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.
Google “hip hop” and “diplomacy” and what images come up? Black men wearing gold chains and baggy clothes, holding microphones. White men in suits shaking hands, flanked by flags. The contrast is stark: informal/formal, loud/quiet, the resistance/the establishment, black/white. These images reflect common perceptions but also misconceptions about diplomacy and hip hop. Both are, in fact, more […]
Successful composers, authors, and scientists have distinctive writing styles which define all their works. They are rarely in isolation from their contemporaries, so their work is inherently time stamped. Similarities can exist with their students and followers, so they set the pattern of writing over one or two generations.
My thrill in seeing Ramona Diaz’s film Imelda (2004), streaming for free online this month, was dampened by the hype surrounding a new film about the former first lady of the Philippines. I was puzzled to read about The Kingmaker (2019) by Lauren Greenfield, touted for its “unprecedented access” (Showtime) by a filmmaker “perfect” for the subject (Variety). Frankly […]
How artists express individual style and creativity within the context of a cultural tradition is one of the central questions of Aesthetics. This is applicable to an extraordinary range of artistic practices across different cultures, although its answers and solutions differ widely. Our views on the problem can be easily distorted by the particular solution adopted in Europe and America in the modern period: to abandon traditions as much as possible and strive for total originality.
Over the course of four decades, Cornelius “Johnny” Hodges became the most famous soloist in the Duke Ellington orchestra, and the highest-paid. His pure tone on the alto saxophone was his calling card, and he used it both on lush, romantic ballads and on bluesier numbers that kept the band grounded in the music of […]
On 25 August 2019, which would have been Leonard Bernstein’s 101st birthday, the busy centenary year filled with performances, exhibitions, publications, and events comes to a close. Much of Bernstein’s status as a world maestro tends to be discussed in terms of his relationship to Israel and Europe, but once we turn our attention eastward […]
The summer of 1939 was busy for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, one of Hollywood’s major studios, as it rolled out The Wizard of Oz, a movie musical almost two years in preparation. The budget for production and promotion was almost $3 million, making it MGM’s most expensive effort up to that time. A June radio broadcast introduced the songs and characters to the public.
When Duncan Laurence of the Netherlands briefly acknowledged his victory in the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest with the dedication, “this is to music first, always,” he was making a claim that most viewers would have found unobjectionable. Laurence’s hopefulness notwithstanding, the real position of music in the 2019 Eurovision Grand Finale on 18 May 2019 in Tel Aviv was more troubling than secure.
Kids aren’t the only ones about to head off to sleep-away summer camps. Scores of adults are packing bags—and musical instruments—to spend a week at summer programs that let them experience “camp food, lumpy beds, and music from 9:00 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.—what could be better? I return to work energized, inspired, and at peace. […]
Mindfulness is the mental skill that can help musicians practice the more abstract philosophies of this performance mindset. A trendy synonym for awareness, mindfulness is simply the deliberate and nonjudgmental focus of attention on the thoughts and events of the present moment.
For over 500 years, the masterful works of Leonardo da Vinci have awed artists, connoisseurs, and laypeople alike. Often considered the first High Renaissance artist, Leonardo worked extensively in Florence, Milan, and Rome before ending his career in France, and his techniques and writings influenced artists for centuries after his death. However, to refer to Leonardo da Vinci as just an artist minimizes his role in numerous areas of study; in addition to painting, sculpture, and drawing, the quintessential “Renaissance Man” left an indelible mark on architecture, engineering, science, philosophy, and even music.
Wimbledon Choral Society and conductor, Neil Ferris, commissioned me to write the Da Vinci Requiem to commemorate the 500th anniversary of Leonardo da Vinci’s death. Leonardo died on 2 May 1519 at the Château du Clos Lucé, Amboise, France; Wimbledon Choral Society will premiere the work in the Royal Festival Hall, London, on 7 May 2019.
How should music reference works deal with jazz in the era of multi-genre freelancing? Back in November 1983, when I asked Stanley Sadie, series editor for Grove Dictionaries of Music, if he’d ever thought of having a New Grove Dictionary of Jazz, jazz seemed to be a reasonably coherent genre with a connected succession of styles. Maybe I was just being young, naive, ignorant. Or maybe the notion of jazz as something coherent hadn’t yet started to completely unravel, even though all sorts of challenges were nipping at it, especially as the fusions emerged (jazz-rock, jazz-funk, and so forth).
I’m anxiously awaiting the release of Bolden, a film about the New Orleans cornettist Buddy Bolden (1888 – 1933) who may actually have invented jazz. But since Bolden will not be released until May, and since April is Jazz Appreciation Month, now is a good time to talk about the cultural capital that jazz has recently acquired, at least in that […]
Over his esteemed six decade career, Italian composer Ennio Morricone has scored hundreds of movies across numerous genres, most famously the Spaghetti Westerns of Sergio Leone.