Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

What Jane heard

Music is everywhere and nowhere in Jane Austen’s fiction. Everywhere, in that pivotal scenes in every novel unfurl to the sound of music; nowhere, in that she almost never specifies exactly what music is being performed. For film adaptations this absence of detail can be a source of welcome freedoms, since the imaginative gap can be variously filled by choosing more or less appropriate historical repertoire

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From “O Fortuna” to “Anaconda”: A playlist of musical profanity

Almost everyone swears, or worries about not swearing, from the two-year-old who has just discovered the power of potty mouth to the grandma who wonders why every other word she hears is obscene. Whether they express anger or exhilaration, are meant to insult or to commend, swear words perform a crucial role in language. But swearing is also a uniquely well-suited lens through which to look at history

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Music parents’ tips for summertime music-making

The lazy days of summer pose a special challenge for music parents. With school and regular music lessons on hiatus until the fall, it can be hard to persuade youngsters to continue to practice their instruments without the prod of needing to prepare for a lesson or a school ensemble rehearsal. If there isn’t a certain amount of vacation practicing, however, some of the musical gains children made during the school year may begin to melt away.

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Hamilton and the theatrical legacy of Leonard Bernstein

Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton: An American Musical is a runaway success on Broadway—enough so that just about everyone reading this post, regardless of personal demographics or geographic location, will likely have heard about it. They might also be listening obsessively to the original-cast CD. Perhaps they’ve even memorized it. Hamilton has already won a Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and it earned a record 16 Tony Award nominations, with high expectations for a sweep at the awards ceremony on Sunday, June 12th.

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Prodigy or savant: two sides of the same coin?

As adults, we remain fascinated with images of young children performing extraordinary feats, with platforms such as YouTube offering us an unending wealth of mini Mozarts and baby Einsteins for us to feast our eyes and ears on, and providing the perfect fodder for our daily Facebook feeds. We are filled with awe at the sight of such small individuals undertaking tasks that most adults only dream of undertaking.

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Discoveries from the Fortepiano

Conjuring 18th-century affekt with Alberti bass on the modern piano

Affekt (the ability of music to stir emotions) is the foundational pillar for eighteenth-century style. It was achieved through attention to detail and proper execution. And done in good taste, which implies a deep understanding of proper practices of the time. Nearly every notational and performance decision was based on affekt—everything from formal structure to note values, dynamics to articulation, and accompaniment patterns such as Alberti bass.

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Joey Alexander: call me a ‘musician’, not a ‘prodigy’

If you tuned in to this year’s Grammy awards, you would not have failed to witness the extraordinary performance of 12-year-old jazz pianist Joey Alexander. The short solo performance, which earned him a standing ovation, was without doubt the cherry on the cake of this young musician’s short but remarkable career thus far.

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“We could build a future where people are free”: reflections on the Eurovision Song Contest

Spectacle at its grandest has long been crucial to the Eurovision Song Contest’s projection of its own importance for Europe and, increasingly in the past two decades, a unified Europe’s position in the world. Each year’s competition outstrips that of the year before, as song styles multiply and nations are added to the spectacle of nation competing against nation with the hope of representing Europe musically to the world.

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Come Together: communities and divisions at Eurovision 2016

This week, the 61st Eurovision Song Contest, more affectionately Eurovision, will be broadcast to a global audience (including for the first-time a live telecast in the United States) with 42 countries competing in a series of semi-finals before the final, live show on 14 May. Established in 1956 as part of the then-fledgling European Broadcast Union, the contest has continued to grow in popularity and some would argue in cultural significance.

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Ten things you didn’t know about Argentine tango music

Tango is a multidimensional art form including music, dance and poetry. It grew out of the confluence of cultures in the Río de la Plata region in South America and has since had over a century-long history. Here are ten things that you might not know about Argentine tango music.

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Ten facts about the sousaphone

Any American can recognize the opening notes of “Stars and Stripes Forever” and that most essential instrument of the American marching band — the sousaphone. How did this 30 pound beauty come to be? Despite its relative youth, the sousaphone has an extensive (and sometimes controversial) history.

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Prince and “the other Eighties”

Prince died Thursday, and I am sad. I’ve been asked to write about his death, but staring at the empty expanse beyond the flashing cursor, all I really know how to say is in the line above. Plenty of writers, more ably than I could, have written and spoken movingly about Prince since his death.

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10 facts about the “king of instruments”

The organ is a complex, powerful instrument. Its history is involved and wide-ranging, and throughout the years it has commanded respect as it leaves its listeners in awe. To celebrate the organ, we compiled a list of 10 facts you may or may not know about this magnificent instrument.

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Revitalising Cambodian traditional performing arts for social change

I am recently returned home (Australia) from six months on a music research project in Cambodia. There were, of course, the practical challenges of the type I quite expected. In the monsoonal downpours, getting around in central Phnom Penh meant wading through knee-deep, dead-rat kind of drain-water. In the thatched huts of the provinces, malarial critters droned their way under my net by night. Gastro and heat exhaustion laid me flat.

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