul and the reversal of that rule by second wave feminists in 1965. Giraldus Cambrensis (De rebus a se gestis, c1204) provides the fullest description of what he termed labia simul: the Gilbertine nuns he visited at Shouldham in 1201 opened their mouths in unison, making the shapes of words, while the canons in the adjoining church provided the musical sounds themselves. Matins would begin each day with the cantrix intoning Psalm 69 (Vulgate), Dominelabia mea aperies (“O Lord, open my lips”), in secret, and thus the combined liturgical rituals would commence in a broadly synchronized fashion. The technical challenge presented by the wall separating the male and female chambers of Gilbertine houses was obviated by a revolving hatch, through which feedback from the cantor and cantrix would be exchanged with appropriate modesty. A handful of examples of their notes are extant, typically employing the high-status, Anglo-Norman vernacular. One such memorandum (now DRu-P.a.UL), dating to the Feast of the Circumcision, 1243, reads simply: “Chantez, restez”, with the appropriate liturgical response proper to the day, “Sachez awez”.

Bibliography

P.J. Nixon: ‘Giraldus Cambrensis on Music: How Reliable are his Historiographers?’, Medieval Studies: Skara 1988, 264–89

Margolyes: Hildegard von Bingen and The Flaming Lips (Tunbridge Wells, 1983)

Visage: Lip Synchronization: A Surprising History (London, 2020)

Our first runner up “Bach-Bach Bach, Johann Egbert,” was submitted by conductor Andrew Gaydos. Although this article mostly follows Grove style, it misses a few of the finer points (life information should be in parentheses, not square brackets; the works list requires a heading). Nevertheless, Judge Santella, who is generally partial to chicken jokes that don’t involve dangerous road crossings, particularly liked the title and found herself repeating it out loud at odd moments, to the puzzlement of her feline home officemate. Judge Cusick thought it needed “a cross-reference to musica al cortile, which would bring in ducks and rabbits, after the fashion of pasta al cortile, served with a ragu of the animals kept in an Italian courtyard.” Judge Root deemed the article “Cleverly hatched, though the life’s effort ends beaten and fried.” He also observed that “The personal names and titles are inspired, building to my new favorite title for a work, the ‘Heißeundverschwitztpassion.’ The final work listed, ‘Kaltedusche chorales,’ is a splash of relief from the intensity of the ‘sacred works.’ This reader can also appreciate that the well-designed models of the catalog of works are appropriately Prussian.”

Bach Bach-Bach, Johann Egbert

Johann Egbert Bach Bach-Bach [b Eiburg, Prussia 1755; d Bauernomelett, Prussia 1823] German musician and composer. Johann Egbert Bach Bach-Bach was the only son of Wilhelm Jacob Bach and his third-cousin Maria Johanna Bach-Bach. As Egbert was an only child, both parents felt it important that he would maintain both respective family lines. Note: there were other less-important musicians in the Bach family tree which do not merit references in this work.

He was trained by the local organist Markus Hühnerfuß. Herr Hühnerfuß was notoriously cruel often beating the fingers of his students if they made mistakes. Bach Bach-Bach reminisced that he often pulled his fingers away in just the nick of time. Bach Bach-Bach, mockingly, referred to his method as Hühnerspiel.

In 1774 he became the Kantor for the Valentinkirche in Bauernomelett. He worked with the poet Andreas Heiße who created a passion narrative between the four gospels later referred to as the Heißepassion. Bach Bach-Bach used additional libretti by the poets Max Tagesleiden and Ernst Welpenliebe as well as Pastor Johann Verschwitzt on later settings of the passion. He also rewrote a version using the chorales from the Heißepassion and the recitatives and soli from the Verschwitztpassion. This was later referred to as the Heißeundverschwitztpassion and premiered at the Valentinskircke during Lent of 1784.

He was constantly rewriting and reworking these texts. As his wife and 21 children can attest, there was a lot of passion in the Bach Bach-Bach household.

His works were catalogued by Otto Hahnrei and given a Bach Musik Werk number: BMW.

SACRED WORKS

BMW M1 Heißepassion, passion-cantata (1775)

BMW M3 Tagesleidenspassion, passion-oratorio (1779)

BMW Z4 Welpenliebepassion, passion-cantata (1780)

BMW M5 Verschwitztpassion, passion-oratorio (1782)

BMW X6 Heißeundverschwitztpassion, passion-oratorio-cantata (1784)

CHORALE SETTINGS

BMW i8 12 Kaltedusche chorales, chorale settings (1788)

And last, but certainly not least is the article which offered our favorite gratuitous table, “Connors-Williams Scale” by Jeremy Barham, Reader of Music at the University of Surrey. Judge Root observed, “Brilliant synthesis of pseudoacoustic theory and sports commentary. I was able to control myself until I came to Fig.1. Space limitations prevented citing a few more notable authorities including Evert and McEnroe. I mean, in my most frustrated moments listening to matches on television I can imagine this as real!”

Connors-Williams Scale

A musical scale defined by amplitude, pitch and syllabics, deriving from practices of high-pressure exhalation and laryngeal constriction common to competitive physical exertion (esp. tennis). First identified by Wills Moody (‘The Net Effect’, Daily Mail, July 23, 1936, ix) and variously termed ‘grunt- fest’, ‘lunge-mouth’, or ‘coup de gorge’, the scale was codified through applications of string perturbation theory and baseline experiments conducted from 1972 at CERN (Centre for the Exploration of Refractory Noise, Bagshot) using ATP test subjects (after two of whom the scale is named), multi- microphone capture of spatial audio, and pseudo-anechoic acoustic measurement through impulse response truncation methods (Seles, ‘Vocal Artistry in Tennis: an Empirical Investigation’, JAES, xxxvii/3, 1989, pp. 0–6; Sharapova, ‘Acoustic Laws of Musicalized Competitivity’, IJMSR, cxxxi, 2005, pp. 15–40). Building on Fechnerian psychophysical theories, in 2010 SQuEAL (Society for Quantitative Evaluation in Audiophonic Linguistics, Brisbane) standardized the scale’s logarithmic relationships between volume, pitch, duration, agogics and on-court position, length of continuous play, degree of peril, and quantity of tournament prize money (see ACOUSTICS, §VI).

Characterized by multiform hexachordal sets and micro-intervallic end-exchange operations (MIEEO) the scale has been adopted by experimental composers and sound artists in Europe and the USA as generative structural mechanism and aesthetic frame: Roger Dunlop, Thwack! (2006); Novak Slazenger, Lob des Herrn (2008); Rafael Björnson, Net Chords (2017).

Fig. 1. Simplified C-W scale graph with primary hexachordal fields (H ) and MIEEOs (*) indicated

Bibliography

Barker, Boris, Musiker auf dem Tennisplatz: die Kunst und Wissenschaft der stimmlichen Vorteilsnehmigkeit (Musicologica Württembergiensia Band 31, Tübingen, 2018)

Murray, Juliana, ‘Racquet or Racket? The C-W Scale and the Music of the Competitive Mind’,

International Journal of Music and Sport Research cxxxiii (2007), 3–6, 5–7, 6–7

Congratulations to all! We will be contacting the winner about her prize shortly, but for the runners up, bragging rights are available immediately. And thank you to all of the contestants. We hope to see you all back here again next year.

Recent Comments

  1. Vivian Ramalingam

    Thanks to all for their coruscating contributions.

    The Treksachord realization by Ian Sapiro reminded me of an invert (a type of inversion) of an Ohrwurm from my youth: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XtfS9Jbp2bk&list=PLzZqyQ3vo-w6bFdrxmdQ8w521nlw4RPSe

    I would add to the penetrating report on the Lip Synch that a metal simulacrum was employed by Dutch sailors seated at the prow, to warn approaching vessels in case of fog. The Dutch variant was called a Shiffenzink (mode of employ), or Lippenzink (manner of playing).

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