New Books in Performing Arts

Marshall Poe

Interviews with scholars of the performing arts about their new books Support our show by becoming a premium member! https://newbooksnetwork.supportingcast.fm/performing-arts read less
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Miriam Piilonen, "Theorizing Music Evolution: Darwin, Spencer, and the Limits of the Human" (Oxford UP, 2024)
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Miriam Piilonen, "Theorizing Music Evolution: Darwin, Spencer, and the Limits of the Human" (Oxford UP, 2024)
What did historical evolutionists such as Charles Darwin and Herbert Spencer have to say about music? What role did music play in their evolutionary theories? What were the values and limits of these evolutionist turns of thought, and in what ways have they endured in present-day music research?  Theorizing Music Evolution: Darwin, Spencer, and the Limits of the Human (Oxford UP, 2024) is a critical examination of ideas about musical origins, emphasizing nineteenth-century theories of music in the evolutionist writings of Darwin and Spencer. Author Miriam Piilonen argues for the significance of this Victorian music-evolutionism in light of its ties to a recently revitalized subfield of evolutionary musicology. Taking an interdisciplinary approach to music theorizing, Piilonen explores how historical thinkers constructed music in evolutionist terms and argues for an updated understanding of music as an especially fraught area of evolutionary thought. In this book, Piilonen delves into how historical evolutionists, in particular Darwin and Spencer, developed and applied a concept of music that served as a boundary-drawing device, used to trace or obscure the conceptual borders between human and animal. She takes as primary texts the early evolutionary treatises that double as theoretical accounts of music's origins. For Darwin, music served as a kind of proto-language common to humans and animals alike; he heard the songs of birds and the chirps of mice as musical, as articulated in texts such as The Descent of Man (1871) and The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals (1872). Spencer, on the other hand, viewed music as a specifically human stage of evolutionary advance, beyond language acquisition, as outlined in his essay, "The Origin and Function of Music" (1857). These competing views established radically different perspectives on the origin and function of music in human cultural expression, while at the same time being mutually constitutive of one another. A ground-breaking contribution to music theory and histories of science, Theorizing Music Evolution turns to music evolution with an eye toward disrupting and intervening in these questions as they recur in the present.” Nathan Smith is a PhD candidate in Music Theory at Yale University (nathan.smith@yale.edu). Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices Support our show by becoming a premium member! https://newbooksnetwork.supportingcast.fm/performing-arts
Leah Broad, "Quartet: How Four Women Changed the Musical World" (Faber & Faber, 2023)
05-04-2024
Leah Broad, "Quartet: How Four Women Changed the Musical World" (Faber & Faber, 2023)
This is a story of four composers whose careers, lives and loves as women working in 20th century Britain have since been largely forgotten. Dr Leah Broad’s 2023 debut Quartet: How Four Women Changed the Musical World (Faber & Faber, 2023), reveals the life and music of some of Britain’s most exciting 20th-century composers. A musicologist who gravitates towards figures at the margins of Western Art Music, the four subjects of Broad’s biography (Ethel Smyth, Rebecca Clarke, Doreen Carwithen and Dorothy Howell) experience success, even fame, before being pushed to the periphery. They compose operas, film music, songs and sonatas, encounter the Second Viennese School and fashion early freelance instrumental careers. Broad’s narrative begins in 1858 with the birth of Ethel Smyth. She charts two world wars, the development of post-war British institutions such as the BBC and the Arts Council of Great Britain, and brings us all the way to Doreen Carwithen’s death in 2003. In this time, the four composers take on the diverse politics of suffragette militancy, 60’s American liberalism and a staunch British-Catholic conservatism. Through grouping such diverse personalities, Broad refuses the tendency to isolate women as historical anomalies or singular figures. Her fluent prose expertly interweaves their lives, whilst revealing a true diversity of music, thought and experience. Joseph Edwards is a writer and violinist based in London. His current research looks at the importance of sound in chronic illness experience. Contact him via email at joseph8edwards@gmail.com or through Twitter @joseph8edwards. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices Support our show by becoming a premium member! https://newbooksnetwork.supportingcast.fm/performing-arts
Daniel de Visé, "The Blues Brothers: An Epic Friendship, the Rise of Improv, and the Making of an American Film Classic" (Grove Atlantic, 2024)
05-04-2024
Daniel de Visé, "The Blues Brothers: An Epic Friendship, the Rise of Improv, and the Making of an American Film Classic" (Grove Atlantic, 2024)
The Blues Brothers: An Epic Friendship, the Rise of Improv, and the Making of an American Film Classic (Grove Atlantic, 2024) tells the story of the epic friendship between John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd, the golden era of improv, and the making of a comedic film classic that helped shape our popular culture. “They’re not going to catch us,” Dan Aykroyd, as Elwood Blues, tells his brother Jake, played by John Belushi. “We’re on a mission from God.” So opens the musical action comedy The Blues Brothers, which hit theaters on June 20, 1980. Their scripted mission was to save a local Chicago orphanage. But Aykroyd, who conceived and wrote much of the film, had a greater mission: to honor the then-seemingly forgotten tradition of rhythm and blues, some of whose greatest artists—Aretha Franklin, James Brown, John Lee Hooker, Cab Calloway, Ray Charles—made the film as unforgettable as its wild car chases. Much delayed and vastly over budget, beset by mercurial and oft drugged-out stars, The Blues Brothers opened to outraged reviews. However, in the 44 years since, it has been acknowledged a classic: it has been inducted into the National Film Registry for its cultural significance, even declared a “Catholic classic” by the Church itself, and re-aired thousands of times on television to huge worldwide audiences. It is, undeniably, one of the most significant films of the twentieth century. The story behind any classic is rich; the saga behind The Blues Brothers, as Daniel de Visé reveals, is epic, encompassing the colorful childhoods of Belushi and Aykroyd; the comedic revolution sparked by Harvard’s Lampoon and Chicago’s Second City; the birth and anecdote-rich, drug-filled early years of Saturday Night Live, where the Blues Brothers were born as an act amidst turmoil and rivalry; and, of course, the indelible behind-the-scenes narrative of how the film was made, scene by memorable scene. Based on original research and dozens of interviews probing the memories of principals from director John Landis and producer Bob Weiss to Aykroyd himself, The Blues Brothers illuminates an American masterpiece while vividly portraying the creative geniuses behind modern comedy. Daniel de Visé is an author and journalist. A graduate of Wesleyan and Northwestern universities, he worked at the The Washington Post, the Miami Herald and three other newspapers in a 23-year career. He shared a 2001 team Pulitzer Prize and garnered more than two dozen other national and regional journalism awards. His investigative reporting twice led to the release of wrongly convicted men from life terms in prison. His first book, I Forgot To Remember (with Su Meck, Simon & Schuster, 2014), began as a front-page article de Visé wrote for the Washington Post in 2011. His second book, Andy & Don (Simon & Schuster, 2015), began as a journalistic exploration into the storied career of his late brother-in-law, famed actor Don Knotts. His third book, The Comeback (Grove Atlantic, 2018), rekindles a childhood obsession with professional cycling. Daniel is married to Sophie Yarborough, a senior editor at The Washington Post​. They and their children live outside Washington D.C. Daniel Moran earned his B.A. and M.A. in English from Rutgers University and his Ph.D. in History from Drew University. The author of Creating Flannery O’Connor: Her Critics, Her Publishers, Her Readers and articles on G. K. Chesterton and John Ford, he teaches research and writing at Rutgers and co-hosts the podcast Fifteen-Minute Film Fanatics, found here on the New Books Network and on X. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices Support our show by becoming a premium member! https://newbooksnetwork.supportingcast.fm/performing-arts
Edward Dusinberre, "Distant Melodies: Music in Search of Home" (U Chicago Press, 2022)
04-04-2024
Edward Dusinberre, "Distant Melodies: Music in Search of Home" (U Chicago Press, 2022)
The first violinist of the Takács Quartet weaves scholarship on Edward Elgar, Antonin Dvořák, Bela Bartók and Benjamin Britten with a deeply personal evocation of belonging, national identity and the private life of a string quartet. Edward Dusinberre’s Distant Melodies: Music in Search of Home (Faber, The University of Chicago Press 2022) alternates traditional musicology with personal reminiscence, situating details of Dusinberre’s English upbringing and current life in Colorado, alongside Dvořák’s tenure as director of the National Conservatory of Music of America and Bartók’s bleak final years of illness and longing as a Hungarian refugee. He gives behind-the-scenes access to quartet life, an esoteric and often guarded profession. Dusinberre explains the rehearsal process, reveals the complexity of auditioning new members and evokes the struggles performing musicians faced during the Covid-19 pandemic. The evolution of sound and style is an important topic for a quartet formed almost 50 years ago in 1970’s Budapest. Now based in Boulder, Colorado, with cellist András Fejér the only remaining founding member, Dusinberre considers the subject of music and nationalism as it relates to the shifting identity of the Takács and their repertoire. This exploration of change and exchange speaks to our fluctuating relationships with self-identity and difficulties in defining home. Joseph Edwards is a writer and violinist based in London. His current research looks at the importance of sound in chronic illness experience. Contact him via email at joseph8edwards@gmail.com or through Twitter @joseph8edwards. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices Support our show by becoming a premium member! https://newbooksnetwork.supportingcast.fm/performing-arts
Richard Beaudoin, "Sounds As They Are: The unwritten music in classical recordings" (Oxford UP, 2024)
02-04-2024
Richard Beaudoin, "Sounds As They Are: The unwritten music in classical recordings" (Oxford UP, 2024)
In a recording, what sounds count as music? Sounds made by a musician's body--including inhales, finger taps, and grunts--have for decades been dismissed as extraneous noises. In Sounds As They Are: The unwritten music in classical recordings (Oxford UP, 2024), author Richard Beaudoin pioneers a field of inquiry into non-notated sounds in recordings of classical music, recognizing often-overlooked sounds made by the bodies of performers and their recording equipment as music. Beaudoin classifies such sounds via inclusive track analysis (ITA), a bold new theory based on a comprehensive census of audible events on a given recording, and then codifies their musical function. He builds a typology across four large categories: sounds of breath (inhaling and exhaling), sounds of touch (guitar squeaks, piano pedals), sounds of effort (grunting and moaning), and surface noise (on early recording formats). Breaths are shown to be as complex and diverse as chords. Touch sounds create empathy with listeners. Effortful vocalizations reveal connections between music-making and sex. The measurement of surface noise reveals moments of synchronization with the meter of the recorded piece. He draws analogies between unwritten music and painting, photography, poetry, psychology, and government. The book's methodology is intertwined with the aesthetics and ethics of non-notated sounds: who is allowed to make them, and how they are received by listeners, critics, and scholars. Beaudoin uncovers insidious inequalities across music studies and the recording industry, including the silencing of body and breath sounds along lines of gender and race. Sounds as They Are demonstrates the expressive, interpretive, and embodied possibilities that emerge when all sounds are valued coequally and asks music theory to face a simple truth: that all sounds deserve recognition. Nathan Smith is a PhD candidate in Music Theory at Yale University (nathan.smith@yale.edu). Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices Support our show by becoming a premium member! https://newbooksnetwork.supportingcast.fm/performing-arts
Sam McPheeters, "Mutations: Twenty Years Embedded in Hardcore Punk" (Barnacle Book, 2020)
28-03-2024
Sam McPheeters, "Mutations: Twenty Years Embedded in Hardcore Punk" (Barnacle Book, 2020)
How can so many people pledge allegiance to punk, something with no fixed identity? Depending on who and where you are, punk can be an outlet, excuse, lifestyle, escapism, conversation, community, ideology, sales category, social movement, punishable offense, badge of authenticity, reason to drink beer forever, or an aesthetic of belligerent incompetence. And if someone has a strong belief about what punk is, odds are they have even stronger feelings about what punk is not. Sam McPheeters championed many different versions. Over the course of two decades, he fronted Born Against, released dozens of records and fanzines, and toured seventeen times across the northern hemisphere. In Mutations: Twenty Years Embedded in Hardcore Punk (Barnacle Book, 2020), he examines the diverse realms he intersected—New York hardcore, Riot Grrrl, Gilman street, the hidden enclaves of Olympia, and New England, and downtown Los Angeles—and the forces of mental illness and creative inspiration that drove him, and others, in the first place. Sam McPheeters was born in Ohio and raised in upstate New York. In 1981, at age twelve, he co-authored Travelers Tales: Rumors and Legends of the Albany-Saratoga Region. Starting in 1989, he sang for Born Against, Men's Recovery Project, and Wrangler Brutes, touring seventeen times across North America, Europe, and Japan. Since 2009, he has written for Criterion, Vice, and The Village Voice, among others. He currently lives in Pomona, CA, with his wife. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices Support our show by becoming a premium member! https://newbooksnetwork.supportingcast.fm/performing-arts
Melodrama
25-03-2024
Melodrama
We often misuse the word melodrama with abandon, especially to characterize other people’s behaviors, but Greg Vargo defines it for us once and for all. Emerging in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries as the predominant Western theatrical form, it is a genre of crisis. To that end, it employed hyperbolic language, extreme situations, extraordinary coincidences, stark oppositions and so on. Greg talks about his own ongoing work on melodramas about race, their histories of performance, and the storied career of the African American actor Ira Aldridge. Greg Vargo is Associate Professor at the Department of English, New York University. His research focuses on the literary and cultural milieu of nineteenth-century British protest movements and the interplay between politics, periodical culture, the novel and theater. His first book, An Underground History of Early Victorian Fiction: Chartism, Radical Print Culture, and the Social Problem Novel (Cambridge UP, 2018), won the 2019 North American Victorian Studies Association’s award for best book of the year in Victorian Studies. He has recently edited Chartist Drama (Manchester UP, 2020), a collection of four plays written or performed by members of the working-class movement for social and political rights known as Chartism. A new project focuses on anti-imperialism in nineteenth-century popular culture (across such media as penny novels and stage melodrama) as well as in radical politics. Image: © 2024 Saronik Bosu Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices Support our show by becoming a premium member! https://newbooksnetwork.supportingcast.fm/performing-arts
Radha Kapuria, "Music in Colonial Punjab" (Oxford UP, 2023)
21-03-2024
Radha Kapuria, "Music in Colonial Punjab" (Oxford UP, 2023)
Music in Colonial Punjab (Oxford UP, 2023) offers the first social history of music in undivided Punjab (1800-1947), beginning at the Lahore court of Maharaja Ranjit Singh and concluding at the Patiala royal darbar. It unearths new evidence for the centrality of female performers and classical music in a region primarily viewed as a folk music centre, featuring a range of musicians and dancers -from 'mirasis' (bards) and 'kalawants' (elite musicians), to 'kanjris' (subaltern female performers) and 'tawaifs' (courtesans). A central theme is the rise of new musical publics shaped by the anglicized Punjabi middle classes, and British colonialists' response to Punjab's performing communities. The book reveals a diverse connoisseurship for music with insights from history, ethnomusicology, and geography on an activity that still unites a region now divided between India and Pakistan. Dr Radha Kapuria is an Assistant Professor of South Asian History at Durham University, United Kingdom. She is a historian of gender and culture in South Asia. Her current research is on the impact of the 1947 Partition on musicians’ lives in India and Pakistan. This ongoing research will feed into her second monograph on musical memories of the Partition, focused on the history of musical exchange across the Indo-Pak border in both South Asia and the British diaspora since 1947. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices Support our show by becoming a premium member! https://newbooksnetwork.supportingcast.fm/performing-arts
Jonas Tinius, "State of the Arts: An Ethnography of German Theatre and Migration" (Cambridge UP, 2023)
15-03-2024
Jonas Tinius, "State of the Arts: An Ethnography of German Theatre and Migration" (Cambridge UP, 2023)
State of the Arts: An Ethnography of German Theatre and Migration (Cambridge UP, 2023) is a bold and wide-ranging account of the unique German public theatre system through the prism of a migrant artistic institution in the western post-industrial Ruhr region. State of the Arts analyses how artistic traditions have responded to social change, racism, and cosmopolitan anxieties and recounts how critical contemporary cultural production positions itself in relation to the tumultuous history of German state patronage, difficult heritage, and self-cultivation through the arts. Jonas Tinius' fieldwork with professional actors, directors, cultural policy makers, and activists unravels how they constitute theatre as a site for extra-ordinary ethical conduct and how they grapple with the pervasive German cultural tradition of Bildung, or self-cultivation through the arts. Tinius shows how anthropological methods provide a way to understand the entanglement of cultural policy, institution-building, and subject-formation. An ambitious and interdisciplinary study, the work demonstrates the crucial role of artistic intellectuals in society. Adam Bobeck received his PhD in Cultural Anthropology at the University of Leipzig. His dissertation was entitled “Object-Oriented Azadari: Ontology and Ritual Theory”. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices Support our show by becoming a premium member! https://newbooksnetwork.supportingcast.fm/performing-arts
Amy Lidster and Sonia Massai, "Shakespeare at War: A Material History" (Cambridge UP, 2023)
15-03-2024
Amy Lidster and Sonia Massai, "Shakespeare at War: A Material History" (Cambridge UP, 2023)
Presenting engaging, thought-provoking stories across centuries of military activity, Shakespeare at War: A Material History (Cambridge UP, 2023) demonstrates just how extensively Shakespeare's cultural capital has been deployed at times of national conflict. Drawing upon scholarly expertise in Shakespeare and War Studies, first-hand experience from public military figures and insights from world-renowned theatre directors, this is the first material history of how Shakespeare has been used in wartime. Addressing home fronts and battle fronts, the collection's broad chronological coverage encompasses the Seven Years' War, the American War of Independence, the Napoleonic Wars, the Russian War, the First and Second World Wars, and the Iraq War. Each chapter reveals an archival object that tells us something about who 'recruited' Shakespeare, what they did with him, and to what effect. Richly illustrated throughout, the collection uniquely uncovers the agendas that Shakespeare has been enlisted to support (and critique) at times of great national crisis and loss. Morteza Hajizadeh is a Ph.D. graduate in English from the University of Auckland in New Zealand. His research interests are Cultural Studies; Critical Theory; Environmental History; Medieval (Intellectual) History; Gothic Studies; 18th and 19th Century British Literature. YouTube channel. Twitter. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices Support our show by becoming a premium member! https://newbooksnetwork.supportingcast.fm/performing-arts
David Savran, "Tell It to the World: The Broadway Musical Abroad" (Oxford UP, 2024)
11-03-2024
David Savran, "Tell It to the World: The Broadway Musical Abroad" (Oxford UP, 2024)
Tell It to the World: The Broadway Musical Abroad (Oxford UP, 2024) offers a look at how the Broadway musical travels the world, influencing and even transforming local practices and traditions. It traces especially how the musical has been indigenized in South Korea and Germany, the commercial centers for Broadway musicals in East Asia and continental Europe. Both countries were occupied after World War II by the United States, which disseminated U.S. American popular music, jazz, movies, and musical theatre in the belief that these nations needed to rebuild their cultures in accordance with U.S. guidelines. By the 1990s, Broadway imports had become phenomenally popular in Seoul and Hamburg while home-grown musicals proliferated that adapted and transformed the prototypes that had been disseminated by the U.S. Although this book focuses on recent musicals, it also looks back through the twentieth century to plot the evolution of musical theatre in South Korea and Germany. Part One considers the key questions: What is a musical? Why is it the great success story of U.S. theatre? How has it been assimilated to musical theatre traditions around the world? Part Two focuses on musical theatre in South Korea, studying the import/export business in large-scale musicals about Korean history and innovative hybrid experiments that mix local performance traditions with the Broadway vernacular. Part Three moves to Europe to analyze the conflicted attitudes toward musicals in the German-speaking world. Its three chapters survey the history of musicals in Germany from 1945 until the fall of the Berlin Wall, the reconfiguration of musical theatre conventions by experimental directors, and finally the ground-breaking German-language productions of Broadway classics by Barrie Kosky and other innovative directors. In the twenty-first century, Broadway-style musical theatre has succeeded in becoming a lingua franca, the template for musical theatre around the world. This book shows how some of the most innovative, beautiful, and exciting musical theatre is being made outside the United States. Peter C. Kunze is a visiting assistant professor of communication at Tulane University. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices Support our show by becoming a premium member! https://newbooksnetwork.supportingcast.fm/performing-arts