Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

  • Author: Meghann Wilhoite

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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Eponymous Instrument Makers

The 6th of November is Saxophone Day, a.k.a. the birthday of Adolphe Sax, which inspired us to think about instruments that take their name in some way from their inventors (sidenote: for the correct use of eponymous see this informative diatribe in the New York Times).

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Exploring the seven principles of Kwanzaa: a playlist

Beginning the 26th of December, a globe-spanning group of millions of people of African descent will celebrate Kwanzaa, the seven-day festival of communitarian values created by scholar Maulana Karenga in 1966. The name of the festival is adapted from a Swahili phrase that refers to “the first fruits,” and is meant to recall ancient African harvest celebrations.

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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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Sofia Gubaidulina, light and darkness

Today is the birthday of a composer who writes in a radically different musical style than many of us are accustomed to hearing on a day-to-day basis, as we sit on hold with the doctor’s office or hum along with the music piped into the aisles of the grocery store.

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Francesca Caccini, the composer

In my last post I wrote about little known composer Sophie Elisabeth. Today’s subject, Francesca Caccini, is somewhat better known. The last decade or so has seen a renewed interest in her work.

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Sophie Elisabeth, not an anachronism

An intriguing post popped up in my Tumblr feed recently, called “The all-white reinvention of Medieval Europe” from the blog Medieval POC. Both in this post and generally throughout the blog the author makes the point that “People of Color are not an anachronism.”

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Lullaby for a royal baby

Not only does Will and Kate’s royal wee one now have an ASDA parking spot, there’s another nice surprise awaiting his or her arrival: a specially-composed lullaby, called “Sleep On”. It’s a sweet little tune, written by Welsh composer Paul Mealor.

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One hundred years of The Rite of Spring

The centenary of the 29 May 1913 premiere of Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring is being celebrated by numerous orchestras and ballet companies this year, which is always worth mentioning when that first performance incited a riot. The ballet (also performed as an orchestra piece) depicts a collection of pagan spring rituals involving fortune telling, holy processions, and culminating in l’élue (the elected one) dancing herself to death.

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Bob Dylan – A first listen

Somehow, I’ve made it into my 30s without ever having listened to Bob Dylan‘s first album. That is, not that I can remember; my mother informed me over the weekend that I indeed heard it many times as a young one, but truth be told I don’t remember much from my diaper-wearing days (but we’ve already gone over how terrible my memory is).

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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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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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