POSTPONED: 3/18/2020 Concert, Elisabeth Jacquet de LaGuerre

The concert originally planned for 3/18/2020

of beautiful music

by Elisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre

has been postponed.

Stay tuned for rescheduling information.

Thank you for your understanding and support.

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Elisabeth-Claude Jacquet de La Guerre and the Dance Culture of Versailles

 

photo of portrait of Elisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre

Elisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre

Music of Elisabeth Claude Jacquet de la Guerre

Wednesday, March 18th, 12:00pm – 12:50pm
Temple University Charles Library Event Space
Featuring Dr. Joyce Lindorff and her studio

Light refreshments served. Boyer recital credit given.

Parisian composer and harpsichordist Élisabeth-Claude Jacquet de La Guerre (1665-1729) made her mark very early in life. She first performed for Louis XIV at the tender age of five, impressing the “Sun King” with her prodigious abilities. Thereafter the phenom would serve the court of Versailles until the age of nineteen. Jacquet returned to Paris permanently after wedding the organist Marin de La Guerre in 1684. Despite losing her husband and only child in 1704, she continued to compose, perform, and teach until her passing.

Jacquet de La Guerre possessed formidable musicianship in every respect. In addition to accompanying and improvising on the harpsichord and organ, she could sight-sing the most difficult passages and transpose music on command. But Jacquet’s legacy rests primarily on her surviving compositions, including Céphale et Procris (Cephalus and Procris, 1694), the first opera written by a French woman, and two published collections of suites for harpsichord (1687 and 1707). The latter, of course, comprised the various social dances performed at the court of Versailles—to wit, the courante, gigue, and sarabande. Jacquet infused these binary forms with the style brisé (broken style), emulating the lutenists of her day. A hallmark of French style, this technique expanded the expressive potential of chords through arpeggiation.

Dancing at Versailles was serious business, a tool used by Louis XIV to instill qualities such as majesty, grace, and self-discipline in members of the court. Nobles received instruction from dancing masters and practiced the choreography for hours. They were also examined by the king himself, who would banish subjects for poor execution. Based on the following account of 1671, a superlative performance of the sarabande was nuanced, embodying the affect, agréments (ornaments), and rubato of the music:

“Now and then he [the dancer] would let a whole rhythmic unit go by, moving no more than a statue, and then, setting off like an arrow, he would be at the other end of the room before anyone had time to realize that he had departed. 

But all this was nothing compared to what was observed when this gallant began to express the emotions of his soul through the motions of his body, and reveal them in his face, his eyes, his steps and all his actions. 

Sometimes he would cast languid and passionate glances throughout a low and languid rhythmic unit; and then, as though weary of being obliging, he would avert his eyes, as if he wished to hide his passion; and, with a more precipitous motion, would snatch away the gift he had tendered. 

Now and then he would express anger and spite with an impetuous and turbulent rhythmic unit; and then, evoking a sweeter passion by more moderate motions, he would sigh, swoon, let his eyes wander languidly; and certain sinuous movements of the arms and body, nonchalant, disjointed and passionate, made him appear so admirable and so charming that throughout this enchanting dance he won as many hearts as he attracted spectators.” (McClary 2018, 116-118) 

Given the proximity of physical movement to music in baroque-era France, this description also sheds light on the ephemeral art of Jacquet de La Guerre: a succession of musical moments in which color and nuance delight the senses. On Wednesday, March 18, Joyce Lindorff and her studio will present an entire program of music by this extraordinary woman. We encourage all to attend.

Consult the following sources for more information:

Borroff, Edith. 1966. An Introduction to Elisabeth-Claude Jacquet de la Guerre. Brooklyn: Institute of Mediæval Music.

Cessac, Catherine. “Jacquet de La Guerre, Elisabeth.” Grove Music Online. 2001; Accessed 23 Feb. 2020. 

Farr, Elizabeth. 2005. Liner notes to Elisabeth-Claude Jacquet De La Guerre: Harpsichord Suites Nos. 1-6, Elizabeth Farr. Naxos 8.557654-55, CD.

McClary, Susan. 2018. “In the Realm of All the Senses: Two Sarabandes by Élisabeth-Claude Jacquet de La Guerre.” IAnalytical Essays on Music by Women Composers: Secular and Sacred Music to 1900, edited by Laurel Parson and Brenda Ravenscroft, 109-28. New York: Oxford University Press.

Porter, Cecilia Hopkins. 2012. “Elisabeth-Claude Jacquet De La Guerre: Versailles and Paris in the Twilight of the Ancien Régime.” In Five Lives in Music: Women Performers, Composers, and Impresarios from the Baroque to the Present, 39-77. Champaign: University of Illinois Press.

 

Gary Sampsell is a second-year PhD student in the Music Studies program at Boyer College. His research interests include the musical culture of baroque-era Saxony and Austro-German reception of early music in the nineteenth century.

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Stride: The Art of James P. Johnson

Beyond the Notes
A Celebration of Stride and Novelty Piano
Wednesday, February 12th, 12:00PM -12:50PM
Featuring Dr. Charles Abramovic and his studio
Light refreshments served. Boyer recital credit given.

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Photo of James Johnson

James P. Johnson

As one of myriad styles falling under the rubric of jazz, stride is fundamentally an expression of the African American experience. James P. Johnson (1894-1955) pioneered the solo piano style while composing and performing in Harlem during the 1920s. What follows is a brief sketch of the conventions, innovations, and social contexts that produced it.

Stride derives primarily from ragtime in form and content. Tunes comprise three or four independent, sixteen-bar sections or strains. The initial strain features the theme in the tonicsubsequent strains variously treat the original material or present new ideas. Sections collectively called the “trio” modulate to closely related keys, typically the subdominant. Introductions and interludes of four or eight measures are common. Regarding content, left-hand stride patterns follow traditional dances in duple meter, notably the march and polka. Hence the bass often alternates between low notes and midrange chordsthe former imitates the tuba while the latter mimics the higher brass and woodwind instruments of marching bands, creating the oom-pah sound associated with folk music.

However, stride represents an evolutionary step in the lineage of jazz, placing greater demands on the performer. The harmonic rhythm and tempo are faster than those of ragtime. Stride also exploits the full range of the instrument. Finally, the style employs an array of pianistic devices, e.g., rapid scale passages, trills, and turns, suggesting that knowledge of classical idioms would be beneficial if not requisite to stride proficiency.

Johnson infused blue notes and call-and-response gestures into stride. Furthermore, the rhythmic feel of his style was more relaxed than ragtime, approximating swingHeard in the paradigmatic stride piece “Carolina Shout,” these elements allowed Johnson to connect meaningfully with his auditors at clubs and dance halls, many of whom migrated from the Deep South:

“The dances they did at the Jungles Casino were wild and comical—the more pose and the more breaks the better. These Charleston people and the other southerners had just come to New York. They were country people and they felt homesick. When they got tired of two-steps and schottisches (which they danced with a lot of spieling), they’d yell: “Let’s go back home!” . . . or “Now put us in the alley!” I did my “Mule Walk” or Gut Stomp” for these country dances. Breakdown music was the best for such sets, the more solid and groovy the better. They’d dance, hollering and screaming until they were cooked. The dances ran from fifteen to thirty minutes, but they kept up all night until their shoes wore out—most of them after a heavy’s day’s work on the docks.”

Johnson also cultivated the style while performing at rent parties in Harlem. Held in apartments, these informal gatherings enabled working-class tenants to raise additional money for rent by charging admission. Here we see the music of Johnson providing a modicum of relief in material as well as nonmaterial ways.

We invite you to join us on Wednesday, February 12, to hear stride performances by the studio of Charles Abramovic. In addition to works by Johnson, the program will feature those of his contemporaries, Thomas “Fats” Waller, Jelly Roll Morton, and Zez Confrey.

Consult the following sources for more information:

Barnhart, Bruce. “Carolina Shout: James P. Johnson and the Performance of Temporality.” Callaloo 33, no. 3 (Summer 2010): 841-856.

Berlin, Edward A. “Ragtime.” Grove Music Online. 16 Oct. 2013; Accessed 26 Jan. 2020. https://www-oxfordmusiconline-com.libproxy.temple.edu/grovemusic/view/10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.001.0001/omo-9781561592630-e-1002252241.

Martin, Henry. “Balancing Composition and Improvisation in James P. Johnson’s ‘Carolina Shout.’” Journal of Music Theory 49, no. 2 (Fall 2005): 277-299.

Robinson, J. Bradford. “Stride.” Grove Music Online. 2001; Accessed 20 Jan. 2020. https://www-oxfordmusiconline-com.libproxy.temple.edu/grovemusic/view/10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.001.0001/omo-9781561592630-e-0000026955.

Rouder, Willa. “Johnson, James P(rice).” Grove Music Online. 2001; Accessed 24 Jan. 2020. https://www-oxfordmusiconline-com.libproxy.temple.edu/grovemusic/view/10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.001.0001/omo-9781561592630-e-0000014409.

 

Gary Sampsell is a second-year PhD student in the Music Studies program at Boyer College. His research interests include the musical culture of baroque-era Saxony and Austro-German reception of early music in the nineteenth century. 

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Beyond the Notes! Spring 2020 Season Announcement!

  Beyond the Notes logo

Mark your calendars!

Beyond the Notes announces its Spring 2020 concerts!

Join us as we continue our exciting inaugural season in Temple’s beautiful new Charles Library.

All concerts are free and open to the public.

Light refreshments served.
Boyer recital credit given.

photo of Fats Waller

Fats Waller

Photo of James Johnson

James P. Johnson

photo of Jelly Roll Morton

Jelly Roll Morton

Photo of Zez Confrey

Zez Confrey

 

 

 

 

 

 
A Celebration of Stride and Novelty Piano
Charles Abramovic and his studio
Works by James P. Johnson, Thomas “Fats” Waller, Jelly Roll Morton, and Zez Confrey
Wednesday, February 12th
12:00PM – 12:50PM
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photo of portrait of Elisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre

Elisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre

 

Music of Elisabeth Jacquet de La Guerre
Featuring Joyce Lindorff and her studio
Wednesday, March 18th
12:00PM – 12:50PM
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photo of guitar and mandolin

Mandolin and Guitar. Photo by Andrewa.

Music for Guitar, Mandolin, Mandolin and Guitar, and even more Guitars!
Featuring Allen Krantz and his studio
Wednesday, April 8th
12:00PM – 12:50PM
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Beyond the Notes thanks Temple University Libraries and the Boyer College of Music and Dance for their support of this concert series.
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From the Margins to the Fore

Logo Modern RevealA Modern Reveal

An Eclectic Compilation of Vocal Music by Women Composers, 1560-present

Wednesday, October 30, Noon

Charles Library Event Space

Light refreshments served. Boyer recital credit given.

Historiography has marginalized the contributions of women in many spheres of endeavor, and musical composition is no exception. Even as the names of contemporary female musicians found their way into eighteenth-century lexicons, e.g., Johann Gottfried Walther’s Musicalisches Lexicon (Leipzig, 1732), entries for famous opera singers far surpassed those of composers. This lack of representation alludes to social expectation and bias: women could thrive in the world of music by filling roles deemed appropriate to their gender. In the light of such social constraint, the legacy of women composers is remarkably rich. Our upcoming concert will showcase many of these little-known compositions, delivering them from the margins to the fore.

Given in collaboration with A Modern Reveal, the program features sixteen songs by fifteen different composers, some of whom will no doubt be familiar to music scholars and enthusiasts: among those representing the early baroque is Francesca Caccini (1587-1646), an employee of the Medici family who is recognized as the first woman to compose opera; the formidable composer-pianist Clara Schumann (1819-1896), who was dubbed “Queen of the Piano” in the age of Romanticism; Amy Beach (1867-1944), the first American woman to achieve distinction as a composer of large-scale art music; and the prolific Libby Larsen (b. 1950), whose catalog comprises more than 400 works, including several operas.

The content of the program spans more than four hundred years; as a result, there is great variety in material both lyrical and musical. The duet “Il gondoliere,” by Maria Malibran (1808-1836), belongs to the genre known as the barcarole (It. barcarola). The traditional song of the gondolier, the barcarole (6/8 time signature) depicts the lilting motion of the iconic vessels that traverse the waters of Venice. Another example is the Lied “Verlust” (Loss), a setting of the poem “Und wüssten’s die Blumen” (If the Little Flowers Knew) by Fanny Hensel (1805-1847). Hensel largely evades the tonic and closes the song with an unresolved dominant, reflecting the inconsolable anguish of Heinrich Heine’s text. Finally, a rendition of “I’m Nobody” will offer the listener a blend of modern music and nineteenth-century wit. Lori Laitman (b. 1955) composed the bouncy and comical setting, part of a cycle entitled Four Dickinson Songs (1996). In short, the stylistic diversity of this program ensures something for everyone.

We invite you to join us on Wednesday, October 30, for this special celebration of women composers. We also encourage you to visit https://www.amodernreveal.com/ to learn more about the women featured in the program.

Consult the following sources for more information:

Frasier, Jane. Women Composers: A Discography. Detroit, MI: Information Coordinators, 1983.

Jezic, Diane Peacock. Women Composers: The Lost Tradition Found. New York: Feminist Press at the City University of New York, 1994.

.Marrazzo, Randi, ed. The First Solos: Songs by Women Composers. Bryn Mawr, PA: Hildegard Pub. Co., 2000.

Marrazzo, Randi, and Nicole Leone.  A Modern Reveal: Songs and Stories of Women Composers.  18 Oct. 2019, www.amodernreveal.com/

Pendle, Karin, ed.. Women in Music: A History. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2001.

Rodgers, Stephen. “Fanny Hensel’s Lied Aesthetic.” Journal of Musicological Research 30, no. 3 (2011): 175-201.

Schleifer, Martha and Sylvia Glickman. Women Composers: Music through the Ages. New York: G.K. Hall, 1996. https://librarysearch.temple.edu/catalog/991000427089703811

Tick, Judith, Margaret Ericson, and Ellen Koskoff. “Women in music.Grove Music Online. 2001; Accessed 17 Oct. 2019. https://www-oxfordmusiconline-com.libproxy.temple.edu/grovemusic/view/10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.001.0001/omo-9781561592630-e-0000052554.

(Note: Grove Music Online contains entries for all of the composers mentioned in this article.)

Gary Sampsell is a second-year PhD student in the Music Studies program at Boyer College. His research interests include the musical culture of baroque-era Saxony and Austro-German reception of early music in the nineteenth century.

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The Sound of History

Johann Sebastian Bach Concerto Festival!

Wednesday, October 2nd, 12:00 Noon
Charles Library Event Space

Presented by Dr. Joyce Lindorff
with Boyer College Harpsichordists
and Baroque Strings

Light refreshments served. Boyer recital credit given.

Hands on a harpsichordMore than a mere antecedent to the modern piano, the harpsichord is a keyboard string instrument with an otherworldly sound. Its metallic timbre and precise articulation result from an internal mechanism: quills pluck the strings when the keys are depressed, and dampers silence the strings when the keys are released. Creating the effect of cascading notes, this mechanical operation is ideal for the performance of contrapuntal music because of the clarity it lends to the middle and lower voices; in other words, the design and function of the instrument met the musical demands of its time.

Emerging in the years around 1400, the harpsichord reached its zenith in the 1700s. During this era, luminaries such as Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750), François Couperin (1668-1733), George Frideric Handel (1685-1759), and Domenico Scarlatti (1685-1757) composed some of the finest music for the instrument. Famous examples from the solo repertory include J. S. Bach’s The Well-Tempered Clavier, a collection of 48 preludes and fugues in two volumes, and Scarlatti’s 555 keyboard sonatas. The harpsichord was also regularly used for accompaniment in the performance of both sacred and secular music. This role kept the instrument in service until the turn of the nineteenth century, when changes in musical tastereflected in the rising popularity of the pianofortediminished its presence. The resurgence of the harpsichord in the late 1800s may be attributed to the special qualities mentioned above, namely its suitability for the performance of early music. 

On Wednesday, October 2, Dr. Joyce Lindorff and her colleagues from Boyer College will present performances of J. S. Bach’s concerti for one, two, and four harpsichords. (The latter is a transcription of a solo concerto from Vivaldi’s L’estro armonico, Op. 3, no. 10.) Listeners will have the opportunity to experience the singular sound of the instrument thrown into relief by contrasting tutti (full ensemble) and solo sections. Do not forgo what is sure to be an eminently satisfying musical event.

Consult the following sources for more information:

Kottick, Edward L. A History of the Harpsichord. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2003.

Pollens, Stewart. The Early Pianoforte. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995.

Ripin, Edwin M., Howard Schott, John Koster, Denzil Wraight, Beryl Kenyon de Pascual, G. Grant O’Brien, Alfons Huber, William R. Dowd, Charles Mould, Lance Whitehead, and Martin Elste. “Harpsichord.” Grove Music Online. 2001; Accessed 11 Sep. 2019. https://www-oxfordmusiconline-com.libproxy.temple.edu/grovemusic/view/10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.001.0001/omo-9781561592630-e-0000012420.

Wolff, Christoph. Bach: Essays on His Life and Music. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1991.

Wolff, Christoph, and Walter Emery. “Bach, Johann Sebastian.” Grove Music Online. 2001; Accessed 11 Sep. 2019. https://www-oxfordmusiconline-com.libproxy.temple.edu/grovemusic/view/10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.001.0001/omo-9781561592630-e-6002278195.

Gary Sampsell is a second-year PhD student in the Music Studies program at Boyer College. His research interests include the musical culture of baroque-era Saxony and Austro-German reception of early music in the nineteenth century.

 

 

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Beyond the Notes Announces Fall 2019 Season at Charles Library!

We are excited to announce the first season of Beyond the Notes in Temple University’s beautiful new Charles Library! Mark your calendars!

J.S. BACH CONCERTO FESTIVAL!

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2019
12:00 Noon – 12:50pm
Charles Library Event Space

Presented by Dr. Joyce Lindorff with Boyer College Harpsichordists and Baroque Strings.

Historic Harpsichord

Program:
Concerto in C Major for Two Harpsichords
Concerto in A minor for Four Harpsichords and Strings
Concerto in D minor, featuring soloist Benjamin Katz

Come join our festive opening of the Noontime Concert Series in the beautiful Charles Library! Be the first to hear the new event space resonate with J. S. Bach’s brilliant concertos for one, two and four harpsichords accompanied by a Baroque string ensemble. Dr. Joyce Lindorff will perform and conduct, along with current and alumni Boyer performers.

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Modern Reveal Logopictures of women composers

Herstory

An Eclectic Compilation of Vocal Music by Women Composers, 1560-present 

Featuring Vocal Arts Students at Temple University

Jean Francois Proulx, pianist

Randi Marrazzo, faculty coordinator

Wednesday, October 30, 2019
12:00 Noon-12:50pm
Charles Library Event Space

 

All events are free and open to the public. Light refreshments served. Boyer recital credit given.

 

 

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Bravos and Thank You to Beyond the Notes Artists!

Beyond the Notes, Temple University Libraries, and audiences wish to extend bravos and thank you to the artists who provided beautiful, interesting, and exciting concerts at noon in the library during the 2018-2019 year. We appreciate your talent and are grateful for your bringing live music to Paley Library!

Dr. Lindorff's master class

Ben Katz, Emiko Edwards, Joyce Lindorff, Irene Moretto, Silvanio Reis, Anna Kislitsyna

 

 

Happy Birthday François Couperin!  Joyce Lindorff and her doctoral seminar ushered in the new season with a birthday celebration!  Many thanks to Dr. Lindorff and her students for our celebratory season opener!

 


photo of Zach Brock

Zach Brock, Jazz violinist.

In October, Zach Brock, Boyer faculty and Grammy Award winning jazz violinist, entranced us with his amazing artistry. Thank you, Zach!


Baroque Chamber Music group

Shannon Merlino and friends.

 

In November, library audiences were treated to a lively performance of Vivaldi and Bach, played on period instruments and led by Shannon Merlino.   Congratulations and thank you, Dr. Merlino!

 


Xylophone playing

Philip O'Banion and students

Temple University Percussion Ensemble

Temple University Percussion Ensemble, directed by Phillip O’Banion, totally rocked the library in December!  Amazing talent and performance!  Thank you, Professor O’Banion and TU Percussion students!  You are awesome!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Performers

Charles Abramovic, Lawrence Indik, and Cara Latham

In February, Boyer faculty artists turned the Library’s Lecture Hall into a cozy café with Cabaret Songs and Piano Rags by William Bolcom!  Thank you Charles Abramovic, Lawrence Indic, and Cara Latham for an exquisite performance!

 


Students of Allen Krantz brought the beautiful music of classical guitar to the library to end our season.  Thank you Allen Krantz for bringing your gifted students to the library, always one of the most beloved events of the entire year!

3 guitarists

Andrew Evans, Joeseph Jones, Emmanuel Lozada-Mendez.


Many thanks to our wonderful artists and to our audiences who together create an intimate, exciting, and wonderful lunchtime series of live music at the library, Beyond the Notes! We are busy planning an exciting concert series for our new Charles Library in the Fall of 2019! See you then!


Anne Harlow is the research librarian for music, dance, and theater at Temple University Libraries, and curator of the library’s noontime concert series Beyond the Notes.  aharlow@temple.edu

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The Classical Guitar: its Evolution and Appreciation by Italian Greats

Guitar Studio of Allen Krantz

Wednesday, February 27th, Noon

Temple University Paley Library Lecture Hall

Free and open to the public

Light refreshments served. Boyer recital credit given.

photo courtesy Beverley Goodwin

The guitar, currently a mainstay of popular music, has a l ong history and wealth of literature preceding its use in rock bands and college dorm rooms. The type of guitar that Allen Krantz and his students will be using is called the classical guitar (also known as the nylon-string guitar or the Spanish guitar). The main difference between classical and acoustic/electric guitars is the material of the strings. On a classical guitar the strings are made from either gut or nylon, whereas the acoustic or electric guitar have metal strings. Another difference would be the way that the guitar is held while being played. (For right-handed players) Classical is propped up by the left leg and the modern steel string guitar is played off of the hip.

Sometimes the term “classical guitar” isn’t even describing the instrument itself, but instead one of two concepts:

– The playing technique where individual strings are plucked with the fingernails
– The instrument’s literature

Music written specifically for this instrument dates back to the addition of the sixth string (the baroque guitar originally had five strings) in the late 18th century. In addition to these works written for the instrument, a classical guitar might play pieces originally written for lute, vihuela or the cello. The most well-known composer who did not write for the guitar is J.S. Bach; his baroque lute works are a mainstay in classical guitar literature.

Not many concertos were written specially for the guitar, however in present times there are numerous concertos that are quite well-known. Antonio Vivaldi and Mauro Giuliani are Italian composers who wrote famous concertos for the guitar. Allen Krantz and his students will be performing literature from the classical guitar’s extensive repertoire with a focus on a few of these great Italian composers.

A third Italian composer Nicolo Paganini, was also a guitarist. He once said “I love the guitar for its harmony; it is my constant companion in all my travels.” Paganini’s relationship with the guitar ha s only recently come to light – only a few of his compositions for the instrument have been published. The reason for this is disputed among scholars, but it appears to have something to do with the popularity of his violin works. Paganini’s work for violin seems to have overshadowed his guitar works during the time of his publications, when in fact Paganini work with technique was just as extensive on the guitar as it was with the violin.

The classical guitar has been cultivated over centuries, building its repertoire and technique as various schools utilized this flexible and well-rounded instrument. Allen Krantz and his students will be presenting many fine examples of this unique instrument and we hope to see you Wednesday February 27th at noon for our Beyond the Notes concert series.

For more information see:

The Classical Guitar: A Complete History. London, England: Balafon Books, 1997. Paley Library ML1015.G9 C547x 1997

Dobney, Jayson Kerr, and Wendy Powers. “The Guitar.” In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/guit/hd_guit.htm (September 2007).

Heck, Thomas F., Harvey Turnbull, Paul Sparks, James Tyler, Tony Bacon, Oleg V. Timofeyev, and Gerhard Kubik. “Guitar.” Grove Music Online.  January 01, 2001. Oxford University Press.

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Stephanie George is a second-year masters student in Music Theory at Boyer College of Music & Dance. Stephanie completed a B.S. in Music Education and a B.A. in Music (concentrations in clarinet and music theory) from Lebanon Valley College in 2015, after which she secured a placement with Harford County Public Schools as a music teacher for Havre de Grace Elementary. Her master’s thesis applies narrative theory to Chopin’s second piano sonata using a variety of analysis techniques. Her research interests include Sonata Form, Narrative Theory, Schenkerian Analysis, and Pedagogy. After completing her masters, Stephanie plans to pursue a Ph.D. in Music Theory.

 

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William Bolcom: Wide-Ranging Influences, Theatricality, and Fun

Beyond the Notes logo

Cabaret Songs and Piano Rags

by William Bolcom

Featuring faculty artists Charles Abramovic, Lawrence Indik, and Cara Latham

Wednesday, February 6th

12:00-12:50pm

Paley Library Lecture Hall

Light refreshments served. Boyer recital credit given.


 

William Bolcom

Like many other American composers who studied composition in universities in the middle of the 20th century, William Bolcom began his career composing serial music, the musical style most commonly associated with “atonality.” At that time, serialism was often seen as necessary tool to help composers avoid a tendency to recreate familiar patterns that represented a failed, oppressive system (Brindle 2003). Yet Bolcom gradually shifted toward employing a wider variety of compositional styles, often influenced by popular music. Today, composers and “new music” listeners and performers may see being forced into an academic, atonal style of writing as oppressive.  As a result, many of today’s younger composers have followed Bolcom’s lead into music that incorporates a wide variety of stylistic influences. Bolcom’s music, influenced by other forms of music, became the music for which he is known.  In this concert, we will hear some of his cabaret songs along with rags for piano performed by Boyer faculty.

In this 21st century, his work is still described as “running the gamut” of popular and classical musical styles (Lister 2006, 37). In an interview in The Opera Quarterly, Bolcom shares some fascinating details of his views on music:

“I’ve always been interested in character. I think pure voice is something that compels a certain sort of opera buff, along with the admiration of singers as athletes. And that’s okay; but I’ve always been interested in opera as theater.” (Horowitz 2006)

Bolcom could be seen as a rejection of the typical 20th century conservatory ethos, of music as an end in and of itself. Even today, many of those of us who are music students have been told at some point in our lives that to be a good musician means to engross ourselves in “pure” music and to ignore the “extra-musical” aspects of our lives, as well as to see popular music as inherently artistically inferior. One could trace this back to the 19th century German debate over so-called “absolute music,” essentially the idea that music should transcend life and exist only for its own, purely aesthetic pleasure. To be fair, vocal music was not usually framed as “absolute music;” it typically has text which suggests something “extramusical.” But in recent decades, musicologists and ethnomusicologists have noted that “absolute music” was never really a thing at all. For example, Henry Kingsbury’s influential 1988 work—which was published by Temple University Press—shows how the very idea of classical music is itself always part of the construction of a social and cultural system. Bolcom’s embrace of the theatrical rather than holding on to some idea of sanctity of “pure” academic music is one of the things that makes his music especially fun.

The rags, too, of course, reflect influences beyond the world of classical music. Ragtime music is characterized in particular by its distinctive syncopated rhythmic structure. A 1992 review by Barry Hannigan, then a professor at Bucknell University, writes that “care and craft distinguish the [Bolcom] ragtime pieces, giving evidence of Bolcom’s classical training” compared to other ragtime composers. Hannigan’s attitude seems remarkably condescending toward the earlier ragtime composers, and I am inclined to wonder if there is a racial dynamic here, since ragtime is a historically African American musical form, and Bolcom appears to be white[1] and trained as a composer in a historically predominantly-white musical genre. Nevertheless, while I would argue that ragtime’s traditional “care and craft” should not be measured by its adherence to contemporary classical music values, it is noteworthy that Bolcom incorporates traditional rhythmic ideas of ragtime, and uses them in more classically notated ways. For example, Hannigan notes that there is a higher precision in the way expressive directions are notated on the page than in traditional ragtime music. While I would not argue that this makes the music automatically superior—after all, as I argued in the case of Couperin in my blogpost for the first concert of last semester, level of notational detail in keyboard reflects social and cultural factors—it does give us something else to listen for. As in most music of the 20th and 21st century, there is clearly a lot to consider. Yet behind this all is a concert sure to be accessible and fun!

References:

Berlin, Edward A. 2001. “Ragtime.” Grove Music Online. 10 Dec. 2018. https://doi-org.libproxy.temple.edu/10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.article.22825.

Brindle, Reginald Smith (1987) 2003. The New Music: The Avant‐garde since 1945. London: Oxford University Press.

Hannigan, Barry. 1992. “William Bolcom, ‘Piano Rags’.” Notes 49, no. 1 (September): 369.

Herwitz, Daniel. 2006. “Writing American Opera: William Bolcom on Music, Language, and Theater,” The Opera Quarterly 22, 3-4 (July), 521–533. https://doi-org.libproxy.temple.edu/10.1093/oq/kbn001

Johnson, Steven, and Lars Helgert. 2013. “Bolcom, William.” Grove Music Online. 7 Dec. 2018. https://doi-org.libproxy.temple.edu/10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.article.A2248409.

Kingsbury, Henry. 1988. Music, Talent, and Performance: A Conservatory Cultural System, Temple University Press.

Lister, Rodney. 2006. “Review: William Bolcom’s Songs of Innocence and Experience.” Tempo 60, no. 35 (January), 37-39.

[1]To be clear, I cannot actually find any explicit mention of his race, and am saying this based on photos of him.

Ben Safran is a Ph.D. candidate in music at Temple University, where his dissertation focuses on contemporary classical composers’ uses of social justice and political themes within concert music. His compositions have been performed by various ensembles and musicians across the United States.

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Temple University Percussion Ensemble: watch, consider, enjoy!

Temple University Percussion Ensemble

Phillip O’Banion, Director

Wednesday, December 5th

12:00pm – 12:50pm

Paley Library Lecture Hall

Light refreshments served. Boyer recital credit given.

photo of xylophoneWatching a percussion ensemble can be unlike watching any other type of concert! For one thing, there is the physicality of seeing musicians move around between instruments. While we often think of music in more abstract terms, there is increased interest in the twenty-first century among music scholars in thinking about the physical relationship with a musical instrument (Abbate 2004; Le Guin 2006). The visual element of seeing musicians move around among elaborate set-ups of instruments contributes to the fun of the performance. Another exciting difference is that while most Western music tends to prioritize thinking about pitch over other aspects of music, percussion music celebrates and can help us listen more carefully to other elements of sound, such as rhythm, timbre, and volume. Of course, there is plenty of pitch in percussion music as well.

The composers represented in the program are Jason Treuting, Ivan Trevino, John Cage, Bob Becker, and Minoru Miki. Of these, John Cage is probably the most well-known. Cage is especially appreciated for his aleatoric works, compositions in which elements are left up to chance. He is also known for prepared piano music, in which performers place objects inside the piano before the concert to alter the sound. This concert will include music for prepared piano. While Cage is sometimes credited as the inventor of the technique, Liang Deng argues that the practice of preparing a piano actually dates to early keyboard music of the 17th century (2015).

photo of percussion performanceAll four of the other composers on the program are known for founding or co-founding their own percussion ensembles. Treuting is a percussionist and member of percussion ensemble Sō Percussion. The ensemble is known for performances of Cage and of Steve Reich, and their original music is described as influenced by those composers but also very distinct (DelCiampo 2015). Trevino is also a percussionist and member of Break with Reality, a cello and percussion quartet, and also a founder of The Big Trouble, which he describes on his website as “a songwriting collective focused on creating music for percussion and vocals in an indie-rock aesthetic.” Miki was a composer known for uses of traditional East Asian percussion instruments. In 2008 he published a book on composing for Japanese instruments [available at Paley]; he died in 2011. Miki too was an organizer of an ensemble; the Ensemble Nipponia was founded in 1964 and played music for traditional Japanese instruments (Kanazawa 2001). He composed a large body of works including a number of operas plus works for orchestra, chorus, chamber ensembles. Finally, Becker co-founded the ensemble NEXUS in 1971 (Beck and Strain 2012).

All told, this concert features composers with roots from Japan [Miki] to Mexico [Trevino], while Cage and Becker were both heavily influenced by East Asian and South Asian sounds (Ruby 2017; Brett 2009). This makes sense. While the origins of most instruments in the orchestra may be fascinating and complex but are most commonly Eurocentric, the origins of instruments in the percussion section are especially diverse. There exist commonly used percussion instruments in modern and contemporary classical music from most populated corners of the world.

photo of xylophone and drum performanceSuch intercultural borrowing deserves close examination. Neil Ruby critiques Cage specifically as Ruby argues that “contemporary music often perpetuates pervasive attitudes and assumptions regarding the relationship between spirituality, Asia, and artistry that are historically amnesiac, culturally reductionistic, and perversely antithetical to the progressive egalitarian values typically associated with musical interculturalism” (2017). On the other hand, Philip Brett speculates how alternative instrumentations, tuning systems, and Orientalism itself might have held a special allure for gay American composers of the 20th century, including Cage. While noting that Orientalism is still problematic, Brett sees it as a potential strategy used by queer composers for escaping the traps of western cultures. This building of musical “alternate worlds” that Brett suggests—perhaps friendlier to those on the margins of society—through reference to non-Western culture can also be done through instrumentation, specifically the construction of less familiar, more adventurous ensembles.

This brings us back to the question of how percussion ensembles are different from others that perform “classical” music. The best way to find out will be to experience the concert firsthand, and to focus on the aspects of music that we normally think about less, from timbre to rhythm to the visual of performers’ movements on stage.

 

References:

Abbate, Carolyn. 2004. “Music—Drastic or Gnostic?,” Critical Inquiry 30: 505-36.

Beck, John H., and James A. Strain. 2012. “Percussion music.” Grove Music Online. Accessed November 7, 2018. http:////www.oxfordmusiconline.com/grovemusic/view/10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.001.0001/omo-9781561592630-e-1002225030.

Brett, Philip. 2009. “Queer Musical Orientalism.” Echo: A Music Centered Journal 9 (1).

DelCiampo, Matthew. 2015. “So Percussion and Grey Mcmurray, Where (we) Live. Cantaloupe CA21087, 2012, CD.” Journal of the Society for American Music 9 (4): 515-517. doi:http://dx.doi.org.libproxy.temple.edu/10.1017/S1752196315000462.

Deng, Liang. 2015. “On the Debate over Whether ‘Prepared Piano’ was the Invention of John Cage.” College Music Symposium 55.

Le Guin, Elisabeth. 2006. “‘Cello-and-Bow Thinking’: The First Movement of Boccherini’s Cello Sonata in E-flat Major, Fuori Catalogo,” Boccherini’s Body: An Essay in Carnal Musicology. Berkeley: University of California Press, 14-37.

Kanazawa, Masakata. 2001. “Miki, Minoru.” Grove Music Online. Accessed 7 November 2018. http:////www.oxfordmusiconline.com/grovemusic/view/10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.001.0001/omo-9781561592630-e-0000018649.

Miki, Minoru, and Marty Regan. 2008. Composing for Japanese Instruments. Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press.

Ruby, Neil. 2017. “Spirituality and Orientalism in Contemporary Classical Music.” M.A. thesis, University of California, San Diego.

Sō Percussion. Accessed 7 November 2018. https://sopercussion.com/people/jason-treuting/

Trevino, Ivan. “Bio.” Accessed 7 November 2018. https://ivandrums.com/biography/

Ben Safran is a Ph.D. candidate in music at Temple University, where his dissertation focuses on contemporary classical composers’ uses of social justice and political themes within concert music. His compositions have been performed by various ensembles and musicians across the United States

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