Friday, February 20, 2015

Black History Month: Chicago Blues

African-Americans from all over the South migrated Northward during
"The Great Migration" during the first half of the Twentieth Century.  The Illinois Central Railroad carried people from the Mississippi Delta to Memphis and then on to Chicago, where musicians played for newly employed factory workers in South Side clubs.

In Chicago, the blues grew from a soloistic medium to a group endeavor, with piano and "harp" (harmonica), and a more powerful electrified guitar often taking the place of the acoustic guitar.  There was often a saxophone in the mix.  Chicago blues greatly influenced early Rock n' Roll and Rhythm and Blues.

Muddy Waters
In 1947 Chess Records began recording blues musicians from Memphis and Chicago, including Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters and Willie Dixon. Radio play and the 1950s folk music revival disseminated the Chicago blues style around the world.  Young British musicians took to the medium and made the blues an integral part of rock 'n' roll.  The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin and Cream (fronted by Eric Clapton) covered many songs by Chicago bluesmen.

Chess Blues:
Compact Disc 11957

Robert Johnson, the quintessential Delta Blues musician who never actually lived in Chicago, composed "Sweet Home Chicago"  and recorded it in Texas in 1936.  It has become a standard of Chicago blues since then.  Even President Barack Obama sang it at a White House celebration of the blues (with Buddy Guy and B.B. King):

Some of the most famous performers are:

Muddy Waters (1913 or 1915 - 1983) grew up on Stovall Plantation near Clarksdale, Mississippi under the influence of Son House and Robert Johnson.  He moved to Chicago in the 1940s and his influence continues to be felt.  His first recordings were made by Alan Lomax for the Library of Congress.  In Chicago he recorded for the Chess Brothers on the Aristocrat label.  He is considered the "father" of Chicago Blues and is credited with the change from acoustic to electric guitar.  His 1950 song "Rolling Stone" inspired a young British Rock group to name themselves The Rolling Stones.

Big Bill Broonzy (1893-1958) grew up in Arkansas, across the river from the Mississippi side of the Delta.  After moving to Chicago in the 1920s, he began recording with his acoustic guitar and changed to electric in the 1940s, but played acoustic for folk music revival tours of the 1950s.  He inspired other blues musicians such as Muddy Waters, as well as early rock and roll guitarists.

  • Blue Smoke: The Recorded Journey of Big Bill Broonzy  ML 420 .B78 H68 2010
  • Big Bill Broonzy Sings Folk Songs, recorded in 1958 by Moses Asch during the folk music revival of the 1950s.  Compact Disc 6324
  • Legendary Country Blues Guitarists (two songs).  DVD Video 11591

Willie Dixon (1915 - 1992) was born in Vicksburg, Mississippi and moved to Chicago in 1936.  After World 2 he began recording for Chess Records and later became a producer for them.


Buddy Guy (b. 1936)   He was born in Louisiana and moved to Chicago in the 1950s.  He learned the blues on a diddley bow and later played guitar.   He was a session guitarist for Chess Records and broke out as a soloist in the 1980s.  Today he is one of the best-known blues musician, playing rock-tinged blues.  He has collaborated with Eric Clapton.

Albert King (1923 - 1992) was born in Indianola, Mississippi and spent part of his childhood in
Arkansas.  He moved to Chicago in the 1950s, but then left for St. Louis and finally settled in Memphis.  He influenced rock and blues guitarists alike.

In Session (With Stevie Ray Vaughan, 1983)
Compact Disc 12022

Sonny Boy Williamson (The Second) (ca. 1912 - 1965) was born Alex Miller but known as Sonny Boy Williamson despite another well-known harmonica player having the name first.  He was born in Mississippi and traveled the Delta absorbing the blues sound.  He recorded for Chess Records' Checker Records label in the late 1950s and early 1960s.   He famously recorded an album with the British Invasion rock band, The Yardbirds, which featured Eric Clapton.

The Real Folk Blues
Compact Disc 12168

A Diddley-Bow
Bo Diddley (1928 - 2008) His stage name is a play on the diddley-bow, a folk instrument associated with the blues.   He is credited with transitioning blues into the rock idiom.  He is one of the famous blues musicians to record with Chess Records.

His Best
Compact Disc 15114

For more information, check out these books:
To hear more Chicago Blues performers, check out:
Soundtrack to "Chicago Blues" (1970)

Soundtrack to "The Blues Brothers"
Compact Disc 21975

Friday, February 13, 2015

Black History Month: The Delta Blues

Mississippi Delta
(in green)
One of the quintessential and perhaps most influential styles of American music is known as "The Blues."  "The blues" denotes depression and sadness in everyday parlance, but in music it means that and much more.

After the turn of the Twentieth Century, the descendants of slaves who had worked the cotton fields of the Northwest Mississippi (The "Delta") were free to leave the agricultural life.  Many migrated North to factory jobs.  Many turned to the trades to make a living.  And some became entertainers. Musicians playing the blues could play "juke joints," street corners or house parties.  As they traveled through the South, they spread the style that would be known more generally as "the blues."  During the definitive, Depression Era, years, the guitars were acoustic, but some musicians went on to play electric guitars, developing the Chicago Blues style.

Although the musicians were typically rural farm kids, Memphis and other cities became meccas for both performing and recording.

Classic blues lyrics depicted unrequited love, poverty, or the itinerant travels of the bluesmen.  They  could also be raunchy songs about sex, which did not endear the genre to the religious communities of the South.   It was considered the "devil's music" by more proper, church-going Mississippians, and some of the lore of the Blues embraces the idea.

The Delta Blues experienced renewed interest when Alan Lomax, of the Library of Congress, and other researchers recorded folk musicians around the world.  These recordings reached as far as England, where they influenced the development of rock n' roll.  Artists such as the Rolling Stones and Eric Clapton counted Delta blues musicians among their musical heroes.

For more about the Delta Blues, check out these resources:
The Hidden History of Mississippi Blues
ML 3521 .S76 2011

Give My Poor Heart Ease: Voices of the Mississippi Blues
ML 3521 .G58 2009

The Land Where the Blues Began, by Alan Lomax
ML 3521 .L64 1993

DVDs in the Educational Technology and Resources are of Bracken Library:
Martin Scorsese Presents the Blues: A Musical Journey (Compact Discs and DVDs from the television series)

Blues Masters: The Essential History of the Blues
DVD Video 3813

Legendary Country Blues Guitarists
DVD Video 11591

Delta Blues Musicians:

Charley Patton (ca. 1890 - 1934) was one of the first Delta bluesmen to be recorded.  He influenced many of the younger generation of performers as a mentor and teacher.  Check out Screamin' and Hollerin the Blues:  Compact Disc 12986, which includes recordings from 1929-1934 and interviews.

One of the most famous of Patton's protegés was Robert Johnson (1911 - 1938).  He only made a few recordings in 1936 and 1937, but the songs are enduring classics. Eric Clapton's "Crossroads" festival is named for Johnson's song, Crossroads Blues. The complete recordings are available on Compact Disc 12686  Clapton first performed Crossroads in the 1960s while a member of the band, Cream.

Guitarists can emulate Johnson thanks to Robert Johnson: The New Transcriptions, transcribed by Pete Billmann.  Whether you read staff notation or TAB, it's all there:
M 1630.18 .J665 R6 1999

Mississippi John Hurt (1892 - 1966) was a self-taught musician who was one of the first recorded blues singers, recording a session in 1928, but his influence was more widely felt when he recorded his music at the Library of Congress in the 1960s.  His songs have been performed by modern blues and rock musicians.  For more information, check out:
Mississippi John Hurt: His Life, His Times, His Blues
ML 420 .H986 .R37 2011

"Son" House (1902 - 1988) was one of Charley Patton's protégés, and he in turn influenced Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters.    Like Mississippi John Hurt, he recorded for the Library of Congress.  His recordings continue to influence modern country, rock, and blues musicians.

Howlin' Wolf (1910 - 1976) learned to play guitar from Charley patton and he also played harmonica, Chess Records, he moved to Chicago, as did many bluesmen.  For more, see:
with Robert Johnson, Son House or other guitarists backing him.  After scoring a recording contract with

Moanin' at Midnight: The Life and Times of Howlin' Wolf
ML 420 .H72 S44 2004

Muddy Waters (1913 - 1983) began his career in the Mississippi Delta, emulating Son House and Robert Johnson.  Alan Lomax traveled to his plantation near Clarksdale, Mississippi to record his music, and from then on he became one of the biggest stars of the blues.  He was one of the first to amplify his guitar, developed a Chicago blues style.  He recorded and performed until 1982, keeping the Blues alive for younger generations.

John Lee Hooker
in The Blues Brothers movie
John Lee Hooker (1917 - 2001) was also from Clarksdale, Mississippi.  He learned the blues from his stepfather, but in the 1930s his home was Memphis, where he performed on the famous Beale Street.  He performed throughout his life, and appeared in the Blues Brothers movie, singing his hit, "Boom Boom."

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Operatic Tenors

Enrico Caruso
Traditionally, the male romantic lead in an opera is portrayed by a man with a rather high voice: a tenor.  Because of this, many tenors have become stars with international and crossover appeal.  Follow the links below to find CDs and DVDs featuring these operatic tenors:

Historic Tenors:
Carlo Bergonzi
Jussi Björling
Enrico Caruso
Nicolai Gedda
John McCormack
Richard Tear

Jon Vickers
The Three Tenors:
Domingo, Carreras, Pavarotti
Fritz Wunderlich

20th Century Tenors:
Andrea Bocelli
José Carreras
Plácido Domingo
Luciano Pavarotti

The New Generation:
Marcelo Alvarez
Lawrence Brownlee
Juan Diego Flórez
José Cura
Juan Diego Flórez
Vittorio Grigolo
Jonas Kaufmann
Ramón Vargas
Rolando Villazón

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Holocaust Memorial Day, January 27

Today marks the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the survivors in the Auschwitz concentration camp on January 27, 1945.  Sadly, 6 million Jews and 5 million others were put to death by the Nazis.

Many of the prisoners who died during the War were musicians.  Their talent bought them a few years of life entertaining the Nazis, but most eventually died.  A recent CD compilation brings to life the music of these musicians as well as those imprisoned by the Allies.  The KZ Musik Project pulled together archival resources from all over Europe, including the music of both Jews and Christians who were imprisoned:

The set comprises 24 CDs  numbered Compact Disc 21627-21650.

Some composers of note:
Viktor Ullmann, 1898-1944, was a Hungarian Jew who perished at Auschwitz.  From 1942-44, he was one of the musicians who provided entertainment in the Theresienstadt Concentration Camp in what is now the Czech Republic (also known as Terezin).  He had been a student of Arnold Schoenberg.

Gideon Klein, 1919-1945, was a Czech pianist and composer.  His music has been compared to that of Alban Berg.

Pavel Haas, 1899-1945, was a Czech composer who was befriended by Gideon Klein at Theresienstadt and later died at Auschwitz.  Before the war he composed film music as well as music in many other genres.

Sikmund Schul, 1916-1944.

See also:
Forbidden Music: The Jewish Composers Banned by the Nazis, by Michael Haas
ML 3776 .H32 2013

Music in the Holocaust: Confronting LIfe in the Nazi Ghettos and Camps, by Shirli Gilbert
ML 3776 .G55 2005

Monday, December 15, 2014

Music for Hannukah

Hannukah music reflects the wide talents of Jewish musicians, from traditional songs about the eight-day celebration of light to modern Jewish experiences.  The Music collection includes the traditional, the wacky, and everything in-between.   Hanukkah isn't just for children anymore!  Check out the following CDs, or search the catalog for Hanukkah--Songs and Music for more recordings and song books.

(How do you spell "Hanukkah?" -- in the library catalog it's Hanukkah.  Other transliterations begin with "Ch-")

Yeshiva Boys Choir.  Chanukah
Compact Disc 20790

Mama Doni. Chanukah Fever
Compact Disc 21866

Klezmer Conservatory Band.   Oy Chanukah!
Compact Disc 18159

The LeeVees.  Hanukkah Rocks
Compact Disc 21103

Craig Taubman. Celebrate Hanukkah
Compact Disc 19317

Jewish Wedding Band.   A Child’s Hanukkah
Compact Disc 19275

Mark Rubin.  Hill Country Hannukah
Compact Disc 21104

Thursday, December 11, 2014

2015 Grammy Award Nominees - Popular & Rock

The CDs and artists on this year's Grammy nomination lists are also popular with Ball State students and staff.  If you want to listen to these albums but they're checked out, place a hold and it will be snagged for you when it is returned.  All links go to the Libraries' CardCat catalog.

Arcade Fire Alternative Music Album ("Reflektor")

Arctic Monkeys
Best Rock Performance ("Do I Wanna Know?")

Iggy Azalea
Best New Artist, Record of the Year ("Fancy"), Best Pop Duo/Group Performance ("Fancy" featuring Charli XCX)

Best New Artist
Aloe Blacc
Best R&B Album ("Lift Your Spirit")

The Black Keys
Best Rock Performance ("Fever"), Best Rock Song ("Fever"), Best Rock Album ("Turn Blue")

Brandy Clark
Best New Artist the Elephant
Best Alternative Music Album ("Melophobia")

Best Pop Duo/Group Performance ("A Sky Full of Stars"), Best Pop Vocal Album ("Ghost Stories")

Miley Cyrus Pop Vocal Album ("Bangerz")

Best Rap Performance ("Rap God"), Best Rap/Sung Collaboration ("The Monster" with Rihana)

Ariana Grande
Best Pop Duo/Group Performance ("Bang Bang" with Jessie J & Nicki Minaj), Best Pop Vocal Album ("My Everything")

Carole King Musical Theatre Album ("Beautiful: The Carole King Musical")

John Legend
Best Pop Solo Performance ("All of Me" Live)

Best Rock Song ("Ain't it Fun")

Katy Perry
Best Pop Duo/Group Performance ("Dark Horse" featuring Juicy J), Best Pop Vocal Album ("Prism")

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers Rock Album ("Hypnotic Eye")

Robert Glasper Experiment
Best Traditional R&B Performance ("Jesus Children"), Best R&B Album ("Black Radio 2")

Schoolboy Q Rap/Sung Collaboration ("Studio" with BJ The Chicago Kid), Best Rap Album ("Oxymoron")

Ed Sheeran
Album of the Year ("X"), Best Pop Vocal Album ("X")

Record of the Year ("Chandelier"), Song of the Year ("Chandelier"), Best Pop Solo Performance ("Chandelier")

Sam Smith New Artist, Record of the Year ("Stay With Me"), Album of the Year ("In the Lonely Hour"),Song of the Year ("Stay With Me"), Best Pop Vocal Album ("In the Lonely Hour")

Taylor Swift
Record of the Year ("Shake it Off"), Song of the Year ("Shake it Off"),  Best Pop Solo Performance ("Shake it Off")

Best Rock Album ("Songs of Innocence")

Kanye West Rap/Sung Collaboration ("Bound 2" with Charlie Wilson), Best Rap Song ("Bound 2")

Pharrell Williams
Album of the Year ("Girl"), Best Pop Solo Performance ("Happy" Live), Best Urban Contemporary Album ("Girl")

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

2015 Grammy Nominees -- Classical

Many of this year's Grammy-nominated classical CDs are available from the University Libraries, either online via Naxos Music Library (log-in required from off-campus) or in the Music Collection (indicated by call number).  There are interesting selections in each category: Orchestral Performance
Dutilleux: Symphony No. 1; Tout Un Monde Lointain; The Shadows Of Time / Ludovic Morlot, conductor (Seattle Symphony)  /  Label:  Seattle Symphony Media

Dvorak: Symphony No. 8; Janàcek: Symphonic Suite from Jenufa / Manfred Honeck, conductor (Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra)  / Label: Reference Recordings

Sibelius: Symphonies Nos. 6 & 7; Tapiola / Robert Spano, conductor (Atlanta Symphony Orchestra) / Label: ASO Media
    Best Opera Recording 
    Charpentier: La Descente D'Orphee Aus Enfers / Boston Early Music Festaval / Label: CPO

    Milhaud: L'Orestie D'Eschyle / University of Michgan / Label: Naxos

    Rameau: Hippolyte et Aricie / William Christie, conductor / Glyndebourne Chorus & Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment 
    DVD Video 11931  (Educational Resources Collections)

    Strauss: Elektra / Christian Thielemann, conductor / Staatskapelle Dresden / Label: Deutsche Grammophon
    Compact Disc 22049

    Best Choral Performance
    Bach:  Matthäus-Passion / René Jacobs / Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin / Label:  Harmonia Mundi
    Call Number:  Compact Disc 21799

    The Sacred Spirit of Russia / Craig Hella Johnson, conductor
    Call Number:  (still in processing)

    Best Chamber Music
    Martinu:  Cellos Sonatas Nos. 1-3; Sibelius Malinconia; Mustonen Cello Sonata / Steve Isserus & Olli Mustonen / Label:  Bis

    Sing Thee Nowell / New York Polyphony / Label: Bis

    Best Classical Instrumental Solo the Things You Are (Music for piano, left-hand) / Leon Fleisher / Label: Bridge Records
    Compact Disc 21971

    Dutilleux:  Symphony No. 1; Tout un monde lointain / Seattle Symphony, Xavier Phillips, cello / Label: Seattle Symphony Media

    Play / Jason Vieaux, guitar / Label: Azica

    Best Classical Solo Vocal Album
    Douce France / Anne Sofie von Otter / Label: Naïve

    Porpora: Arias / Philippe Jaroussky / Label: Erato
    Compact Disc 21177

    Schubert:  Die Schöne Müllerin / Florian Boesch / Label: Onyx

    Stella di Napoli / Joyce DiDonato / Erato

    Virtuoso Rossini Arias / Lawrence Brownlee / Delos

    Best Classical Compendium
    Britten to America (Radio & Theatre Music) / Label: NMC

    Best Contemporary Classical Composition
    John Luther Adams:  Become Ocean* / Seattle Symphony / Label: Cantaloupe
       *  Also awarded the 2013 Pulitzer Prize

    Clyne: Prince of Clouds / Jennifer Koh & Jaime Laredo / Label: Cedille

    Roberto Sierra: Sinfonía No. 4 / Label: Naxos

    Wednesday, December 3, 2014

    Music for the Winter Solstice

    Solstice celebrations predate European Christianity, and may also predate other religions' winter celebrations.  Even the earliest humans would have been aware of the changing of the seasons, with days getting shorter and then longer.  Ancient monuments are aligned with the Sun's location on the longest or shortest days of the year, including some ancient burial mounds in Indiana.  Though ancient music for these festivities has not survived, modern composers and artists are reviving the celebration in music:

    Down Through the Winters, by the Portland Revels

    Wintersongs, by Kitka

    Firedance, by Jaiya
    Beautiful Darkness, by Jessica Radcliffe
    Meghan Morganfield’s Winter Solstice Carols

    Celtic Solstice, by Paul Winter

    Solstice Live!  by Paul Winter

    A Winter’s Solstice, by Windham Hill artists

    Monday, September 8, 2014

    Practice Habits for Music Students

    Carnegie Hall, New York
    An classic joke goes like this:  a tourist stops a native New Yorker on the street and asks, "How do I get to Carnegie Hall?"  The New Yorker answers "Practice.  Practice."

    In his book, Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell estimates that it takes 10,000 hours of practice time to achieve mastery.  If you practice two hours per day, it will take you about fourteen years to reach that mark.  At four hours per day, that's just under seven years.
    But of course there's more to it than that.  How you practice is as important as how much you practice.  If you merely repeat a half-baked piece you're just "practicing your mistakes."   Even worse, you could be forming intractable bad habits that could hurt your technique and your body.   Time spent reinforcing bad habits is time wasted.

    How can you improve your habits?  First, you need to understand what habits are and how they work.  The New York Times best-seller, The Power of Habit: Why we do What we do in Life and Business, by Charles Duhigg (BF335 .D775 2012 ) explains how cues and rewards work to establish new habits... and why old habits are so hard to extinguish.

    The library also has several books for musicians.  For tips on making the most of your practice time, check out these books in the "Practicing (Music)" subject:
    The Musician's Way: A Guide to Practice, Performance, and Wellness, by Gerald Klickstein
    MT 75 .K74 2009
    Practicing Successfully: A Masterclass in the Musical Art, by Elizabeth Green
    ML3838 .G743 2006

    Practicing for Artistic Success: The Musician's Guide to Self-Empowerment, by Burton Kaplan
    MT170 .K37 2004

    The Art of Practicing: A Guide to Making Music from the Heart, by Madeline Bruser
    ML 3838 .B78 1999

    Books on Sport Psychology may also be of interest, such as Clinical Sport Psychology, by Frank Gardner and Zella Moore.  (GV706.4 .G35 2006)  Training, mastery, and performance issues are common to sports as well as the performing arts.


    Friday, June 20, 2014

    Horace Silver, 1928 - 2014

    Jazz pianist Horace Silver died this week at the age of 85. During his long career he established himself as one of the masters of jazz piano in the bebop style, specifically the "hard bop" style. He recorded for Blue Note Records, one of the premier jazz labels.

    Horace Silver's official site:

    Compact Discs
    Horace Silver
    Tracks from sessions during the 1950s and 1960s
    Compact Disc 21173

    Song for my Father, the Horace Silver Quartet (1963-1964)
    Compact Disc 13855

    Horace Silver and the Jazz Messengers
    A classic album from 1954 and 1955, with Art Blakey on drums
    Compact Disc 12934

    Let's Get to the Nitty Gritty: The Autobiography of Horace Silver
    ML 417 .S64 A3 2006

    Score/CD play-along
    For You to Play: Horace Silver, Eight Jazz Classics (Jamey Aebersold series No. 17)
    MT 68 .J36 v. 17 leadsheets
    Compact DIsc 20808 v. 17 CD of backing tracks
    Shoutin' out! The Music of Horace Silver (Jamey Aebersold series No. 86)
    MT 68 .J36 v. 86 leadsheets
    Compact DIsc 20808 v. 86 CD of backing tracks 
    Horace Silver article in the Encyclopedia of Popular Music: (Includes extensive discography) 
    Horace Silver article in the New Grove Dictionary of Jazz: