Joy H. Calico
This chapter considers three trends evident in recent research on opera in the period 1900–1945. Scholars tend to situate the genre, as well as individual works and composers, in relation to Wagner’s influence; they challenge and expand received wisdom about modernism, either admitting previously marginalized repertoire to that canon or proposing multiple modernisms; and they pursue nuanced analyses of the relationship between opera and Nazi/Fascist regimes. Precisely how one might define opera in a period of such great experimentation is also discussed. Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht’s Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny is presented as a case study in which all of these approaches are fruitful.
This chapter examines the issue of censorship in the British Broadcasting Corporation’s controversial decision to ban the final track, “A Day in the Life,” from the Beatles’ album, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band in 1967 due to its oblique reference to drug use. More specifically, it analyzes the factors underlying the BBC ban within the context of the cultural environment in which company executives interpreted the recording. The chapter also discusses the BBC mission and its “Green Book,” the BBC Variety Programmes Policy Guide for Writers and Producers, which establishes Britain’s standards for taste in broadcasting.
Elizabeth Titrington Craft
This chapter looks at the musical biopic Yankee Doodle Dandy. George M. Cohan was still alive when the movie about his life was made and his influence is seen on how it depicts aspects of his life to suit his own account of it. But the chapter also explores how the movie is a self-reflexive backstage musical and how its attention to theatrical authenticity served to deflect scrutiny from the lack of veracity in Cohan’s biography. Examples include the changing of details in scenes from the stage musicals George Washington, Jr and I’d Rather Be Right to serve the movie’s hagiographic depiction of Cohan’s life, as memorably played by James Cagney. But on the whole, the chapter reveals that fidelity was the byword in the treatment of Cohan’s musical oeuvre and the staging of musical numbers. James Cagney also took great care to capture Cohan’s renowned, distinctive dancing style; his instructor Johnny Boyle had even performed in Cohan shows and staged dances for Cohan.
This chapter deals with sexuality in the much-maligned film adaptation of Lerner and Loewe’s Paint Your Wagon, the least popular of the team’s three 1960s film adaptations (My Fair Lady and Camelot are the others). Situating the movie in the sexual revolution and second-wave feminism of the 1960s, the chapter examines the characterization of Elizabeth and her only song, ‘A Million Miles Away Behind the Door,’ as well as her polyandrous marriage to Ben and Pardner. The chapter also reflects on not only how adaptations change the source but—due to changing social conventions and expectations—why they must. In the case of Paint Your Wagon, the film matches Lerner’s depiction of triangular relationships in My Fair Lady and Camelot, deletes Jennifer and Julio, the principal romantic couple of the stage version, omits the Mexican American perspective represented by Julio, adds the new character Pardner, and places Ben Rumson into a polyandrous relationship with Pardner and Elizabeth. Thanks to the shift from the Production Code to the Ratings System in 1968, Paint Your Wagon could portray a more liberal sexual situation than would have been the case over a decade earlier when the stage version appeared, and the screenplay exploits this possibility in a variety of ways, thereby reflecting its time.
In 1991, Nirvana’s Nevermind not only launched grunge and alternative rock into the mainstream but also helped launch the DGC imprint of Geffen Records. Following Nirvana singer/songwriter Kurt Cobain’s suicide in 1994, Nirvana’s recordings, and Cobain’s previously unreleased solo recordings, have continued to be a lucrative asset for Geffen and their corporate parent, Universal. They have regularly released and reissued Nirvana material, often with the promise of new songs and other bonuses. This chapter surveys Geffen/Universal’s strategies in packaging and marketing Nirvana, with a focus on the band’s posthumous releases. Geffen initially followed Cobain’s lead, striking a balance between underground credibility and mainstream promotion. However, Universal has increasingly lost that balance, raising questions about Nirvana’s and Cobain’s long-term marketability. This case study demonstrates the complex negotiation of industrial forces, legal concerns, fan demand, and artistic integrity involved in marketing a paradigm-shifting act.
Acting and singing have often been considered incompatible activities, but most successful operatic performances depend in part on successful acting. Acting in opera is, however, different from acting in spoken drama. Realistic characterization is often difficult to achieve when acting with music, and often the formal gestures of a more rhetorical representation are more appropriate. A more vivid style of acting was initiated with the bel canto opera early in the nineteenth century, and later verismo opera required acting that brought out the unconscious motivation of characters. Wagner, Stanislavski, and Felsenstein all developed a style of acting that reflected the psychology of the character and encouraged ensemble. Modern operatic performance incorporates a variety of styles, but a combination of realism and minimalism may be most effective on stage. Callas’s performance in Act 2 of Tosca and Nicholas Lehnhoff’s production of Parsifal are analyzed.
John M. Clum
The article points out various aspects of acting in a musical theater. The acting was not always a primary concern in the history of musical theater. Stars of musical comedy were either singers or comedians who could sing competently or who couldn't sing at all. Traditional musical comedy was a hybrid performed by specialists. The chorus was split into singers and dancers. Serious actors usually avoided the musical entirely since there was enough serious drama on Broadway to keep them busy. Operetta, extremely popular in the 1920s, was built on stock characters that include the exotic romantic leading soprano and baritone, the comic mezzo and bass, the wistful tenor, and the perky soubrette. These same characters appeared again and again in different settings and costumes. Acting was definitely secondary to quasi-operatic singing. A singing star such as Ethel Merman was expected to sing and wisecrack with the comics, which she did in a succession of musicals in the 1930s and early 1940s.
The business of music and advertising involves finding, licensing, and producing music that enhances the influence of advertising messages. This chapter is a primer on the entire process of producing music for advertising. The process starts with the determination of the advertising text and the consideration of the options and best practices for defining the desired music characteristics. Then it is critical to search for good candidates from sources that range from composing new music to obtaining the rights to pre-existing popular songs. Next comes assembling the production team. This step includes discussion of tools that can measure and provide objective data to assist in the decision. Key music production and licensing terms are explained along with best practices and some case study information. Finally, the process ends with the use of social monitoring tools such as Nielsen social ratings that measure the influence, sentiment, and effectiveness of the advertising message.
This chapter on the liberal movie adaptation of Rodgers and Hart’s Pal Joey situates the musical in the context of postwar America, when traditional forms of gender and domesticity were being challenged and replaced by something more sexually ‘progressive.’ In the film, Joey is now a singer rather than a dancer, vulnerable rather than a heel, and he gets the girl in the end. The chapter explores how the film’s promotion of a set of emerging gender archetypes that defy traditional, middle-class, suburban constructions of masculinity and femininity is reflected in a new treatment of the score, which is reworked, repurposed, and in some cases eviscerated in order to promote the ethos of the film. A good example is the film’s presentation of the song ‘The Lady Is a Tramp’ (an interpolation from Babes in Arms), which, in Sinatra’s version, emphasize[s] that he is offering his body to her. The chapter concludes that despite the lyrics, it is Joey who plays the part of the ‘tramp.’
Remi Chiu and Dana Gorzelany-Mostak
Millie and Christine McKoy (1851–1912), African American conjoined twins billed as the “Two-Headed Nightingale,” were among the most successful “freak show” performers in the last quarter of the 19th-century. This chapter relies on “freak show” ephemera—such as press articles, (pseudo) biographical and autobiographical pamphlets, and posters and photos—to reconstruct Millie-Christine’s musical act and to examine the troubling process by which the sisters were made into and promoted as a “freak.” With a focus on the sonic elements described by these texts, examined alongside visual and textual narratives, the chapter builds an account of an advertising strategy that traded on the consumers’ prejudiced musical expectations with regard to gender and race, while cultivating new sonic fantasies about the conjoined body.
This chapter situates publications of English glees marketed to women within broader changes in publishing activities in both England and mainland Europe during the long eighteenth century. The glee was originally composed and performed by all-male vocal clubs, but after mixed-gender ensembles began singing glees in public, it came to be heavily marketed to female amateur musicians. Sheet music publications often referred to professional female singers such as Faustina Bordoni, Marianne Müller, Sophie Arnould, and Elizabeth Billington to increase sales. Music was often marketed to women in the form of monthly periodicals, including The Piano-Forte Magazine, and The Lady’s Musical Magazine; or, Monthly Polite Repository of New Vocal Musick by the Principal Composers in Europe. These periodicals were intended to generate steady income while simultaneously representing the newest, most fashionable music. As a novelty, music was occasionally printed on folding fans and playing cards, objects associated with female pastimes. These shifts speak to the gendering of musical media and performance practices in early English capitalism.
The late 1950s saw an astonishing emergence of iconoclastic and modernistic approaches to the genre of the British musical. Directors like Joan Littlewood and her Theatre Workshop company produced a number of dark, cynical, and experimental musicals in the late 1950s that provided British theatre professionals and audiences alike with an alternative to the dominant American style. Many attempted to bring this new and particularly British voice to the West End. An investigation of the musical, dramatic, and cultural context of the exceptional and important ‘Soho’ shows, which include Expresso Bongo, The Crooked Mile, Fings Ain’t Wot They Used T’Be, and Make Me an Offer, reveals these works as microcosms of their cultural environment as well as marking new directions in British musical theatre. Culminating in Oliver!, arguably the best-known British musical of this era, this development heralded a time of experimentation, social commentary, and modernism.
Jessica Sternfeld and Elizabeth L. Wollman
The article focuses on some of the more important developments that have affected the American musical over the years. The amount of money needed to produce a musical has increased since the onset of the depression, but especially since the 1960s. The cost of production, coupled with the introduction of several cheaper, more widely accessible entertainment forms, has forced the musical to struggle financially and aesthetically at various periods during the postwar era. Periods of high inflation, such as during the 1930s, affected the criteria for hit status, for example shows had to run for longer stretches to be profitable. The marketing for the show at that time was particularly intense, and the spectacle aspect was strongly promoted by producer Garth Drabinsky, under the auspices of his Canadian production company, Livent. The longer average runs of Broadway musicals depended in part on an increasingly international audience, which was seen as transitory and ever renewing. Since the advent of rock, amplification has become increasingly common and this was for several reasons. Many actors needed microphones to protect their voices and to be heard above the electric instruments that accompanied them. Film and sound recording technologies exerted significant influence on the stage musical and advances in sound design have allowed theatrical productions to offer cleaner, more balanced sound from the orchestra pit and stage.
Can opera as drama save classical music? Pierre Boulez famously proposed “blowing up all the opera houses” in 1967, and the relationship between the avant-garde and opera has been adversarial for most of the twentieth century. But in recent years interest in contemporary opera has exploded, leading critics like Joseph Kerman to proclaim that music drama proves the continuing vitality of the classical music canon. A study of the two major US productions of John Adams’s Doctor Atomic shows the pitfalls of relying on literature and drama to “sell” twenty-first-century opera as classical music: weaknesses in the libretto and staging led many intellectuals who attended the opera to dismiss it—and opera as a genre—in the harshest possible terms, reopening questions about the propriety of setting dramatic texts to music that composers had thought settled in their favor by the end of the seventeenth century.
Michael P. Steinberg
This article discusses the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, a musical group composed of various musicians from Palestine and other Middle Eastern countries. They show how music is a thing of the world, through their performances of works by various composers, such as Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. The article takes a look at the double agenda of the Divan, its pedagogical transformations, and their translations, techniques, and use of melancholy.
Recording production is a complex, multistep, typically collaborative process that entails a shifting set of individuals inhabiting changing roles within spaces that house considerable amounts of specialized technology. As these roles and technologies feature prominently in the aesthetics of Anglophone and Francophone popular music, they have been studied within such milieus for the longest period. This scholarship tends to understand the creative act as either the result of a prominent individual or something determined by the technologies used within studios. However, recent ethnomusicological scholarship has shown it is much more difficult to clearly situate agency within recording production, echoing theories of agency developed within the fields of anthropology and science and technology studies. The myriad uses of and significant cultural work that recordings can do show that one can’t assume that the goal of production work is simply to produce an aesthetic art object. For example, recordings can serve as a form of social action, and in many milieus the social values of the production process matter more than the financial success of the product. Ultimately, a nuanced consideration of agency within recording work produces important findings on the concept of creativity and the creative act.
This chapter examines how Alban Berg plotted to survive as a composer during the Third Reich. Berg’s opera Wozzeck premiered in Berlin on December 14, 1925, and achieved undisputed success eight years later. When Adolf Hitler became the leader of Nazi Germany, the works of many atonal composers, whether Aryan or not, were banned from performance in the country. Drawing on Berg’s personal documents held in the Austrian National Library, including musical sketches and drafts of letters, this chapter considers how Berg repackaged Wozzeck and his other opera Lulu in order to survive as a composer amid the harsh political environment during Hitler’s reign. It also comments on Berg’s desperation as a result of the Nazi government’s censorship of performances of Wozzeck. Finally, it considers Berg’s anti-Semitic tone in his opera, as well as his self-promotion to the point of aligning himself with Nazi Germany.
Nichole Guillory and Seneca Vaught
Constructions of black mothers and fathers are often complicated intersections of gender, race, class, sexuality, and place. This chapter seeks to examine the contested representations of black mothers, black fathers, and the black family in hip hop discourses and offers a typology of hip hop families. Specifically, the chapter focuses on the ways in which hip hop texts are in conversation with historical discourses on the black family and the ways in which hip hop has challenged traditional notions of family, kinship, and familial love. The chapter examines representations of hip hop fathers and hip hop mothers, complicates notions of the “modern” American family, and frames new trajectories for how black families are imagined in hip hop discourses.
“All Those Homes Beyond the Microphone”: Advertising, Domesticity, and Early Country Music Variety Programs in the 1930s
Radio programs called barn dances employed music and friendly address to insert advertising into rural forms of sociality. Rather than merely trying to cultivate goodwill or engage in hard-sell tactics, these variety programs sought to cultivate a mediated friendship that made advertisements helpful suggestions rather than rude interruptions. Barn dance radio was so intertwined with broadcast advertising that early country music during the 1930s can be understood as a subset of the advertising industry rather than the music industry. Although they could not personalize each message, the friendly environment created through music, advertising copy, and on-air patter encouraged listeners to imagine broadcasters as “radio friends,” and thus personalize broadcast messages to themselves.
This chapter considers the topical competency of late eighteenth-century amateur players and listeners. Focus is on selected string quartets by Haydn, Mozart, and Pleyel. The analytical strategy is comparative, and therefore the analyses are limited to movements governed by clearly defined topics. The troping of learned and galant elements is the focus of discussion of three minuet movements, all of which incorporate contrapuntal techniques to varying structural and expressive ends. Parametric density is the focus of discussion of four chasse movements. In both sets of examples, issues considered include topical content and syntactical function, topical dissonance, and social and cultural associations.