Thursday, March 16, 2017

Women's History Month: Women in Jazz

International Sweethearts of Rhythm
Women in Jazz

Jazz was formed by several threads in Southern American music, threads that were the purview of male musicians.  Many of the developments in early jazz took place in bars and brothels -- places where women from good families just shouldn't go!  Despite the domination of men in jazz, a few women took their place alongside men in the early years, sometimes as their spouse, too.  Lil Hardin married Louis Armstrong, for example, but continued her own career after their divorce.

In the 1920s dance "orchestras" became popular, leading to the famous big bands of the 1930s and 1940s.  Few of these organizations hired women except as singers.  Especially during World War II, jazz vocalists fronting big bands would be a woman or an all-female group. "All girl" bands were  novelty acts but were also an outlet for many talented women.   The most famous were e the International Sweethearts of Rhythm.

For interviews and performances watch The International Sweethearts of Rhythm documentary via  (Log in required from off campus)

Ella Fitzgerald
In the 1950s, jazz returned to its roots in small ensembles and improvised soloing, leaving aside the smooth melodic pop songs with big band backing that dominated in the 1940s. The new style, bebop (or "bop") celebrated instrumental virtuosity, for the most part scat singing -- using nonsense syllables in place of words for improvisation, gave vocalists an equal footing in the new style.  Both men and women excelled at this type of singing.  Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan were among the most famous singers of scat.
displacing vocal jazz and the women who sang it.  Soon, though,

Jazz has continued to evolve along with society, and now there are more women than ever performing and recording professionally.  Check CDs by these artists from the Music Collections:

Regina Carter

Toshiko Akiyoshi

Regina Carter (violin)

Alice Coltrane (saxophone)

Marian McPartland (piano)

Maria Schneider (big-band leader)

Hazel Scott (piano)

Esperanza Spalding (bass)

Mary Lou Williams (piano)

Diana Krall

Dee Dee Bridgewater

Betty Carter

Ella Fitzgerald

Billie Holiday

Diana Krall

Madeleine Peyroux
Lee, Peggy

McRae, Carmen

Madeleine Peyroux

Dianne Reeves

Diane Schuur

Nina Simone

Cassandra Wilson
Sarah Vaughan

Washington, Dinah

Brenna Whitaker

Cassandra Wilson

For more about women in jazz, check out these books:
Jazzwomen: Conversations with Twenty-One Musicians
ML395 .E572 2004

Swing Shift: "All-Girl" Bands of the 1940s, by Sherrie Tucker
ML82 .T83 2000

Madame Jazz: Contemporary Women Instrumentalists, by Leslie Gourse
ML82 .G69 1995

Stormy Weather: The Music and Lives of a Century of Jazzwomen, by Linda Dahl
ML82 .D3 1984

Friday, March 10, 2017

1967 in Music: A Counter-Culture Goes Mainstream

It's been fifty years since the "Summer of Love" in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood of San Francisco.  In the summer of 1967, the counter-culture community swelled in numbers as baby boomers on their college break trekked to San Francisco for a utopian, drug-inspired experiment in communal living.   Peace and Love ruled the day.  Hippies explored altered states through drugs and Eastern meditation.   "Flower Power" would spread from this hub through the rest of the country as the 1960s progressed.   "San Francisco," a hit song byScott McKenzie, contains the iconic line:  "If you go to San Francisco, be sure to wear flowers in your hair."  The Beatles sang "All you need is love" on their Magical Mystery Tour album.

Musicians of the era drew from diverse influences.  The folk revivalists of the 1950s and early 1960s inspired new singer-songwriters such as the Mamas and the Papas and Simon and Garfunklel.  The Grateful Dead, a San Francisco band, released their first album in 1967.  The Troubadour, a club in Haight-Ashbury, became the center for this style.

Artists inspired by the folk tradition include:
(click links for library holdings)
Mamas and the Papas
Simon and Garfunkel
The Grateful Dead
The Byrds
Buffalo Springfield

Advances in techniques available in recording sudios made "psychedlic" rock possible.  The Beach Boys's 1966 album, "Pet Sounds," raised the bar for music production.  Portable equipment allowed the style to penetrate music festivals too.  The movement impacted musicians in England as well.  An artist colony in Chelsea perfected the psychedelic look of the 1960s; the Beatles "dropped acid" (LSD) and released the album, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band; and Pink Floyd released The Piper at the Gates of Dawn.

Artists inspired by psychedelic drugs and electronics include:
Pink Floyd
The Doors
Jimi Hendrix
Jefferson Airplane
Procol Harum
Strawberry Alarm Clock
The Velvet Underground
The Who
Frank Zappa (and the Mothers of Invention)

Many of these musicians appeared during the 3-day International
Monterey (California) Pop Music Festival in June of 1967.  The
festival kicked off the "Summer of Love" and inspired the
organizers of the Woodstock Festival.   Both seasoned and
budding stars contributed to the festival, which was filmed.

For more about music from 1967 and the 1960s counter culture, 
check these out:

Hair, a Broadway musical based on hippie counterculture,
premiered in October of 1967:
Compact Disc 17232 or Compact Disc 17306  (Broadway cast album)

DVDs in the Educational Technology & Resources Collection
The Monterey Pop Festival
DVD 388 (3 DVDs plus guide)

Summer of Love (PBS)
DVD Video 4661

From the General Collection (2nd - 4th Floors)
American Hippies
HQ799.7 .R66 2015

Baby Boomers and Popular Culture

The Haight-Ashbury: A History
HN80 .S4 P47 1980

The Harvard Psychedelic Club
BF209 .H34 L38 2010

The Psychedelic Experience:  A Manual Based on
The Tibetan Book of the Dead, by Timothy Leary
BF207 .L4 2007

Summer of Love: Art of the Psychedelic Era
N6494 .P79 S86 2005

The Summer of Love: Haight-Ashbury at its Highest
F869 .S35 A57

We are the People Our Parents Warned us Against
HQ796 .V68

Monday, February 20, 2017

Black History Month: Caribbean Styles

Enslaved Africans were sent to the Caribbean Islands during the colonial era, and due to separation from other cultures and enslavement by different countries, developed individual musical styles.

Haiti is known for music that most closely resembles the Yoruba people.  Though officially Catholic, for centuries the people practiced an African version of the religion, Vodou or Vodoun.  Through music, spirits enter the body of practitioners.

ML1038.S74 S65 2012
Trinidad is best known for steel drums, or steel pan drums.  African slaves had long used various percussion instruments, and slaves deprived of traditional instruments innovated with the materials at hand.  This tradition persisted in modern cultures, and Trinidadians developed pitched instruments from steel pans (usually from oil drums) that are now popular instruments worldwide.

Jamaican Reggae evolved from a genre called Rock Steady, and is most closely associated with Bob Marley and the Wailers, whose most famous songs sing of freedom with a Jamaican accent.  His son, Ziggy Marley, continues the tradition.

Reggae would become popular worldwide, especially in Africa.  Artists such as Lucky Dube and the Refugee All Stars of Sierra Leone adopted the genre, using it as a means of protest from an African point of view.

DVD Video 413
Read about Reggae in Oxford Music Online / Grove Music or Music Online: The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music. (log in required from off campus)

Cuba, colonized by Spanish slave masters, developed diverse styles as freed slaves mastered Colonial styles.  Retaining the percussive aesthetic of African music, Cuban jazz is often referred to as "Afro-Cuban."  Latin-tinged jazz of the 1950s derives from American musicians' fascination with Cuban music.  Cuban musicians who became famous in the 20th Century include Xavier Cugat and Pérez Prado, the "Mambo King."   More recent performers are Tito Puente, Bebo Valdés and Ibrahim Ferrer.      For more sabór de Cuba, check out the famous video of the Buena Vista Social Club.

ML3532.5 .R44 2009
Puerto Rico, and Puerto Ricans of New York, developed Reggaeton, which is more closely related to rap than to reggae.  Popular artists include Daddy Yankee and Wisin & Yandel.  This Latin-tinged rap music sprang from the
Puerto Rican DJ community first in Puerto Rico and later also in
the in the Bronx and the American West Coast.
It reached its peak of
popularity ca. 2005-2010.

***~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ * * * * * * ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ * * * * * * ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ * * *

To search for the music of a specific country or style, use the Libraries' Media Finders. ( →  (Research) →  Media Finders.  There is one for World Music and one for Musical Recordings (Other than classical).

The World Music finder searches for books, DVDs, and musical instruments (Educational Technology and Resources Collection) as well as recordings:

The "Music Other Than Classical" media finder allows you to choose country and style, for example, jazz from Cuba:

Friday, February 3, 2017

Black History Month: Recording Labels and the Musical Entrepreneur

Today's music listeners are probably well aware of record labels devoted to music by African-Americans.  Russell Simmons  and Rick Rubin launched Def Jam Recordings in 1984.  Cash Money Records, founded in 1991, launched the careers of Drake, Lil Wayne and Nicki Minaj.  In 1989, in conjunction with major label Arista Records, Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds and Antionio "L.A." Reid launched LaFace Records, which has since been absorbed by RCA.

This isn't a new phenomenon.  Since the beginnings of the recording industry, black entrepreneurs launched many successful labels which in turn launched the careers of many artists who otherwise may not have found an audience.

The Music Collection has CDs and information about many of these labels.

1921: Black Swan Records is founded in Harlem by Harry Pace.  It was the first black-owned record label that produced music by and for black Americans.  Pace recorded ground-breaking artists such as Fletcher Henderson and his Orchestra, one of the first great dance bands, and songstress Ethel Waters.  Composer William Grant Still was one of the regular accompanying instrumentalists.  The label was short-lived but its impact continues to this day.

During the 1930s and 1940s, black artists recorded for white-owned labels, many making a lot of money and becoming superstars of their time.  Records marketed to black audiences were called "race records."  Okey, Columbia, Paramount and Decca made millions from this market.

In the 1950s artists and the recording industry rebelled against the polished pop sounds of the post-war era.  In jazz, small bebop combos recalled the earliest days of jazz, when improvisation within small groups gave artists such as Louis Armstrong creative freedom.  There was also a folk music revival, which brought rural sounds to the fore.  White artists such as Pete Seeger and The Weavers popularized white folk music, the blues of rural black America experienced a renaissance that eventually resulted in the new genre of rock 'n' roll.  The Library of Congress's folklore programs brought both black and white folk music to urban consciousness through its records (Most now available on the Smithsonian-Folkways label)

Motown, named for the Motor City, Detroit, was the first big label dedicated to and owned by African-Americans.  Founded and run by Barry Gordy in a two-story house, the label produced many superstar artists, and the label became synonymous with the soul sound of 1960s African-Americans.  It also became synonymous with self-affirmation in the 1960s Civil Rights Movement. "Power to the Motown People" is a compilation of songs from 1968-1975 that expressed the varied feelings of artists during turbulent times.  The label continues to produce African-American artists' work.

Selected CDs in the Music Collection:
Hitsville USA: The Motown Singles Collection

A Cellarful of Motown: The Rarest Detroit Grooves
Catalog Subject Search:  Motown Record Corporation

Read more about the African-American recording industry in The Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History (log in required from off campus)

Monday, December 19, 2016

New Christmas Music on Naxos Music Library

It's that time of year again, and Naxos Music Library can provide you with classical music for the holiday.  (log in required from off-campus)  Recent additions to their library of almost two million tracks include a wide variety of Christmas pieces for chorus, orchestra, and wind ensemble:

Weihnachtsglück:  Christmas Stories and Classical Music for Children
Deutsche Grammophon 00028948067336

A Very Brandenburg Christmas, with the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra & Choir
ABC Classics 00028948132621

Corelli, Torelli & Handel.  Christmas Concertos, conducted by Christopher Hogwood.  Academy of Ancient Music
Decca 00028947871439

Handel:  The Messiah, Academy of St. Martin in the Fields
Decca 00028944482423

Advent and Christmas Songs from Moravia
Supraphon SU4033-2

Renata Tebaldi's Christmas Festival
Decca 00028947561545

John Rutter: The Christmas Album
Decca 00028942550025
A Celebration of Christmas, Brigham Young University Singers
BYU Music Group YCD0516HLN

Magnum Mysterium: Advent and Christmas Music for Lute and Voice
Mignarda MP011

Weihnachten in Leipzig, Academy of St. Martin in the Fields
Deutsche Grammophon 00028948260683
Nutcracker Ballet excerpts, performed by The Chicago Symphony, under the baton of Fritz Reiner
RCA Records 886446205878

Christmas from Gloucester Cathedral: 20 Carols Old & New
Griffin Records GRF-ED-4066

O du Fröhliche:  Festive Wind Music
Deutsche Grammophon 00028948067299

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Bob Dylan's Lyrics: Songs or Poems?

Bob Dylan was recently honored with the Nobel Prize in Literature "for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition."  Most of his best-known lyrics are 40-50 years old, so they're not "new" in the sense of recency.  In the late 1950s and early 1960s New York City's East Village neighborhood was home to clubs where the great folk revival singers gathered to share songs and inspiration.  Bob Dylan's songs stood out for their metaphors and interesting turns of phrase.  Other singers made some of his songs famous, Peter, Paul and Mary, especially.  He continues to write and perform, and many of his later songs are also considered great poetry.

Blowin' in the Wind, made famous by Peter, Paul and Mary (1962) and also on Dylan's album, The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan (1963) is one of the early anti-war anthems of the 1960s:
How many roads must a man walk down before you call him a man?
Yes, 'n' how many seas must a white dove sail before she sleeps int he sand?
Yes, 'n' how many times must the cannonballs fly before they're forever banned?
The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind.  The answer is blowin' in the wind.
"The Times, They are A-Changin'" (1964) is the protest song most identified with Dylan as a performer.

"My Back Pages," from Another Side of Bob Dylan (1964) is one of the songs covered by The Byrds Each stanza ends with one of his most famous lines:  "But I was so much older then.  I'm younger than that now."

Highway 61 Revisited (1965) references the highway in Mississippi made famous by Robert Johnson (1911 - 1938), the Delta Blues master who inspired many rock 'n roll artists.   "Like a Rolling Stone" was an indictment of the powerful brought down, or perhaps of middle-class teens who became vagabond hippies.  The song has the unforgettable lines:
You used to laugh about
Everybody was hanging out
Now you don't talk so loud
Now you don't seem so proud
About having to be scrounging for your next meal
How does it feel
How does it feel
To be without a home
Like a complete unknown
Like a rolling stone?
Many of his lyrics are love songs, but they use more poetic devices than other love songs of the time.  Blonde on Blonde (1966) included "Visions of Johanna," which is mysterious and indecipherable.
Ain't it just like the night to play tricks when you're tryin' to be so quiet?
We sit here stranded, though we're all doing our best to deny it.
And Louise holds a handful of rain, tempting you to defy it
Lights flicker from the opposite loft
In this room the heat pipes just cough
The country music station plays soft
But there's nothing really nothing to turn off
Just Louise and her lover so entwined
And these visions of Johanna that conquer my mind...
Blood on the Tracks (1975) included a bluesy song titled "Buckets of Rain"  One of the stanzas makes no literal sense but works as a blues song:
Little red wagon
Little red bike
I ain't no monkey but I know what I like
I like the way you love me strong and slow
I'm takin' you with me, honey baby
When I go.
"Hurricane" (co-written with Jacques Levy), was featured on his 1975 album, Desire.  It is one of many story songs by Dylan, and one of his most controversial.  This eight-minute song tells the story of the wrongful arrest and conviction of Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, a black boxer charged with a 1966 triple murder and eventually released.  Dylan became an advocate for Carter's release.   Carter was the subject of "The Hurricane, " (1999) starring Denzel Washington, and Dylan's song is used in the film.  The song begins:
Pistol shots ring out in the barroom night
Enter Patty Valentine from the upper hall
She sees the bartender in a pool of blood
Cries out, "My God, they killed them all!"
Here comes the story of the Hurricane
The man the authorities came to blame
For somethin' that he never done
Put in a prison cell, but one time he could-a been
The champion of the world.
The story ends when "the D.A. said he was the one who did the deed, And the all-white jury agreed."

Other famous songs were made famous by others: Tamborine Man, All Along the Watchtower, The Mighty Quinn, and Make you Feel My Love.

To read Dylan's lyrics from 1962 - 2001 check out ML 420 .D98 L97 2004

To understand more about the man and his impact, check out some of the books about him (most are shelved in the ML 420 .D98 number in the Music Collection)

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Commemorating 9/11 in Music

Fifteen years later, the anguish of 9/11 still resonates for Americans, including many composers.  There have been several pieces composed since that date that memorialize the people and events:

John Adams: On the Transmigration of Souls
Adams won a Pulitzer Prize for this haunting work that uses the names of some of the victims as the text.

Jake Heggie:  Pieces of 9/11
Heggie used interviews of Houston natives as the text for haunting
pieces set for three singers and a small group of instrumentalists.

Steve Reich: WTC 9/11
Pre-recorded voices from NORAD, the Fire Department of New York and interviews of friends and neighbors combine with the Kronos Quartet.

Kevin Malone: The Music of 9/11, vol. 1
Requiem77 includes recordings of air traffic controllers attempting to reach American Airlines Flight 77.
Robert Moran:  Trinity Requiem
Trinity Church, located near the World Trade Center, commissioned this piece by Robert Moran and recorded it for its 10th anniversary commemoration.

Ingram Marshall:  September Canons

Lera Auerbach:  September 11: Op. 63 for violin & piano

Ned Rorem:  Aftermath, a song cycle

Harold Levin: Meditation on the Twin Towers

On Naxos Music Library only:
For more information, check out this book:
The Politics of Post-9/11 Music: Sound, Trauma, and the Music Industry in the Time of Terror, edited by Joseph P. Fisher

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Florence Foster Jenkins - Famous or Infamous Singer?

"Florence Foster Jenkins," a film starring Meryl Streep opens this week.  The title character was a real woman who used her wealth to indulge in her passion: classical singing.  She founded a musical club, the Verdi Club of New York, which continues its work today.  She performed for the club and other private venues, unwittingly becoming a laughingstock of musical cognoscenti.  In 1944 she rented Carnegie Hall and the secret was out.

She recorded nine songs and arias, which have been re-released on an album titled, "The Glory (????) Of the Human Voice."  Perhaps her most famous (or infamous) performance is Mozart's "Queen of the Night" aria from the Magic Flute (Die Zauberflote).  This aria has some of the highest notes and most demanding passages in the operatic repertoire.  Most sopranos would not dare to attempt it, but Florence Foster Jenkins sang it... terribly.

To hear her voice for yourself, check out the recording via Naxos Music Library (log in required from off campus).

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The Summer of 1966 in Music

Many of the hits of 1966 are such timeless classics that it's hard to believe they are now 50 years old!  Music of that era satisfied diverse tastes, yet many of the songs became "crossover" hits, appealing to wide audiences.   1966 was also the year that the "concept album" took hold.  Earlier albums contained unrelated songs, but in a concept album the songs are part of a whole.

Here are some of the iconic albums of 1966:

Bob Dylan's Blonde on Blonde was released in May of 1966 and became a double platinum hit album.  This album includes "Just Like a Woman," "Rainy Day Women," "I Want You" and "Visions of Johanna."
Compact Disc 21960

Pet Sounds by the Beach Boys is one of the first concept albums, but more than that, it explored new sonic territory with innovative engineering techniques and a large assortment of acoustical instruments.  It is preserved in the Library of Congress's National Recording Registry and is second on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.  Hits from the album include:
  • Wouldn't it be Nice
  • Sloop John B
  • God Only Knows
Pet Sounds Sessions:  This 1996 reissue includes alternate
takes and backing-only tracks.
Compact Disc 9735

The Pet Sounds reissue of 2012 includes both mono
and stereo tracks: Compact Disc 22647

The Beatles' "Paperback Writer" is considered a pivotal single for the band, transitioning their sound from pop to rock.  It was a hit in the Summer of 1966 as a single and was included on the 1970 album, Hey Jude.
Compact Disc 21998

The Beatles' album, Revolver, released in August, 1966, contains hits "Taxman," "Eleanor Rigby," "Here, There, and Everywhere," "Good Day Sunshine," "Got to Get You into My Life" as well as "Yellow Submarine."
Compact Disc 18338 (reissue with added goodies)
Compact Disc 1153

Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention released "Freak Out!" which used unusual timbres, stretching the limits of pop sounds.  This concept album was an underground hit, exploring psychedelic sounds, avant garde techniques borrowed from jazz and classical music, and layered textures.  "In Memoriam, Edgard Varèse" references the composer who popularized musique concrète, the technique of using sounds created from objects that would not normally be considered musical instruments.
Compact Disc 15097

While rock music was evolving and pushing forward, Frank Sinatra, whose crooner career started in the Big Band era, continued to be popular.  His album, Frank Sinatra Sings for Moderns:
Strangers in the Night, includes the title track, Summer Wind, and
other popular songs by the then fifty-year-old superstar.
Compact Disc 11725

For more hits from 1966, check out these compilation albums:

Billboard Top Rock 'n' Roll Hits, 1966
Compact Disc 1743

Billboard Top R&B Hits, 1966
Compact Disc 114

"1966" from Time-Life Music
Compact Disc 239

1966: Shakin' All Over, from Time-Life Music
Compact Disc 240

1966, The Beat Goes On
Compact Disc 241

1966, Blowin' Your Mind
Compact Disc 358

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Music for a Relaxed Finals Week

Research has shown (See the American Psychological Association summary) that "multi-tasking" is not effective, or even possible.  What the brain really does is switch between tasks, to the detriment of all the tasks being done.

One of the most prevalent distractions for students is music: their own or their neighbor's.  If a student is used to hearing music continually, will silence be too alien to be helpful to attention?

Ever since the flawed "Mozart Effect" studies, researchers have sought to explain the seemingly positive effect of music on learning through brain studies and other methods.  In one study, researchers found that slow (lento) music reduced test anxiety, which in itself could improve test scores.  (1)  Other studies have shown that classical music can reduce blood pressure in heart patients, and there is a medical specialty called Music Therapy.

If you like having music on, but find some kinds of music distracting, perhaps music designed for meditation can help your focus during Finals Week.  In most cultures that practice meditation, its aim is to clear the mind of distracting thoughts.  Instrumental music - music without a vocal part - seems conducive to meditation, and may less distracting for study because you are only absorbing words from one place: your study materials.

The Music Collection has some music for relaxation so you can have your cake (music) and eat it too (focus on your work):

"New Age Music" as a subject often includes soothing music, but some is ethnically-oriented percussive music that could have the opposite effect!  We have selected a few albums and artists that may provide an optimal atmosphere:

Brian Eno's Discreet Music (1975) was one of the first electronic music works created for ambiance.  His album, Neroli (1993) is so calming it has been played in maternity wards.

Steven Halpern  was one of the leaders of the 1970s and 1980s "anti-frantic" music movement, with albums titled "Inner Peace" and "Effortless Relaxation."

Coyote Oldman is a duo that plays native American flutes in simple and soothing First Peoples-inspired styles.

George Winston,  a pianist, is one of the pioneers of New Age music though he also performs jazz and folk music.  He has recorded many albums for the quintessential New Age record label, Windham Hill.  His "Plains" celebrates the wide expanses of the American plains.

Yoga Lounge includes music of various tempos for yoga stretching but can be relaxing at any time.  The CD is from Putumayo, a record label that issues compilations of tracks from around the world in several series, including "Lounge" and "Playground."

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

For a selection of relaxing classical music, try:
Meditations for a Quiet Night
Compact Disc 982

Some people find smooth jazz soothing.  Try CDs by Chris Botti (trumpet), Dave Koz (saxophone), Kenny G (soprano saxophone) or Brian Culbertson (piano),

(1)  Lai, H., Chen, P., Chen, C., Chang, H., Peng, T., & Chang, F. (2008). Randomized crossover trial studying the effect of music on examination anxiety. Nurse Education Today, 28(8), 909­916. doi: 10.1016/j.nedt.2008.05.011