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Carl Maria von Weber and the Search for a German Opera

Stephen C. Meyer

Stephen C. Meyer details the intricate relationships between the operas Der Freischütz and Euryanthe, and contemporary discourse on both the "Germany of the imagination" and the new nation itself. In so doing, he presents excerpts from a wide range of philosophical, political, and musical writings, many of which are little known and otherwise unavailable in English. Individual chapters trace the multidimensional concept of German and "foreign" opera through the 19th century. Meyer's study of Der Freischütz places the work within the context of emerging German nationalism, and a chapter on Euryanthe addresses the opera's stylistic and topical shifts in light of changing cultural and aesthetic circumstances. As a result, Meyer argues that the search for a new German opera was not merely an aesthetic movement, but a political and social critique as well.

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Carla Bley

Amy C. Beal

This is the first comprehensive treatment of the remarkable music and influence of Carla Bley, a highly innovative American jazz composer, pianist, organist, band leader, and activist. With fastidious attention to Bley's diverse compositions over the last fifty years spanning critical moments in jazz and experimental music history, Amy C. Beal tenders a long-overdue representation of a major figure in American music._x000B__x000B_Bley is best known for her jazz opera "Escalator over the Hill," her role in the Free Jazz movement of the 1960s, and her collaborations with artists such as Jack Bruce, Don Cherry, Robert Wyatt, and Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason. She has successfully maneuvered the field of jazz creating works that range from the highly accessible and tradition-based to commercially unviable and avant-garde. Beal details the staggering variety in Bley's work as well as her use of parody, quotations, and contradictions, examining the vocabulary Bley has developed throughout her career and highlighting the compositional and cultural significance of her experimentalism._x000B__x000B_Beal also points to Bley's professional and managerial work as a pioneer in the development of artist-owned record labels, the cofounder and manager of WATT Records, and the cofounder of New Music Distribution Service. Showing her to be not just an artist but an activist who has maintained musical independence and professional control amid the profit-driven, corporation-dominated world of commercial jazz, Beal's straightforward discussion of Bley's life and career will stimulate deeper examinations of her work.

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Carlos Aldama's Life in Batá

Cuba, Diaspora, and the Drum

Umi Vaughan and Carlos Aldama

Batá identifies both the two-headed, hourglass-shaped drum of the Yoruba people and the culture and style of drumming, singing, and dancing associated with it. This book recounts the life story of Carlos Aldama, one of the masters of the batá drum, and through that story traces the history of batá culture as it traveled from Africa to Cuba and then to the United States. For the enslaved Yoruba, batá rhythms helped sustain the religious and cultural practices of a people that had been torn from its roots. Aldama, as guardian of Afro-Cuban music and as a Santería priest, maintains the link with this tradition forged through his mentor Jesus Pérez (Oba Ilu), who was himself the connection to the preserved oral heritage of the older generation. By sharing his stories, Aldama and his student Umi Vaughan bring to light the techniques and principles of batá in all its aspects and document the tensions of maintaining a tradition between generations and worlds, old and new. The book includes rare photographs and access to downloadable audio tracks.

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Carlos Chavez and His World

Leonora Saavedra

Carlos Chávez (1899–1978) is the central figure in Mexican music of the twentieth century and among the most eminent of all Latin American modernist composers. An enfant terrible in his own country, Chávez was an integral part of the emerging music scene in the United States in the 1920s. His highly individual style—diatonic, dissonant, contrapuntal—addressed both modernity and Mexico’s indigenous past. Chávez was also a governmental arts administrator, founder of major Mexican cultural institutions, and conductor and founder of the Orquesta Sinfónica de México. Carlos Chávez and His World brings together an international roster of leading scholars to delve into not only Chávez’s music but also the history, art, and politics surrounding his life and work.

Contributors explore Chávez’s vast body of compositions, including his piano music, symphonies, violin concerto, late compositions, and Indianist music. They look at his connections with such artistic greats as Aaron Copland, Miguel Covarrubias, Henry Cowell, Silvestre Revueltas, and Paul Strand. The essays examine New York’s modernist scene, Mexican symphonic music, portraits of Chávez by major Mexican artists of the period, including Diego Rivera and Rufino Tamayo, and Chávez’s impact on El Colegio Nacional. A quantum leap in understanding Carlos Chávez and his milieu, this collection will stimulate further work in Latin American music and culture.

The contributors are Ana R. Alonso-Minutti, Amy Bauer, Leon Botstein, David Brodbeck, Helen Delpar, Christina Taylor Gibson, Susana González Aktories, Anna Indych-López, Roberto Kolb-Neuhaus, James Krippner, Rebecca Levi, Ricardo Miranda, Julián Orbón, Howard Pollack, Leonora Saavedra, Antonio Saborit, Stephanie Stallings, and Luisa Vilar Payá.

Bard Music Festival 2015:
Carlos Chávez and His World
Bard College
August 7-9 and August 14-16, 2015

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The Castrato

Reflections on Natures and Kinds

Martha Feldman

The Castrato is a nuanced exploration of why innumerable boys were castrated for singing between the mid-sixteenth and late-nineteenth centuries. It shows that the entire foundation of Western classical singing, culminating in bel canto, was birthed from an unlikely and historically unique set of desires, public and private, aesthetic, economic, and political. In Italy, castration for singing was understood through the lens of Catholic blood sacrifice as expressed in idioms of offering and renunciation and, paradoxically, in satire, verbal abuse, and even the symbolism of the castrato’s comic cousin Pulcinella. Sacrifice in turn was inseparable from the system of patriarchy—involving teachers, patrons, colleagues, and relatives—whereby castrated males were produced not as nonmen, as often thought nowadays, but as idealized males. Yet what captivated audiences and composers—from Cavalli and Pergolesi to Handel, Mozart, and Rossini—were the extraordinary capacities of castrato voices, a phenomenon ultimately unsettled by Enlightenment morality. Although the castrati failed to survive, their musicality and vocality have persisted long past their literal demise.

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Categorizing Sound

Genre and Twentieth-Century Popular Music

David Brackett

Categorizing Sound addresses the relationship between categories of music and categories of people: in other words, how do particular ways of organizing sound become integral parts of whom we perceive ourselves to be and of how we feel connected to some people and disconnected from others? Through a series of case studies ranging from the race music and old-time music of the 1920s through country and R&B of the 1980s, David Brackett explores the process of “gentrification” through which these genres are produced. Using in-depth archival research and sophisticated theorizing about how musical categories are defined, Brackett has produced a markedly original work.

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Celebrating Bird

The Triumph of Charlie Parker

Gary Giddins

Within days of Charlie “Bird” Parker’s death at the age of thirty-four, a scrawled legend began appearing on walls around New York City: Bird Lives. Gone was one of the most outstanding jazz musicians of any era, the troubled genius who brought modernism to jazz and became a defining cultural force for musicians, writers, and artists of every stripe. Arguably the most significant musician in the country at the time of his death, Parker set the standard many musicians strove to reach—though he never enjoyed the same popular success that greeted many of his imitators. Today, the power of Parker’s inventions resonates undiminished; and his influence continues to expand.

Celebrating Bird is the groundbreaking and award-winning account of the life and legend of Charlie Parker from renowned biographer and critic Gary Giddins, whom Esquire called “the best jazz writer in America today.” Richly illustrated and drawing primarily from original sources, Giddins overturns many of the myths that have grown up around Parker. He cuts a fascinating portrait of the period, from Parker’s apprentice days in the 1930s in his hometown of Kansas City to the often difficult years playing clubs in New York and Los Angeles, and reveals how Parker came to embody not only musical innovation and brilliance but the rage and exhilaration of an entire generation.

Fully revised and with a new introduction by the author, Celebrating Bird is a classic of jazz writing that the Village Voice heralded as “a celebration of the highest order”—a portrayal of a jazz virtuoso whose gargantuan talent was haunted by his excesses and a view into the ravishing art of one of jazz’s most commanding and remarkable figures.

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Center Stage

Operatic Culture and Nation Building in Nineteenth-Century Central Europe

Philipp Ther, translated by Charlotte Hughes-Kreutzmüller

This volume, a revised and extended version of two well-reviewed books published in German and Czech, explores the social and political background to this “opera mania” in nineteenth century Central Europe. After tracing the major trends in the opera history of the period, including the emergence of national genres of opera and its various social functions and cultural meanings, the author contrasts the histories of the major houses in Dresden (a court theater), Lemberg (a theater built and sponsored by aristocrats), and Prague (a civic institution). Beyond the operatic institutions and their key stage productions, composers such as Carl Maria von Weber, Richard Wagner, Bedřich Smetana, Stanisław Moniuszko, Antonín Dvořák, and Richard Strauss are put in their social and political contexts. The concluding chapter, bringing together the different leitmotifs of social and cultural history explored in the rest of the book, explains the specificities of opera life in Central Europe within a wider European and global framework.

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Centre and Periphery, Roots and Exile

Interpreting the Music of István Anhalt, György Kurtág, and Sándor Veress

This book examines the impact place and displacement can have on the composition and interpretation of Western art music, using as its primary objects of study the work of István Anhalt (1919–2012) György Kurtág (1926–) and Sándor Veress (1907–92). Although all three composers are of Hungarian origin, their careers followed radically different paths. Whereas, Kurtág remained in Budapest for most of his career, Anhalt and Veress left: the former in 1946 and immigrated to Canada and the latter in 1948 and settled in Switzerland. All three composers have had an extraordinary impact in the cultural environments within which their work took place.

In the first section, “Place and Displacement,” contributors examine what happens when composers and their music migrate in the culturally complex world of the late twentieth century. The past one hundred years produced record numbers of refugees, and this fact is now beginning to resonate in the study of music. As Anhalt himself forcefully asserts, however, not all composers who emigrate should be understood as exiles. The first chapters of this book explore some of the problems and questions surrounding this issue.

Essays in the second section, “Perspectives on Reception, Analysis, and Interpretation,” look at how performing acts of interpretation on music implies bringing the time, place, and identity of the musician, the analyst, and the teacher to bear on the object of study. Like Kodály, Kurtág considers his work to be “naturally” embedded in Hungarian culture, but he is also a quintessentially European artist. Much of his production—he is one of the twentieth century’s most prolific composers of vocal music—involves the setting of Hungarian texts, but in the late 1970s his cultural horizons expanded to include texts in Russian, German, French, English, and ancient Greek. The book explores how musicologists’ divergent cultural perspectives impinge on the interpretation of this work.

The final section, “The Presence of the Past and Memory in Contemporary Music,” examines the impact time and memory can have on notions of place and identity in music. All living art taps into the personal and collective past in one way or another. The final four chapters look at various aspects of this relationship.

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Chamber Music

An Essential History

Mark A. Radice

Intended for the music student, the professional musician, and the music lover, Chamber Music: An Essential History covers repertoire from the Renaissance to the present, crossing genres to include string quartets, piano trios, clarinet quintets, and other groupings. Mark A. Radice gives a thorough overview and history of this long-established and beloved genre, typically performed by groups of a size to fit into spaces such as homes or churches and tending originally toward the string and wind instruments rather than percussion. Radice begins with chamber music's earliest expressions in the seventeenth century, discusses its most common elements in terms of instruments and compositional style, and then investigates how those elements play out across several centuries of composers- among them Mozart, Bach, Haydn, and Brahms- and national interpretations of chamber music. While Chamber Music: An Essential History is intended largely as a textbook, it will also find an audience as a companion volume for musicologists and fans of classical music, who may be interested in the background to a familiar and important genre.

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