African American Spirituals: From Cotton Fields to Concert Halls

After the Civil War, touring groups of black college singers popularized slavery-era songs, giving rise to a new musical genre. “Swing low, sweet chariot….” These words are familiar to many Americans, who might sing them in worship, in Sunday school, around campfires, in school, and in community choruses. But the black singers responsible for introducing[…]

Music, Eurocentrism, and Identity: Myth of American ‘Discovery’ in Chile

Traditional narratives of Europe as the center of history and culture and myths of discovery are addressed in Chilean historical musicology. Abstract During the past century, Edmundo O’Gorman, Tzvetan Todorov, Enrique Dussel and other scholars pointed out the Eurocentric perspective implied in traditional narratives about the discovery of America, most of which intended to confirm[…]

The 1950s Queer Black Performers Who Inspired Little Richard

Little Richard honed his craft as a teenage drag queen. We see the influence of gay contemporaries like Esquerita and Billy Wright. Introduction ince Little Richard died on May 9, he’s been rightly celebrated as one of the most exciting and influential performers in the canon of American popular music. But in most tributes, the[…]

Music in Ancient, Medieval, and Modern China

The legendary founder of music in Chinese mythology was Ling Lun, who made bamboo pipes tuned to the sounds of birds. Introduction The music of China dates back to the dawn of Chinese civilization with documents and artifacts providing evidence of a well-developed musical culture as early as the Zhou Dynasty (1122 B.C.E. – 256[…]

Music as Slave Rebellion: The Power of Song in a Strange Land

Spirituals were created out of the experience of enslaved people in the U.S. They were songs of an abiding belief in the victory of good over evil. Introduction From the moment of capture, through the treacherous middle passage, after the final sale and throughout life in North America, the experience of enslaved Africans who first[…]

Picturing a Voice: Margaret Watts-Hughes and the Eidophone

Exploring the significance of the 19th-centurty Welsh singer’s ingenious set of images, which until recently were thought to be lost. This article, Picturing a Voice: Margaret Watts-Hughes and the Eidophone, was originally published in The Public Domain Review under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0. If you wish to reuse it please see: https://publicdomainreview.org/legal/ Recorded sound began as[…]

Solitude and Sandaya: The Strange History of Pianos in Burma

Perhaps the hybrid origins of the Burmese piano and sandaya might point a way forward for Myanmar. By Jonathan Webster On a quiet evening in March 1988, Aung San Suu Kyi’s telephone rang. The Burmese expatriate was reading quietly with her husband at her home in Oxford, England, when she learned of her mother’s stroke.[…]

The Ancient Roots and Modern Forms of Traditional Persian Music

Iran’s traditional music carries messages of beauty, joy, sorrow and love to the world. Introduction Weaving through the rooms of my Brisbane childhood home, carried on the languid, humid, sub-tropical air, was the sound of an Iranian tenor singing 800-year old Persian poems of love. I was in primary school, playing cricket in the streets,[…]

How Mary Lou Williams Shaped the Sound of the Big-Band Era

The perpetually contemporary Williams, as Ellington famously described her, mastered the language of swing. By Natalie Weiner “The greatest woman jazz pianist in captivity.” “The greatest woman jazz pianist in the world.” “Highly acclaimed as a deluxe tickler of the ivories.” “One of the foremost swing pianists of either sex.” By 1936, then-25-year-old Mary Lou[…]

Music in the Counter Reformation

The musical changes that took place in the Counter Reformation were changes that set the precedent for church music in years to come. By Julianna Cianfano Introduction The Counter Reformation, also known as the Catholic Reformation, was about a hundred year period in Europe that aimed towards a resurgence of the Catholic Church in a[…]

Ella Fitzgerald: The Voice that Shattered Glass

How Ella Fitzgerald’s cassette campaign fueled a late-career renaissance. It’s the stuff of legends: an urban legend and a jazz legend combining into a legendary advertising campaign. In 1970, the Leo Burnett ad agency in Chicago had an imaginative idea for selling Memorex’s new line of blank cassette tapes. They’d prove the old myth that[…]

Jazz, Chicago, and the Great Migration

How did the Great Migration of African-Americans in the twentieth century affect the development of jazz music in Chicago? Introduction During the period known as the Great Migration (1915-1970), six million African-Americans moved from southern states to urban areas in the North and West. In 1900, ninety percent of black people in the United States[…]

Harper’s Songs of Ancient Egypt

Harper’s songs were lyrics composed in ancient Egypt to be sung at funeral feasts and inscribed on monuments. Introduction Harper’s songs were lyrics composed in ancient Egypt to be sung at funeral feasts and inscribed on monuments. They derive their name from the image which accompanies the text on tomb or chapel walls, stelae, and papyri in which a[…]

Listening to the Past: An African-American Lullaby

Both during slavery and after, the power structures of American society confined many black women to the role of caretakers of white families. My research tries to capture the sounds of the past before the advent of recorded music. I’m curious about ideas that were spoken and sung and shouted and strummed, focusing particularly on[…]

Why We Keep Rediscovering the Flamboyant Godmother of Rock

Sister Rosetta Tharpe was buried in an unmarked grave, but now she’s a YouTube sensation. More than 40 years after her burial in an unmarked Philadelphia grave, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, gospel’s first superstar and its most celebrated crossover figure, is enjoying a burst of Internet celebrity. A video of her playing one of her signature[…]

Luther’s Musical Legacy is the Reformation’s Unsung Achievement

In the great reformer’s eyes, if you didn’t love a rousing tune you deserved only “the music of the pigs”. Five hundred years ago, Martin Luther triggered what would become the Protestant Reformation with a document protesting corruption in the Catholic Church. At its heart, his Reformation was a movement about the nature of sin[…]

Inside Poor Monkey’s: One of the Last Jook Joints

Transformed in the 1950s from a sharecropper shack that was built probably in the 1920s, Poor Monkey’s Lounge is the one of the last rural jook joints in the Mississippi Delta. Overview Transformed in the 1950s from a sharecropper shack that was built probably in the 1920s, Poor Monkey’s Lounge is the one of the[…]

Rules of the Tribe: Hardcore Punks and Hair Metal in the 1980s

A new scene was taking root, composed of bands that combined punk’s politics and attitude with the complexity and weight of metal. The chant began less than two minutes into the first song. An undercurrent at first, just a few hecklers. But it got louder with repetition, each wave building on the last. Soon the[…]

Hearing, Sensing, Feeling Sound: On Music and Physiology in Victorian England, 1857-1894

Acoustical science fundamentally transformed the ways that Victorians conceptualized the relations between aesthetics and the body. This article focuses on new developments in the burgeoning field of acoustical science that emerged in the mid-to-late-nineteenth century. During this time, sound science began to flourish in England, particularly through lectures by Hermann von Helmholtz and John Tyndall[…]