This chapter discusses the problems of applying contemporary techniques of music analysis to a genre that embraces not only sound but also spectacle and, above all, drama. It describes the nature of the problems that arise when operatic music, be it a single “number” or an entire work, is the subject of close reading. It then discusses a variety of approaches taken since the 1970s to operas by Mozart, Wagner, and Verdi; these include Schenkerian (voice-leading) graphing and readings based on musical topoi, on the poetic design of the text, on composers’ sketches and autographs, and on the manipulation of operatic convention. Aspects of form, motive, and tonality are discussed in greater detail in parts of Le nozze di Figaro and the Ring.
The problems associated with the “representational” nature of music has been a feature of musicology and Western thought for many years, with authors such as Eduard Hanslick highlighting how music’s “beauty” lies in its formal structure as opposed to containing or purveying any inherent emotionality. In more recent times, academics such as Davies, Moore, and Zak have all elaborated on how recording technology has added to the complex ways in which music and musicians interact with time, place, and space; to a certain extent all popular music can be considered “virtual.” This chapter discusses the creation and reception of the music of Frank Zappa, who purposively employed techniques to philosophically position his output in a virtual dimension. It draws on Zappa’s own vocabulary, in addition to a range of thinkers (including those highlighted here) to Plato, Paul Weiss, and Schopenhauer.
“And I Make My Own”: Class Performance, Black Urban Identity, and Depression-Era Harlem’s Physical Culture
Christopher J. Wells
This chapter applies spatial practice theory to the intersections of power relations, social spaces, and embodied performance in the dance culture of Great Depression-era Harlem. Tracing the movement in black communities away from signifiers of ethnicity toward social-class-based hierarchies, it shows how ethnicized tropes have been used to exoticize and commodify black identity and to create the American black/white racial binary. This strategy has its roots in the marketing labels of the slave trade and the performative tropes of minstrel shows, and it continued in the floor shows of the Cotton Club and other “jungle alley” nightclubs in Harlem. The chapter charts the trajectory of the Savoy Ballroom’s drift from an upscale, dignified dance palace to an incubator for the lindy hop and Harlem’s other popular dance innovations. It argues that considering dance demands a model of ethnicity that creates more space for individual agency and processes of self-definition.
The chapter gives an outline of Sondheim’s shows performed in the subsidized theater in Europe and their history up until 2010. Government-funded theaters were once a natural place for experiment, now lack of subsidy prompts the question: are Sondheim’s shows being exploited to be “respectable” crowd pleasers by the up-market venues, or can they retain some of their challenging, conceptual origins? Should they be performed by opera houses at all? (If not there, then where should they be performed?) Is Sondheim’s work a barometer for our theatrical times? In the future, how can theaters retain the real artistic quest of these works by delving more deeply, more challengingly into their conceptual framework? Will the values of commercial theater and financial conservatism dictate how these pieces are produced?
Andes to Amazon on the River Q’eros: Indigenous Voice in Grassroots Tourism, Safeguarding, and Ownership Projects of the Q’eros and Wachiperi Peoples
This chapter advocates that micro-scale applied ethnomusicology projects based in shared experience, co-collaboration, and equal status, executed in small groups, are as valid and often more effective than large-scale organizational projects. Two case studies show how grassroots approaches support the effectiveness of indigenous voice and representation regarding use of traditional music in tourism, safeguarding, and music ownership via CD production. The first case charts indigenous tourism and musical representation with the Quechua Q’eros of the southern Peruvian Andes; the second outlines safeguarding conflicts with Peru’s Ministry of Culture regarding UNESCO’s nomination of esuwa, healing songs, and song ownership with the near-extinct Wachiperi Amazonian group. The measurement of effectiveness is premised on the concept of reciprocity, the driving social mechanism in both the Q’eros and the Wachiperi communities. These case studies show tourism and safeguarding projects that are successful precisely because they are small scale and founded on mutually beneficial relationships.
Andrew Lloyd Webber (b. 1948) and his Really Useful Group (founded 1977) have dominated British musical theatre since the 1970s, especially between 1981 and 2002. This critical survey of Lloyd Webber’s career discusses his self-understanding as a theatre composer; his development of an individual style in the late 1960s; his breakthrough success with Jesus Christ Superstar (1970) and the significance of what the lyricist Tim Rice calls its ‘operatic form’; the continued artistic and commercial development of the composer’s career through Evita (1976), Cats (1981), Starlight Express (1984), and The Phantom of the Opera (1986); and his subsequent failure to produce further musicals of comparable popularity. The Phantom of the Opera is identified as the most personal of Lloyd Webber’s major successes and his obsessive, revisionary investment in Gaston Leroux’s novel is analysed with reference to both the 1986 musical and its badly misjudged sequel, Love Never Dies (2010).
This article appears in the Oxford Handbook of Sound and Image in Digital Media edited by Carol Vernallis, Amy Herzog, and John Richardson. By 1915, directors of photography were no longer satisfied with providing a correct exposure to their images. By apportioning different levels of light to adjoining areas of a scene, they started the process of enhancing the action with contrast, mood, and dramatic tension. Still, the cinematographers’ best efforts remained circumscribed by what they had actually captured on film, give or take some modest adjustment of light and color when timing the release prints. The advent of digital technology gave directors of photography and colorists access to a wide array of postproduction tools allowing them to manipulate after the fact every detail in a given shot. Although this engineering of flawless imagery dazzles the audience’s senses, overly processed image enhancement ultimately conveys a vaporous, glossy world that could inhibit the viewers’ emotional and mental engagement.
The article presents several unique features that constitute an animated film musical and make it distinct from its live action counterpart. The frequency with which the animated films have animals or some other nonhuman character at their center indicates that the animated film employs a much broader notion of performance and a greater range of performer types, some of whom such as “Little April Shower” sequence, may not even have the kind of bodily presence that is for granted in the delivery of a live action musical number. The presence of the human voice on the soundtrack pulls against any more radical decentering of the human figure from the field of performance, although the pairing of this with the animated body engenders further complexities specific to the animated musical genre. The actions that constitute the performance are instead created through the manipulation of a set of drawings or other inanimate shapes and forms outside of the filming process, rather than from any physical action performed within the frame. Plasticity offers unique opportunities in performance terms, with the animated human body, being capable of stretching, compressing, and changing shape in response to the rhythms and patterns of music to a degree that is impossible in the live-action musical.
This article has been commissioned as part of the forthcoming Oxford Handbook of Music Revival edited by Caroline Bithell and Juniper Hill. This essay explores modern performances of medieval music as a phenomenon of musical revival. The revival of early music in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries can be traced back to an early modern musical antiquarianism that saw medieval and folk music traditions as intimately related. In the revivals of medieval and folk music in Europe, antiquarians obsessed about the idea of restoring traditions to a hypothetical original and pure state. Both revivals underwent a remarkable institutionalization in the nineteenth century that was indispensable to their becoming bona fide academic disciplines. In comparing approaches to early music and folk music, key central concerns arise in both cases: their origins in the activities of early modern academic societies; nostalgia for the past and, nostalgia’s corollary, dissatisfaction with contemporary culture; an obsession with written sources paired with an academic validation of oral performances; and a specifically nineteenth-century trend toward institutionalization in the wake of industrialization.
Stephen Sondheim and his critics usually ascribe the failure of Anyone Can Whistle, Sondheim’s most revered flop, to the volatile social and political context in the United States, claiming that it was ahead of its time. This chapter argues, in contrast, that it is very much of its time and that no other musical of the period epitomizes the social and cultural contradictions of the mid-1960s as vividly as Whistle. Attempting to bring the kind of theatrical and political provocation that was flourishing Off-Off-Broadway to Broadway audiences unfamiliar with experimental idioms, Whistle represents a determined hybrid: part satire, part romance, part musical comedy, part Broadway razzle-dazzle, part political polemic. It is also symptomatic of the contradictions inherent in the dominant political philosophy of the 1960s, liberal individualism, in its opposition to standardization and conformism and its inclination toward an arrogant egocentrism. That Whistle had to wait decades to find an audience is a tribute less to Sondheim’s prescience than to his ascendency since the 1970s as his generation’s preeminent architect of experimental music theatre.