4 posts from January 2015

January 26, 2015

Hearing Gender in George Lucas’s Galaxy

Kendra Leonard (Loveland, OH)

George Lucas’s Star Wars IV: A New Hope was the movie hit of 1977. Its score, composed by John Williams, was equally popular, winning the Oscar for Best Film Score and three Grammy awards; the American Film Institute even declared it the greatest American movie score of all time. Parts of the soundtrack were disco-fied for the radio parties, and since its initial release, the soundtrack has never been out of print. In fact, Twentieth Century Fox Film Scores, RCA Victor, and Sony Classical have created several re-releases of the soundtrack containing new material, interviews, and other extras. Star Wars’ music has become iconic: you can get a ringtone of the Imperial motif, and I’ve seen wedding receptions where the newlyweds enter to the film’s main theme. But what does the music of the movie convey about its characters, their roles in the film, and their genders?

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January 20, 2015

Authenticity and Interpretation

Andrew Dell’Antonio (The University of Texas at Austin)

Humans are often fascinated by the origins of their traditions. If only we could travel back in time, we might reach an “authentic” instance of a tradition, before it was “corrupted” by outside influences. Fans of American “roots music,” for instance, praise it as an authentic example of music “the folk” sang before the influence of the marketplace, even though the “roots” tradition is itself an invention of that marketplace. An idealized past—when things were pure and uncomplicated—is a fiction of the present, but it’s a powerful fiction that can stimulate our creative imagination.

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January 12, 2015

If History Is Written by the Victors

Sara Haefeli (Ithaca College)

At the very beginning of the music history survey, right before diving into the music of the early Christian church, I play examples of chant from all over the world: a Ramayana Monkey Chant from Bali, a Muslim devotional chant from Ethiopia, and a Native American Pow Wow Grand Entry. It is remarkably easy to find samples from every continent, and a similar type of musical practice exists in almost every faith community. After this brief overview, I attempt to explain why, from this point forward, we will focus exclusively on Western music. Students often have difficulty grasping this concept because for many of them the assumption is completely invisible, so I pose the question directly: Why do we choose to study only one of these musical practices and the music that follows?

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January 5, 2015

Writing, Memory, and Music: The Birth of Notation

CapMusFrom Capturing Music: The Story of Notation by Thomas Forrest Kelly (W. W. Norton & Company, 2014)

The air around us is filled with sounds. Some are annoying, some are pleasing, and some provide us with information we need. Noise, music, language—what they have in common is that they happen in real time. The moment we hear them is the moment in which they exist, and as soon as we have heard them, they are gone into what we call the past.

The idea of the existence of the past is tricky, and I’m no philosopher. But a sound I heard a moment ago may still be resonating somewhere, or being heard by someone else, and so the past, in a sense, may exist somewhere. Like the ripples in a pond, it’s possible that sounds made in Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris a thousand years ago still have the tiniest residual effect on the motion of air in that building. Maybe the breaths of ancient singers are still, imperceptibly, resonating somewhere.

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Norton Music

A History of Western Music

J. Peter Burkholder, Donald Jay Grout, and Claude V. Palisca

The Enjoyment of Music

Kristine Forney, Andrew Dell’Antonio, and Joseph Machlis

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