Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

Who is Leonard Bernstein?

Best known as the composer of Candide and West Side Story, Leonard Bernstein had an immensely versatile career. Born on August 25, 1918, Bernstein’s career spanned decades, leaving a lasting impression through his work as a conductor, composer, and music educator.

Read More

Rediscovering ancient Greek music

At the root of all Western literature is ancient Greek poetry—Homer’s great epics, the passionate love poems of Sappho, the masterpieces of Greek tragedy and of comic theatre. Almost all of this poetry was or originally involved sung music, often with instrumental accomp­animent.

Read More

Fosse Time!: innovation and influence in the films of Bob Fosse

Despite numerous honors throughout his illustrious career, including being the only director to earn the “triple crown” of show business awards—the Oscar, Emmy, and Tony—all in one year, Bob Fosse remains underrated in terms of his influence on the presentation of dance on film. From Sweet Charity, his first film as a director, through his multiple Oscar-winning Cabaret, to his autobiographical, Felliniesque All That Jazz, Fosse created a template for filming dance that has remained influential and remarkably vital years after these films first appeared.

Read More

Who sang it best?: a Chicago mixtape

Chicago is arguably one of the most famous Broadway musicals of the 20th century, if not the most famous. Based off Maurine Dallas Watkins’ satiric 1926 play, it has spawned a Tony Award-winning revival and Academy Award-winning movie version. Songs like “All That Jazz” and “Cell Block Tango” have become household tunes and were recorded as singles by jazz and pop singers alike. So many versions of the same song can lead to contention: was Chita Rivera’s original “All That Jazz” the most varied interpretation, or does one prefer the breathiness of Renée Zellweger’s raw (if underdeveloped) take on it? How “jazzy” should the song be? (It is a show tune, after all).

Read More

Facts about Shakespeare’s sonnets and poems

Of all Shakespeare’s great plays his most frequently published work in his lifetime his erotic poem, Venus and Adonis. Shakespeare’s Sonnets and Poems may often feel less familiar than his plays, but they have also seeped into our cultural history. Within them, they reveal much about the Bard himself and include a number of surprises. Here are a few lesser known facts about Shakespeare’s sonnets and poems.

Read More

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.

Read More

Shakespeare, Sinatra, and the Philosophy of Aging [excerpt]

Aging in the world of entertainment is portrayed in a variety of ways. In some cases it’s graceful and elegant; in others it’s manic and doddering. Shakespeare has dealt with this subject numerous times with vast reinterpretations in productions through the centuries. In this excerpt from Aging Thoughtfully: Conversations about Retirement, Wrinkles, Romance, and Regret, authors Martha C. Nussbaum and Saul Levmore look at the classic example of King Lear, and how different portrayals of this elderly character can be a reflection of how people see aging and infirmity in modern times.

Read More

10 facts about cymbals

Cymbals are a highly versatile instrument of ancient origin. In the West, they have been used not only in orchestral music, but also in jazz and popular music. From being played very quietly to making a striking splash in the orchestra, composers and musicians have found the instrument to be widely adaptable.

Read More

Revisiting Broadway’s forgotten genius

Born into poverty in Richmond, Virginia, John Latouche (1914-1956) even as a youth established himself as both a rascal and a genius. After dropping out of Columbia his sophomore year (but not before scandalizing the university with his risqué lyrics to the school’s 1935 Varsity Show, Flair-Flair: The Idol of Paree), he won a coterie of devoted admirers among New York’s artistic elite for his witty and suggestive cabaret songs.

Read More

Reflections on music’s life lessons

I find myself reflecting upon my own experiences in music as a student, a piano teacher, a performer, a psychologist and a psychoanalyst. How did I get from “then” to “now”? Who assisted me along my winding journey? Do you ever wonder these things about yourself?

Read More

Challenging ageism through burlesque performance [video]

Five years ago, Kaitlyn Regehr and Matilda Temperley, documentarian and photographer respectively, set off for Las Vegas to interview members of the League of Exotic Dancers. At the Burlesque Hall of Fame, these legends—thriving sixty years past the supposed prime of burlesque—have created a community in “Old Vegas” where they continue to perform half-century-old routines.

Read More

10 facts about the bassoon

Rising to popularity in the 15th century, the bassoon is a large woodwind instrument that belongs to the oboe family and looks similar to the oboe in terms of coloring and use of the double reed. The bassoon enabled expansion of the range of woodwind instruments into lower registers.

Read More

Can burlesque be described as “feminist”?

Is burlesque an expression of sex-positive feminism, or is it inherently sexist? In the following excerpt from The League of Exotic Dancers: Legends from American Burlesque, documentarian Kaitlyn Regehr and photographer Matilda Temperley share narratives by burlesque dancers who embraced this form of art as an early expression of women’s rights.

Read More

Tips for addressing stage fright

An A B C model to conceptualize anxiety responses was developed by the American psychologist Albert Ellis (1913– 2007) as a self- help and clinical tool to help people identify and understand what Ellis called “irrational” thoughts and feelings. Ellis recommended challenging and replacing negative and irrational thoughts with positive alternatives represented by Letter B in the A B C Model.

Read More

Picking a fight in an empty room

This year marks the 137th anniversary of the birth of Seán O’Casey, one of the best-known of all Irish playwrights. His works first enthralled audiences at Dublin’s Abbey Theatre during the 1920s, and in the years since then his dramas have been repeatedly revisited by actors and directors.

Read More

Which of the fathers in Shakespeare said these words? [quiz]

Everyone knows William Shakespeare, the prolific English playwright and poet of the late 1500’s and early 1600’s. His extensive collection of comedies, tragedies, and romances are still very popular today. In fact, they are frequently referenced, adapted, and studied across the globe due to their reputation and his. In light of TNT’s new television series, Will, which premiered on 10 July we created a quiz to test your knowledge of Shakespeare’s works.

Read More