Outstanding Academic Titles 2022: Music

This week we highlight 2022 Outstanding Academic Titles about music

1. Le chant intime: the interpretation of French mélodie
by François Le Roux and Romain Raynaldy; tr. by Sylvia Kahan Oxford, 2021
painting of parlor musicians on a book cover for Le chant intime: the interpretation of French mélodie

Originally published in French in 2004, this English translation of Le Chant Intime is a welcome and important resource for Anglophones wishing to delve into French song interpretation with Le Roux, one of the world’s most renowned French baritones. Not since Pierre Bernac’s highly acclaimed Interpretation of French Song (CH, Jan’71) has there been a more comprehensive study of French song. Writing for a new generation of singers, voice coaches, and pedagogues, Le Roux and Raynaldy capture an “enormous span of French music, which also serves poetry in all its musicality” (p. 1). The book examines the French mélodies of 30 composers, including Hector Berlioz, Claude Debussy, Gabriel Fauré, Reynaldo Hahn, Darius Milhaud, and Pauline Viardot. Rich in historical notes, French song texts with English translations, and artistic and practical song analyses, this is a book that every vocal practitioner of French mélodie should have. View on Amazon

2. Russian composers abroad: how they left, stayed, returned
Dubinets, Elena Aleksandrovna. Indiana, 2021
Image of a suitcase, musical measures and an airplane on a book cover for Russian Composers Abroad

This is a well-written, thought-provoking book. Dubinets—artistic director of the London Philharmonic Orchestra—provides an insider’s view of the shared experiences of several generations of Russian composers who fled their native country to escape political persecution and economic uncertainty. The book is certainly timely in an academic environment seemingly consumed with confused individuals playing with artificial identities. Dubinets portrays real people dealing with the construction of real identities. The book is also a reminder, at a moment of almost universal condemnation of all things Russian, of the tremendous contributions Russians have made to musical culture. This book is far more than an ethnography of the Russian musical diaspora: it investigates the stages of emigration of Russian composers as manifested in the music they actually composed. The wide range of composers and compositions examined makes this volume an excellent addition to the shelf that includes more general histories of 20th– and 21st–century Russian music, such as work by Malcolm Brown and Richard Taruskin. Dubinets includes copious music examples and an extensive bibliography. View on Amazon

3. Music as Mao’s weapon: remembering the Cultural Revolution
Ouyang, Lei. Illinois, 2021
Yellow book cover portraying cartoon of 3 piece musical group and an audience of one on the book cover for Music as Mao's Weapon

Why music? Why does music matter today? What can one learn from music? These are questions addressed in this unique monograph. Focusing on the five-volume anthology of songs titled New Songs of the Battlefield—published in China from 1972 to 1976 during China’s Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (1966–76)—Ouyang (Swarthmore College) explores the politization of music in Mao’s China, the impact it had on the populace, and contemporary memories of the music. Through interviews and analysis, the author documents the experience of propaganda and shows how music can be manipulated and exploited to serve particular purposes. The book is organized around major themes, including politics, childhood, and memory, and includes in-depth analysis of songs and fascinating interviews with those who lived through the events captured in the work. This volume joins such works as Popular Chinese Literature and Performing Arts in the People’s Republic of China, 1949–1979, ed. by Bonnie McDougall (1984), and Listening to China’s Cultural Revolution: Music, Politics, and Cultural Continuities, written by Paul Clark, Laikwan Pang, and Tsan-Huang Tsai (2016). In addition, those interested in works by Denise Ho (2018), Richard King (2010), Xiaomei Chen (2002, 2017), and Emily Wilcox (2018) may be interested Ouyang’s exploration of music and dramatic arts as vehicles for state propaganda. View on Amazon

4. The operetta empire: music theater in early twentieth-century Vienna
Baranello, Micaela. California, 2021
Photograph of an early 1900s operetta cast on the book cover for The Operetta Empire

This is an excellent study of the musical, historical, economic, social, and political background of the Silver Age Viennese operetta, which is generally supposed to have begun with Franz Lehár’s composition The Merry Widow in 1905. Baranello (Univ. of Arkansas) brings operetta into the mainstream of musicological studies, continuing a trend toward scholarly consideration of popular forms of music theater, such as the American musical. Many of the author’s arguments center on the concept of middlebrow culture, which inhabits an intellectual space between the professional rigors (even sterility) of high modernism and the simplicity (even mindlessness) of popular culture. It is good to see a rediscovery of the  middlebrow, which used to be an important postwar concept but fell out of favor in the 1960s. The familiar thematic tropes of operetta are given their due, Gypsy (Hungarian) and exotic characters and locales as well as love interests from different social classes. A chapter on the role of operetta in WW I is a particularly welcome inclusion. The work is also notable for its many musical examples, plates, and thorough bibliography. View on Amazon

5Nikolay Myaskovsky : a composer and his times
Zuk, Patrick. Boydell & Brewer, 2021

In this groundbreaking endeavor, Zuk (Durham Univ., UK) presents an in-depth biography of Soviet composer Nikolay Myaskovsky (1881–1950), whose career unfolded as the Soviet Union came to power. Though he became well-known as a professional composer in his country, he remains largely unknown in the West. A private man who strove to avoid official censure, Myaskovsky does not fit the Western stereotype of activist composers valiantly defying Soviet oppression. Nevertheless, although he won the Stalin Prize five times, he faced constant government scrutiny and suffered serious persecution late in his life. His output was extensive; his 27 symphonies are his best-known work. Soviet musicologists critiqued his compositions based on standards of socialist realism, and they wrote biased books and articles about him. Only after the fall of the Soviet Union has it been possible for scholars to examine the vast archives of Myaskovsky’s music manuscripts, correspondence, and other biographical materials now housed in Russian museums. Zuk examined them over a period of 12 years, and presents the first-ever comprehensive and objective study of the man and his music. View on Amazon

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