Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

Seven women you may not know from music history

The historical record of women making music extends back as far as the earliest histories and artifacts of musical performance. For example, artwork from Ancient Greece and Rome suggest that women’s choruses were featured in rituals and festivals. And throughout Chinese imperial history the courts, civil and military officials and wealthy households employed women to sing, dance, and play musical instruments.

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Engaging African music in music theory

The most recent publication by leading theorists Michael Tenzer and Pieter van den Toorn brings to the fore issues relating to the analysis of African music. Well known for work on Balinese music and for championing the new movement towards analysis of world music, Tenzer here indulges a long-standing interest in African music by exploring deep parallels between two compositions: a beautifully elusive flute-and-voice piece recorded in 1966 by Simha Arom and Genevieve Taurelle and given the title Hindehu; and Nhemamusasa, a standard item from the Shona mbira repertoire recorded by Paul Berliner in 1977.

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Voice classification: system or art?

The process of ‘creating order’ through categorisation has always constituted an essential part of our social progress because of its measurable functionality. Vocal categorisation has been no exception, but given that all singing voices are unique – the musical equivalent of fingerprints – any attempt at fitting them neatly into categories ought to generate a clear justification for how this might benefit the art as well as the performer.

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Putting George Enescu back on the musical map

Even by the standards of musical genius, George Enescu (1881–1955) was quite an extraordinary figure. A musician of a precocity that rivals Mozart or Mendelssohn, Enescu was equally proficient as a composer, performer, and teacher. Remembered nowadays primarily as a violinist, he numbers securely among the foremost instrumentalists of the twentieth century and a very capable cellist besides.

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A Q&A with composer David Bednall — part 2

We like to get an insight into the musical lives of Oxford composers by asking them questions about their artistic likes and dislikes, influences, and challenges.. In part 1 we spoke to composer David Bednall in August 2017 about what motivates him, and how he approaches a new commission. Here he tells us why he wanted to be a composer, the challenges he faces, and his musical guilty pleasures.

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Composer Alan Bullard in 10 questions

Occasionally, we ask Oxford composers questions about their musical likes and dislikes, influences, and challenges. We spoke to Alan Bullard about who or what inspires him, his writing habits, and what he likes to do when he’s not composing.

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The joys and challenges of compiling a new organ anthology

Faced with a blank sheet of paper, how does one begin when an invitation is received to compile an anthology of music? Compiling the two recent volumes, Oxford Book of Christmas Organ Music for Manuals and Oxford Book of Lent and Easter Organ Music for Manuals, has been a rewarding journey of musical discovery, which I decided had to begin at Perry Barr in north east Birmingham, on the campus of the University of Central England, at the library of the Royal College of Organists.

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Interpreting a new work by John Rutter

The young violinist Kerson Leong looks back with affection on his preparations for the premiere and subsequent recording of a work by John Rutter. The work, featuring a solo violin part of great lyricism and transparency, was moulded by the composer to fit Leong’s particular playing style.

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Music and touch in Call Me By Your Name

A rich sensuality of touch permeates Luca Guadagnino’s new film Call Me By Your Name, based on André Aciman’s 2007 novel of the same name. This tactile quality comes through not only in its evocative visual imagery: close-ups of hands and fingers and feet, shoulder rubs, sweaty bare skin glistening in the sun, bodies lounging on lush grass or jumping into chilly spring-fed ponds, soft-boiled eggs and ripe fruits bursting with juices, the broken limbs and pitted patina of ancient bronzes.

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Touching hearts: an interview with John Rutter

“You’ve got to have technique: composition is like aircraft design; you can’t just go in and do it without training. You’ll never find your voice if you don’t have the technique to express what you want to say.” One of the most prolific of choral music composers, John Rutter is known throughout the world for music which has sustained choirs for almost half a century. Here he is in dialogue with composer Bob Chilcott.

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Finding ‘the weird’ in psychedelic art

The concepts of altered states and psychedelia creep in to a great deal of visual art. According to Lewis-Williams, some early forms of Palaeolithic rock art may have been shamanic in origin, and represent forms seen during visionary states. 18th Century works such as Fuseli’s The Nightmare (1781) depicted the ‘old hag’ phenomenon, a type of hypnagogic hallucination that is experienced on the threshold of sleep, during which a person feels as though a daemon or other supernatural entity is suffocating them.

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Monteverdi turns 450

The year of 2017 has proved an exciting year for anniversaries. From the quincentennial of Martin Luther’s 95 theses of 1517, or the 150th anniversary of Canadian Confederation in 1867, to the centenary of the 1917 Russian revolutions, the historic events commemorated this year call us into celebration as much as they urge us into reflection and contemplation.

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Going back to instrumental lessons

Three existential questions are useful to all of us: “Who am I? Where do I come from? Where am I going?” The publication of The Integrated String Player got me thinking about these questions in regards to my trajectory as a cellist. I decided to go back to school, so to speak. This is my report.

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Beethoven’s Ninth at the G-20

The world leaders who had gathered in Hamburg, Germany, this summer for the twelfth G-20 summit on 7 July 2017 found an unusual item on their itinerary: a performance of Beethoven’s Ninth symphony.

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Getting high on virtual reality

It’s a chilly November evening, but inside Apiary Studios in East London, things are heating up as the venue gradually fills with people. The atmosphere is electric; everyone is here for the Cyberdelics Incubator, an event aimed at showcasing the latest in psychedelic arts projects using immersive media and techno-wizardry.

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Carols for Choirs: a history

As Christmas draws to a close, so too does the busiest time of year for OUP’s Hire Library. Unsurprisingly, the majority of our most-hired materials this year have come from one of the most authoritative carol collections available to choirs today: the Carols for Choirs series and 100 Carols for Choirs. Whilst many singers are likely to have sung from this book, it is unlikely that many know the story of its conception.

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