Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

Henry Cowell

New appreciation for composer Henry Cowell

The extraordinarily innovative American composer Henry Cowell took Europe by storm as a touring pianist in the 1920s, playing his unforgettable compositions that often required using the entire forearm to play dozens of keys simultaneously. In later years he returned to give talks about his music and American music under the auspices of the State Department.

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Gershwin and color: how blue is the Rhapsody?

Everyone knows George Gershwin as a composer, songwriter, pianist and icon of American music. But few know of his connections to the world of paintings and fine art. As a practicing artist himself, Gershwin produced over 100 paintings, drawings, and photographs.

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Ten fun facts about the xylophone

You’d probably recognize the rainbow-patterned, lap-size plastic xylophone in the playroom, popular among music-minded toddlers. But what do you know about the real thing? The xylophone is a wooden percussion instrument with a range of four octaves, and can be used in a variety of musical genres.

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The wooden box strung with taut wire and scraped with horse-hair tied to a stick

After a recent performance, a member of the audience came up to tell me that he’d enjoyed my playing. “I always think,” he said, as if he were being original, “that the violin is the instrument that most closely resembles the human voice.” Outwardly I nodded assent and smiled; inwardly I groaned. If you happen to be a violinist, then you’ll be only too familiar with this particular cliché.

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The Mind's Ear

Beyond the page: music students and emotion

Even though I recently turned sixty and have taught at colleges and conservatories, when I hear the words “back to school,” the image that springs to mind is of my teenage self as a Juilliard student in the 1970s. If I ask that self what my main educational breakthrough from those years was, the answer surprises me: discovering what actors learn. Actors study their own emotions.

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Hard Times Cover

The desnudas of Times Square

Because nothing noteworthy occurred anywhere in the world through the month of August and the first half of September, the local news in New York City turned its attentions to a few women who have apparently been bothering people in the otherwise calm, decent section of Manhattan known as Times Square.

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The direct link between income and impact: savvy music teachers

On the surface, the suggestion that the best independent music teachers are those who earn the most money seems ludicrous. No obvious, mathematical correlation can be drawn between fiscal and pedagogical success. We have all encountered incredible educators who struggle to make ends meet, or financially comfortable ones who are mediocre instructors at best.

Yet I argue that there is indeed a parallel. When done right, impact and income are closely related bedfellows. Savvy Music Teachers (SMTs) find ways to make them both go up, in harmony.

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In praise of SoundCloud

When you’re a musician, you’re constantly passing between the private and the public spheres. Practicing by yourself in a soundproof room is a private activity. Playing an audition is a public act. Reading a score silently is private; releasing a CD is public.

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How well do you know the James Bond songs? [quiz]

Very soon now, we’ll find out who sings the next James Bond song. SPECTRE, the superspy’s twenty-fifth outing, will be coming out in the fall. But the song will be more like the thirtieth or so, depending on how you count.

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Ten facts about the steel drum

The steel drum originated in the late 1930s on the island of Trinidad and was played as part of a steel band, a percussion ensemble contrived by lower-class rebellious teens. Learn more about the steel drum’s complex history, development, and current form with our 10 fun facts.

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Good health is a creative act

Musicians lead demanding lives. Practicing, sight-reading, rehearsing, and auditioning all can be stressful and, at times, actually painful. How to stay healthy and free from pain? I think the answer lies in realizing that your health is completely tied in with your creative efforts, or the way you respond to music itself. In brief, good health is a creative act. Here are seven tips to get you started.

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Misty Copeland dances On the Town

Misty Copeland captured the world’s attention this summer when she became the first black female principal dancer at the American Ballet Theatre. In late August, Copeland will once again be in the headlines when she stars in Leonard Bernstein’s On the Town for a limited engagement at New York’s Lyric Theatre, where she will bring the show’s nearly year-long run to a close.

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Technology and the evolving portrait of the composer

It’s a cartoon image from my childhood: a man with wild hair, wearing a topcoat, and frantically waving a baton with a deranged look on his face. In fact, this caricature of what a composer should look like was probably inspired by the popular image of Beethoven: moody, distant, a loner… a genius lost in his own world.

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Jazz at the BBC Proms

Celebrating their 120th birthday this year, the BBC Promenade Concerts – universally known as “The Proms” – rank as the world’s biggest classical music festival. With 76 concerts, running from July to September, of which the vast majority focus on classical music, not only do the events reach a sizeable audience live in London’s Royal Albert Hall, or for the earlier daytime concerts, the Cadogan Hall, but there’s a much bigger audience for the nightly live broadcasts on BBC radio and for the highlights on television.

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A rare treat in Berlioz’s The Trojans

The San Francisco Opera has undertaken the enormous challenge of mounting Berlioz’s The Trojans. It consists of two complete operas, The Capture of Troy and The Trojans at Carthage. They are being performed together, which is most unusual, but is how Berlioz envisioned it. The forces involved are enormous. In this production there are 72 instrumentalists in the pit and 23 backstage including 4 trumpets.

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