Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

What type of choir director are you?

Think about the choir directors you’ve had in the past. What were they like? Each one likely had a different approach to leading, conducting, and communicating. What makes a great leader? Which communication style is most effective? Let’s begin with leadership style.

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Who is Leonard Bernstein?

Best known as the composer of Candide and West Side Story, Leonard Bernstein had an immensely versatile career. Born on August 25, 1918, Bernstein’s career spanned decades, leaving a lasting impression through his work as a conductor, composer, and music educator.

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The potential preventive promise of music

I became a parent around the time I started working in childhood mental health, providing music therapy to children with complex trauma histories. Through these experiences, I became aware both personally and professionally of the profound impact a child’s early environment has on their social and emotional development outcomes and later behavioral and academic ones.

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Ten perspectives on music and autism, from ten people on the spectrum

Since the emergence of autism as a diagnosed condition in the 1940s, the oft-noted musical proclivities of people on the autism spectrum have generated much interest. Reports of savant-like abilities, extraordinary feats of musical memory, and disproportionately high rates of perfect pitch abound, along with a high degree of emphasis on music’s importance in therapeutic interventions.

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Reflections on two decades of string teaching

In England, we have the expression ‘Carrying coals to Newcastle’ – a pointless action, since the place in question already has a bountiful supply. In Spain, they take oranges to Valencia and in Portugal, honey to a bee-keeper. If not quite as plentiful as oranges or honey, publishers’ lists are filled with beginner violin repertoire – what possible motivation could there be to write and publish more?

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Giving young people a voice: a follow-up on El Sistema USA programs

“Music is my life. I will never stop playing cello,” says Vanessa Johnson, one of the young people whose early experiences with music are featured in the book The Music Parents’ Survival Guide  (2014). Since more than four years have passed since it went to press, we are checking in with some youngsters to see how they are doing, focusing on those who participated in free after-school programs inspired by El Sistema, Venezuela’s music-education system which emphasizes ensemble playing right from the start.

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From Galileo’s trajectory to Rayleigh’s harp

A span of nearly 300 years separates Galileo Galilei from Lord Rayleigh—Galileo groping in the dark to perform the earliest quantitative explorations of motion, Lord Rayleigh identifying the key gaps of knowledge at the turn into the 20th century and using his home laboratory to fill them in. But the two scientists are connected by a continuous thread.

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A Q&A with composer Will Todd

British composer and pianist Will Todd has worked at the Royal Opera House, the Lincoln Center in New York, London’s Barbican, and with Welsh National Opera, award-winning choirs The Sixteen, the BBC Singers, and Tenebrae. His music is valued for its melodic intensity and harmonic skill, which often incorporates jazz colours. We caught up with Will to ask him a few questions about his inspiration and approach to composition.

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The ascent of music and the 63rd Eurovision Song Contest

At a speed few can fathom, nationalism has become the dirtiest word in all of European cultural politics. Embraced by the right and rising populism, nationalism seemingly poses a threat to the very being of Europe. Nationalists proudly proclaim a euroscepticism that places the sovereignty of self over community.

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Rediscovering ancient Greek music

At the root of all Western literature is ancient Greek poetry—Homer’s great epics, the passionate love poems of Sappho, the masterpieces of Greek tragedy and of comic theatre. Almost all of this poetry was or originally involved sung music, often with instrumental accomp­animent.

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Securing the future of the Male Voice Choir

During a ‘question and answer’ session at a recent music convention, four contemporary composers of choral music faced a plethora of musicians from all types of backgrounds and traditions. Amongst a selection of interesting and searching questions asked, one brought an eerie silence to the room. The question was: ‘Would you consider writing for a male choir?’

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Holographic hallucinations, reality hacking, and Jedi battles in London

In 1977, Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope captivated audiences with stunning multisensory special effects and science-fiction storytelling. The original Star Wars trilogy sent shockwaves of excitement through popular culture that would resonate for years to come. Beyond the films themselves, the Star Wars universe extended into a wider sphere of cultural artefacts such as toys, books and comics, which allowed audiences to recreate and extend the stories.

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Five ways entrepreneurship is essential to a classical music career

The other day, I posted something on my professional Facebook page about entrepreneurship and my compositional activities, and someone who I don’t know commented: “Forget entrepreneurship. Just compose.” (Well, they actually put it in somewhat more graphic terms, but in the interests of decorum…) This sentiment is nothing new: resistance to “the e-word” continues; if anything it’s intensified in recent years as entrepreneurship has become an over-used buzzword.

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