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Earl Hooker, Blues Master

Sebastian Danchin

<p class="red">The life and early death of a South Side guitar genius, the greatest unheralded Chicago blues-maker

Jimi Hendrix called Earl Hooker "the master of the wah-wah pedal." Buddy Guy slept with one of Hooker's slides beneath his pillow hoping to tap some of the elder bluesman's power. And B. B. King has said repeatedly that, for his money, Hooker was the best guitar player he ever met.

Tragically, Earl Hooker died of tuberculosis in 1970 when he was on the verge of international success just as the Blues Revival of the late sixties and early seventies was reaching full volume.

Second cousin to now-famous bluesman John Lee Hooker, Earl Hooker was born in Mississippi in 1929, and reared in black South Side Chicago where his parents settled in 1930. From the late 1940s on, he was recognized as the most creative electric blues guitarist of his generation. He was a "musician's musician," defining the art of blues slide guitar and playing in sessions and shows with blues greats Muddy Waters, Junior Wells, and B. B. King.

A favorite of black club and neighborhood bar audiences in the Midwest, and a seasoned entertainer in the rural states of the Deep South, Hooker spent over twenty-five years of his short existence burning up U.S. highways, making brilliant appearances wherever he played.

Until the last year of his life, Hooker had only a few singles on obscure labels to show for all the hard work. The situation changed in his last few months when his following expanded dramatically. Droves of young whites were seeking American blues tunes and causing a blues album boom. When he died, his star's rise was extinguished. Known primarily as a guitarist rather than a vocalist, Hooker did not leave a songbook for his biographer to mine. Only his peers remained to praise his talent and pass on his legend.

"Earl Hooker's life may tell us a lot about the blues," biographer Sebastian Danchin says, "but it also tells us a great deal about his milieu. This book documents the culture of the ghetto through the example of a central character, someone who is to be regarded as a catalyst of the characteristic traits of his community."

Like the tales of so many other unheralded talents among bluesmen, Earl Hooker, Blues Master, Hooker's life story, has all the elements of a great blues song -- late nights, long roads, poverty, trouble, and a soul-felt pining for what could have been.

Sebastian Danchin is a freelance writer and record producer. He also creates programs for France's leading radio network, Radio-France, and is the blues editor for France's leading jazz magazine, Jazzman. His previous books, among others, include Les Dieux du Blues (Paris: Editions Atlas, 1995) and Blues Boy: The Life and Music of B. B. King (University Press of Mississippi, 1998).

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Early Blues

The First Stars of Blues Guitar

Jas Obrecht

Since the early 1900s, blues and the guitar have traveled side by side. This book tells the story of their pairing from the first reported sightings of blues musicians, to the rise of nationally known stars, to the onset of the Great Depression, when blues recording virtually came to a halt.

Like the best music documentaries, Early Blues: The First Stars of Blues Guitar interweaves musical history, quotes from celebrated musicians (B.B. King, John Lee Hooker, Ry Cooder, and Johnny Winter, to name a few), and a spellbinding array of life stories to illustrate the early days of blues guitar in rich and resounding detail. In these chapters, you’ll meet Sylvester Weaver, who recorded the world’s first guitar solos, and Paramount Records artists Papa Charlie Jackson, Blind Lemon Jefferson, and Blind Blake, the “King of Ragtime Blues Guitar.” Blind Willie McTell, the Southeast’s superlative twelve-string guitar player, and Blind Willie Johnson, street-corner evangelist of sublime gospel blues, also get their due, as do Lonnie Johnson, the era’s most influential blues guitarist; Mississippi John Hurt, with his gentle, guileless voice and syncopated fingerpicking style; and slide guitarist Tampa Red, “the Guitar Wizard.”

Drawing on a deep archive of documents, photographs, record company ads, complete discographies, and up-to-date findings of leading researchers, this is the most comprehensive and complete account ever written of the early stars of blues guitar—an essential chapter in the history of American music.


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Edward Elgar and His World

Byron Adams

Edward Elgar (1857-1934) is undoubtedly one of the most fascinating, important, and influential figures in the history of British music. He rose from humble beginnings and achieved fame with music that to this day is beloved by audiences in England, and his work has secured an enduring legacy worldwide. Leading scholars examine the composer's life in Edward Elgar and His World, presenting a comprehensive portrait of both the man and the age in which he lived.

Elgar's achievement is remarkably varied and wide-ranging, from immensely popular works like the famous Pomp and Circumstance March no. 1--a standard feature of American graduations--to sweeping masterpieces like his great oratorio The Dream of Gerontius. The contributors explore Elgar's Catholicism, which put him at odds with the prejudices of Protestant Britain; his glorification of British colonialism; his populist tendencies; his inner life as an inspired autodidact; the aristocratic London drawing rooms where his reputation was made; the class prejudice with which he contended throughout his career; and his anguished reaction to World War I. Published in conjunction with the 2007 Bard Music Festival and the 150th anniversary of Elgar's birth, this elegant and thought-provoking volume illuminates the greatness of this accomplished English composer and brings vividly to life the rich panorama of Victorian and Edwardian Britain.

The contributors are Byron Adams, Leon Botstein, Rachel Cowgill, Sophie Fuller, Daniel M. Grimley, Nalini Ghuman Gwynne, Deborah Heckert, Charles Edward McGuire, Matthew Riley, Alison I. Shiel, and Aidan J. Thomson.

Some images inside the book are unavailable due to digital copyright restrictions.

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Elliott Carter

James Wierzbicki

This compact study provides a fresh perspective on one of the most significant American composers of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. A leading voice of the American classical music tradition and a two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Music, Elliott Carter was initially encouraged to become a composer by Charles Ives, and he went on to learn from Walter Piston at Harvard University and Nadia Boulanger in Paris. Drawing on Carter's voluminous writings and compositions, James Wierzbicki provides a clear discussion of Carter's evolving understanding of musical time and the influence of film on his work. Celebrating his 100th birthday in 2008 by premiering a number of new compositions, Carter has been a powerful presence on the American new music scene, an important connection to American music's foundational figures, and a dynamic force in its continuing evolution.

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Ernst von Dohnányi

A Song of Life

Ilona von Dohnányi. Edited by James A. Grymes

"... a rare kind of biography and autobiography: a clear and elegant exposition of fact, as well as a humane portrait of a great piano virtuoso, composer, teacher, and democratic soul, as told to and seen through the eyes of one close to him." -- Mark Mitchell

Ernst von Dohnányi (1877--1960) was one of the most highly respected musicians of his time. The young Dohnányi enjoyed an international prestige that brought him into contact with such 19th-century masters as Johannes Brahms and Eugène d'Albert. He is remembered for his technique and interpretive skills as a pianist and conductor, as well as for the masterpieces he composed for piano, chamber ensembles, and orchestra. As a teacher and administrator, Dohnányi was responsible for the training of an entire generation of musicians in Hungary, and for helping to shape the country's musical culture. After World War II, his career foundered when he was falsely accused of being a Nazi sympathizer. In 1953, at the age of 76, Dohnányi returned to international prominence with a triumphant "re-debut" at Carnegie Hall. Ernst von Dohnányi: A Song of Life, written from a firsthand perspective by Dohnányi's widow, is the first full English-language biography of the artist.

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Exploring the World of J. S. Bach

A Traveler’s Guide

Robert L Marshall

A singular resource, Exploring the World of J. S. Bach puts Bach aficionados and classical music lovers in the shoes of the master composer. Bach scholar Robert L. Marshall and veteran writer-translator Traute M. Marshall lead readers on a Baroque Era odyssey through fifty towns where Bach resided, visited, and of course created his works. Drawing on established sources as well as newly available East German archives, the authors describe each site in Bach's time and the present, linking the sites to the biographical information, artistic and historic landmarks, and musical activities associated with each. A wealth of historical illustrations, color photographs, and maps supplement the text, whetting the appetite of the visitor and the armchair traveler alike.

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Expressive Intersections in Brahms

Essays in Analysis and Meaning

Edited by Heather Platt and Peter H. Smith

Contributors to this exciting new volume examine the intersection of structure and meaning in Brahms's music, utilizing a wide range of approaches, from the theories of Schenker to the most recent analytical techniques. They combine various viewpoints with the semiotic-based approaches of Robert Hatten, and address many of the most important genres in which Brahms composed. The essays reveal the expressive power of a work through the comparison of specific passages in one piece to similar works and through other artistic realms such as literature and painting. The result of this intertextual re-framing is a new awareness of the meaningfulness of even Brahms's most "absolute" works.

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Falling Up

The Days and Nights of Carlisle Floyd, An Authorized Biography

by Thomas Holliday

The first and only full-length biography (authorized or otherwise) of America's most prolific and awarded native-born composer of opera- Carlisle Floyd.

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Fannie Bloomfield-Zeisler

The Life and Times of a Piano Virtuoso

Beth Abelson Macleod

One of the foremost piano virtuosi of her time, Fannie Bloomfield-Zeisler reliably filled Carnegie Hall. As a "new woman," she simultaneously embraced family life and forged an independent career built around a repertoire of the German music she tirelessly championed. Yet after her death she faded into obscurity. In this first book-length biography, Beth Abelson Macleod reintroduces a figure long, and unjustly, overlooked by music history. Trained in Vienna, Bloomfield-Zeisler significantly advanced the development of classical music in the United States. Her powerful and sensitive performances, both in recital and with major orchestras, won her followers across the United States and Europe and often provided her American audiences with their first exposure to the pieces she played. The European-style salon in her Chicago home welcomed musicians, scientists, authors, artists, and politicians, while her marriage to attorney Sigmund Zeisler placed her at the center of a historical moment when Sigmund defended the anarchists in the 1886 Haymarket trial. In its re-creation of a musical and social milieu, Fannie Bloomfield-Zeisler paints a vivid portrait of a dynamic artistic life.

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The Farthest Place

The Music of John Luther Adams

The first critical anthology of an important and singular contemporary composer The artistic heir of sonic artists such as John Cage and James Tenney, John Luther Adams is one of the most significant and highly regarded contemporary American composers. The Farthest Place is the first critical look at the work of the composer whom the New Yorker critic Alex Ross has called “one of the most original musical thinkers of the new century.” While often identified with the Alaska that so inspires him, Adams is anything but a regionalist. Though inspired by the wild and open nature that surrounds him, “Adams does not represent nature through music. He creates tonal territories that resonate with nature—immersive listening experiences that evoke limitless distance, suspended time, deep longing and even transcendence.” In addition to the New Yorker piece by Alex Ross, and original essays by Kyle Gann and Wilco’s own Glenn Kotche, The Farthest Place includes essays by scholars, critics, composers, and performers, merging theoretical and historical observations, musical and environmental questions with analytical discourse and personal commentaries on Adams’s music and thought.

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