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A musical challenge to our view of the past

Music and the Exotic from the Renaissance to Mozart

In Musical Exoticism (Cambridge 2011) Ralph P. Locke undertook an extensive appraisal of the portrayal of the ‘Other’ in works dating from 1700 to the present day, an enquiry that embraced a wide range of genres from Baroque opera to Algerian rap, and which was at once musical, cultural, historical, political and ethical.

Coughing and Clapping: Investigating Audience Experience

Is it okay to tweet during a concert, if it allows those who couldn’t attend to engage with the performance and the music? Or is it really just distracting, on top of all the coughing?

How to Write About Music: The RILM Manual of Style

RILM Abstracts of Music Literature is an international database for musicological and ethnomusicological research, providing abstracts and indexing for users all over the world. As such, RILM’s style guide (How to Write About Music: The RILM Manual of Style) differs fairly significantly from those of more generalized style guides such as MLA or APA.

Book Review: Opera in the British Isles, 1875 – 1918

Opera in the British Isles might seem a rather sparse subject in the period 1875 to 1918. Notoriously described as the land without music, even the revival of the native tradition of composers did not include a strong vein of opera.

Diary of a Redneck Opera Zinger

Heldentenor Jay Hunter Morris tells us about the lean times when the phone did not ring, as well as those thrilling moments when companies entrusted him with the most important roles in opera.

Weill's Musical Theater: Stages of Reform

Commonly viewed as a ‘second-rate’ composer — a European radical persecuted by the Nazis whose trans-Atlantic emigration represented a sell-out to an inferior American popular culture —

Opera from Cambridge University Press

Although part of a series entitled Cambridge Introductions to Music, Robert Cannon’s wide-ranging, imaginative and thought-provoking survey of opera is certainly not a ‘beginners’ guide’.

James Melton: The Tenor of His Times

Those of us of a certain age have fond memories of James Melton, who entertained our parents starting in the 1930s and the rest of us in the 1940s and beyond on recordings, the radio, and films.

Essays on Italo Montemezzi - D'Annunzio: Nave

An important new book on Italo Montemezzi sheds light on his opera Nave. The author/editor is David Chandler whose books on Alfredo Catalani have done so much to restore interest in the genre.

Alfredo Catalani — A new perspective on later Italian opera

Assumptions about later Italian opera are dominated by Puccini, but Alfredo Catalani, born in the same town and almost at the same time, was highly regarded by their contemporaries. Two new books on Catalani could change our perceptions.

The Sopranos — Dissecting opera’s fervent fans

I was feeling cowed by Herr Engels. The four of us had retired from the Stravinsky performance to a Billy Wilder-themed bar in Berlin, the least horrible late-night option in the high end mediocrity of Potsdamer Platz.

Opera Remade, 1700-1750

This substantial book is one of the latest in the Ashgate series of collected essays in opera studies and draws together articles from a disparate group of scholarly journals and collected volumes, some recent, some now difficult to locate.

Operatic Advice and Counsel…A Welcome New Reference Book

Vincent Giroud’s valuable new French Opera, a Short History, is in hand and very welcome it is.

Lotfi Mansouri: An Operatic Journey

The noted operatic impresario and stage director, Lotfi Mansouri, with the professional help of writer Donald Arthur, has issued his memoirs under the title Lotfi Mansouri: An Operatic Journey.

Cosima Wagner — The Lady of Bayreuth

Originally published in German as Herrin des Hügels, das Leben der Cosima Wagner (Siedler, 2007), this new book by Oliver Hilmes is an engaging portrait of one of the most important women in music during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Operatic Italian

Robert Stuart Thomson’s Italian language learning text, Operatic Italian, promises to become an invaluable textbook for aspiring operatic singers, voice teachers, coaches and conductors.

Musical Exoticism: Images and Reflections

Ralph Locke’s recent book on Musical Exoticism is both an historical survey of aspects of the exotic in Western musical culture and a discussion of paradigms of the exotic and their relevance for musicological understanding.

Magic Flutes & Enchanted Forests: The Supernatural in Eighteenth-Century Musical Theater

Readers may recognize the author of this book, David J. Buch, a specialist on the origins of the libretto to Mozart’s Magic Flute.

Opera from the Greek

Perhaps it will be enough to tell you that I wasn’t halfway through this book before I searched the web for a copy of Professor Ewans’s study of Wagner and Aeschylus’s Oresteia, and ordered it forthwith: It has to be good.



The Cambridge Companion to John Cage
02 Apr 2005

The Cambridge Companion to John Cage

Cage's music is like Einstein's theorem: most people know it exists, know it's important, but beyond these facts know nothing about it (count me in this category when it comes to Einstein).

The Cambridge Companion to John Cage
Cambridge Companions to Music

Edited by David Nicholls. London: Cambridge University Press, 2002.

ISBN-10: 0521789680 | ISBN-13: 9780521789684


The volumes in the Cambridge Companions to Music Series are excellent remedies for this kind of situation, and the Cage volume is no exception. There is plenty of material here for someone without any basic training in music, since on one level Cage's music is readily appreciable without (perhaps in opposition to) customary musical training. To master the book in its entirety, however, the reader will need some minimal sophistication — a knowledge of musical "rudiments" (since Cage had a way of making the rudimentary anything but basic), an ability to read simple musical notation, and perhaps some minimal exposure to modern music theory (the notion of a musical motive, and its transformation and development). To this the reader must add a healthy dose of curiosity, since there is nothing more curious than Cage's oeuvre. No one, certainly no modern musician working in the line of thought that stems from European classicism, rethought music in such an ingenious and unprecedented fashion. The Canadian composer R. Murray Schaefer used to refer to a process of "ear cleaning," whereby we remove the accumulated dust of several centuries of classical listening (repeated listening to Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, etc.). Cage gives the ear a good scrubbing, and for this reason among others, despite the cultivated ignorance that surrounds his work, it is worth getting to know.

The book is divided into three sections. The first of these covers Cage's aesthetic background (the American, European, and most important perhaps the Asian influences on Cage's conception). David Patterson's essay on the Asian context is particularly illuminating, and while he has very little space in which to cover a broad and important question, Patterson introduces us to Cage and Zen, as well as Cage and the I Ching (a link that is in truth well documented) but also South Asian influences that are less well known — Ananda Coomaraswamy and the Ramakrishna sources. The second section of the book, "Sounds, words, images," appraises his work in terms of three periods (to the late 1940s, to the late 1960s, and thereafter until his death), and surveys his writings and his relationship to the world of visual art. Of these essays, "Visual Art," by Kathan Brown is particularly rewarding, opening up avenues for comparison between Cage's music and the paintings that dot the walls of our national (and in some instances local) art museums, and which we sometimes ignore as thoroughly as we do Cage and Einstein. Cage had a vibrant relationship with modern art and incorporated the visual into both his scores and his general conception. If you like modern art, you harbor the potential for liking Cage's music, and this chapter may serve as a door into the stuff. The final section of the book, "Interaction and influence," is a miscellany of essays relating Cage to his world and ours. The first three will be of interest to music scholars primarily, but the latter three, "Music and Society," by William Brooks, "Cage and Postmodernism," by Alastair Williams, and "No escape from heaven: John Cage as a father figure," by Kyle Gann, make particularly interesting reading. In fact, I would recommend starting the book with them. For those interested in vocal music and opera, Alastair Williams's discussion of the five Europeras will be of particular concern.

The bibliography is short but selective, comprehensive in its coverage, and the index is a model of concision. As my only caveat, the book begins with a brief chronology of Cage's life that could have been, perhaps, a little lengthier.

An excellent offering, then, in keeping with the high standards usually set by the Cambridge series. Highly recommended.

Murray Dineen
University of Ottawa

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