Sunday, June 28, 2015

AMS presidents ponder

by Richard Freedman

Last week in New York City hundreds of members of the International Association for Music Libraries (IAML) and international Musicological Society (IMS) gathered for a week’s worth of presentations, meetings, and discussion to consider “Music Research in the Digital Age” (our previous coverage HERE). It's a statement of fact, of course: these days whose work is not somehow inflected by new digital media, and new ways of interacting with them? And whose interactions with colleagues has not been made more rapid and frequent by the advent of the digital domain?

Over the course of the conference, reports on individual initiatives, like these—
Fons de Música Tradicional at the Institució Milà i Fontanals (CSIC-IMF) in Barcelona

Boston Symphony Orchestra Archives
—were framed by plenary sessions that sought to get everyone thinking in a more intentional way about where we've been, and where we might be in another decade, both here and abroad.

At one session American Musicological Society president Ellen Harris assembled three of her predecessors in the office to offer individual and institutional perspectives on all of this: past presidents Anne Walters Robertson, Elaine Sisman, and Christopher Reynolds. Their remarks were rounded out with responses from Philippe Vendrix (Centre d'Études Supérieures de la Renaissace [CESR], Tours) and myself. We had agreed in advance on three intersecting headings:
  • Collections. In the last decades we’ve watched the explosive growth of new kinds of digital resources: sound and image archives, facsimiles of print and manuscripts editions, digital encodings of musical notation and other information, and new modes of scholarly communication in blogs, multimedia journals, and beyond. How do we make sure that these resources are visible and discoverable? How is ubiquitous access to materials manifest in current work, and what kinds of research questions are scholars asking?  What questions might they ask next? How are new modes of publication changing the material aspect of our work?
  • Collaborations. Musicologists are working together in new ways. We’re also working more than ever with library and IT specialists, and with a widerning range of scholars from other disciplines (not just literary and historical studies, but the social and hard sciences as well). How have digital technologies in particular encouraged such collaboration? How might participation in multi-authored publications or projects change the character of our work? What possibilities seem especially ripe for international collaboration? What barriers are there to such work, and how could the AMS and IMS/IAML work to reduce them? How are state (private) funding bodies likely to view such work?  How sustainable is any of this?
  • Communities. What good is our work in the world at large? Who has access to it (here I am thinking of the open-access and open-source movement)? In the age of Wikipedia, who will bother to look at current musicological publications? How do we communicate with peers in other disciplines, with professional and amateur musicians, and with the public at large? How can digital modes of publication help us reach such folks? And what of the next generation of students and scholars? How is the teaching of musicology and the formation of musicologists changing? How are North American graduate programs changing?

The presidents offered personal reflections on the old and new cultures:

Using examples from plainchant to Machaut, Robertson explained how medieval readers would have been completely at home with the idea of a “web” of knowledge, texts, and images, for this simple reason: “in the pre-modern period,” she reminded us, “words that are set to music are connected to other words, much more so, I would argue, than they are in the modern era, when copyright rules and notions of individuality among authors and composers have eroded the fundamental principles of scholarship and exegesis that dominated in earlier times.”

Sisman related her own tale of digital discovery, which began with an attempt to put Haydn’s earliest Esterhazy contract—and his earliest symphonies—into their original time and place. The results took her sent her skipping through star maps and other observational aids, eventually returning to illuminate Haydn’s music, no less than the circumstances of his employment.

Reynolds (with UC Davis music specialist Michael Colby, immediate past president of the Music Library Association) told the story of how a chance flea-market encounter with sheet music published by women went from hobby to database. (The Christopher A. Reynolds Collection of Women's Song, 1850 -1950 is now part of Special Collections at Davis; permalink to database HERE). Colby told the parallel story of how this valuable collection found a home, and is becoming visible, thanks to innovative approaches to the cataloging and electronic publication of meta-data. Together they helped reflect on important issues of curation, sustainability, and publication.

Vendrix and I took turns responding to these presentations. Among our reactions:
New technologies of writing have always complicated the relationship between authors and readers. This is especially true of the performing art of music. From the beginnings of western musical notation, to the advent of the printing press, to sound recording, and now to the digital domain, new technologies of transcription brought about means for controlling the effects and purposes of music, even inaugurating a new sense of it as intellectual property. Each was a "new medium" of its day, and each brought with it new ways for composers, performers, and listeners to interact around musical ideas. Now it is transforming scholarship, too.
Now music scholars and scholarship are also being drawn into the process of technological change: we once viewed print (books, journals, editions) as the durable means through which we put our best ideas before colleagues and the wider musical public in durable form. But as digital texts remake the world of scholarship as surely as YouTube and Spotify have remade the curatorial function of the recording industry, critical authority and responsibility are changing, too. Editions prepared with open-source standards like the Text Encoding Initiative and Music Encoding Initiative editions, for instance, can be shared across any computer system, and can preserve with remarkable detail almost any level of intervention in a text, and distinguish my vision of a text from yours. Linked Open Data standards permit the interoperation of giant arrays of digital projects, connecting information about places, people, institutions, and musical works in complex ontologies of semantic tags. These are inherently destabilizing forms: layered and collaborative. The tools of the trade are reshaping scholarly cultures, no less than artistic ones.
We all know that the present is a notoriously poor vantage point for regarding the future. But it is tempting to predict the following developments:
  • New Modes of Reading and Writing. The advent of digital texts for music will open the medium will open the medium to new sorts of research questions make possible by the interaction of close and distant modes of reading. We will be forced to imagine new ways of searching in musical texts, new ways of citing them, and new ways of representing our findings.
  • New Forms of Publication and New Scholarly Communities. These new modes of reading will engender new forms of publication. Here we might think not only of digital alongside print, but the creation of new multi-author works, and publication in which the same author might take part in various ways, as editor, annotator, analyst, and respondent. Old distinctions between scholarly and pedagogical publications will also be blurred, and in turn the line between research and teaching will be porous. Process and community building will matter as much as finished work. This in turn will have profound effects on the ways in which we evaluate and credential our work, with special impact on the younger scholars best prepared to participate in the digital domain.
  • New Disciplinary Intersections. The AMS, IMS, and IAML will foster dialogue among the tools and methods of its constituent members in the craft and study of music. But modes of inquiry will be put in counterpoint with digital disciplines practiced elsewhere in the academy, and beyond, including branches of Literary Studies and Linguistics (topic modeling, studies of style and authenticity, and syntax), Cognition and Brain Science (with computationally intensive investigation of neural networks that might inform our understanding of listening, composition, and the history of style), and Informatics (through big data techniques like clustering, similarity networks, and machine learning systems).
Music historians are uniquely poised to take a leadership role in all this. No one knows which of these predictions will hold up, but I for one will make a beeline to the next congress to see what will have been accomplished.

Richard Freedman is John C. Whitehead Professor of Music at Haverford College in Pennsylvania; webpage HERE. He is author of Music in the Renaissance in the W. W. Norton series Western Music in Context (2012). When not busy in the classroom or with research he enjoys giving public lectures on music, notably a series of pre-concert talks for the Philadelphia Orchestra and for the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society and work with One-Day-University (a traveling set of continuing education panels). More than Mozart, a set of 14 recorded talks for those curious to be better listeners, can be purchased through Barnes and Noble and Recorded Books.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

“Eili, Eili” as a “Traditional Yiddish Melody”

by Joshua Walden

In 1918 the renowned St. Petersburg-trained violinist Toscha Seidel published a work for violin and piano titled “Eïli, Eïli.” The phrase “Traditional Yiddish Melody” appeared under the title, and the plaintive tune featured the augmented seconds and alternating duple and triple rhythms long associated with eastern European Jewish song. When Seidel performed the work at Carnegie Hall that same year, the critic for the New York Times identified the piece as “his own arrangement of the Hebrew prayer ‘Eili Eili.’” The violinist Mischa Elman, who like Seidel was a former pupil in the St. Petersburg Conservatory studio of Leopold Auer, published a new adaptation “Eili, Eili” in 1922, in a score that described the music as “A Traditional Jewish Melody” (LISTEN).

 During the 1910s and 1920s, “Eili, Eili” was performed and recorded repeatedly by violinists as well as vocalists, who sang the melody’s original Hebrew text, an adaptation of Psalm 22, verse 2, which begins, “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?” This text and melody were also the subject of ethnographic collection, included in 1910 and 1917 in published anthologies of Jewish religious and folk songs. In live performances and on records produced by major labels, noted cantors including Yossele Rosenblatt intoned the melancholy song. It was later reported: “When Yossele Rosenblatt chanted ‘Eili, Eili,’ angels in heaven seemed to sing along with him” (LISTEN).

Opera singers also performed “Eili, Eili,” beginning with Sophie Breslau’s acclaimed 1917 rendition at the Metropolitan Opera. In some contexts the music was identified as a “Religious Prayer,” while vaudevillian Belle Baker’s 1919 record stated that the text was “In Jewish” and opera singer Rosa Raisa’s called it a “Traditional Hebrew Melody.” The music made its way into other genres, too: for example, it was performed hundreds of times by the orchestra that accompanied screenings of the silent film The Golem, based on a Jewish legend, during its New York run at the Criterion Theatre. By 1920 the melody had become so ubiquitous that it was the subject of a playful parody in Leo Wood and Archie Gottler’s number “That Eili Eili Melody,” whose chorus began, “That melody called ‘Eili, Eili,’/ Is always haunting me.”

How, then, did this cherished Jewish folksong find itself at the center of a heated copyright infringement case brought by the Yiddish operetta composer Jacob Koppel Sandler against the music publisher Joseph P. Katz, argued before the Honorable John C. Knox, in a New York City federal courtroom in 1925? Sandler claimed that “Eili, Eili” was in fact an original composition he had written in 1896 for a production of M. Horowitz’s Yiddish operetta The Hero and Brocha, or the Jewish King of Poland for a Night, directed by the Yiddish theater impresario Boris Thomashefsky at the Windsor Theatre in New York. He had composed the number for the actress Sophie Karp to sing as she hung from a crucifix, enacting a young woman’s medieval martyrdom for refusing to repudiate her Jewish faith. Sandler only attempted to copyright “Eili, Eili” in 1919, however, after learning that it had become an international success, and he was suing Katz for violating his copyright by continuing to publish arrangements of the music.

Katz testified that he had no knowledge that the melody was by Sandler; to the contrary, his father, an immigrant from eastern Europe, had hummed it to him decades earlier, and he had assumed it was a folksong. At trial, the prominent musician and author Lazare Saminsky recounted that he first heard the song in St. Petersburg and had “concluded that the composition was a folksong,” following which it was published in “a Russian encyclopedia.” At the same time, however, it was established by Yiddish theater participants testifying for the plaintiff that a number of musicians who had played in the orchestra for The Hero and Brocha had returned to Russia in the intervening years. Perhaps it was through them that the melody became known there.

On the last day of the trial, the defense attorney for the publisher charged with copyright infringement, himself a former concert violinist, brought his instrument into the courtroom and performed an arrangement of the disputed melody. As the Times recounted:
Abraham I. Menin, counsel for the defendant … took his violin and with the score of “Eili, Eili,” propped against a pile of law books, played the Jewish lament. The notes reached the corridors and attracted a crowd. An attendant closed and locked the doors of the courtroom and there was a silence until the music ceased. A tendency to applaud was checked by Judge Knox.

Judge Knox ultimately decided in favor of the defendant, the publisher Katz, on a technicality of copyright law: too much time had elapsed between the alleged composition of the tune and the filing of the lawsuit.

In response to the verdict, Sandler lamented, “What I feel is—is like a father that’s told he can’t have his own child.” Judge Knox later wrote in his memoir that he felt sorry for Sandler: “It is probable … that Sandler … really wrote it, but I did not have to decide the matter. The injunction was asked for on the basis of Sandler’s copyright.” By the time Sandler applied for copyright, the music had entered public domain, in legal terms; in the terms used by musicians who arranged and performed it, the music had become a folksong, as its origins were rapidly forgotten and its melody became increasingly familiar.

My book Sounding Authentic: The Rural Miniature and Musical Modernism takes the curious story of “Eili, Eili” as a point of departure from which to examine a genre of arrangements of folk music and original “folk-like” pieces for solo or small ensemble that I call the “rural miniature.” Works in the genre, such as Elman’s and Seidel’s versions of “Eili, Eili,” Manuel de Falla and Paul Kochanski’s Suite populaire espagnole, Joseph Achron’s “Hebrew Melody,” and Béla Bartók’s Romanian Folk Dances, were played frequently in recitals in the early twentieth century, and many have persisted to this day as canonic “encore” pieces and pedagogical exercises for students of violin, cello, piano, and other instruments. They can be difficult to master, incorporating flashy, virtuosic techniques. The composition of rural miniatures in the early twentieth century emerged from the synthesis of contemporary developments in methodologies of folksong collecting, evolving ideologies of political nationalism, and the rapid emergence of sound recording technologies. In Sounding Authentic, the rural miniature provides the basis for a study of the search for authenticity that preoccupied so many musicians during the modernist period—including those who wrote, performed, and listened to the various versions of “Eili, Eili”—in their exploration of folk music and their incorporation of new ethnographic findings into the composition and performance of art music.

Joshua Walden is on the Faculty of Musicology at the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University (webpage HERE).  He is the author of Sounding Authentic: The Rural Miniature and Musical Modernism (Oxford UP, 2014) and editor of The Cambridge Companion to Jewish Music (Cambridge UP, forthcoming in December) and Representation in Western Music (Cambridge UP, 2013).

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Attali in America

by Eric Drott
NOTE: Professor Drott’s “Rereading Jacques Attali's Bruits” appears in the current issue of Critical Inquiry (41/4 [Summer, 2015]: 721-56.
Few books have had as significant an impact on music and sound studies in the past thirty years as Jacques Attali’s Noise. Musicologists, ethnomusicologists, scholars of popular music, media theorists, sound studies scholars, cultural theorists, and countless others have drawn inspiration from Attali’s call for music and noise to be resituated from the margins to the center of social life. But there is something curious about the impact Attali’s book has had on Anglo-American scholarship. This point was driven home to me a few years back, when I was having a drink one night with a French colleague, Jedediah Sklower, in a café in the Belleville district of Paris. When the subject of Attali’s book came up, Jedediah expressed incredulity at the enthusiasm with which the book had been embraced outside France. What, he wondered, could possibly explain the enormous influence that Noise has exercised abroad?

I imagine that part of his puzzlement was motivated by the strange trajectory of Attali’s political and intellectual career in France since the first edition was published in 1977. It is no exaggeration to say that nowadays Attali is one of the most visible public intellectuals in France. But he is also one of the most controversial. Particularly on the left, Attali is regarded with a mixture of derision and contempt, seen as an exemplar of the sort of neoliberal thinking that mistakes the liberation of entrepreneurial energies for human liberation tout court. One author has even coined a neologism, le jacquattalisme, to describe the kind of Pollyannaish belief-system Attali’s present-day thought embodies. According to the tenets of jacquattalisme, all the social problems, ecological catastrophes, and human suffering caused by the global flow of capital will be remedied by the same economic forces that created them in the first place. And if neoliberal capitalism hasn’t sorted these issues out already, we are assured that its much vaunted market-based solutions simply need a little more time to work their elusive—which is to say illusory—magic.<1>

I’ve long shared Jedediah’s perplexity regarding the distance separating the status Attali’s work enjoys in Anglo-American academia and that which it is accorded in France. It was this perplexity that led me to write the critical reassessment of Noise and its legacy that appears in the summer 2015 issue of Critical Inquiry. To make sense of this riddle required an unpacking of the book’s political and ideological commitments, situating them in the context of debates taking place within the French left at the time of its publication. And of all the commitments that needed unpacking, the most significant was Attali’s anti-materialism, his inversion of the classic Marxian model that holds ideas, beliefs, and culture—including music—to be subordinate to economic relations. Famously, for Attali, music has a leg up on the economy, to the point that it is possible to hear in its sonic patterns presentiments of future social orders. Furthermore, the engine driving this forward movement of history is the noise referenced by the book’s title, which in politics as well as music represents a force whose disturbance of a prevailing socio-musical order lays the foundations for the one that will succeed it.

What is revealed by a reconstruction of the sociohistoric context to which Noise responded is that Attali's assertion that music is "ahead of society" was less a hypothesis to be tested and perhaps verified, than a stake in a political struggle whose outcome would have enormous consequences for the future of France. Also revealed is the extent to which our embrace of Attali's theses has involved a misreading of the politics that animated them. To be sure, this has proven to be a productive misreading. But it is one whose disclosure raises questions we can no longer afford to ignore. What kind of ideological work do we perform in adopting for our own purposes Attali's anti-materialist theses, no matter how comforting a picture they paint of music's social significance? And to what extent can noise still be said to possess the disruptive potential Attali ascribes to it in an age when the greatest force for disruption is the reigning market system itself?

Eric Drott is Associate Professor of Music Theory at the University of Texas, Austin, where he is head of the Division of Theory/Composition. His research focuses on contemporary music culture, avant-garde movements in music, French cultural politics, and the sociology of music. His Music and the Elusive Revolution (University of California Press, 2011) examines music and politics in France after May ’68, in particular how different music communities (jazz, rock, contemporary music) responded to the upheavals of the period.

<1> Frédéric Lordon, “Avec Thomas Piketty, pas de danger pour le capital au XXIe siècle,” Le Monde Diplomatique (April 2015), pp. 19–20. Another anecdotal piece of evidence testifying to the animosity Attali’s work is capable of generating occurred last Thursday at a study day I attended at the Bibliotheque Nationale de France. At one point during a round-table discussion on the history of independent record labels in France, an invited speaker described Noise as “the stupidest book on music” ever written (“le livre le plus con sur la musique”). Judging from the response this remark garnered among attendees, he is not alone in feeling this way.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Thoughts on Gunther Schuller

in memoriam
Gunther Schuller
22 November 1925 – 21 June 2015

by Barry Kernfeld

After suffering through an endless string of jazz concerts ruined by overly aggressive sound men, I gave up entirely on live jazz and am spending the last part of my life going to classical concerts in Massachusetts, anything from Blue Heron’s Ockeghem to the Tanglewood Festival of Contemporary Music. Most often, I go to the New England Conservatory, where the professional and student music-making is routinely off the charts, ridiculous in the best sense of the word: Alisa Weilerstein giving a free concert with her parents, who are on the faculty; the BSO’s John Ferrillo as guest oboist in a historical performance of a Bach cantata that was one of the greatest musical experiences of my life; the NEC Philharmonia in Jordan Hall more or less outdoing the BSO at Tanglewood in their rendition of Brahms’s German Requiem. Last month (May), 19-year-old violinist In Mo Yang was still a member of an NEC student string quartet, despite having taken first prize at the Paganini competition in March. I marvel at all this stuff, and time and again I think, Gunther Schuller did this. He took a floundering institution and as its president (1967–77) turned it into a musical powerhouse.

Born into a musical family in New York, Gunther Schuller was a prodigy on French horn. He first played with the New York Philharmonic at age 16. He was never important as a jazz instrumentalist—his claim to fame in that area was as a member of the brass section on Miles Davis’s historic “Birth of the Cool” tracks—but he loved jazz, he became deeply immersed in the scene, and he made pioneering contributions as an educator and musicologist, bringing the breadth of his talent and discipline to bear upon this newly evolving field.

In the late 1950s, after having taken Aaron Copland’s place on the composition staff at Tanglewood, Schuller founded the Lenox School of Jazz, a short-lived shadow jazz parallel to Tanglewood. He brought in many of the leading lights of jazz to teach jazz history, composition, and arranging in the Berkshires, and from the West Coast he brought in a little-known student who would turn everyone’s head around: Ornette Coleman.

In 1968 he published Early Jazz. Schuller believed passionately that the only way to write about a jazz artist was to listen first to every single available recording. This idea would become unwieldy for eras in which jazz recordings proliferated, but for Early Jazz it worked great. The book is filled with unprecedented insights. Schuller singlehandedly established the idea that jazz might be a topic for serious musicological investigation.

In 1971, through Vera Lawrence and William Russell, Schuller tracked down a copy of the Red Back Book, orchestrated versions of ragtime tunes. The following year he founded what would become the tremendously successful New England Ragtime Ensemble, which over the course of 25 years would provide professional careers for a cluster of those fabulous NEC students. So when Marvin Hamlisch got all the musical credit for The Sting and the worldwide popularization of ragtime, Schuller was not pleased.

We never met, except for one day in 1967 when he came over to our high school from San Francisco State College, to conduct his Meditation for concert band, and I feel unqualified to discuss his involvement in the avant-garde versus neo-classical wars. So I’ll break off here, and ask readers of this blog to celebrate other aspects of Gunther Schuller’s life and music. Leave a comment!

Barry Kernfeld edited the first and second editions of The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz (1988, 2001), the largest jazz dictionary ever published. Having concluded a long stint as staff archivist in the Special Collections Library at Penn State, he has returned to free-lance research, writing, and performance. And hoarding, he writes on his WEBSITE: “Some old men buy red sports cars; I keep acquiring more reed instruments.”

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Music Research in the Digital Age

A joint congress of the International Association of Music Libraries (IAML) and the International Musicological Society (IMS) is underway at the Juilliard School in New York City. It lasts just short of a full week, with a packed agenda. 
“Music Research in the Digital Age” not only focuses attention on the past, present, and future of digital musicology, but also evokes a long tradition of cooperation between the International Musicological Society and the International Association of Music Libraries, Archives, and Documentation Centers.

Barry S. Brook
On Thursday the conference commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Répertoire International de Littérature Musicale / International Repertory of Music Literature (RILM). RILM’s editor-in-chief, Barbara Dobbs Mackenzie, is the current president of IAML and director of the Barry S. Brook Center for Music Research and Documentation at The Graduate Center, City University of New York. The session “Barry S. Brook: A Tribute” celebrates his vast legacy as founder of RILM (1965) and co-founder of RIdIM (Répertoire International d'Iconographie Musicale, 1971), IAML president (1977–1980), and already a pioneer in computer applications to musicology in the 1960s. Brook's work stands as a symbol of the symbiotic relationship between musicology and music librarianship that has driven the work of many scholars before and since his time. The session includes, among others, a tribute from Catherine Massip, former head of the Music Department at the Bibliothèque Nationale in France, with which the Brooks had, as she describes it, “une affinité élective.
The Barry and Claire Brook Endowment of the American Musicological Society, established by their many admirers, supports research and publication in musical iconography. 

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Handel and the Royal African Company

by David Hunter

NOTE: Dr. Hunter's work has been featured in recent weeks on BBC (“In Search of the Black Mozart,” 2 June 2015) and in the New Statesman (Antonia Quirke, “In Search of the Black Mozart: A Revealing Look at Handel's Investment in the Slave Trade,” 4 June 2015), in turn generating serious traffic in the electronic media. We asked him to comment.
Logo of the Royal African Company

To summarize, for readers of  Musicology Now, the evidence—and to stimulate research about the furtherance of music through the slave economy as it operated on both sides of the Atlantic during the centuries of captives and masters:

In early 2013 I found a printed list of the investors (adventurers) in the Royal African Company, one of Britain’s two official slave trading companies. The list, drawn up prior to a meeting of all the adventurers in May 1720, named Handel. I followed up by checking the Company’s stock transfer volumes now held in The National Archives, Kew, and there found two pair of buy-and-sell orders in 1720, three of the four transactions signed by Handel.

We already knew that Handel had invested in the South Sea Company, which, notwithstanding the obfuscation of some Handel biographers, was actively involved in the slave trade during the 1710s and 20s. Certainly the story as far as Handel’s finances is concerned is complicated because he seems to have cashed out from the South Sea Company before 1720, then bought back in, then converted his stock to annuities, and cashed out again. He used the capital and interest accumulated during the 1730s to cover the losses of his own opera and oratorio seasons.

Digging deeper into who it was who invested in the Royal African Company during 1720, I learned that Handel’s former patron the Duke of Chandos, for whom he had written Esther (widely regarded as the first English oratorio) in 1718 , was the lead investor. Also, I discovered that fully 32% of the investors and subscribers (or close family members) to the Royal Academy of Music during its existence 1719-28 also invested in the Royal African Company.

From one point of view such investments were unremarkable at the time and among Handel’s fellow members of the wealthy elite, since there was then no significant opposition to either the practice of slavery or to participation in the broader slave-based economy. But that perspective does not help us understand how music benefitted from the profits of slavery.

Just as the artifacts of slavery and its profits persist into the 21st century—shackles, cargo lists, inventories, houses, paintings—so too does its auditory trace. The 18th century will never “be over” as long as we continue to perform and study and hear its music. In this light the unwillingness of writers heretofore to acknowledge—let alone address—slavery’s funding of work creation, performance, and attendance can at best be described as neglectful; at worst it is a continuation of institutionalized racism by exclusionary means. Music history cannot of itself right the wrongs of slavery, but it can and should be open about the roles and actions of the participants who used the profits from owning people and subjugating them for personal or business profit to fund lifestyles in which music played a prominent role.

Various exploratory routes can be taken. For example, what can we learn from archaeological remains? A frog from a violin bow was found in the Jefferson slave quarters. Carl Pachelbel, as son of Johann, taught music for twenty years in Charles Town (Charleston, SC) before his death in 1750, when he owned two slaves (more valuable possessions than his musical instruments). Presumably the fees he received for teaching children and adults came from the plantation owners and merchants of the area. A claviorgan (now minus its organ and thus just a harpsichord) made by John Crang now the collection of the University of Edinburgh was a gift from Beeston Long to his sister Jane, who was the wife of his business partner Roger Drake. Long was a West India merchant (primarily a sugar importer) in London, whose family owned Jamaican plantations. It was his nephew Edward Long who published his unabashedly racist views in The History of Jamaica (1774).

It may seem a long way from lead RAC investor Chandos’s commissioning of Esther in 1718, through an expanded performance in the summer of 1720 at his behest (at the height of investor excitement), to the eventual writing of Messiah in 1741, and its first performance in 1742, but such is the trajectory. Many who first welcomed Handel to British soil were involved in the colonial enterprise, and specifically slavery, through their investments or official appointments.

The main question for both sides of the Atlantic (and not just the Anglophone countries) is how did the profits of the broad slave economy find their way into musical activity? We know a little about the music-making of slaves, though not nearly enough. The inter-relations among native and transported musics, and those of masters (rich or poor) have hardly begun to be considered. Thankfully the musics of West Africa are better understood now than thirty years ago but more could be done to identify regional distinctions, and the alterations to which African music was subject once it arrived on the shores of North and South America and the Caribbean. We know next to nothing about how slavery’s profits were put to use, whether in the colonies or back at home.

Doubtless there will be sufficient folks to take up these research challenges and make us all wiser than we currently are about these matters: it is a question of scholarly responsibility. Historians of art and of architecture have gone some way in Britain at least toward identifying works, collections, and places created through the deployment of slavery’s profits. American universities’ early profiting from slavery has been treated; industry and agriculture have long been analysed. To consider music exempt from the taint of slavery is wrongheaded: we must overcome this legacy of inaction.
More information on Handel’s investment in the slave trading companies will be found in Hunter's forthcoming book The Lives of George Frideric Handel (Boydell, 2015).

David Hunter is Music Librarian in the Fine Arts Library, University of Texas Libraries, and Senior Lecturer at the Butler School of Music, University of Texas at Austin, where he has served since 1988. As a chorister of Chichester Cathedral he sang in the first English performance of the Chichester Pslams in 1965. This year he gave the Stanley Sadie Lecture in London (February) and a paper on “Music and the Slave-Trade Economy to 1784” for the Society for American Music annual meeting in Sacramento, CA (March).

Monday, June 8, 2015

Blind Auditions, Meritocracy, and the American Dream

American musicologist Will Cheng has published an interesting think piece in the Huffington Post, to which we refer our readership:

William Cheng is Assistant Professor of Music at Dartmouth (website HERE), where is also a Public Voices Fellow. Additionally Cheng is a Junior Fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellow. His first book is titled Sound Play: Video Games and the Musical Imagination (Oxford UP, 2014; see blogpost of 21 September 2014), published with the support of the AMS 75 PAYS Endowment. Cheng's degrees are from Stanford (B.A., 2007) and Harvard (Ph.D., 2013).

Friday, June 5, 2015

Leonardo's Lira

by Ross W. Duffin
Professor Duffin's now widely reported essay suggesting the identity of the lira da braccio player in Marcantonio Raimondi’s Orpheus Charming the Animals appeared in the very handsome member magazine for the Cleveland Museum of Art, titled simply Cleveland Art (MayJune 2015, p. 11). We give the text and one reproduction here, but check out the full PDF, of lavish presentation, HERE.
When drawings curator Heather Lemonedes asked me to look at images and captions for the museum’s Themes and Variations: Musical Drawings and Prints exhibition, I was excited to do so. As a music historian, my task was to confirm that the musical subjects depicted were accurately described. Dealing with art from earlier historical periods is always a pleasure. Music historians have no physical artifact of our subject—only modern re-creations based on surmises about performance practice—and with visual art, we get to look at actual artistic creations from the same time as the music we study. 

Marcantonio Raimondi: Orpheus Charming the Animals (c. 1505)
Cleveland Museum of Art, 21.4 x 17.3 cm.
Dudley P. Allen Fund 1930.579

It’s enough to make a musicologist envious! So, I’ve always reveled in opportunities to work on the connections between art and music, and teaching at Case Western Reserve University for several decades has given me easy and frequent access to the Cleveland Museum of Art’s unparalleled collection. Twenty-five years ago, for example, I published a catalogue of musical subjects in pre-1900 Western art at the museum,<1> so I knew the collection and its musical contents well—or thought I did.

One of the works in the current exhibition is Marcantonio Raimondi’s Orpheus Charming the Animals, an engraving from around 1505. The draft caption described the instrument being played by Orpheus as a “lyre,” and that certainly made sense. There is even a novel by the Canadian author Robertson Davies entitled The Lyre of Orpheus, so to our modern sensibilities, the instrument and the name just seem to go together. During the Renaissance, however, the Italian term lira referred both to the harp-like instrument of classical antiquity (the lyre) and to a bowed string instrument about the size of the modern viola—the lira da braccio (“lira of the arm”).<2> The lira da braccio is often shown with a spade-shaped frontal pegdisc, rather than a pegbox with lateral pegs (like the violin or viola da gamba families). It also apparently had drone strings off the “bass” side of the fingerboard (a feature of the very few surviving instruments), though these drone strings are not always visible in works of art. Orfeo’s instrument in the Marcantonio print was clearly a lira da braccio, so I was happy to make the identification.

When I wrote to Heather, I also mentioned that one of the most famous players of the lira da braccio in the Renaissance was Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519), a detail that made it into her final caption. Interestingly, the last book published by Emanuel Winternitz (1898–1983), longtime curator of musical instruments at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, was Leonardo da Vinci as a Musician,<3> and there we discover that although Leonardo connected with music in myriad ways, there is no surviving record of any music that he played or com posed: nothing beyond the fact that he was a renowned virtuoso on the lira da braccio and loved to accompany himself as he sang improvised poetry. This information comes from Giorgio Vasari (1511–1574). Vasari was a mere seven years old when Leonardo died, and made his still-visible mark on Medici Florence with his painting and architecture, but his book, Le vite de’ più eccellenti pittori, scultori, e architettori (The Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects), is recognized as the very first attempt to document the history of art.

In that 1550 book, Vasari tells us that in 1494: 
Fu condotto a Milano con gran riputazione Lionardo a’l Duca . . . , il quale molto si dilettaua del suono della lira, perche sonasse: & Lionardo portò quello strumento, ch’egli aueua di sua mano fabricato d’argento gran parte, accioche l’armonia fosse con maggior tuba & piu sonora di voce. Laonde superò tutti i musici, che quiui erano concorsi a sonare. Oltra cio fu il migliore dicitore di rime al’ improuiso del tempo suo.  

Leonardo was led in great repute to the Duke of Milan, who took much delight in the sound of the lira, so that he might play it: and Leonardo brought with him that instrument which he had made with his own hands, in great part of silver, in order that the harmony might be of greater volume and more sonorous in tone; with which he surpassed all the musicians who had come together there to play. Besides this, he was the best improviser in verse of his day.<4>
With this as a background, I went to see the Themes and Variations exhibition and, facing the Marcantonio engraving in person for the first time, I had an epiphany. While examining the image earlier, I had been so concerned with properly identifying the instrument played by Orpheus that I failed to look at the player himself. It was Leonardo. It had to be Leonardo.

Interest in the Orpheus legend of classical Greece had intensified in Europe after Poliziano turned the story into a proto-opera in Mantua around 1480, although no music survives from the first production or its planned revival a decade later (for which Leonardo’s pupil Atalante Migliorotti was to play the title role).5 One other phantom early production may date from 1506–7, at the home of Leonardo’s Milanese patron, Charles d’Amboise (French ambassador and governor of Milan),<6> and it has been suggested that some of the theatrical set drawings in the Codex Arundel relate to that production.<7> The lack of surviving music for these early versions of Orfeo notwithstanding, the image of Orpheus charming the beasts with the beauty of his playing became a popular subject for artists throughout the rest of the Renaissance. Often, Orpheus is shown playing the lira da braccio, or less often a lyre or even a lute, but one thing that is extremely consistent is that Orpheus is shown as a clean-shaven youth—the young husband of the tragic Euridice. 

In the Marcantonio print, however, Orpheus is a man in late middle age, with a beard and centrally parted hair with long curls. Around the time Marcantonio created the image, which dates to about 1505, Leonardo was in his early 50s. Only two contemporary portraits of Leonardo have survived: the famous red chalk self-portrait as an old man (Biblioteca Reale, Turin), and a second drawing by Francesco Melzi, who joined the 54-year-old Leonardo’s household as an assistant in 1506 and eventually became his principal heir. Melzi’s portrait shows a man with a beard and long curls, and the very slight bump in his nose and the ridge above the brow are an excellent match for the long-haired, bearded Orpheus in the Marcantonio engraving.

We do not know for certain whether Marcantonio crossed paths with Leonardo,<8> but his engraving of Orpheus Charming the Animals seems clearly to be an hommage, intended to honor the musical skill of Leonardo da Vinci by depicting him with the instrument he was known to play incomparably, and which he shared with the greatest of all musicians.<9>

PRESS COVERAGE: Owen Jarus's piece for LiveScience, 2 June 2015, is being widely reblogged in the majors: Discovery Channel, Yahoo, NBC News, Fox News.

Ross Duffin is Fynette H. Kulas Professor of Music at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland (website HERE). His Shakespeare’s Songbook, a study of the vocal music in Shakespeare’s plays, was published by W. W. Norton in 2004 and received the inaugural Claude V. Palisca Award from the American Musicological Society in 2005; previously his edition of Dufay chansons was recognized with the 1980 Noah Greenberg Award from the AMS.
<1> Ross W. Duffin, The Cleveland Museum of Art (Répertoire Internationale d’Iconographie Musicale: Inventory of Musical Iconography, no. 8) (New York: Research Center for Musical Iconography, 1991).

<2> For an overview of the instrument, its history and technique, see Sterling Scott Jones, The Lira da Braccio (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1995). On the lira da braccio in Renaissance depictions of Orpheus and Apollo, see Lisa Pon, “Further Musings on Raphael’s Parnassus,” in Imitation, Representation and Printing in the Italian Renaissance, ed. Roy Eriksen and Magne Malmanger (Pisa: Serra, 2009), 191–207.

<3> Emanuel Winternitz, Leonardo da Vinci as a Musician (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press,

<4> Giorgio Vasari, Le vite de’ più eccellenti pittori, scultori, e architettori  (Florence, 1550), part 3, p. 568. The 1568 edition (part 3, p. 5) adds a note about the instrument being in the shape of a horse’s skull (un teschio di cavallo), but as a later insertion it seems less credible.

<5> On the early productions, see Elena Povoledo, “From Poliziano’s Orfeo to the Orphei tragoedia,” in Music and Theatre from Poliziano to Monteverdi, ed. Nino Pirrotta and Elena Povoledo, trans. Karen Eales (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982), 283–98.

<6> See Povoledo, 290.

<7> British Library, Codex Arundel 263, fols. 224r and 231v. See Carlo Pedretti, “Dessins d’une scène, exécutés par Léonard de Vinci pour Charles d’Amboise (1506–1507),” in Le Lieu Théatral à la Renaissance, ed. J. Jacquot (Paris: Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, 1964), 25–34. Carmen C. Bambach dates the Orfeo drawings to August 1507, so that may narrow the date for the production. See “Documented Chronology of Leonardo’s Life and Work,” in Leonardo da Vinci: Master Draftsman, ed. Carmen C. Bambach (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2003), 236.

<8> If the two did meet, the Milan Orfeo production in 1506–7 seems logical as a terminus ante quem non, and this might suggest revising the date of the Marcantonio engraving slightly, and even  positing that Leonardo himself portrayed Orpheus at that event, though the depiction may simply be symbolic. It also seems possible that the two met during one of Leonardo’s trips to Florence in 1509, though there is no documentary evidence for this. In fact, Marcantonio may have used a contemporary portrait of Leonardo for details of his features.

<9> Almost all of Marcantonio’s early engravings have connections to the work of other artists,
such as Dürer and Raphael, but the composition for Orpheus Charming the Animals
 seems to have been his own design. This may help to explain the original—almost whimsical—depiction of a revered contemporary artist/musician as a figure of legend.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Rethinking Historical Data:
A Foray into Digital Humanities

by Danielle and Eric Fosler-Lussier
During the Cold War, thousands of musicians from the United States traveled the world under the sponsorship of the State Department's Cultural Presentations program. This program was not straightforward political propaganda, though it certainly supported U.S. government objectives. The musicians built relationships both musical and personal. By their presence and their performances, they also offered audiences evidence of America’s improving race relations, excellent musicianship, and generosity toward other peoples. Some of their stories are detailed in Danielle's new book Music in America’s Cold War Diplomacy (University of California Press, 2015).

In researching the book, it became clear that the sheer quantity of data to be managed was unusual—at least in the context of musicology. The available archival record of the Cultural Presentations Program in the 1950s and ’60s amounts to hundreds of thousands of pages of documents about thousands of musicians and musical groups. Most of these sources are held at the National Archives at College Park and in the Special Collections Division of the University of Arkansas Libraries. (Many more documents were discarded by the Federal government or remain in private hands.)

The existing documents include evidence about how the American performances were received by listeners, including translated press clippings and eyewitness accounts. This evidence was gathered for the State Department by people who worked in U.S. embassies and consulates: inevitably, it was filtered through American perspectives. To make the picture more complete, we would need detailed archival and ethnographic studies conducted in the places where the musicians played.

For this reason, it seems very important to help many other scholars discover portions of the data that relate to their own interests and expertise.

Danielle began pursuing this research using the approach she knows best—piecing together musicians’ stories and details about how the Cultural Presentations program worked from fragmentary facts recorded in the documents. The book tells these stories. Yet one cannot tell all the stories: there are too many, and they are too heterogeneous. One can only choose and analyze some exemplary case studies. This approach is useful for understanding the phenomenon as a whole and some of its details, but not sufficient for fostering further research.

For this purpose, Eric’s expertise in envisioning large amounts of data became critical. Together we have devised a database of cultural presentations—freely available online—that uses maps to make the musicians’ tours visible and offers information about archival sources pertaining to particular tours.

Our foray into digital humanities has challenged us to think about our data in new ways. The raw data of individual performances, originally encoded in a spreadsheet, took on new meanings once we started to display information spatially. We began to be able to connect performing groups, countries, cities, and time, and could ask questions about where and how resources were deployed. Now, for example, we could see a list of all musicians and ensembles who traveled to South Korea across a few decades, and notice which cities received musicians multiple times over this period. A collaborative effort between musicologist and computer scientist was needed to think about what information researchers might want from the data, and how to display information about tours and individual performances in space and time.

The development of the database interface required us to consider how to represent the data without distorting its historical context. Many former colonies gained independence during the period of time covered in the database: country names and boundaries were changing rapidly. How could we best present this historical data on the map, and how should users of the database be able to search for place names that have changed over time? In the end, we decided to organize the display according to current geography, but allow searching over all current and historical place names.

A database offers the user the illusion of completeness—but historical data cannot truly be complete. The U.S. government keeps only a tiny fraction (about 5%) of the records it generates, and we have not had the resources to survey all the surviving records. Performer itineraries were frequently revised several times before they traveled—and then they often deviated from the plan again during their trips in ways that were never recorded.

Simply entering these data into a spreadsheet therefore required choices. Because the quality of documentation varies widely, we do not have specific dates for all the performances. For some tours, we are reasonably certain about the listed locations of performances; but for most, we have had to decide whether or not to trust a source, to include or not include a particular piece of information. (The initial version of the database does not include specific performance dates, but only date ranges. We hope to specify dates more accurately in a later update.)

The limitations of the sources also informed our choices about how to display the data. We chose to display only the places of performance, and not the routes that could be inferred from the data, as the validity of those routes cannot be substantiated without further research.

We hope this resource will be understood not as a complete record, but as a point of access that opens many kinds of inquiry to its users. If the database serves a springboard for further investigation, it will have done its job.

The database can be accessed HERE.

Danielle Fosler-Lussier is Associate Professor of Music at The Ohio State University and the author of Music in America’s Cold War Diplomacy. She is grateful to the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Mershon Center for International Security Studies, and The Ohio State University College of Arts and Sciences for their support of this research. Publication of the book was also supported by the H. Earle Johnson Subvention of the Society for American Music and the Gustave Reese Endowment of the American Musicological Society.

Eric Fosler-Lussier is Associate Professor of Computer Science and Engineering and Associate Professor, by courtesy, of Linguistics at The Ohio State University.  His research investigates novel statistical methods for computer processing of speech and text.