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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

Performing Antiquity

Why we all need more Lesbian Dance Theory

Last month a Member of Congress joined Fox News to claim President Joe Biden is “robbing hard working Americans to pay for Karen’s daughter’s degree in lesbian dance theory” in response to the announcement that the President was providing $20,000 in debt relief for Pell Grant recipients and $10,000 for many other borrowers.

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Vaughan Williams

Ralph Vaughan Williams and the art of the amateur

Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872–1958) was one of the twentieth century’s great champions of and advocates for amateur music-making. Explore his views on the amateur vs professional relationship, and discover what he might have thought of America’s Got Talent, and other reality talent shows.

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From Servant to Savant

Classical music, privilege, and ghosts of the French Revolution

The word privilege is a lightning rod in United States culture. For some, it indexes systemic inequities shaped by race, ethnicity, class, gender, and sexuality, while for others, it represents a “woke” vocabulary used to enforce political correctness. Perhaps unsurprisingly, accusations of privilege have reached the classical music world.

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The Old Hundredth Psalm Tune

Recalling hymn tunes by Ralph Vaughan Williams

Hymn tunes of Ralph Vaughan Williams find consensus: undisputed quality. The foremost English composer of his generation is credited with composing, adapting, or arranging more than 80 tunes set to important hymns of our faith.

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Grove Music

Eurovision 2022 in tempore belli: voices of the people, protest, and peace

Months before the Grand Finale of the Eurovision Song Contest on May 14, 2022 in Turin, Italy, Ukraine was able to claim both moral and musical victory with its entry, the Kalush Orchestra’s “Stefania” (Stephanie). Together with the official videos of all other national entries, “Stefania” began circulating globally on multiple internet platforms in the early weeks of 2022, even as the threat of Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine intensified and then reached the full force of invasion on 24 February.

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Oxford University Press logo

A Florence Price mystery solved (part two)

To my knowledge, Price’s Boston address remained inconclusive until I visited Special Collections at the University of Arkansas Mullins Library this past January to find new leads for the Price biography I am co-authoring with Samantha Ege, the Lord Crewe Junior Research Fellow in Music at Lincoln College, Oxford. The recovery of this information fills a void in a life story for which “the necessary evidence to write a detailed biography,” as preeminent Price scholar Rae Linda Brown once put it, “is surprisingly scant.”

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Oxford University Press logo

A Florence Price mystery solved (part one)

To my knowledge, Price’s Boston address remained inconclusive until I visited Special Collections at the University of Arkansas Mullins Library this past January to find new leads for the Price biography I am co-authoring with Samantha Ege, the Lord Crewe Junior Research Fellow in Music at Lincoln College, Oxford. The recovery of this information fills a void in a life story for which “the necessary evidence to write a detailed biography,” as preeminent Price scholar Rae Linda Brown once put it, “is surprisingly scant.”

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Choreomania: Dance and Disorder

Dance “crazes” and plagues: a precedented phenomenon

Lockdown raves, dodging people in the street, no more hugs, confinement within the home worthy of house arrest—and the language of self-isolation, shelter, safety… all the makings of a sci-fi horror film depicting the world at an end. Or a history book, which is what this pandemic has felt like to me at times, having spent well over a decade thinking about historical epidemiology, specifically in relation to ideas about dance.

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Sportin' Life

Three times systemic racism hindered Buck and Bubbles’s show business career

Since George Floyd’s murder at the hands of Minneapolis police in 2020, social justice activists have targeted systemic racism in housing, education, and law enforcement. Less attention has been paid to entertainment. As the recent controversy over racial bias in the Academy Awards suggests, however, this problem has always existed in show business. The career of legendary vaudeville team Buck and Bubbles shows how it worked.

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Music Therapy Perspectives

Managing the power of music to foster safety and avoid harm

Pulitzer Prize recipient and American playwright Lynn Nottage shared in a recent interview, “What music can do is get to the emotion with incredible economy and efficiency.” This capacity that music holds to reach in and connect to the wide range of emotions we experience as human beings can be a wonderful asset as it accesses those feelings we want to revisit and are ready to express. This becomes challenging and potentially harmful when it relates to unexpressed or unresolved emotions and experiences.

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Dreams of Love: Playing the Romantic Pianist

The Piano meets The Power of the Dog

In Jane Campion’s 1993 film “The Piano”, and her new film, “The Power of the Dog”, the grand piano serves as more than the emblematic instrument of feminine domestic music-making and of European bourgeois culture transported to the hinterlands of the nation or empire; it also functions as a gender technology because it regulates the metaphorical sound-body of the woman who plays it.

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Magnificat by Tawnie Olson

Tawnie Olson: re-imagining the Magnificat

Several years ago, a choir in which I sang premiered a piece by a successful male composer. The music and text combined to suggest a Blessed Virgin who was inoffensively meek, sweet, and… small. I was not the only singer who found this composer’s vision unsatisfying. After one rehearsal, a normally-reserved alto walked up to me and fumed, “Tawnie, you have to compose a feminist Magnificat!”

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