Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

A composer’s Christmas: Malcolm Archer

“Many people believe they have lost the faith they had in childhood, and the magic of Christmas has gone for them. Christmas music has the ability to re-awaken those beliefs and re-kindle that magic.” We spoke with composer Malcolm Archer about the pleasure of driving his 1964 Austin Healey 3000 on crisp December days, the magic of the Christmas story, and spending Christmas in Chicago.

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Hubert Parry (1848-1918)

2018 sees the centenary of the death of Hubert Parry, one of the finest and most influential ­musicians of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Over the last few months I have had the privilege of making the first critical edition of his late choral masterpiece, the Songs of Farewell, with reference to the autograph manuscripts, held in the Bodleian Library, and a set of early printed versions.

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Ten facts about Panpipes

The panpipes or “pan flute” derives its name from the Greek god Pan, who is often depicted holding the instrument. Panpipes, however, can be found in many parts of the world, including South America, Oceania, Central Europe, and Asia.

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Five favorite “Rainbows”

“Over the Rainbow,” voted the greatest song of the twentieth century in a survey from the year 2000, has been recorded thousands of times since Judy Garland introduced it in The Wizard of Oz in 1939. Even the most diehard fans, including myself), are unlikely to have listened to every version.

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Christmas at King’s College, Cambridge

“The Christmas season is something that takes up a lot of head-space here at King’s from quite a long time before October, primarily due to our service on Christmas Eve, the famous ‘Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols from King’s.’ Andrew Hammond, Chaplain of King’s College, gives us a behind-the-scenes peak into famous for their annual live broadcast Service of Nine Lessons and Carols service on Christmas Eve.

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Beethoven in space

Katie Paterson has always wanted to shoot Beethoven to the moon. In Earth-Moon-Earth (2007) the Scottish conceptual artist translated a performance of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata into Morse code, sent the radio signals to the moon, and recaptured the reflection.

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A composer’s Christmas: Sarah Quartel

“It’s like a favourite carol or particular descant is a member of the family that comes once a year and gets the prized spot at the dinner table.” We caught up with composer Sarah Quartel to find out what she loves about Christmas, how the season inspires her composing, and how she spends her Christmas day.

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One’s “own” voice?

Sometimes personal and professional lives get tangled in unexpected ways. As I was writing an article on the nineteenth-century celebrity soprano Jenny Lind (1820-1887), a colleague who’d been asked to send comments on an early draft alerted me to a problem: I wasn’t writing, or so they thought, with my “own voice.” Their comment got me thinking—first of all, about the basis for their claim.

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A composer’s Christmas: Alan Bullard

Alan Bullard is a highly respected composer of both instrumental and choral music. He has written many well-loved carols and Christmas works and edited a number of volumes of Christmas carols. To mark the start of the Advent season, we asked him to tell us a bit about his Christmas traditions and what it is about Christmas that inspires his writing.

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Rethinking the singalong

When two young veterans came to our elementary school to give a talk and show slides about their experience in Afghanistan, the children were captivated with their presentation. The slides brought to life much of what the soldiers saw and experienced. As the music teacher, I planned to have the children say thank you in a musical way. I didn’t choose a patriotic song, but a song that exemplified the love and appreciation we all had for these soldiers. I chose one song that the entire student body of the school could sing together.

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The birth of a new carol

“This is why I dedicated Little Babe Born of Mary to my son Mason, so that I might be reminded of the part I play in helping him reach his fullest and brightest potential.” James Kevin Gray is the composer of the Christmas Carol Little Babe, Born of Mary. He is also one of our newest composers. We had a chat with him to find out more about the motivations, inspirations, and his process behind this piece.

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Festival Dohori in the Kathmandu Valley

Nepal’s rural hills are famous for the all-night songfests in which conversational dohori and other folk songs are sung, much more so than the Kathmandu Valley. But there are a few places in the capital city and surrounding valley that also have long traditions of gathering and singing at religious festivals.

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Singing insects: a tale of two synchronies

What is a chorus, what is an insect chorus, and why might we be interested in how and why singing insects create orchestral productions? To begin, chorusing is about timing. In a chorus, singers align their verses with one another in some non-random way. When singing insects form a chorus, the alignment may only be […]

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Unanswered questions in Gone with the Wind’s main title

If asked to recall a melody from Gone with the Wind, what might come to mind? For many, it’s the same four notes: a valiant leap followed by a gracious descent. This is the beginning of the Tara theme, named by composer Max Steiner for the plantation home of Scarlett O’Hara, whose impassioned misunderstandings of people and place propel the story.

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The origins of performance anxiety

Noted psychologist and educator Erik Erikson has written about human development from a biological, psychological, and social perspective encompassing the entire life cycle. His famous chart “The Eight Stages of Man” is in his book Childhood and Society (1950). I have found his ideas particularly helpful to understanding the importance of development in musicians, particularly so since children begin to study musical instruments at very young ages.

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J. S. Bach and the celebration of the Reformation

The figure most closely identified with the Protestant Reformation is, of course, Martin Luther. But after him probably comes Johann Sebastian Bach, who spent much of his musical career in the service of Luther’s church. As the world marks the 500th anniversary of the Reformation on 31 October 2017, we can remember that Bach and his contemporaries also took careful note of Reformation anniversaries, commemorating them in liturgy and music.

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