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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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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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Fela

Kalakuta Notes

John Collins

Fela: Kalakuta Notes is an evocative account of Fela Kuti—the Afrobeat superstar who took African music into the arena of direct action. With his antiestablishment songs, he dedicated himself to Pan-Africanism and the down-trodden Nigerian masses, or “sufferheads.” In the 1970s, the British/Ghanaian musician and author John Collins met and worked with Fela in Ghana and Nigeria. Kalakuta Notes includes a diary that Collins kept in 1977 when he acted in Fela’s autobiographical film, Black President. The book offers revealing interviews with Fela by the author, as well as with band members, friends, and colleagues.

For the second edition, Collins has expanded the original introduction by providing needed context for popular music in Africa in the 1960s and the influences on the artist’s music and politics. In a new concluding chapter, Collins reflects on the legacy of Fela: the spread of Afrobeat, Fela’s musical children, Fela’s Shrine and Kalakuta House, and the annual Felabration. As the dust settles over Fela’s fiery, creative, and controversial career, his Afrobeat groove and political message live on in Kalakuta Notes. Features a new foreword by Banning Eyre, an up-to-date discography by Ronnie Graham, a timeline, historical photographs, and snapshots by the author.

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Five Lives in Music

Women Performers, Composers, and Impresarios from the Baroque to the Present

Cecelia Hopkins Porter

Representing a historical cross-section of performance and training in Western music since the seventeenth century, Five Lives in Music brings to light the private and performance lives of five remarkable women musicians and composers: Duchess Sophie-Elisabeth of Braunschweig-Lueneburg, Elisabeth-Claude Jacquet de la Guerre, Josephine Lang, Maria Bach, and Ann Schein. Elegantly guiding readers through the Thirty Years War in central Europe, elite courts in Germany, urban salons in Paris, Nazi control of Germany and Austria, and American musical life today, as well as personal experiences of marriage, motherhood, and widowhood, Cecelia Hopkins Porter provides valuable insight about the culture in which each woman was active. Throughout the lively and focused portraits of these five women, Porter finds common threads, both personal and contextual, that extend to a larger discussion of the lives and careers of female composers and performers throughout centuries of music history.

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