Analysis

Taking Sides: Patrolling the Line Between Pop and Classical

Music that melds diverse styles and “defies classification” is almost its own cliché these days. Yet no matter how many boundary-smashing genres we add to the ever-expanding list, the fence between pop and classical seems to be well patrolled and holding strong. Even for those who listen to and enjoy all kinds of music, that […]

Racism: On the Notated Page As Well?

Willard Jenkins Racism, one of the ugliest of humankind’s most base impulses, is a subject that is broached perhaps more frankly in the arts than in the corporate canyons, but it is never an easy discussion. In the last two issues of the Jazz Journalists Association‘s in-house quarterly, Jazz Notes, I raised several specters of […]

The Beaten Path: A History Of American Percussion Music

Nicole V. Gagné In the concert halls of 18th and 19th century Europe, percussion was traditionally regarded as being almost exclusively a secondary aspect of orchestral music—and one best employed with caution. Ironically, this European attitude toward percussion was summed up by an American composer noted for his nationalism. In What To Listen For In […]

No Common Practice: The New Common Practice and its Historical Antecedents

Benjamin PiekutPhoto by Megan Wolf When I initially spoke with friends and colleagues about the notion of a new “common practice,” I became aware that the concept is not nearly as widely-recognized as I had initially thought. Is it a set of performance techniques? Is it neo-romantic symphonic music? Or could it be defined as […]

Polyphonic Lives: Composers Working Behind the Scenes in the Music Industry

Jed Distler multitaskingPhoto by Randy Nordschow The great lyricist Johnny Mercer liked to tell the story of how his wife Ginger struck up a conversation with a stranger. Asked what her husband did, Ginger replied that he wrote songs. The stranger replied, “Yes, but what does he do for a living?” Many composers, in fact, […]

Making Marx in the Music: A HyperHistory of New Music and Politics

No one can doubt that music has a big role to play in the world of political protest. The controversial musicians we read about in the papers, though, are mostly from the pop and folk genres. It’s not only that those musicians are more visible, though that’s certainly true as well. Classical music and jazz seem to have a more long-term, measured, even sublimated approach to political protest, slower to react and more deeply embedded in the structure of the music itself.