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1. A conversation with Alodie Larson, Editor of Grove Art Online

We are delighted to present a Q&A with the Editor of Grove Art Online, Alodie Larson. She began at Oxford last June, coming from JSTOR, where she spent four years as part of their editorial team, acquiring new journals for the archive. In the below interview, you’ll get to know Alodie as Editor, and also learn her thoughts on art history research and publishing. You can also find her Letter from the Editor on Oxford Art Online.

Can you tell us a little about your background?

When I was young, I would draw house plans (with elevations in the shape of animals) and make artwork with whatever I could find. In college, I studied architecture and the history of art; I completed my MA at the Courtauld Institute of Art, focusing on the architecture of Georgian England. Afterward, I moved to New York and lived in a comically small apartment with my brilliant friend who studied with me in London. She worked at Christie’s, and she kept me from straying too far from the art world while I worked at Random House. I began in the audio/digital department and later moved to the children’s division; I was lucky to learn from talented editors who were generous with their time. I became intimately familiar with Louis L’Amour novels, and I read Twilight when it was a stack of 8 ½ x 11 copy paper. I joined JSTOR in 2009, where I managed their list of journals in art and architecture. I contributed to a project to digitize a group of rare art journals like 291 and The Crayon, as well as to an effort to build a database of historical auction catalogs, all of which JSTOR made freely available along with their other content in the public domain. I also worked on business and sociology, which helped me to appreciate how research methods differ between disciplines. I am delighted to be here at Oxford as the steward of the Grove Dictionary of Art. In my free time I like to travel, visit museums, go to the opera, and refinish furniture. I am still somewhat disappointed that my current house plan is not shaped like a giraffe.

What is your favorite piece of art, of all time, and why?

I love Bernini’s David – the artist’s skill and inventiveness make this sculpture a singularly perfect object. In Bernini’s hands, marble seems to melt, as if it could be smoothed and stretched to his design. Grove’s biography explains this gift: “He felt that one of his greatest achievements was to have made marble appear as malleable as wax and so, in a certain sense, to have combined painting and sculpture into a new medium, one in which the sculptor handles marble as freely as a painter handles oils or fresco.” Unlike Michelangelo’s calm, anticipatory David, Bernini’s figure projects determination and energy. His body twists in motion, and as you circle him, you feel you are both being wound up together. I leave this sculpture feeling as if I have been flung out of the gallery, propelled by his purposeful strength.

David stands in my favorite museum, the Galleria Borghese, which adds to its grandeur as it is the original location intended for the sculpture. In the early 17th< century, Cardinal Scipione Borghese oversaw construction of the building—then the Villa Borghese—and commissioned David as well as a number of other stellar works from Bernini including Apollo and Daphne and Pluto and Proserpina. I relish seeing these sculptures in the magnificent home of Scipione’s original collection.

NLW Larson

Galleria Borghese, Rome. Photo courtesy of the Alodie Larson.

Since it’s impossible to get someone with an art background to answer this question briefly, I must add that I also particularly admire the work of Eduard Vuillard, Mark Rothko, Grant Wood, James Turrell, William Morris, Daniel Burnham, Raymond Duchamp-Villon, Franz Kline, Xu Bing, and McKim, Mead & White. Closer to home, I have two favorite works of art that belong to me. The first is a watercolor sketch of Piccadilly Circus that I bought at a market in the courtyard of the Basilica of Sant’Ambrogio in Milan. With minimal strokes it evokes the London crossroads on a rainy night in the late 50s (back when Gordon’s Gin and Wrigley’s Chewing Gum took up prime real estate in the neon collage).


Piccadilly Circus in London, 1962. Photo by Andrew Eick. Creative Commons license via Wikimedia Commons.

The second is a watercolor illustration of “Dradpot the Inverted Drool” drawn by my grandfather, Max V. Exner. He devoted his life to music but was a terrific artist as well, and our family lore has it that he was offered a job with Walt Disney Studios in the 1930s when a member of the company saw him doodling in a restaurant.

Also, in a beautiful, financially responsible future, I will have enough disposable income to buy an original work by David Shrigley. I urge him to try to become less famous so that I can afford this.

What is your favorite article in Grove Art Online?

I’m grateful that this role allows me to learn about artists I’ve never studied, and my favorite articles to read are those on subjects with which I’m not particularly familiar. Our forthcoming update includes new biographies on an outstanding group of contemporary artists from Nigeria, Kenya, Sudan, Ghana, Senegal, and South Africa, which I have enjoyed.

I am partial to the articles written by some of my favorite architectural historians, particularly Leland M. Roth, whose Understanding Architecture (1993) is, I think, one of the most engaging introductory texts. His Grove article on the urban development of Boston gives a great overview of the subject. I also like David Watkin’s article on Sir John Soane. An excellent summary of Soane’s life and work, it is an absorbing narrative with entertaining flourishes. (“Despite Soane’s high professional standing, his idiosyncratic style was often ridiculed by contemporaries in such phrases as ‘ribbed like loins of pork’.”) I have always admired Soane’s work and his unconventional museum.

The breakfast parlour at Sir John Soane's Museum as pictured in the Illustrated London News in 1864

The breakfast parlour at Sir John Soane’s Museum as pictured in the Illustrated London News in 1864. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

What are some of the challenges of transitioning art history resources to an online environment?

Together, Grove and Benezit contain over 200,000 entries and images, and it is a challenge to organize that much information online in a clear, intuitive way that ensures researchers will find the articles they need. Many Grove entries first appeared in the print publication, The Dictionary of Art, and the article titles weren’t designed to fit well with modern keyword searches. Important essays can be buried within several layers of subheadings in long articles, sometimes with only date ranges as section titles. For a print work, it makes sense; you’d want all of the articles on a topic or region to be gathered together and located within the same physical volume. However, in an online environment, ideal heading structure would aid successful keyword matches and avoid cumbersomely long entries.

Despite the challenges, an online environment offers more powerful research options. Both Grove and Benezit are organized under a robust taxonomy, and this information allows users to narrow content by categories such as art form, location, or period. Rich search functionality and linking helps users to move between topics more swiftly than print research would permit. An online environment also allows our resource to respond quickly to new developments. We constantly update and expand the body of articles in our encyclopedia (though updates are not instantaneous, as our content is peer-reviewed, supervised by our distinguished Editorial Board and Editor-in-Chief, Dr. Nicola Courtright).

Oxford Art Online hosts thousands of images. Are there any challenges in hosting these on the site?

Yes, as with our articles, the volume of objects presents a challenge. Grove Art contains over 7,000 images, including many well-known artworks that would be discussed as part of an introductory survey course. Keyword searches usually connect researchers with the images relevant to their work, but we’re working to develop more powerful tools with which to both search and view images.

Obtaining image permissions can also be a challenge, but we are grateful for our partnerships with organizations like the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Art Resource, Bridgeman Art Library, and the National Gallery of Art, which have brought a rich group of images to GroveBenezit, too, benefits from important partnerships with the Frick Art Reference Library and ArtistSignatures.com, which provide thousands of artists’ portraits and signatures on Oxford Art Online.

How do you envision art history research being done in 20 years?

I believe research in art history will become more collaborative, interdisciplinary, and international. Art libraries have undertaken enormously useful digitization projects, making objects in their collections available to scholars in far flung locations. I’m impressed with primary source projects like the collaboration between the Met and the Frick libraries to digitize the exhibition materials of the Macbeth Gallery, and Yale’s Blue Mountain Project, which digitized a collection of avant-garde art, music, and literary periodicals from 1848-1923. A number of other university libraries have excellent digital collections for art research, including the University of Washington, the Harry Ransom Center at UT Austin, Harvard University, University of Wisconsin, and Columbia University, which hosts the addictively interesting Robert Biggert Collection of Architectural Vignettes on Commercial Stationery.

Courtesy of The Biggert Collection of Architectural Vignettes on Commercial Stationery, Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, Columbia University.

Courtesy of The Biggert Collection of Architectural Vignettes on Commercial Stationery, Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, Columbia University.

Whether through local collections or collaborative projects like the HathiTrust, JSTOR, and the DPLA, libraries and publishers are bringing a terrific breadth of important materials online. As content becomes more accessible, I think researchers will select online resources based on the caliber of their material and on the functionality provided the platform. Even as publishers’ brands may fall further behind the façade of library discovery services, I believe scholars will continue to value sources they can trust to maintain high standards of quality.

Art has always been an interdisciplinary field, involving history, politics, economics, and cultural exchange. In the coming years, I think it will be important to emphasize how art connects with these other fields. With the current national focus on careers in science and technology, art is sometimes cast as an academic luxury, but it is not. Its study involves issues fundamentally relevant to all of us. In the words of Albert Einstein: “All religions, arts and sciences are branches of the same tree. All these aspirations are directed toward ennobling man’s life, lifting it from the sphere of mere physical existence and leading the individual toward freedom.”

Alodie Larson is the Editor of Grove Art and Oxford Art Online. Before joining Oxford, she studied the architecture of Georgian England at the Courtauld Institute of Art in London and worked for Random House and JSTOR.

Libraries are a vital part of our communities. They feed our curiosity, bolster our professional knowledge, and provide a launchpad for intellectual discovery. In celebration of these cornerstone institutions, we are offering unprecedented free access to our Online Resources, including Oxford Art Online, in the United States and Canada to support our shared mission of education.

Oxford Art Online offers access to the most authoritative, inclusive, and easily searchable online art resources available today. Through a single, elegant gateway users can access — and simultaneously cross-search — an expanding range of Oxford’s acclaimed art reference works: Grove Art Online, the Benezit Dictionary of Artists, the Encyclopedia of Aesthetics, The Oxford Companion to Western Art, and The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Art Terms, as well as many specially commissioned articles and bibliographies available exclusively online.

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2. Leonardo da Vinci myths, explained

By Kandice Rawlings

Leonardo da Vinci was born 562 years ago today, and we’re still fascinated with his life and work. It’s no real mystery why – he was an extraordinary person, a genius and a celebrity in his own lifetime. He left behind some remarkable artifacts in the form of paintings and writings and drawings on all manner of subjects. But there’s much about Leonardo we don’t know, making him susceptible to a number myths, theories, and entertaining but inaccurate representations in popular culture. The following are some of my favorites.


Leonardo da Vinci, Presumed Self Portrait, circa 1512. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Myth #1 – Leonardo was gay.

Leonardo’s possible homosexuality is one of the more prevalent – and more plausible – myths circulating about the artist, and has the backing of none other than Sigmund Freud. There’s no way of knowing Leonardo’s sexual orientation for sure, but he isn’t known to have had romantic relationships with any women, never married, and in 1476 was accused (but later cleared) of charges of sodomy – then a capital crime in Florence. Scholars’ opinions on the issue fall along a spectrum between “maybe” and “very probably”.

Conclusion: Maybe true.

Myth #2 – Leonardo wrote backward to keep his ideas secret, and his notebooks weren’t “decoded” until long after his death.

For all his skill, Leonardo was not a prolific painter – the major part of his surviving output is in the form of his notebooks filled with theoretical and scientific writings, notes, and drawings. His strange habit of writing backward in these notebooks has been used to perpetuate the image of the artist as a mysterious, secretive person. But in fact it’s much more likely that Leonardo wrote this way simply because he was left-handed, and found it easier to write across the page from right to left and in reverse. No decoding is necessary – just a mirror. Leonardo’s theoretical writings and other notes were preserved by his follower and heir Francesco Melzi, and were widely known, at least in artistic circles, during the 16th and 17th centuries. Published extracts began appearing in 1651.

Conclusion: False.

Myth #3 – Leonardo put “secret” codes and symbols in his works.

I’d rather not get into all the problems with The Da Vinci Code too much, but I have to credit this 2003 book, by renowned author Dan Brown, for a lot of these theories. Aside from the fact that the book is full of factual errors (example: Leonardo’s “hundreds of Vatican commissions,” which actually number in the vicinity of zero) and twists the historical record, its readings of Leonardo’s artworks are based on some fundamentally flawed conceptions about the making, meaning, and purpose of art in the Italian Renaissance. In Leonardo’s world, paintings like the Last Supper in Milan were made according to patrons’ requirements, with very specific Christian meanings to be conveyed. Despite Leonardo’s artistic innovations, the content of his religious paintings and portrayal of religious figures (with the exception of some details in an altarpiece from the 1480s) were not untraditional.

Conclusion: False.


Leonardo da Vinci, The Mona Lisa, between 1503-1505. Louvre. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Myth #4 – The Mona Lisa is a self-portrait/male lover in disguise/woman with high cholesterol.

Martin Kemp has observed, “The silly season for the Mona Lisa never closes.” The ridiculous theories about this painting abound. Here’s what we can say with reasonable certainty: Leonardo started the painting, probably a portrait of Lisa Gherardini, a merchant’s wife, while in Florence around 1503. For unknown reasons, he didn’t deliver it to the patron, however, and it ended up in the possession of his workshop assistant Salai (who some think was Leonardo’s lover – again, without evidence). There’s no reason to think that Leonardo recorded in this painting his own features or those of Salai, even if, as many art historians believe, he continued to work on the painting after he left Florence for Milan and then France. In a theory that deviates from the usual speculation about the identity of the sitter, an Italian scientist thinks that the way Leonardo portrayed the sitter shows she had high cholesterol. Right, because Renaissance paintings are straightforward, scientific images, pretty much just like MRIs and X-rays.

Conclusion: False.

Myth #5 – Leonardo made the image of Christ on the Shroud of Turin.

The Shroud of Turin is a relic purported to be the shroud that Christ’s body was buried in after the Crucifixion. According to its legend, the image of his body was miraculously transferred to the cloth when he was resurrected. The idea that Leonardo forged it depends on claims that the proportions of Christ’s face as depicted on the shroud match those in a drawing that is thought to be a self-portrait by the artist, and that Leonardo devised a photographic process that transferred the image of his face to the shroud. The fact that the shroud dates to at least the mid-14th century, a hundred years before Leonardo’s birth, just makes this already kooky theory even harder to buy. I’ll admit, though, that I haven’t read the whole book explaining it … and I’m not going to.

Conclusion: False.

Myth #6 – Leonardo was a vegetarian.

Vegetarianism would have been pretty unthinkable in Renaissance Italy (and veganism just plain absurd); people probably ate about as much meat as they could afford. The most commonly cited quote used to back up this claim is taken from a novel (see p. 227) and often misattributed to Leonardo himself. None of Leonardo’s own writings or early biographies mentions any unconventional eating habits. There’s really only one documentary source that might be relevant, a letter written by a possible acquaintance of the artist, who compares Leonardo to people in India who don’t eat meat or allow others to harm living things. Pretty tenuous, but vegetarians love to claim him.

Conclusion: Probably false.

Myth #7 – Leonardo invented bicycles, helicopters, submarines, and parachutes.

It’s true that Leonardo was fascinated with mechanics, aerodynamics, hydrodynamics, flight, and military engineering, which he touted in his famous letter to Ludovico Sforza seeking a position at the court of Milan. Leonardo’s notebooks contain many designs for machines and devices related to these explorations. But these were, for the most part, probably not ideas that Leonardo considered thoroughly enough to actually build and demonstrate. In the case of the bicycle, the drawing was likely made by someone else, and might even be a modern forgery.

Conclusion: Not so much.


Leonardo da Vinci, Design for a Flying Machine, 1488. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Myth #8 – Leonardo built robots.

While it sounds nutty, this one’s not so far off the mark, if you consider automatons – mechanical devices that seem to move on their own – to be robots. In a plot line of the cable fantasy drama Da Vinci’s Demons, Leonardo constructs a flying mechanical bird to dazzle the crowds gathered in the Cathedral piazza for Easter. A reliable historical record instead points to a lion that Leonardo made for the King of France’s triumphal entry into Milan in 1509. One observer’s description reads:

When the King entered Milan, besides the other entertainments, Lionardo da Vinci, the famous painter and our Florentine, devised the following intervention: he represented a lion above the gate, which, lying down, got onto its feet when the King came in, and with its paw opened up its chest and pulled out blue balls full of gold lilies, which he threw and strewed about on the ground. Afterwards he pulled out his heart and, pressing it, more gold lilies came out … Stopping beside this spectacle, [the King] liked it and took much pleasure in it.


Conclusion: True.

If you’re interested in learning more about Leonardo, including the current locations of his works, read his biography from the Benezit Dictionary of Artists, or, for a longer treatment, pick up the accessible but smart book by leading expert Martin Kemp.

Kandice Rawlings is Associate Editor of Oxford Art Online and the Benezit Dictionary of Artists. She holds a PhD in art history from Rutgers University.

Oxford Art Online offers access to the most authoritative, inclusive, and easily searchable online art resources available today. Through a single, elegant gateway users can access — and simultaneously cross-search — an expanding range of Oxford’s acclaimed art reference works: Grove Art Online, the Benezit Dictionary of Artists, the Encyclopedia of Aesthetics, The Oxford Companion to Western Art, and The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Art Terms, as well as many specially commissioned articles and bibliographies available exclusively online.

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3. Street Photography from Grove Art Online

In honor of World Art Day on 15 April 2014, Oxford is hosting a street photography competition. But what exactly is street photography? The below article from Grove Art Online by Lisa Hostetler explores the history of street photography, as well as its relationship to contemporary art.  As Dr. Hostetler explains, this type of art includes “photographs exposed in and of an urban environment and made with artistic intent.”

Street photography

Genre of photography that can be understood as the product of an artistic interaction between a photographer and an urban public space. It is distinguished from documentary photography in that the photographer is not necessarily motivated by the evidentiary value or socio-political function of the resulting photographs. Unlike photojournalism, a street photographer’s images are not intended to illustrate a news story or other narrative. Instead, their primary goal is expressive and communicates a subjective impression of the experience of everyday life in a city. Thus neither the locale nor the subject-matter defines street photography; it is the photographer’s approach to the medium and movement through public space that differentiate street photography from related forms of photography.

1. Technological factors and the roots of street photography

Photographs made in or of an urban environment are as old as the history of the medium itself, but street photography did not coalesce into a distinct form of photographic practice until the 20th century. Louis Daguerre‘s view of the Boulevard du Temple (1838), made from the window of his studio, suggests one reason why: the daguerreotype’s relatively long exposure time meant that the majority of people on the street were invisible in the photograph; the only person who stood still long enough to register on the plate was a man who stopped to get a shoeshine. In the first decade after the announcement of photography’s invention, photographic optics and chemistry were not fast enough to capture bustling crowds—a hallmark of urban life and a key element in street photography. The wet collodion negatives that dominated photographic practice in the 1850s and 1860s continued to involve significant time, requiring the photographer to prepare, expose, and develop negatives all in the space of about ten minutes. This made immersion in the experience of the street difficult and did not lend itself easily to spontaneity—a quality upon which later street photography thrived. With the introduction of dry-plate negatives in the 1870s and then gelatin silver roll film in the 1880s, photographic technology became more conducive to street photography. In addition, the launch and dissemination of the 35mm camera beginning in the mid-1920s was a particular boon to street photography; its hand-held size allowed for candid, easy movement through well-populated spaces, and many of the films developed for it were sensitive enough to record images even in situations with limited light. Unlike earlier snapshot cameras, the photographer held the camera up to his or her eye to look through the viewfinder instead of peering down into it from above. This facilitated the sense of the camera as an extension of the mind’s eye and permitted photographers to move along with the rhythm of street life more fully. With such technological developments in place, street photography flourished, particularly in the decades immediately after World War II.

Before that time, much of the photography that has come to be associated with the genre had its roots in another form of the medium. For example, Charles Marville’s photographs of French architecture and condemned roads in Paris suggest urban life in the 1850s and 1860s, but they were produced primarily to record the existence of culturally significant buildings and infrastructure slated for demolition. Similarly, Eugène Atget‘s images of Paris from the late 19th century and early 20th were originally intended as documents for artists rather than as independent works of art. Nevertheless, their collective impression of the city as a place with a specific mood—one in which ageing building façades and reflective store windows combine to evoke the mien of an anonymous urban populace—established Atget as a godfather of street photography for generations of subsequent artists.

The seeds of street photography are also present in photographs from the early years of the 20th century by Alfred Stieglitz and Paul Strand. Stieglitz’s Winter, Fifth Avenue (1893) and The Terminal (1893) record quotidian scenes of New York life, employing snow and smoke to enhance the pictorial power of the image. In photographs such as Wall Street, New York (1915), Strand created an image that defines the experience of scale in the city’s financial district while juxtaposing the structural geometry of the built environment with the pattern of figures and shadows on the sidewalk. Blind (1916) depicts an unfortunately common feature of urban life, a blind beggar on the street, but the image may also be interpreted as a comment on the voyeurism of candid photography in public. Thus, both Stieglitz and Strand made photographs on New York streets that contributed to the development of the genre, but street photography was not their primary pursuit.

2. Development and fruition

In the years between World War I and World War II, several photographers had a formidable impact on the subsequent maturation of street photography. Hungarian photographer André Kertész‘s images of Paris made after his adoption of the 35mm camera in 1928, such asMeudon (1928) and Carrefour Blois (1930), communicate the everyday surrealism and graphic élan characteristic of metropolitan life. Kertész was an important figure for both Brassaï and Henri Cartier-Bresson—two photographers whose work fundamentally shaped the practice of street photography after World War II. Brassaï, whom Kertész introduced to photography, became especially well known for his photographs of Paris at night. His images of the characters, sights, and activities endemic to the nocturnal life of France’s capital city were published in book form asParis de nuit (1933), a foundational book of street photographs. Kertész was also a mentor to Cartier-Bresson, whose concept of the ‘decisive moment’—the instant when subject-matter and compositional form align, as in Behind the Gare Saint Lazare (1932)—guided his photographs of everyday life in Paris, Madrid, New York, and other cities beginning in the 1930s. Famous for his devotion to the Leica camera, rejection of flash photography, and purported refusal to crop his images, Cartier-Bresson advocated spontaneity and intuition as the driving forces of creative photography. His 1952 book Images à la sauvette laid out these principles and became a touchstone for subsequent generations of street photographers.

The immediate post-war years inaugurated a particularly rich era in the history of street photography in the United States. Several key street photographers—including Lisette ModelHelen LevittLouis FaurerWilliam Klein, Saul Leiter (b 1923), and Robert Frank—produced their best-known images between 1940 and 1959. Some, such as Helen Levitt, distilled decisive moments from city life into universal human images. Others, such as William Klein, transformed restless glances and brash gestures into grainy, often blurry images that embodied the frantic pace and aggressive rhythm of post-war New York City. Meanwhile, Louis Faurer trained his camera on the idiosyncratic characters, gritty nightlife, and poignant personal interactions that were common to the urban scene but absent from mainstream representations of American social life. Such photographs imparted a particularly subjective view of public space, underscoring the expressive possibilities of photography. In 1955–6, Robert Frank travelled throughout the United States making the photographs that would eventually become The Americans, a book of his work published in France in 1958 and in the United States in 1959. Although not composed exclusively of street photographs, the book established street photography as a legitimate creative pursuit and launched Frank as one of the consummate American photographers of his generation.

Street photography flourished outside the United States during the post-war period as well. In France it was dominated by three figures: Robert DoisneauWilly Ronis, and Izis. Doisneau’s The Kiss (1950), which depicts a sailor passionately kissing a woman in front of the Hôtel de Ville in Paris, captured the energy and optimism to which many aspired after the devastation of World War II. It became one of the best-known photographs of the era. In England, Roger Mayne photographed everyday life on working-class streets after the war. His perceptive impressions of Teddy Boys and working ‘stiffs’ sharing the pavement in London foreshadowed generational tensions that would erupt in the 1960s. Japanese photographer Daido Moriyama also turned to street photography during these years. His images suggest an undercurrent of restlessness and repression in a society shattered by war and caught between tradition and modernity.

By the 1960s the snapshot aesthetic had become a prominent motif in American photography, thanks in large part to curator John Szarkowski at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. A master of this mode, Garry Winogrand applied his talents to the streets of New York and other cities throughout the 1960s and 1970s. His street photographs, in which titled horizon lines, apparently haphazard framing, and bold movements make frequent appearances, seem to channel the kinetic energy of his subjects, making many of his images iconic examples of the genre.

3. Street photography and contemporary art

As conceptual artists began to incorporate photographs into their work in the late 1960s and 1970s, the presence of photography in contemporary art expanded, and street photography became a form of performance art. Douglas Huebler (1924–97) and Sophie Calle created work that shared street photography’s embrace of chance interactions in public space. However, their work replaced street photography’s spontaneous, subjective edge with the prescriptive procedural frameworks characteristic of conceptual art.

In the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s, as the world became increasingly saturated by photographic imagery that was ever easier to manipulate, street photography found new contexts. Its emphasis on spontaneity and intuition promised an inherent authenticity, making it an appealing genre for a number of contemporary artists. Some, like Philip-Lorca diCorcia (b 1951), used it to question photography’s axiomatic association with truth. DiCorcia’s photographs on international city streets in the 1990s appear to be extemporaneous examples of street photography, but in fact, the scenarios were carefully arranged and lit. Other artists, such as Zoe Strauss (b 1970), continued to pursue street photography in its straightforward form. Her images, made in South Philadelphia, extended the accessibility, sincerity, and sense of personal exposure associated with classic street photography into the contemporary age. Outside the United States, artists such as Alexey Titarenko (b 1962) and Graeme Williams have also brought the genre of street photography into the 21st century.


J. Livingston: The New York School: Photographs, 1936–1963 (New York, 1992)
J. Meyerowitz and C. Westerbeck: Bystander: A History of Street Photography (New York, 1994)
K. Brougher and R. Ferguson: Open City: Street Photographs since 1950 (Oxford and Ostfildern, 2001)
U. Eskildsen: Street & Studio: An Urban History of Photography (London and New York, 2008)
L. Lee and W. Rugg, eds: Street Art, Street Life: from the 1950s to Now (New York, 2008)
L. Hostetler: Street Seen: The Psychological Gesture in Photography 1940–1959 (Milwaukee, 2010)

Lisa Hostetler

Oxford Art Online offers access to the most authoritative, inclusive, and easily searchable online art resources available today. Through a single, elegant gateway users can access — and simultaneously cross-search — an expanding range of Oxford’s acclaimed art reference works: Grove Art Online, the Benezit Dictionary of Artists, the Encyclopedia of Aesthetics, The Oxford Companion to Western Art, and The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Art Terms, as well as many specially commissioned articles and bibliographies available exclusively online.

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4. 25 recent jazz albums you really ought to hear

By Ted Gioia

Jazz Appreciation Month gives us an opportunity to celebrate musical milestones of the past. But it also ought to serve as a reminder that jazz is a vibrant art form in the current day. Here are 25 recordings released during the last few months that are well worth hearing.

Ambrose Akinmusire1. Ambrose Akinmusire – The Imagined Savior Is Far Easier To Paint
Akinmusire is one of the most talented young trumpeters on the jazz scene. This release also represents a ‘return to its roots’ for the Blue Note label, which has increasingly strayed from mainstream jazz in recent years, but shows here that it hasn’t forgotten its heritage.

2. Greg Amirault – East of the Sun
Many of the most interesting new jazz albums are self-produced or issued by small indie labels. Montreal guitarist Amirault’s new CD is a case in point. He is hardly a household name in the jazz world, but this is one of the best guitar albums released in recent months.

3. The Bad Plus – The Rite of Spring
Stravinsky has been inspiring jazz artists for decades, but this ranks among the most creative reinterpretations of his work that I’ve heard.

4. Jeff Ballard – Time’s Tales
Check out the funky 9/4 groove that opens this leader date for drummer Jeff Ballard—joined byguitarist Lionel Loueke and saxophonist Miguel Zenon.

5. Joe Beck5. Joe Beck – Get Me
Guitarist Joe Beck died in 2008, but this posthumous release (coming out in a few days) is likely to reignite interest in a very talented and underrated artist.

6. George Cables – Icons and Influences
I’ve been a fan of Cables’ piano work since I was a teenager. He has been in poor health in recent years, but this new albums finds him playing at top form.

7. Regina Carter – Southern Comfort
Carter combines jazz with traditional Southern music on her latest release. Even listeners who don’t think they like jazz might find themselves enjoying this appealing album.

8. Matt Criscuolo – Blippity Blat
This is another self-produced album that merits close listening. Criscuolo is formidable saxophonist with a sweet tone and supple phrasing.

9. Karl Denson's Tiny Universe9. Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe – New Ammo
With this high-octane funk-oriented release, Denson proves that jazz can still work as dance music. This album might make a good entry point into jazz for rock fans who want to broaden their tastes and expand their ears.

10. Nir Felder – Golden Age
The recently revived OKeh label is releasing a number of outstanding jazz albums, but this CD from up-and-coming guitarist Nir Felder may be its most ambitious project of 2014, pushing beyond conventional boundaries of jazz and popular music.

11. Craig Handy – Craig Handy & 2nd Line Smith
Handy mixes elements of New Orleans party music and Hammond organ soul jazz in a very exciting hybrid. In a fair and hip world, this album (and the Denson release mentioned above) would be generating lots of radio airplay.

12. Vijay Iyer – Mutations
Iyer’s debut album with the ECM label is one of his best to date, revealing his maturity not just as a jazz player but also as a composer of jazz-oriented chamber music.

13. Christian Jacob13. Christian Jacob – Beautiful Jazz
Here’s another smart self-produced jazz album that you could easily miss. Pianist Jacob is a master at updating and reharmonizing the traditional jazz repertoire.

14. Erik Jekabson – Live at the Hillside Club
Jekabson is one of the most promising young trumpeters on the West Coast, and continues to impress with this new album.

15. John Lurie – The Invention of Animals
John Lurie has never gotten the respect he deserves for his jazz work with the Lounge Lizards. He subsequently abandoned music to focus on painting, but these rediscovered tracks testify to his brilliance as a jazz improviser.

16. Pete McGuinness Jazz Orchestra – Strength in Numbers
I have heard several outstanding jazz big band albums this year, but this one is the best of breed.

17. The North17. The North – Slow Down (This Isn’t the Mainland)
Fans of mid-period Keith Jarrett and E.S.T. will enjoy this trio album. This band is still a well-kept secret in the jazz world, but their music has clear crossover potential.

18. Danilo Pérez – Panama 500
Pérez has long ranked among the leading Latin jazz artists. Here he draws on the Panamanian music tradition for a theme album commemorating the 500th anniversary of Balboa crossing the Isthmus of Panama.

19. Matthew Shipp – Root of Things
Pianist Shipp possesses an expansive vision of jazz that, over the years, has encompassed everything from hip-hop to electronica. In his latest album, he returns to the acoustic trio format, where he is joined by bassist Michael Bisio and drummer Whit Dickey.

20. Revolutionary Snake Ensemble – Live Snakes
This Boston-based band is a throwback to the earliest roots of jazz, when hornplayers often performed in parades and brass bands entertained at social gatherings.

21. (718) – Sputnik
The group’s name comes from its phone area code, and the album title honors a 1950s spacecraft. But the music here is rock-oriented funk jazz in the spirit of the best 1970s fusion bands.

22. Helen Sung – Anthem for a New Day
I’ve been following Sung’s career with interest for a number of years, but this is her best album to date.

23. Daniel Szabo23. Daniel Szabo – A Song From There
Daniel Szabo is one of the most impressive young pianists on the scene today, but even in jazz circles most won’t recognize his name. I suspect they will soon. I highly recommend his new album.

24. Norma Winstone – Dance Without Answer
Norma Winstone has been a major force on the British jazz scene since the 1960s. At an age when many jazz singers start showing wear and tear in their voices, Winstone is recording some of her finest work.

25. John Zorn – Psychomagia
It’s easy to take John Zorn for granted. He records prolifically, and puts very little effort into marketing and promoting his projects. But this 2014 release deserves your attention.

Ted Gioia is a musician, author, and leading jazz critic and expert on American music. The first edition of his The History of Jazz was selected as one of the twenty best books of the year in The Washington Post, and was chosen as a notable book of the year in The New York Times. He is also the author of The Jazz Standards, Delta Blues, West Coast Jazz, Work Songs and The Birth (and Death) of the Cool.

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5. Ludovico Sforza, Duke of Milan from Grove Art Online

In celebration of World Art Day, we invite you to read the biography of Ludovico Sforza, patron of Leonardo Da Vinci among other artists, as it is presented in Grove Art Online.

(b Abbiategrasso, 3 Aug 1452; reg 1494–99; d Loches, Touraine, 27 May 1508).

Ludovico Sforza, Duke of Milan. Sforza Altarpiece, 1495

Ludovico Sforza, Duke of Milan. Sforza Altarpiece, 1495

Son of (1) Francesco I Sforza and (3) Bianca Maria Sforza. In 1480, several years after the death of his brother (4) Galeazzo Maria Sforza in 1476, he succeeded in gaining control of the regency but did not become duke in name until his nephew Gian Galeazzo Sforza died in 1494. His commissions, both public and private, were divided between Lombard and Tuscan masters. Milanese architects were responsible for many of his most important projects, including the construction of the Lazzaretto (1488–1513) and S Maria presso S Celso (begun 1491 by Giovanni Giacomo Dolcebuono) in Milan, and a farm complex, known as the Sforzesca, outside Vigevano. Several prominent Lombard sculptors, in particular Giovanni Antonio Amadeo, were commissioned to work on the façade of the Certosa di Pavia. Of the artists Ludovico encouraged to come to Lombardy, an undated letter reveals that he was considering Botticelli, Filippino Lippi, Perugino and Ghirlandaio as court artists. About 1482 Leonardo da Vinci arrived in Milan, where he remained as an intimate member of Ludovico’s household for 18 years. As court painter, Leonardo is documented as having portrayed two of Ludovico’s mistresses, Lucrezia Crivelli and Cecilia Gallerani. The latter may be identified with the painting Portrait of a Lady with an Ermine (c. 1490–91; Kraków, Czartoryski Col.). Much of his work was for such courtly ephemera as the designs for the spectacle Festa del Paradiso, composed in 1490. Another commission of which nothing survives was for a bronze equestrian statue honouring Ludovico’s father, which Leonardo worked on in the 1490s. A surviving work by Leonardo for the Duke is the Sala delle Asse (1498) in the Castello Sforzesco, Milan, where motifs of golden knots are interspersed among vegetation and heraldic shields.

Other Tuscans at work in Milan during the 1490s included Donato Bramante. As a painter, Bramante produced an allegorical figure of Argus (1490–93) in the Castello Sforzesco (in situ). The development of the piazza, tower and castle at Vigebano in the 1490s, one of the most important campaigns of urban planning in the Renaissance, was the work of Bramante, working perhaps with Leonardo, under Ludovico’s supervision. Ludovico also took day-to-day responsiblity for projects financed by his brother (6) Cardinal Ascanio Maria Sforza, for example Bramante’s work on the new cathedral in Pavia and the monastic quarters (commissioned 1497) at S Ambrogio, Milan. The illuminator Giovanni Pietro Birago was also active in Ludovico’s court, producing, among others, several copies (e.g. London, BL. Grenville MS. 7251) of Giovanni Simonetta’s life of Francesco Sforza I, the Sforziada.

Ludovico’s plans were destroyed by the invasion of Louis XII, King of France, in August 1499. Ludovico escaped, to return in February 1500, but following his final defeat and capture in April that year, he was confined to a prison in France for the remainder of his life.


E. Salmi: ‘La Festa del Paradiso di Leonardo da Vinci e Bernardo Bellincioni’, Archv Stor. Lombardo, xxxi/1 (1904), pp. 75–89
F. Malaguzzi Valeri: La corte di Ludovico il Moro: La vita privata e l’arte a Milano nella secunda metà del quattrocento, 4 vols (Milan, 1913–23)
S. Lang: ‘Leonardo’s Architectural Designs and the Sforza Mausoleum’, J. Warb. & Court. Inst., xxxi (1968), pp. 218–33
A. M. Brivio: ‘ Bramante e Leonardo alla corte di Ludovico il Moro’, Studi Bramanteschi. Atti del congresso internazionale: Roma, 1970, pp. 1–24
C. Pedretti: ‘The Sforza Sepulchre’, Gaz. B.-A., lxxxix (1977), pp. 121–31
R. Schofield: ‘Ludovico il Moro and Vigevano’, A. Lombarda, n. s., lxii/2 (1981), pp. 93–140
M. Garberi: Leonardo e il Castello Sforzesco di Milano (Florence, 1982)
Ludovico il Moro: La sua città e la sua corte (1480–1499) (exh. cat., Milan, Archv Stato, 1983)
Milano e gli Sforza: Gian Galeazzo Maria e Ludovico il Moro (1476–1499) (exh. cat., ed. G. Bologna; Milano, Castello Sforzesco, 1983)
Milano nell’età di Ludovico il Moro. Atti del convegno internazionale: Milano, 1983
C. J. Moffat: Urbanism and Political Discourse: Ludovico Sforza’s Architectural Plans and Emblematic Imagery at Vigevano (diss., Los Angeles, UCLA, 1992)
R. Schofield: ‘Ludovico il Moro’s Piazzas: New Sources and Observations’, Annali di architettura, iv–v (1992–3), pp.157–67
L. Giordano: ‘L’autolegittimazione di una dinastia: Gli Sforza e la politica dell’ immagine’, Artes [Pavia], i (1993), pp. 7–33
P. L. Mulas: ‘”Cum apparatu ac triumpho quo pagina in hoc licet aspicere”: I’investitura ducale di Ludovico Sforza, il messale Arcimboldi e alcuni problemi di miniatura Lombarda’, Artes [Pavia], ii (1994), pp. 5–38
V. L. Bush: ‘The Political Contexts of the Sforza Horse’, Leonardo da Vinci’s Sforza Monoument Horse: The Art and the Engineering, ed. D. C. Ahl (London, 1995), pp. 79–86
A. Cole: Virtue and Magnificence: Art of the Italian Renaissance Courts (New York, 1995)
L. Giordano, ed.: Lucovicus dux (Vigevano, 1995)
G. Lopez: ‘Un cavallo di Troia per Milano’, Achad. Leonardo Vinci: J. Leonardo Stud. & Bibliog. Vinciana, viii (1995), pp. 194–6
E. S. Welch: Art and Authority in Renaissance Milan (New Haven, 1995)
L. Giordano: ‘Ludovico Sforza, Bramante e il nuovo corso del Po 1492–1493′, Artes (Pavia), v (1997), pp. 198–205
G. Cislaghi: ‘Leonardo da Vinci: La misura del borgo di Porta Vercellina a Milano’, Dis. Archit., xxv–xxvi (2002), pp. 11–17
E. McGrath: ‘Ludovico il Moro and his Moors’, J. Warb. & Court. Inst., lxv (2002), pp. 67–94
L. Syson: ‘ Leonardo and Leonardism in Sforza Milan’, Artists at Court: Image-making and Identity: 1300–1550, ed. S. J. Campbell (Chicago, 2004), pp. 106–23
L. Giordano: ‘ In capella maiori: Il progetto di Ludovico Sforza per Santa Maria delle Grazie’, Demeures d’éternité: églises et chapelles funéraires aux XVe et XVIe siècles, ed. J. Guillaume (Paris, 2005), pp. 99–114

E. S. Welch

Oxford Art Online offers access to the most authoritative, inclusive, and easily searchable online art resources available today. Through a single, elegant gateway users can access — and simultaneously cross-search — an expanding range of Oxford’s acclaimed art reference works: Grove Art Online, the Benezit Dictionary of Artists, the Encyclopedia of Aesthetics, The Oxford Companion to Western Art, and The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Art Terms, as well as many specially commissioned articles and bibliographies available exclusively online.

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6. Leonardo da Vinci from the Benezit Dictionary of Artists

In celebration of World Art Day and Leonardo da Vinci’s birthday, we invite you to read the biography of da Vinci as it is presented in the Benezit Dictionary of Artists.

Italian, 15th – 16th century, male.

Active from 1515 in France.
Born 15 April 1452, in Anchiano, near Vinci; died 2 May 1519, in Clos-Lucé, near Amboise, France.
Painter, sculptor, draughtsman, architect, engineer. Religious subjects, mythological subjects, portraits, topographic subjects, anatomical studies.

Leonardo da Vinci was the illegitimate son of the Florentine notary Ser Piero da Vinci, who married Albiera di Giovanni Amadori, the daughter of a patrician family, in the year Leonardo was born. Little is known about the artist’s natural mother, Caterina, other than that five years after Leonardo’s birth she married an artisan from Vinci named Chartabriga di Piero del Veccha. Leonardo was raised in his father’s home in Vinci by his paternal grandfather, Ser Antonio. Giorgio Vasari discusses Leonardo’s childhood at length, noting his aptitude for drawing and his taste for natural history and mathematics. Probably around 1470, Leonardo’s father apprenticed him to Andrea del Verrocchio; two years later,Leonardo’s name appears in the register of Florentine painters. Although officially a painter in his own right, Leonardo remained for a further five years or so in Verrocchio’s workshop, where Lorenzo di Credi and Pietro Perugino numbered among his fellow students.

signature da vinci

In 1482, Leonardo went to Milan to work in the court of Duke Ludovico Sforza and remained there until 1499, returning to Florence after brief visits to Venice and Mantua. During his second Florentine period, Leonardo gained notoriety, primarily as the result of two cartoons he worked up and put on public display. In 1508, Leonardo returned to Milan to work for the French rulers there and complete an altarpiece commission he had begun during an earlier stay. The artist made his first trip to Rome in 1513 and was involved there with military projects for Giuliano de’ Medici (the duke of Nemours and brother of Pope Leo X). Through the pope, Leonardo may have met the French king Francis I, who was Leonardo’s patron in the last few years of his life. The artist died near Amboise and was buried there, in the church of St Florentin. Because of these circumstances, several of Leonardo’s most treasured works, including the Mona Lisa, ended up in the French royal collection and are now preserved in the Louvre.

A few works can be attributed to the period of Leonardo’s training with Verrocchio: a landscape drawing dated 1473 and part of Verrocchio’s Baptism of Christ (both Uffizi Gallery), namely the angel at the far left of the composition. In January 1478, now an independent painter, he was commissioned by the city of Florence to paint an altarpiece for the S Bernardo Chapel in the Palazzo Vecchio, which he did not complete. The following year, Leonardo made a drawing of the hanged body of an assassin involved in the Pazzi Conspiracy to overthrow the Medici government, which may have been connected with another state commission. In March 1480, he was retained to paint an altarpiece for the main altar in the monastery of S Donato a Scopeto, most likely the unfinished Adoration of the Magi, a dynamic reimagining of the subject. It appears that around this time he also produced numerous Madonna studies and his Portrait of Ginevra dei Benci, the first of his many captivating portraits of women.

In 1481, Leonardo wrote a letter to the new ruler of Milan, Ludovico Sforza, asking for a position at court. It is almost entirely devoted to his knowledge of military engineering and ideas for new weapons; the last paragraph briefly mentions that he is an able painter and can also assist in the completion of an equestrian monument of Ludovico’s father, Francesco, which had been planned but not begun. Leonardo arrived in Milan by 1483, perhaps with Medici assistance, and was contracted to paint an image of the Virgin for an altarpiece for the Confraternity of the Immaculate Conception’s chapel in S Francesco Grande. This commission resulted in a protracted legal battle and two versions of the painting, the so-called Virgin of the Rocks; the first version, painted between 1483 and 1486, is in the Louvre, and the second, painted primarily in the 1490s, is in the National Gallery, London. The history of the two paintings and the authorship of the later version are much disputed.

During this period, Leonardo received commissions across a wide spectrum. He built stage equipment and devices used for the marriage ceremony of Gian Galeazzo Sforza; he travelled to Padua to supervise construction of the cathedral; he designed costumes for the festivities arranged to celebrate the marriage of Ludovico Sforza to Beatrice d’Este; and he drew a design for the crossing tower of the Milan Cathedral (1487). He made two portraits of women supposed to be Ludovico’s mistresses, Cecilia Gallerani (or Lady with an Ermine) and Lucrezia Crivelli (or La Belle Ferronnière).

Around 1495, Leonardo set to work planning decorations for the Castello Sforzesco. At the start of 1496, Leonardo and Ludovico, by that time the duke of Milan, quarrelled, and the duke repeatedly tried to entice Pietro Perugino as a replacement for Leonardo. Some two years later, the duke andLeonardo reconciled, and Leonardo started working again on the ducal palace and supervising fresco decorations for the Sala delle Asse. While out of favour with the duke, Leonardo had occupied himself with painting a monumental fresco of the Last Supper for the refectory of the Milan monastery of S Maria delle Grazie. In his life of Leonardo, Vasari asserts that execution of this fresco was fraught with difficulty. Leonardo’s use of an experimental medium in order to achieve the naturalistic effects of oil painting caused the fresco to deteriorate rapidly, with much of the original composition quickly being lost. By 1545, it was reported to have already been partially destroyed; three centuries later it was evident that years of neglect, humidity, and inept restorations (attempts at complete restoration were recorded in 1726 and 1770) had only served to make matters worse. A further and more successful attempt at restoration was undertaken in the early years of the 20th century, and the spirit of the original was recaptured, at least partially. The most recent restoration, begun in 1979, was completed in 1999. Fortunately, the original appearance of the Last Supper survives in the form of excellent copies made by students of Leonardo, possibly under his supervision. Among these is a copy reproducing the dimensions of the original (15 by 28 feet [4.5 by 8.60 metres]), painted around 1510 by Giovanni Pietro Rizzoli for the Carthusian church in Pavia and now in London’s Royal Academy. Another detailed reproduction was made by Marco d’Oggiono, commissioned by Connétable de Montmorency for the chapel at the castle of Écouen and now in the Louvre. Despite the fresco’s condition problems, it is one of Leonardo’s best-known and most influential works. The painting is admired for the variety of expressions and poses, the mastery with which Leonardocaptured the most dramatic moment of the biblical story, and the mathematical clarity and regularity of the space, which is conceived as an extension of the refectory (dining hall) it decorates.

Although in 1483 Leonardo had made a clay model of an equestrian sculpture of Francesco Sforza that was erected for the wedding celebrations of Bianca Maria Sforza and Emperor Maximilian, he did not begin work in earnest on the bronze Sforza monument until the 1490s. In fact, Ludovico wrote in a 1489 letter to Lorenzo de’ Medici that he feared Leonardo would not be able to cast the sculpture and requested Lorenzo to provide him with expert bronze sculptors as replacements. Although no finished sculptures by Leonardo have been identified, his training in Verrocchio’s workshop meant he would have received some degree of instruction on techniques of bronze casting; during the 1470s and 1480s, Verrocchio was occupied with various projects in bronze, including an equestrian monument in Venice. Later, during a stay in Florence in 1506–1507, Leonardo may have been involved the design of Giovanni Francesco Rustici’s bronze group St John the Baptist Preaching for the exterior of the Florence Baptistery. In any case, the Sforza monument was never cast, and the largest clay model that Leonardo completed suffered serious damage when French troops entered Milan in September 1499 and archers elected to use it for target practice. However, many drawings, both studies for the composition and technical designs for the casting, survive. The monument, if completed, would no doubt have been a major achievement, both artistically and technically.Leonardo planned a dynamic and highly innovative composition with a rearing horse and a fallen enemy beneath its forelegs, and the statue was to be colossal in scale. The project was abandoned when Leonardo fled the French invasion.

In December 1499, Leonardo went to Mantua with the mathematician Fra Luca Pacioli. There,Leonardo produced a highly finished drawing for a portrait of Isabella d’Este that was either never executed or has been lost. He then spent a short time in Venice before returning to Florence in April 1500. That same month, he finished a cartoon for a major work entitled Virgin and Child with St Anneand displayed it to adoring crowds at SS Annunziata. The cartoon is untraced but is thought the have been related to a drawing now in the National Gallery, London, and a painting of the same subject now in the Louvre. It was around this period (1500-1503) that Leonardo also began painting the portrait of Mona Lisa (or La Gioconda), generally believed to have been the wife of the Florentine merchant Francesco del Giocondo. According to Vasari, Leonardo worked on the Mona Lisa for the better part of four years, but he never delivered it to its patron, bringing it with him to France and perhaps working on it intermittently into his late years. He also made studies for Leda and the Swanthat were copied by his students and Raphael; the final painting is untraced and may have been finished much later, during Leonardo’s sojourn in Rome.

The end of 1502 saw Leonardo inspecting fortifications in the Romagna in his new capacity as senior military architect and general engineer in the service of Cesare Borgia. He was abruptly removed from this post in October of the same year when a rebellion broke out in the duchy. April 1503 foundLeonardo back in Florence and, in July of that year, the Republic of Florence dispatched him to an encampment near Pisa to conduct a survey on how the Arno River could be diverted behind Pisa (so that the city, then under siege by Florence, could be deprived of access to the sea). Later that year, in October, he embarked on a major decorative composition for the new Salone dei Cinquecento (Hall of the Five Hundred) in the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence. The chosen theme was the victory of Florence over Milan at the Battle of Anghiari in 1440. This monumental work, like its intended complementary painting by Michelangelo of the Battle of Cascina, remained unfinished. Leonardowas commissioned to paint the mural in 1502 and was working on the fresco by 1504. Once again, technical problems frustrated him, notably the poor state of the wall surface he painted and again another experimental technique using oils, and he abandoned the project in 1506. Both the cartoon and the mural were avidly studied by younger artists and some of its appearance can be surmised from drawn and engraved studies. In 1563, Vasari covered the ruinous painting with a new fresco. A project to discover Leonardo’s painting beneath the later fresco using infrared and laser technology was launched in 2005, in the hopes that Vasari preserved it by leaving a gap between the Battle of Anghiari and the plaster for his own fresco.

Leonardo then spent a short time in Milan, perhaps to settle his long-standing commission for theVirgin of the Rocks, before returning to Florence, where he painted a Virgin and Child commissioned by a secretary of the French king Louis XII. At the insistence of Chaumont, the French governor of Milan, Leonardo returned to the Lombard capital and remained there until 1507, when he was obliged to return to Florence to assert his rights of inheritance under the terms of an uncle’s will. During this time, he painted two Madonnas that he took with him on his return to Milan. Leonardo was still in Milan when Louis XII arrived in that city after his victory at Agnadello. Based on a manuscript sketch, he probably also painted around this time the St John the Baptist now in the Louvre. Not least, he is believed to have painted around this date (and possibly in collaboration with one of his pupils) theVirgin and Child with St Anne, also in the Louvre. His preparatory sketches for the work strongly suggest that his initial intention was to paint an intimate ‘family portrait’, but that he subsequently elected for a composition that became widely acclaimed for the innovative contrapposto technique whereby Leonardo twisted a figure on its own axis, with a movement to the left counterbalanced by an equal and opposite movement to the right. The result is a pleasing dynamic symmetry.

During this period, Leonardo also began designing another equestrian monument, this one to commemorate Gian Giacomo Trivulzio, the governor of Milan under the French. When the Sforza returned to power, the project was abandoned. Leonardo remained in Milan after the withdrawal of the French in 1512 and it has often been speculated that Massimiliano Sforza may have been displeased and bitter at Leonardo’s decision to work there for the French occupiers. Whether that was the case,Leonardo recorded in his journal on 24 September 1513 that he was about to leave for Rome in the company of his pupils Giovanni Antonio Boltraffio, Francesco Melzi, Lorenzo, and Il Fanoia. In Rome, he was made very welcome by Pope Leo X and duly housed in the Belvedere. Demand for his services proved slight, however, and his output during this period seems inconsiderable. He may have worked there on his Leda and the Swan, together with a Madonna and Child and a Portrait of a Young Boy. There was also a rumour that his preoccupation with scientific studies, notably anatomy, did not endear him to the pontiff.

July 1515 saw Leonardo in the train of the papal army commanded by Giulio de’ Medici, and there are indications that he travelled with the army as far as Piacenza and that he was in Bologna in December 1515 for the signing of the concordat between the pope and Francis I of France. Shortly afterwards, Leonardo’s services as ‘first painter, architect and mechanic of the King’ were retained by Francis I in exchange for a pension amounting to 700 gold crowns and a private residence at Clos-Lucé (Cloux) near Amboise. After settling in Clos-Lucé, Leonardo’s artistic output came to a virtual standstill. He drew up plans for the canal and gardens at the palace of Romorantin and for the construction of a palace near Amboise; he was also credited with having had a major hand in the plans for the Château of Chambord. Much of Leonardo’s time in France seemed to have been devoted to scientific studies and writings in his notebooks.

Leonardo was an avid and highly skilled draughtsman, and the large quantity of his surviving drawings (approximately 4,000 sheets) and notebooks far outweigh his finished paintings and sculptures. These drawings reveal the breadth of Leonardo’s intellect, his innovative mind, and his artistic process. In addition to many technical drawings for machines; anatomical, zoological, and botanical studies; sketches; and figural studies, Leonardo also made architectural drawings of centrally planned churches, many of them contemporary with Donato Bramante’s remodeling of S Maria delle Grazie and Leonardo’s execution of the Last Supper at the same complex. The notebooks also include fragments of a planned treatise on painting, which were compiled by Leonardo’s student Francesco Melzi after his death (Codex Urbinas) and first printed in 1651. Leonardo’s practice of writing backwards has been proposed as either motivated by secrecy or, perhaps more plausibly, a practical solution to the difficulty of writing left-handed.

Leonardo da Vinci’s genius extended across many fields: painting, sculpture, architecture, and various complex scientific research disciplines, including not only anatomy and physics but also highly specialised areas such as military technology and civil engineering. One might have expected that such a technically oriented mind would have been reflected in an artistic style that was precise, not to say meticulous. In effect, quite the contrary is true. Leonardo preferred to render the subtleties and vagaries of light and shade and the mysterious sfumato that is the basis of his style. He strove to create the effect of light not in terms of colour but rather as form so there is no sharp contrast between light and shade but, instead, a long and sustained transition from light towards shade. His figures are bathed in an ‘atmosphere’ that has a presence of its own; they emerge and merge back into the whole without sacrificing the constructive value of their form. In addition to his rendering of spontaneous movement and his ability to capture the serenity of facial expression, Leonardo achieves monumentality by often eliminating detailed settings. Leonardo’s commitment to naturalism in his painting goes hand in hand with his intense scientific study of all aspects of the natural world. Although he is considered the first of the ‘high’ Renaissance artists, in his scientific approach to painting he is quite distinct from his contemporaries, whose naturalism was so often tied to antique precedents.

Group Exhibitions

1979, From Leonardo to Titian: Italian Renaissance Paintings from the Hermitage, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; and Knoedler Gallery, New York
2001, Virtue and Beauty: Leonardo’s Ginevra de’ Benci and Renaissance Portraits of Women, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
2004, Painters of Reality: The Legacy of Leonardo and Caravaggio in Lombardy, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Solo Exhibitions

1989, Leonardo da Vinci, Hayward Gallery, London
1989, Leonardo da Vinci: Studies of Drapery, Louvre, Paris
1996–1997, Leonardo’s Codex Leicester: A Masterpiece of Science, American Museum of Natural History, New York
1997, Leonardo da Vinci: Scientist, Inventor, Artist, Institut für Kulturaustausch, Tübingen, Museum of Science, Boston
2000, Leonardo da Vinci: The Codex Leicester, Notebook of a Genius, Powerhouse Museum, Sydney
2002, Leonardo da Vinci: Inventor (Léonard de Vinci: l’inventeur), Pierre Gianadda Foundation, Martigny, Switzerland
2003, Leonardo da Vinci, Master Draftsman, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
2003, Leonardo da Vinci: Drawings and Notebooks (Léonard de Vinci. Dessins et Manuscrits) Louvre, Paris
2006, The Treatise on Painting: Manuscripts and Editions between the 16th and 19th Century, Castello Sforzesco, Milan
2006–2007, Leonardo da Vinci: Experience, Experiment, and Design, Victoria and Albert Museum, London
2007, The Mind of Leonardo: The Universal Genius at Work, Uffizi Gallery, Florence
2011, Leonardo da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan, National Gallery, London

Museum and Gallery Holdings

Cambridge (Fitzwilliam Mus.): A Rider on a Rearing Horse (c. 1481, metalpoint reinforced with pen and brown ink/pinkish prepared surface)
Edinburgh (Nat. Gal. of Scotland): Studies of Paws of a Dog or Wolf (c. 1400-1495, silverpoint drawing)
Florence (Gal. dell’Accademia): Vitruvian Man(c. 1487, pen and ink with metalpoint on paper)
Florence (Uffizi): Adoration of the Magi (c. 1480, oil/wood); Annunciation (1470s, oil/wood)
Krakow (Czartoryski Mus.): Portrait of Cecilia Gallerani (or Lady with an Ermine)
London (British Library): Arundel Codex
London (NG): Virgin of the Rocks (or Virgin with the Infant Saint John Adoring the Infant Christ Accompanied by an Angel) (c. 1491-1508, oil/wood);Virgin and Child with St Anne and St John the Baptist (c. 1499-1500, black and white chalk/brownish paper/canvas)
London (Victoria and Albert Mus): Forster Codex
Madrid (Biblioteca Nacional): two codices
Milan (Ambrosiana): Portrait of a Musician (c. 1485, oil/wood); Codex Atlantico
Milan (Biblioteca Trivulziano): Trivulziano Codex
Milan (S Maria delle Grazie): Last Supper
Holy Family
Munich (Alte Pinakothek): Madonna with the Carnation (1470s, oil/wood)
New York (Metropolitan MA): several drawings
Oxford (Christ Church College): seven drawings
Paris (Institut de France): Codices A through M; Ashburnham Codex
Paris (Louvre): La Gioconda (or Mona Lisa);St John the Baptist;Virgin and Child with St AnneVirgin of the RocksLa Belle Ferronnière (Lucrezia Crivelli?)Virgin Offering a Bowl of Fruit to the Infant Jesus (drawing); Isabella d’Este(drawing)
Parma (NG): Female Head
St Petersburg (Hermitage): Virgin and Child (Litta Madonna); Benois Madonna
Turin (Royal Library): Study for the Angel for ‘The Virgin of the Rocks’ (drawing)
Vatican (Pinacoteca Vaticana): St Jerome(1480s, tempera and oil/wood); Urbanis Codex
Washington, DC (NGA): Ginevra de’ Benci (c. 1474-1478, oil/panel, two-sided portrait)
Windsor (Windsor Castle, Royal Collection): Study for St James the Elder; notebooks

Auction Records

Paris, 1742: St Jerome, FRF 1,900
London, 1773: Christ and the Virgin with St Joseph, FRF 7,075
London, 1801: Laughing Infant, FRF 34,120
London, 1811: Female Portrait, FRF 78,700
Paris, June 1825: Leda and the Twins Castor and Helen, Pollux and Clytemnestra, FRF 175,000
Paris, 1850: La Colombine (Mistress of Francis I), FRF 81,200; Various Saints: Study for ‘The Last Supper’ (red and black chalk) FRF 16,600
Paris, 1865: Virgin Stooping towards Her Son, FRF 83,500
Paris, 1875: Initial Study for ‘The Adoration of the Magi’ (pen drawing) FRF 12,900; Study for ‘st Anne’ (black chalk, Indian ink, and wash) FRF 13,000
London, 1881: Virgin of the Rocks, FRF 225,000
London, 1888: Virgin in Low Relief, FRF 63,000
Paris, 1900: Draperies (study), FRF 12,500
Paris, 26-27 May 1919: Head of Old Man (silverpoint drawing heightened with white) FRF 6,000
London, 22 May 1925: Infant Jesus and Saint with a Lamb, GBP 1,890
London, 29 June 1926: Hermina: Emblem of Purety (pen) GBP 800; Study Folio (pen) GBP 760
London, 15 July 1927: Virgin with Flowers, GBP 2,100; Head of Leda, GBP 1,785
Paris, 25 Feb 1929: Profile Study of Old Man (pen) FRF 15,400
London, 10-14 July 1936: Wild Horse (pen) GBP 4,305
London, 23 May 1951: Head of the Virgin (charcoal, heightened with colour, study for the painting in the Louvre of The Virgin and St Anne) GBP 8,000
London, 26 March 1963: Head of an Old Man (caricature) (ink drawing with bistre wash) GNS 44,000
London, 21 May 1963: Virgin and Child with a Dog (pen drawing and wash) GBP 19,000
Paris, 12 June 1973: Horse (patinated bronze) FRF 160,000
New York, 17 Nov 1986: Three Child Studies and (recto) Three Lines of TextStudies: Child, Head of Old Man, and Machine with (verso) Several Lines of Text (black chalk, pen, and brown ink, 8 × 5½ ins/20.3 × 13.8 cm) USD 3,300,000
Monaco, 1 Dec 1989: Draperies with Kneeling Figure Facing Left (brush and brown-grey wash, heightened with white gouache, 11¼ × 7¼ ins/28.8 × 18.1 cm) FRF 35,520,000; Draperies: Study with Figure Standing and Facing Right(brush and brown-grey wash, heightened with white gouache on canvas prepared with grey gouache, 11 × 7¼ ins/28.2 × 18.1 cm) FRF 31,080,000
London, 10 July 2001: Horse and Rider (silverpoint, 5 × 3 ins/12 × 8 cm) GBP 7,400,000


Bode, Wilhem von: Studien über Leonardo da Vinci, G. Grote, Berlin, 1921.
Sirén, Osvald: Leonardo da Vinci, G. Van Oest, Paris, 1928.
Suida, Wilhem: Leonardo und sein Kreis, F. Bruckmann, Munich, 1929.
Verga, Ettore: Bibliografia Vinciana 1493-1930, Zanichelli, Bologna, 1930.
Richter, Jean Paul: The Literary Works of Leonardo da Vinci, Oxford University Press, London and New York, 1939.
Goldschieder, Ludwig: Leonardo da Vinci, Phaidon, London: Oxford University Press, New York, 1943.
Popham, Arthur Ewart: The Drawings of Leonardo da Vinci, Reynal and Hitchcock, New York, 1945 (2nd ed., Jonathan Cape, London, 1946).
Heydenreich, Heinrich Ludwig: Leonardo da Vinci, 2 vols., Holbein-Verlag, Basel, 1954.
Freud, Sigmund: Leonardo da Vinci: A Memory of His Childhood, Routledge, London, 1957 (reprinted2006).
Chastel, André (ed.)/Callmann, Ellen (trans.): The Genius of Leonardo da Vinci: Leonardo da Vinci on Art and the Artist, Orion Press, New York, 1961.
Huard, Pierre/Grmek, Mirko Dražen: Léonard de Vinci. Dessins scientifiques et techniques, R. Dacosta, Paris, 1962.
Pedretti, Carlo: A Chronology of Leonardo da Vinci’s Architectural Studies after 1500, E. Droz, Geneva,1962.
Gombrich, Ernst Hans: ‘Leonardo’s Methods of Working Out Compositions’, in Norm and Form: Studies in the Art of the Renaissance, Phaidon, London, 1966.
Clark, Kenneth: The Drawings of Leonardo da Vinci in the Collection of Her Majesty the Queen at Windsor Castle, Phaidon, London, 1968–1969.
Panofsky, Erwin: The Codex Huygens and Leonardo da Vinci’s Art Theory, Greenwood, Westport (CT),1971.
Pedretti, Carlo: Leonardo da Vinci: A Study in Chronology and Style, Thames and Hudson, London, 1973.
Kemp, Martin: Leonardo da Vinci: The Marvellous Works of Nature and Man, Dent, London, 1981 (2nd rev. ed. 1988).
Calvi, Gerolamo: I Manoscritti di Leonardo da Vinci: dal punto di vista cronologica, storico e biografico,Bramante Editrice, Busto Arsizio, 1982.
Clark, Kenneth/Kemp, Martin: Leonardo da Vinci: An Account of His Development as an Artist,Harmondsworth, Middlesex; Viking, New York, 1988 (new rev. ed.).
Batkin, Leonid M.: Leonardo da Vinci, Laterza, Rome, 1988.
Viatte, Françoisee/Pedretti, Carlo/Chastel, André: Leonardo da Vinci: les études de draperies, exhibition catalogue, Réunion des Musées Nationaux, Paris, 1989.
Maiorino, Giancarlo: Leonardo da Vinci: The Daedalian Mythmaker, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, 1992.
Turner, Richard: Inventing Leonardo, Alfred A. Kopf, New York, 1993.
Frère, Jean Claude: Léonard de Vinci, Du Terrail, Paris, 1994.
Cole Ahl, Diane (ed.): Leonardo da Vinci’s Sforza Monument Horse: The Art and the Engineering, Lehigh University Press, Bethlehem (PA), Associated University Presses, Cranbury (NJ) and London, 1995.
Letze, Otto/Buchsteiner, Thomas/Guttmann, Nathalie: Leonardo da Vinci: Scientist, Inventor, Artist, exhibition catalogue, Institut für Kulturaustausch, Tübingen; G. Hatje, Ostfildern-Ruit, 1997.
Arasse, Daniel: Leonardo da Vinci: The Rhythm of the World, Konecky and Konecky, New York, 1998(French ed., Hazan, Paris, 1997).
Zöllner, Frank: La ‘Battaglia di Anghiari’ di Leonardo da Vinci fra mitologia e politica, Giunti, Florence,1998.
Zwijnenberg, Ribert: The Writings and Drawings of Leonardo da Vinci: Order and Chaos in Early Modern Thought, Cambridge University Press, New York, 1999.
Chastel, André: Leonardo da Vinci. Studi e ricerche 1952-1990, Phaidon, London, 1999.
Villata, Edoardo/Marani, Pietro C.: Leonardo da Vinci: i documenti e le testimonianze contemporanee,Castallo Sforzesco, Milan, 1999.
Farago, Claire: Leonardo da Vinci: Selected Scholarship, 5 vols, Garland, New York, 1999.
Brown, David Alan: Leonardo da Vinci: Origins of a Genius, Yale University Press, New Haven (CT), 1998.
Desmond, Michael/Pedretti, Carlo: Leonardo da Vinci: The Codex Leicester, Notebook of a Genius, exhibition catalogue, Powerhouse Museum, Sydney; Powerhouse Publishing, Haymarket (Australia),2000.
Nuland, Sherwin: Leonardo da Vinci, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, London, 2000.
Léonard de Vinci: l’inventeur, exhibition catalogue, Fondation Pierre Gianadda, Martigny, 2002.
Goffen, Rona: Renaissance Rivals: Michelangelo, Leonardo, Raphael, Titian, Yale University Press, New Haven (CT), 2002.
Bambach, Carmen C. (ed.), and others: Leonardo da Vinci, Master Draftsman, exhibition catalogue,Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2003.
Zöllner, Frank/Nathan, Johannes: Leonardo da Vinci, 1452–1519: The Complete Paintings and Drawings, catalogue raisonné, Taschen, Cologne and London, 2003.
Kemp, Martin: Leonardo, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2004.
Kemp, Martin: Leonardo da Vinci: Experience, Experiment and Design, exhibition catalogue, Princeton University Press, Princeton (NJ), 2006.
Bernardoni, Andrea: Leonardo e il monumento equestre a Francesco Sforza: Storia di un’opera mai realizzata, Giunti, Florence, 2007.
Farago, Claire (ed.): Re-reading Leonardo: The Treatise on Painting across Europe, 1550–1900, Ashgate, Burlington (VT) and Farnham (England), 2009.
Syson, Luke, and others: Leonardo da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan, exhibition catalogue, National Gallery, London, 2011.

Oxford Art Online offers access to the most authoritative, inclusive, and easily searchable online art resources available today. Through a single, elegant gateway users can access — and simultaneously cross-search — an expanding range of Oxford’s acclaimed art reference works: Grove Art Online, the Benezit Dictionary of Artists, the Encyclopedia of Aesthetics, The Oxford Companion to Western Art, and The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Art Terms, as well as many specially commissioned articles and bibliographies available exclusively online.

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7. Eight facts about the synthesizer and electronic music

By Maggie Belnap

The invention of the synthesizer in the mid-20th century inspired composers and redesigned electronic music. The synthesizer sped up the creation process by combining hundreds of different sounds, and composers were inspired to delve deeper into the possibilities of electronic music.

1.     Electronic music was first attempted in the United States and Canada in the 1890s. Its creation process was difficult. To create just a few minutes of music, with perhaps a hundred different sounds, could take weeks to finalize.

2.     The first true synthesizer was released to the public in 1956. It was made up of an array of electronic tone generators and processing devices that controlled the nature of the sounds.

3.     That synthesizer played itself in traveling patterns that could be repeated or not. It was controlled by a system of brush sensors that responded to patterns of pre-punched holes on a rotating paper roll.

4.     The most well-known and celebrated electronic pieces in the 1950s are Eimert’s Fünf Stücke, Stockhausen’s Gesang der Jünglinge, Krenek’s Spiritus Intelligentiae Sanctus, Berio’s Mutazioni, and Maderna’s Notturno.

 Robert Moog and his synthesizer

Robert Moog and his synthesizer via Wikimedia Commons

5.     The first electronic concert was given in the Museum of Modern Art, NY on 28 October 1953 by Ussachevsky and Luening.

6.     Two Americans, Robert Moog and Donald Buchla, created separate companies to manufacture synthesizers in the 1960s. Robert Moog’s synthesizer was released in 1965 and is considered a major milestone for electronic music.

7.     They were followed by others and soon synthesizers that were voltage-controlled and portable were available for studio and on stage performances.

8.     In the 1980s, commercial synthesizers were produced on a regular basis. Yamaha released the first all-digital synthesizer in 1983.

Maggie Belnap is a Social Media intern at Oxford University Press. She attends Amherst College.

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8. April Fool’s! Announcing winner of the second annual Grove Music spoof contest

By the Grove Music Online editorial team

Just in time for April Fool’s Day we are pleased to announce the results of this year’s Grove Music Online Spoof Article contest.

This year’s submissions were all biographies, perhaps because Grove’s stylistic prescriptions for biographies lend themselves well to parody. Competition was fierce and hilarious. One of our judges reports, “You all made me spill my coffee. Twice.”

Song thrush. Digital ID: 1132614. New York Public Library

Song thrush. Digital ID: 1132614. New York Public Library.

The judges:

  • Deane Root, editor in chief of Grove Music Online, and Professor of Music, Director and Fletcher Hodges, Jr. Curator of the Center for American Music, University of Pittsburgh, has been immersed in Grove style since he worked under Stanley Sadie on the first New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians.
  • Charles Hiroshi Garrett, Associate Professor of Musicology at the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance served as editor in chief for The Grove Dictionary of American Music, Second Edition. He is currently working on Joking Matters, a book that explores music, humor, and contemporary culture.
  • Anna-Lise Santella edits Grove Music/Oxford Music Online as well as the music modules of Oxford Bibliographies and Oxford Handbooks Online. She spends a lot of time with style guides and once read the 1927 edition of Grove cover to cover for fun.

We received a number of excellent selections, all of which observed Grove style and took care to include some plausible details among the ludicrous so that they might pass muster.

Judge Root noted, “It’s very difficult to choose among these four offerings. Indeed, in wit and prose most seem to have flowed from the fingertips of the same inspired author.” Judge Root was right about that: Three of our four shortlisted articles were written by a single author. Root added, “This year brings us brief biographical entries, thumbnail sketches of inspired beings in whom some of us might find our imaginary Doppelgänger.”


Third runner up:

Bach, Davide Adolphus Iestyn (b Rimsting, Bavaria 29 Feb 1764, d Merthyr Tydfil, Wales 22 Apr 1833), German composer, organist, and political agitator. A distant relative of J.S. Bach, D.A.I. Bach’s early career is veiled in obscurity. It is known from the personal letters of his father, Johann Maldwyn Bach (1740 – 1800) that D.A.I. Bach moved to the home of his paternal great grandmother in Fochriw, Wales in 1785 following a failed attempt to poison the Elector of Rimsting in protest about the feudal laws still employed in Bavaria at that time. He is credited with establishing the tradition of Lutheran hymn singing in Wales, translating Ein Feste Burg into Welsh for the Eisteddfod at Corwen in 1789. His most famous work is the ‘Steam’ Cantata (Schnell, Schneller, am Schnellsten!) written to celebrate the first journey of Richard Trevithick’s steam engine from Merthyr Tydfil to Penydarren in 1804. He was implicated as a ring leader of the Merthyr Riots of 1831, describing himself as a ‘solider for freedom’. He escaped punishment by disguising himself as an iron worker at the famous Dowlais works. His opera Uumo di Ferro, a semi-autobiographical account of this episode, was revived in 1987 as part of the Urdd Eisteddfod in Merthyr Tydfil. Bach’s involvement in Welsh political protest earned him a reference in the folk song Sospan Fach (‘D.A.I. Bach y sowldiwr’). In a cruel twist of fate, D.A.I. Bach died on the same day as Trevithick in 1833, following a railway accident.

ed. Llewellyn Ein Brief Aus Rimsting: the letters of Johann Maldwyn Bach (Treorchy, 1933)
Cyfansoddiadau llenyddol buddugol: Eisteddfod Genedlaethol Urdd Gobaith Cymru, Merthyr
Tudful a’r Cylch 1987 (Cardiff 1987)
V. Jones The Iron Men of Merthyr (Bangor, 2009)

Root notes, “Another long-lost member of the prolific family: a cwrthed Bach perhaps? Surely those lacking facility with the Welsh language are missing some humor here (“dai bach” means little David, raising expectations for references to slingshots and giants).” Judge Santella added, “This article gets bonus points for including references to actual events that leant it the air of plausibility and for including Welsh phrases that stood up to my (admittedly limited) translation abilities. It lacked, however, a signature, which is not only a missed opportunity for additional hilarity, but also against Grove’s preferred style for an article that includes bibliography. This article was submitted by Steven Griffin.


Second runner up:

Humble, Maria Felicity (b Hampshire, 1762, d Hampshire, 1813). English composer and pianist. Initially denied the musical tuition bestowed on her four brothers, Humble was eventually permitted to attend lessons by her parents, a vicar and his wife, after her threat to hold her breath for a dangerously long time led to an incident in which the parish doctor had to be called, at considerable expense and embarrassment to the family. This was the last in a series of subversive acts undertaken by Humble in protest at her exclusion; others included doctoring her father’s sermons shortly before church services, resulting in some unfortunate declarations from the pulpit.

Humble proved to be skilful and naturally musical, soon outstripping her brothers in her aptitude at the keyboard, and in her understanding of harmony, counterpoint, singing, and composition. The resultant humiliation felt by her brothers manifested itself in a number of resentful gestures, including the destruction or defacement of many of Humble’s scores. Of those that survive, most bear the marks of sibling rage, with one set of handwriting in particular – identified to be that of her youngest brother, Percy – revealing a highly scatological mind.

Humble resorted to keeping her works locked in a bureau; as a consequence, none were performed or published during her lifetime. Pieces include numerous highly accomplished songs and piano sonatas, some of which have been hailed by Charles Rosen as ‘superior even to Beethoven’.

C. Rosen, Forgotten Classical Masters (London and New York, 1972), 56–62
F. Tinkle, From Humble Origins to an Even Humbler Reputation (London, 1964)


Judge Root observes, “Reflecting timely concerns about sexist male suppression of female creativity and sibling rivalry among composers, this bio presents a remarkable amount of familial dirty linen for someone whose birth and death dates are unknown, and draws in two late male authorities who might have been reluctant to be associated with this Humble musician, no matter the sardonic Felicity.” Judge Santella concurs that the level of detail combined with the signature would have made her suspicious. “This would not have gotten by us, but I am 100% in favor of the title of F. Tinkle’s biography.”


First runner up:

Fogger-Houndsmilk, George (b Guildford, 24 August 1937, d Kingston upon Hull, 26 December 1999). English composer, pianist and folksong collector. He was educated at Winchester College and then at Hull, where he encountered the poet Philip Larkin (1922-1985). Fogger-Houndsmilk, who was published under the name George Houndsmilk, set Larkin’s poetry to music in his song cycle, The Librarian (1956), but Larkin dismissed him as ‘a second-rate churner of dubious ditties’. The cycle was published incorrectly as The Libertarian, but was so successful in that guise that Houndsmilk made no attempt to alter the title in later editions.

Houndsmilk enjoyed considerable commercial success with his settings of English folk music. Songs include Rosemary Cheesecloth, Plump Puddens, Bishop Littlebreath’s Farewell, The Saucy Skipper of Scarborough, Lewisham Fair, Shropshire Blue, Sweet Catford Sue, Newcassel Town Hall, The Red-breasted Merganser of Merseyside, Slippy Willie, and Seven Farmers Went A-Drinking and Never Came Back. Houndsmilk’s settings were issued by the eminent publisher Henry Cassocks.

Houndsmilk married Hattie Bloxham, a former barmaid celebrated for her forthright singing style. Bloxham gave numerous recitals of Houndsmilk’s songs, with her husband at the piano. They had six children, including the poet and literary critic Celia Bloxham-Houndsmilk. George Houndsmilk died of injuries sustained during the collapse of a negligently-constructed wheelbarrow.

S.L. St Bernard: To Hull and Back: The Cultural Life of England’s Most Underrated City (Cambridge, 1972), 72–81
M. Bowdler: Plump Puddens: The Tawdry World of George “Foggy” Houndsmilk and Hattie Bloxham (London, 1991)


“Those consummate British folksong collectors with their school ties and countrified lineage; where does the real end, and the imaginary begin?” asked Judge Root. “With Larkin as the poet one might have expected this composer to jazz it up, but the list of cheesy settings reveals other interests. And what the composer was doing beneath the barrow we’d best not know.”


And the winner is:

Henderson, Lucas John (b Philadelphia, 19 June, 1910, d Appenzell, Switzerland, 27 November, 1987). American composer. His style encompassed the avant garde and, later, post-modernism, including works which paid tribute to, or satirised, the music of other composers. His 1956 piece, Cage, an homage to John Cage, consists of a cage, the bars of which have been loosely interwoven with violin strings. The performer, who need not be a violinist, is required to pluck the strings while emulating the movements of a bird. In a follow-up to this work, Byrd-Cage (for performer, cage and tape, 1958), a recording of Byrd’s motet Siderum rector is played throughout the performance. When the original score to Henderson’s satirical fusion of Stravinsky and Beethoven, Oiseau de für Elise (for voice and Bunsen burner) was destroyed by fire, Henderson ceased composing altogether, retiring to a life of quiet solitude in the Swiss village of Appenzell.

N. Doggerel, The Anechoic Chambers of the Mind (New York, 1967)


Judge Root opined, “The name puns here are surprising and delightful, as are the inventively prepared birdcage and the implied hazards of modern-music performance. This mashup of music composers, styles, and titles—brief though it be—earns my nod as our spoof-of-the-year.” The rest of the judges agreed. “It’s the only one that made me laugh out loud,” said Judge Garrett, and Judge Santella admitted it was the perpetrator of the aforementioned coffee incident.


Congratulations to author Joanna Wyld, who also wrote the First and Second runner up entries. She is the winner of $100 in OUP books and a year’s subscription to Grove Music Online.

Many thanks to all of our entrants for your creativity! We hope you’ll join us again next year!

And finally, our original contest announcement elicited our first ever errata correction for an earlier spoof article. William Walderman wrote to correct the article on Dag Esrum-Hellerup, which appeared in the first printing of New Grove 1.


april fools

William Walderman:

The Grove article on Dag Henrik Esrum-Hellerup contains a serious flaw. Dag Henrik’s father, Johann Henrik (1773-1843), supposedly appointed chamber flautist to Christian IX, died 20 years before Christian’s accession to the throne in 1863.

We tried to slip one by him by stating that it must have been Johann Henrik’s long lost identical twin brother, Johann Maria, who lived to the ripe old age of 110, that served under Christian IX, but he was too quick for us!

Are you sure it was Johann Maria – a Catholic name in a Protestant country? With the surname Esrum-Hellerup, these twins weren’t arrivals in Denmark from Bavaria or the Electoral Palatinate. Maybe his name was Johan Martin Esrum-Hellerup (probably Johan, with just one n, or else Hans or Jens).

It’s certainly difficult not to admire the lungs of a 90-year old flautist.

We certainly can’t argue with that. Thanks for your comments, Mr. Walderman!

Oxford Music Online is the gateway offering users the ability to access and cross-search multiple music reference resources in one location. With Grove Music Online as its cornerstone, Oxford Music Online also contains The Oxford Companion to Music, The Oxford Dictionary of Music, and The Encyclopedia of Popular Music.

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9. Politics to reconnect communities

OUP-Blogger-Header-V2 Flinders

By Matthew Flinders

Why does art and culture matter in the twenty-first century? What does it actually deliver in terms of social benefits? An innovative new participatory arts project in South Yorkshire is examining the ‘politics of art’ and the ‘art of politics’ from a number of new angles.

“The general value of arts and culture to society has long been assumed,” a recent report from the Arts Council acknowledges, “while the specifics have just as long been debated.” It is this focus on ‘the specifics’ that is most interesting because in times of relative prosperity there was little pressure from neither public nor private funders to demonstrate the broader social impact or relevance of the arts. In times of austerity, however, the situation is very different. A focus on the STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) risks eviscerating the funding for the arts and humanities unless these more creative and less tangible intellectual pursuits can demonstrate their clear social value. The vocabulary of ‘social return’, ‘intellectual productive capacity’, ‘economic generation’ may well grate against the traditional values and assumptions of the arts and culture community but it is a shadow that cannot be ignored.

The publication of The Impact of the Social Sciences (Sage, 2014) provides more than a sophisticated analysis of the value of the social sciences across a range of economic, cultural, and civic dimensions. It provides a political treatise and a strategic piece of evidence-based leverage that may play an important role in future debates over the distribution of diminishing public funds. I have no doubt that the impact of the arts and humanities is equally significant. But the problem is that the systematic creation of an evidence base remains embryonic. My personal belief that the arts and humanities are educationally critical is, in many quarters, meaningless without demonstrable evidence to support these beliefs. The methodological and epistemological challenges of delivering that research are clearly significant but as the Arts Council emphasizes ‘it is something that arts and culture organizations will have to do in order to secure funding from both public and private sources’.

As a political scientist I have always been fascinated with the relationship between art and politics. Though heretical to suggest to the arts community, I have often thought that the role of the professional politician and the professional artist (indeed, with the amateur politician and the amateur artist) were more similar than was often acknowledged. Both seek to express values and visions, to inspire hope and disgust, and both wish to present a message. It is only the medium through which that message is presented that differs (and relationships of co-option, patronage, and dependency are common between these professions). But having (crudely) established a relationship between art and politics, could it be that the true value of the arts lies not in how it responds to the needs of the economy but in how it responds to the rise of ‘disaffected democrats’ and the constellation of concerns that come together in the ‘why we hate politics’ narrative?


In a time of increasing social anomie and political disengagement, especially amongst the young and the poor, can participatory arts projects provide a way of reconnecting communities?

François Matarasso’s Use or Ornament (1997) provides one of the most systematic explorations of this question and concluded that “one of the most important outcomes of [the public’s] involvement in the arts was finding their own voice, or perhaps, the courage to use it.” More recently, the New Economics Foundation’s report Diversity and Integration (2013) suggested that young people who participated in arts programmes were more likely to see themselves as “holding the potential to do anything I want to do” and being “able to influence a group of people to get things done.” Other studies tentatively offer similarly positive conclusions but with little analytical depth in terms of identifying between political reconnection, civic reconnection or personal reconnection (in terms of personal understanding, confidence and aspiration). To return to the Arts Council’s recent report – The Wider Benefits of Art and Culture to Society – the existing research base is light on ‘the specifics’.

It is for exactly this reason that the Sir Bernard Crick Centre for the Public Understanding of Politics has joined forces with ‘Art in the Park’ as part of the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s ‘Civic Value’ programme. Young people from all across South Yorkshire will be brought together to participate in an eight week arts project that uses music, film making, dance, writing, painting or whatever medium the young people select to explore social and political issues. Artists are embedded in the research and current and former politicians can be brought into the project to facilitate sessions if that is something the young people request. Surveys, focus groups, and interviews will capture how participating in the project affects political attitudes and understandings – positive, negative, political, civic, or personal – with the aim being able to answer if the arts can breathe life back into politics and reconnect communities. Now that really would be a wider benefit for society.

Flinders author picMatthew Flinders is Founding Director of the Sir Bernard Crick Centre for the Public Understanding of Politics at the University of Sheffield and also Visiting Distinguished Professor in Governance and Public Policy at Murdoch University, Western Australia. He is the author of Defending Politics (2012). He was recently a winner in the ‘This is Democracy’ International Photography Competition – but his wife now claims she took the picture. Malaika Cunningham is the Research Officer for the project discussed in this article.

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Image credit: Parliament at sunset, public domain via WikiCommons.

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10. Monuments Men and the Frick

By Stephen Bury

At rare moments in time a library can have a singular impact on history. The recent release of George Clooney’s film Monuments Men (2014) has triggered an interest in the role that the Frick Art Reference Library played in the preparation of maps identifying works of art at risk in Nazi-occupied Europe. For the first time in history a belligerent was taking care of cultural treasures in a war zone.

Bill Burke and Jane Mull, members of the Committee of the American Council of Learned Societies on the Protection of Cultural Treasures in War Areas, working with Gladys Hamlin, draftswoman, at the Frick Art Reference Library on a map of Paris. circa 1943-44. The Frick Collection/Frick Art Reference Library Photographs. [National Archives photograph]

Bill Burke and Jane Mull, members of the Committee of the American Council of Learned Societies on the Protection of Cultural Treasures in War Areas, working with Gladys Hamlin, draftswoman, at the Frick Art Reference Library on a map of Paris. circa 1943-44. The Frick Collection/Frick Art Reference Library Photographs. (National Archives photograph)

Initially, the concern was that Allied bombing might damage or even destroy irreplaceable cultural treasures. This was articulated first by the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) who in June 1943 accepted Helen Clay Frick’s offer of the use of the Frick Art Reference Library, 10 East 71st Street, New York, which Helen had founded in 1920, in their endeavors. This was the only time in its history that the Library was closed to the public (15 July 1943- 4 January 1944).

Under the auspices of William B. Dinsmoor (1886-1973), Chair of ACLS Committee on the Protection of Cultural Treasures in War Areas, which predated the Roberts Commission, lists of cultural treasures were drawn up at the Library using its guidebooks — Baedeker, Touring Club Italiano, Guide Bleu etc. — and other resources, supplemented by what could be seen as an early form of crowd-sourcing, i.e. questionnaires sent out to academics and others who had recently visited Europe. Lists of monuments and art objects were compiled and marked on maps of the relevant area — the maps supplied by the Library of Congress, the Army Map Service, or the American Geographical Society. Some of the monuments were rated higher in importance than others: it is interesting to speculate what the criteria might have been. The monuments were numbered and their locations marked on a gridded tracing paper overlay over the map. These were re-photographed by the Library photographers, Ira Martin and Thurman Rotan. The photographic studio where this was done is now the Library’s conservation facility.

Questionnaire image_Page_4

Sample questionnaire from the ACLS Committee on the Protection of Cultural Treasures, c.1943. The Frick Collection/Frick Art Reference Library Archives.

Used by bomber pilots and navigators, then by soldiers on the ground directing artillery after the invasion of mainland Italy in September 1943 and France in June 1944, the maps were also incorporated into the Army’s Civil Affairs handbooks, which were issued to all officers on the ground. Later the lists and maps of treasures were used in the continuing struggle to return looted and confiscated portable treasures the rightful owners and their heirs. The Library’s resources including its Photoarchive are still used today for this very purpose.

Some 700 “Frick” or “Treasure” maps were made, and in a letter, dated 12 October 1943, to Dinsmoor, Monuments Man, Theodore Sizer praised their usefulness in the field and the work of “those magnificent women in the Frick”.

Dr. Stephen Bury is the Andrew W. Mellon Chief Librarian of the Frick Art Reference Library, New York, and is the Advisory Editor of the Benezit Dictionary of Artists.

Oxford Art Online offers access to the most authoritative, inclusive, and easily searchable online art resources available today. Through a single, elegant gateway users can access — and simultaneously cross-search — an expanding range of Oxford’s acclaimed art reference works: Grove Art Online, the Benezit Dictionary of Artists, the Encyclopedia of Aesthetics, The Oxford Companion to Western Art, and The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Art Terms, as well as many specially commissioned articles and bibliographies available exclusively online.

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11. Five jazz concerts I wish I had been at

By Gabriel Solis

Most people who have listened to jazz for very long have a list in their minds of the best live performances they’ve ever been to. I know I do. I remember with particular fondness a performance by Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson that I saw in the early 1980s in Modesto, California that was a benefit for local jazz musician and DJ Mel Williams’s Sickle Cell Anemia Foundation. It wasn’t so much that it was a groundbreaking concert as such–though I still remember how tight and in-the-pocket his band swung–but it was one of the first I ever went to.

As a kid in California’s Central Valley, an agricultural backwater at the time, I didn’t have that many chances to hear live jazz, and it was a revelation. I remember equally fondly seeing Johnny Griffin at Birdland in New York, when I was doing research for my first book, Monk’s Music (University of California Press, 2008). I had dug Griff on vinyl since I was in high school, and to see that band take the stage and hear him—old by then, but still brimming with intensity–burn through two sets of serious hard bop felt a little like coming home.

And most people who go see jazz regularly will tell you that the particular features of the venues where jazz happens color their experiences in tangible ways. For me, The Village Vanguard when it’s full has a kind of electricity that comes from the tight seating and the quality of the light in its cramped little basement space, as well as from its storied past. Sitting cheek-by-jowl with a couple hundred other fans to hear jazz in dim twilight in the same room where John Coltrane once played has a power that can’t be overstated. And being so close to the musicians in a room which has crisp acoustics doesn’t hurt, either.

These features and more make it common for jazz fans to feel that club dates are the best — or even the most authentic — way to hear the music. And yet, concerts, whether they be in monumental halls originally designed for classical music or in the purpose-built, often open-air spaces used for jazz festivals, have been an important context for the music as well. Since the 1920s jazz has been presented in these settings, often to truly great effect. As I say in my book on the Thelonious Monk Quartet with John Coltrane’s live recording at Carnegie Hall, while clubs may offer certain pleasures for musicians–a more interactive, intimate experience especially–concerts have had their value as well. Better pay, typically, for one, but also the opportunity to present their musical ideas in more formal venues.

I’ve seen some great jazz performances at clubs and in concerts, but still, sometimes, I wonder if I didn’t grow up at the wrong time, in the wrong place. There’s just so much I never had the chance to hear — Monk at the Five Spot, Coltrane at the Village Vanguard, Billie Holiday at Café Society, Ellington anywhere … With that in mind, here are five jazz concerts I wish I had seen, in no particular order:

5. Newport Jazz Festival, 1956

To have been at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1956 to hear Ellington’s band play the set that included “Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue” would have been, as the beatniks used to say, “beyond the beyond.”

Click here to view the embedded video.

Duke Ellington Orchestra at Newport 1956, “Diminuendo in Blue” and “Crescendo in Blue,” separated, as Ellington puts it, “by an interval by Paul Gonsalves”

The story is well-enough known to jazz aficionados, that Ellington’s star was on the wane, and that this concert was a way back for them, that on this tune Gonsalves took a solo that was a standard part of the show and turned it into a 27-chorus blues tour-de-force, inspired by a woman in a little black dress who danced and danced and danced while he blew. What else is jazz but that?

I would have worn my groovy fedora, some high-waisted white slacks, combed Brylcreem through my hair and dug every minute of it.

4. Weather Report in Tokyo, 1972

Weather Report’s work, by the later 1970s, includes some pretty dispiriting instrumental pop, but in 1972, Zawinul, Shorter, and company made some music that was vital, and living somewhere on the edge of experimental funk, avant garde noise, and deep groove.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Medley of “Vertical Invader,” “Seventh Arrow,” “T.H.,” and “Doctor Honoria Causus,” from the live recording Weather Report Live in Tokyo

Recordings of this music can only begin to capture its range. Even on high fidelity equipment, the silences are not as heavy as they would have been in the concert hall, not as pregnant with expectation, and the band at full volume is not as overwhelming. In some sense jazz performances are always a bit of a ritual, but this seems like an immersive experience of another level.

3. The Clef Club Orchestra, Massed Gala 1912 and 1913

Under the leadership of James Reese Europe, the Clef Club orchestra played at some of the best private dances New York society had in the early years of the 20th century, but they also presided over at least two “massed galas” in Carnegie Hall in the years 1912 and 1913. While Europe’s bands as they were recorded around the time included fewer than a dozen musicians, an image of the full group on stage at Carnegie Hall has better than fifty. The excitement generated by the group’s sheer size and its range of instruments including cellos, harp-guitars, drums, brass, and who knows what is born out in descriptions from the time that emphasize spectacle.

Click here to view the embedded video.

James Reese Europe’s Society Orchestra, “The Castle Walk,” 1914

Somehow the recordings we know Europe by just don’t seem like they do justice …

2. Thelonious Monk Quartet with John Coltrane at Carnegie Hall

I’ve written about Monk for so many years now, it is a particular sadness to say I never saw him play. Our lives overlapped a bit–I had just turned 10 when he died–but he had stopped playing in public for the most part by the time I was born, and even if he had been playing, he wouldn’t likely have played where I was.

I would love to have seen him play with any of his groups, but there was something special about that band and that night in November, 1957.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Thelonious Monk Quartet with John Coltrane, “Monk’s Mood”

It’s not just that the band gave a brilliant performance–though they did. It’s more. As I say at some length in my book on this concert recording, the selection of tunes is great, the chance to hear Coltrane working out a sound in relation to Monk’s established style is a treat, and there is something brilliant about the way Shadow Wilson and Ahmed Abdul-Malik come together to underpin the whole event.

Though only Monk’s set was released on CD, I would love to have had the chance to hear this performance in context with the rest of the groups on that evening’s remarkable bill, including Ray Charles, Dizzy Gillespie, Billie Holiday, Chet Baker, Zoot Sims, Sonny Rollins.

1. Newport Jazz Festival 1969, Final Night

OK, so technically this wasn’t necessarily, strictly speaking, a jazz concert, as such, but I would kill to have been at the NJF the night Miles Davis famously saw Led Zeppelin drive the kids wild. This is another one that is well-known and the stuff of legend, but everything about it would have felt like a lightening bolt at the time. Would Zeppelin play or wouldn’t they? Promoter George Wein was convinced that they would start a riot, but after some controversy, they did close an evening that also included Herbie Hancock’s sextet, and the Buddy Rich band, among others.

We often hear about Zeppelin in this story, but the whole festival was kind of incredible. The British rock band played at the end of a weekend that included George Benson, Bill Evans, Sun Ra’s Arkestra, Blood, Sweat and Tears, Art Blakey, Dave Brubeck, Sly and the Family Stone, and Jimmy Smith hosting a jam session that included Sonny Stitt and Ray Nance, among others.

So maybe I was born too soon. Though, in the past month I’ve had my head expanded by Vijay Iyer’s trio, by William Parker, and by the Bad Plus, all in the little college town in East Central Illinois where I live, so perhaps it’s all just fine.

Gabriel Solis is Associate Professor of music, African American studies, and anthropology at the University of Illinois. A scholar of jazz, American popular music, and the transnational politics of race, his work has appeared in leading journals of ethnomusicology, music history, and sociology. He is the author of Monk’s Music: Thelonious Monk and Jazz History in the Making (California, 2008), co-editor with Bruno Nettl of Musical Improvisation: Art, Education, and Society (Illinois, 2009), a forthcoming book on singer, songwriter, and performing artist, Tom Waits titled Sounding America: Gender, Genre, Memory, and the Music of Tom Waits (California), and Thelonious Monk Quartet with John Coltrane at Carnegie Hall.

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12. Happy 450th birthday William Shakespeare!

But I will wear my heart upon my sleeve …
– Othello (Act 1, Sc. 1, l.64)

April 2014 sees Shakespeare mature to the ripe old age of 450, and to celebrate we have collected a multitude of quotes from the famous bard in the below graphic, crafting his features with his own words.

To read the free scenes, open the graphic as a PDF.

Shakespeare birthday infographic

Download the graphic as a jpg or PDF.

Oxford Scholarly Editions Online provides an interlinked collection of authoritative Oxford editions of major works from the humanities. Scholarly editions are the cornerstones of humanities scholarship, and Oxford University Press’s list is unparalleled in breadth and quality. Read more about the site, follow the tour, or watch the full story.

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13. World Art Day photography contest

By Victoria Davis

World Art Day is coming up on 15 April. We’re celebrating with some forthcoming blog posts, select free journal and online product articles, and a photography competition.

We invite you to celebrate with us by submitting your own art to our Street Photography Contest. According Grove Art Online, street photography is:

Genre of photography that can be understood as the product of an artistic interaction between a photographer and an urban public space. It is distinguished from documentary photography in that the photographer is not necessarily motivated by the evidentiary value or socio-political function of the resulting photographs. Unlike photojournalism, a street photographer’s images are not intended to illustrate a news story or other narrative. Instead, their primary goal is expressive and communicates a subjective impression of the experience of everyday life in a city. Thus neither the locale nor the subject-matter defines street photography; it is the photographer’s approach to the medium and movement through public space that differentiate street photography from related forms of photography.

The steeple of the church before the restoration in 1913. Collections Department of the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Eugène Atget. The steeple of the church before the restoration in 1913. Collections Department of the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Live in a city? Have a camera? Send us your best shots.

The winner will receive $100 in Oxford University Press books. Second place will take home a copy of our Very Short Introduction to Photography.

To submit, please email groveartmarketing[at]oup[dot]com, with “photography competition” in the subject line. Please include a caption describing your work in the body of the email, and attach your image (maximum of 3MB). Competition will close on 28 April 2014. Please read our terms and conditions before entering the competition.

Victoria Davis works in marketing for Oxford University Press, including Grove Art and Oxford Art Online.

Oxford Art Online offers access to the most authoritative, inclusive, and easily searchable online art resources available today. Through a single, elegant gateway users can access — and simultaneously cross-search — an expanding range of Oxford’s acclaimed art reference works: Grove Art Online, the Benezit Dictionary of Artists, the Encyclopedia of Aesthetics, The Oxford Companion to Western Art, and The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Art Terms, as well as many specially commissioned articles and bibliographies available exclusively online.

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14. The early history of the guitar

By Christopher Page

I am struck by the way the recent issue of Early Music devoted to the early romantic guitar provides a timely reminder of how little is known about even the recent history of what is to day today the most popular musical instrument in existence. With millions of devotees worldwide, the guitar eclipses the considerably more expensive piano and allows a beginner to achieve passable results much sooner than the violin. In England, the foundations for this ascendancy were laid in the age of the great Romantic poets. It was during the lifetimes of Keats, Shelley, Byron, and Coleridge, extending from 1772 to 1834, that the guitar rose from a relatively subsidiary position in Georgian musical life to a place of such fashionable eminence that it rivalled the pianoforte and harp as the chosen instrument of many amateur musicians.

What makes this rise so fascinating is that it was not just a musical matter; the vogue for the guitar in England after 1800 owed much to a new imaginative landscape for the guitar owing much to Romanticism. John Keats, in one of his letters, tellingly associates the guitar with popular novels and serialized romances that were shaped by the interests of a predominantly female readership and were romantic in several senses of the word with their stories of hyperbolized emotion in exotic settings. For Byron, a poet with a wider horizon than Keats, the guitar was a potent image of the Spanish temper as the English commonly imagined it during the Napoleonic wars and long after: passionate and yet melancholic, lyrical and yet bellicose in the defence of political liberty, it gave full play to the Romantic fascination with extremes of sentiment. For Shelley in his Poem “With a Guitar,” the gentle sound of the instrument distilled the voices of Nature who had given the materials of her wooded hillsides to make it, but it also evoked something beyond Nature: the enchantment of Prospero’s isle and a reverie reaching beyond the limitations of sense to “such stuff as dreams are made on.” As the compilers of the Giulianiad, England’s first niche magazine for guitarists, asked in 1833: “What instrument so completely allows us to live, for a time, in a world of our own imagination?”


Given the wealth of material for a social history of the guitar in Regency England, and for its engagement with the romantic imagination, it is surprising that so little has been written about the instrument. It does say something about why England is widely regarded as the poor relation in the family of guitar-playing nations. The fortunes of the guitar in the early nineteenth century are commonly understood in a continental context established especially by contemporary developments in Italy, Spain, and France. To some extent, this is an understandable mistake, for Georgian England received rather more from the European mainland in the matter of guitar playing than she gave, but it is contrary to all indications. But we may discover, in the coming years, that the history of the guitar in England contains much that accords with that nation’s position as the most powerful country, and the most industrially advanced, of Western Europe at the close of the Napoleonic Wars.

There is so much material to consider: references to the guitar and guitarists in newspapers, advertisements, novels, short stories, poems and manuals of deportment, the majority of them published in the metropolis of London. The pictorial sources encompass a great many images of guitars and guitarists in a wealth of prints, mezzotints, lithographs, and paintings. The surviving music comprise a great many compositions for guitar, both in printed versions and in manuscript together with tutors that are themselves important social documents. Electronic resources, though fallible, permit a depth of coverage previously unattainable. Never have the words of John Thomson in the first issue of Early Music been more relevant: we set out on an intriguing journey.

Christopher Page is a long-standing contributor to Early Music. A Fellow of the British Academy, he is Professor of Medieval Music and Literature in the University of Cambridge and Gresham Professor of Music elect at Gresham College in London. In 1981 he founded the professional vocal ensemble Gothic voices, now with twenty-five CDs in the catalogue, from which he retired in 2000 to write his most recent book, The Christian West and its Singers: The first Thousand Years (Yale University Press, 2010).

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15. Best Original Score: Who will win (and who should!)

By Kathryn Kalinak

This year’s slate of contenders includes established pros (John Williams, Thomas Newman, Alexandre Desplat) along with some newcomers (William Butler and Owen Pallett, Steven Price). This used to be a category where you had to pay your dues, but no longer. The last three winners had never been nominated before. So the real surprise winner in this category would be Williams.

William Butler and Owen Pallett: Her

Click here to view the embedded video.

Butler and Pallett already have a pocketful of awards and this is just the kind of “outsider” score (Butler and Pallett’s first nomination) that Academy voters love: remember Reznor and Ross winning for The Social Network? A win for Butler and Pallett makes the Academy seem hip and edgy and cool, not unimportant to an aging votership. Gravity is the favorite to win here, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the statuette goes to Her. Its use of acoustic instruments (that piano!) brings coziness to the sterile interiors and even the electronic instruments radiate warmth. The score is crucial in helping us to understand the characters in the film and feel for them. This wouldn’t be the same film without the score.

Alexandre Desplat: Philomena

Click here to view the embedded video.

Desplat has done some remarkable work in the last few years (Argo, Zero Dark Thirty, The King’s Speech, The Queen, Harry Potter, Fantastic Mr. Fox—a personal favorite) and he’s the go-to composer for films about England and now Ireland. But he’s perennially overlooked by Academy voters (he’s lost five times in the last seven years and for some amazing work—come on, Academy)! I don’t think this is his year. Philomena doesn’t have a high enough profile in the Oscar race. I would LOVE to be wrong about this. Desplat deserves an Oscar for something and why not for Philomena—it’s a heartfelt film with an equally heartfelt score.

Thomas Newman: Saving Mr. Banks

Click here to view the embedded video.

Newman has twelve nominations and no wins but I don’t think this year is going to change that. Saving Mr. Banks was almost completely overlooked by the Academy (this is its only nomination) and Newman’s style of big symphonic scoring hasn’t found favor in recent years with Academy voters. (See John Williams below).

Steven Price: Gravity
*clip from film includes “Debris” from the soundtrack

Click here to view the embedded video.

Gravity is the front runner here. The trailer’s tag line reads “At 372 miles above the earth, there is nothing to carry sound.” Except the soundtrack…which is filled with the score. Big, noticeable, dare I say it—intrusive, this is the kind of score you can’t fail to notice…even if you try. John Williams meets Hans Zimmer.

John Williams: The Book Thief

Click here to view the embedded video.

This is Williams’ forty-ninth nomination—but The Book Thief doesn’t have the visibility of other films in this category and Academy voters of late have failed to embrace the kind of big symphonic scores, like this one, that routinely won Oscars back in the twentieth century. Lush, melodic, memorable—vintage Williams. Like Newman for Saving Mr. Banks, Williams would be an upset.

Will win: Steven Price for Gravity

Should win: William Butler and Owen Pallett for Her

Kathryn Kalinak is Professor of English and Film Studies at Rhode Island College. Her extensive writing on film music includes numerous articles as well as the books Settling the Score: Music in the Classical Hollywood Film and How the West was Sung: Music in the Westerns of John Ford. She is author of Film Music: A Very Short Introduction.

The Very Short Introductions (VSI) series combines a small format with authoritative analysis and big ideas for hundreds of topic areas. Written by our expert authors, these books can change the way you think about the things that interest you and are the perfect introduction to subjects you previously knew nothing about. Grow your knowledge with OUPblog and the VSI series every Friday, subscribe to Very Short Introductions articles on the OUPblog via email or RSS, and like Very Short Introductions on Facebook.

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16. A day with Carol Channing in Disneyland

By Eddie Shapiro

When I began work on my book, I knew I would be fortunate enough to experience a few moments of “Pinch me. This can’t really be happening.” There were, as it turned out, so many that I’d be black and blue if there was actual pinching going on. But of all of those moments, I think the highlight would have to be spending a day at Disneyland with Carol Channing and her late husband, Harry, who were then 90 and 91 respectively.

I had interviewed Carol the day before in front of an adoring audience at the annual Gay Days at Disneyland. But it had been decades since Carol had been in the park and the last time she was, her tour guide was, um, Walt Disney. She had a picture to prove it. Carol, Walt, and Maurice Chevalier on Main Street, USA! I couldn’t exactly beat that, but I did what I could. I mapped out the day with a full compliment of attractions starting gently enough with “Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln,“ an indoor show at which a robotic Abe recites the Gettysburg address. Carol was moved to tears. “It’s Walt!” she exclaimed. “This whole attraction is his spirit. Exactly who he was.” We emerged just in time to hear the Disneyland Marching Band emphatically playing “When the Saints Go Marching In.” We clapped along before we hopped on “The Disneyland Railroad,” a steam train that circles the park. Carol grabbed my hand as we approached and began singing at full voice, “Put on your Sunday clothes when you feel down and out…” the song from Hello, Dolly! that culminates with the full company boarding a similar train. We sang together as we chugged along. I died.

Mickey Mouse bows to Carol Channing. Photo courtesy of Eddie Shapiro.

Mickey Mouse bows to Carol Channing. Photo courtesy of Eddie Shapiro.

We rode the Peter Pan ride and the tea cups, we met Mickey Mouse (who literally got on his knees and bowed down to Carol), and we had our own boat on “It’s a Small World.” It was all just as I had planned it until… the unexpected. As we were walking through Fantasyland, Harry kept staring in the direction of the carousel. I hadn’t planned on an attraction as simple as the carousel because, well, it’s a carousel. But I couldn’t help but notice Harry’s interest. “Harry,” I asked, “did you want to ride the carousel?” “I’m lookin’ at it,” came the reply. “Well Harry,” I said, “we’re here! If you want to ride it, let’s ride it.”  We boarded and I went off in search of a nice bench for Carol and Harry. Carol seated herself but Harry was determined to mount a horse. At 91, however, he needed a hand or two, so I put my shoulder under his lower back and hoisted him up there. I then ran around to the other side and manually swung his leg astride the horse.

Harry, Carol Channing's husband, on the carousel. Photo courtesy of Eddie Shapiro.

Harry, Carol Channing’s husband, on the carousel. Photo courtesy of Eddie Shapiro.

He was beaming, positively giddy. And in that moment, I realized that I was getting a major life lesson here. Carol and Harry were frail (he, in fact, passed less than three months later); one misstep could have been hugely consequential. A jostle from someone in the crowd could have been dire. But here they were, not just tasting everything life had to offer, but gobbling it up. If there was life to live, they were going to live it. And I thought to myself, “How does one become lucky enough to age into these people? Is it genetic? Is it a choice? What can I do to insure that when my golden years are upon me, I make them as golden as I can? Because these people have figured it out. They are who I aspire to be.”

When the sun was finally setting, we headed back to the hotel. I left them sitting in the lobby next to the grand piano while I went up to the room to retrieve their luggage. I returned just as the pianist was arriving for his set. He spied Carol and in no time he was gently tinkling the notes of “Hello, Dolly!” Before I knew what was happening, Carol was on her feet, one hand on the piano, the other aloft, belting out “Hello, Dolly!” for anyone who happened to be passing through the lobby of the Grand Californian Hotel at 4:30 in the afternoon. It was something to behold and a moment I will never, ever forget.

For months afterward, Harry would call me, just to say hello. “You don’t know the gift you gave us that day,” he would always end with. “Harry,” I’d always reply, “you don’t know the gift you gave me.”

Author Eddie Shapiro, Carol Channing, and her husband Harry at Disneyland. Photo courtesy of Eddie Shapiro.

Author Eddie Shapiro, Carol Channing, and her husband Harry on the tea cup ride at Disneyland. Photo courtesy of Eddie Shapiro.

Eddie Shapiro is the author of Nothing Like a Dame: Conversations with the Great Women of Musical Theater. His writing has appeared in publications such as Out Magazine, Instinct, and Backstage West. He is also a producer of Gay Days Disneyland and the author of Queens in the Kingdom: The Ultimate Gay and Lesbian Guide to the Disney Theme Parks. 

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17. Steve McQueen’s low-tech triumph: Looking at this year’s Oscar winners

By James Tweedie

The annual Academy Awards ceremony draws weeks of media attention, hours of live television coverage beginning with stars strolling down the red carpet, and around 40 million viewers nationwide on Oscar night. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences relegates the awards for technical achievement to a separate ceremony a couple of weeks before, a sedate affair in a hotel ballroom rather the spectacular setting of the Dolby Theater. While this division between the arts and sciences is clear in awards season, that boundary has almost disappeared in the movies themselves, as computer-generated imagery and digital 3-D now occupy a prominent position in most major studio productions.


Academy Award for Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom at the Walt Disney Family Museum. Photo by Loren Javier. CC BY-ND 2.0 via Flickr.

For almost a century popular American cinema has been primarily a storytelling medium, with the motion picture sciences playing a more secondary role, but the distinction between the popular arts of Hollywood and the engineering of Silicon Valley is blurring. The movie business is being incorporated into a TED world where technology and design are the cornerstones of most big-budget entertainment.

For the first three hours of Sunday’s broadcast, Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity seemed to be soaring toward a Best Picture Oscar, a victory that would have marked a new stage in this transformation of the American movie industry. A tour de force of technological innovation, Gravity won a total of seven Academy Awards, including the bellwether prizes for Best Editing and Best Director, and the voters appeared on the verge of bestowing their top honor on one of the first films to utilize the full potential of 3-D, a film that creates an almost visceral, stomach-dropping sensation of weightlessness as the camera and bodies appear to bob and drift through space. At other times the camera hurtles forward and the storyline rushes us from one space vehicle to another, propelled by an accidental explosion or the blast of a strategically deployed fire extinguisher. In those moments the weakness of Gravity is as unmistakable as its technical prowess: its virtuoso, gravity-defying feats are accompanied by an almost absurdly insubstantial and implausible plot, even by the standards of Hollywood, where happy endings have been arriving on cue for decades and most cars seem to have a magical sixth gear that allows them to fly over rising drawbridges. The narrative seems almost like an afterthought in Gravity, a pretext to link together one floating space platform and the next and to celebrate cinematic technology in itself, untethering it from earthly concerns like the plot.


Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

But the Academy voters obviously had a different narrative in mind when they submitted their ballots, and in keeping with a long tradition of last-minute plot twists, they managed to compose a far more heartening conclusion to the year in film. In your average year, the Academy Awards are, to borrow the title of one of this year’s Best Picture contenders, an “American hustle.” Every March, we anticipate the canonization of a new Citizen Kane or Vertigo, half-forgetting that these films, among the most revered American movies ever made, won a grand total of one Oscar (Herman Mankiewicz and Orson Welles, for the screenplay for Citizen Kane). Kane was nominated in nine categories and lost eight of them, and Hitchcock and the other makers of Vertigo left the Pantages Theater empty-handed in 1959.

The list of regrettable Academy Award decisions and omissions (for example, Hitchcock’s career-long snub in the Best Director category or the single statuette given to Stanley Kubrick in his lifetime, for visual effects in 2001) is at least as long as Oscar’s triumphs. While viewers tune in for the glitz, glamor, comedy, fashion, and, on occasion, a genuinely moving acceptance speech (or a train wreck taking place at the podium), the ceremony also promises to provide an annual assessment of the state of American cinema. The opulent spectacle arrives each year without fail, but the Academy almost habitually overlooks the truly vibrant pictures and artists working in the film industry in the United States. What does Oscar reward instead?

The recipients of the major awards are usually not the most lucrative blockbusters (which have already received their rewards at the box office) nor are they the type of formally innovative and idiosyncratic pictures that enter the canon retrospectively. The films that tend to be overrated by the Academy are well-meaning films that appear to address an important social issue, while discovering some heroes and reasons for hope in an otherwise trying situation (Slumdog Millionaire, Crash, and Million Dollar Baby, to name three of the last eight Best Picture winners). Films by recognized American auteurs like Martin Scorsese, the Coen brothers, or Kathryn Bigelow have also fared well (see, for example, The Departed in 2006, No Country for Old Men in the following year, and The Hurt Locker in 2009), as have historical films that depict a triumph over hardship, with the formula for contemporary cinema—adversity, heroism, survival, and even a measure of vindication—retooled for use in the past. (See The King’s Speech in 2010 for the most recent example, but note also the run of five consecutive awards beginning in 1993 for Schindler’s List, Forrest Gump, Braveheart, The English Patient, and Titanic, which together established the historical film as a one of the surest paths to the podium.) What matters at Oscar time is the appearance of importance and a willingness to return to historical tragedies or to glance at contemporary social ills.

Viewed in retrospect, the Academy Awards perform something of a bait and switch, as instead of recognizing the best films created in the previous year they provide a barometer of the social and historical problems that continue to haunt us, including (to focus on this year’s nominees) political corruption, the excesses of Wall Street, uneven development, slavery and racism, the AIDS crisis, and the persistence of homophobia. This year’s Best Picture nominees have been justly scrutinized precisely because they seem so intimately linked with the problems they address. Four of the nine nominees are based on actual events drawn from the very recent past, another (Philomena) recounts a true story spanning a 50-year period from the middle of the twentieth century to the present, and 12 Years a Slave retells the autobiography of Solomon Northup, a free African-American from New York who was kidnapped and sold into bondage in Louisiana. Add Gravity to this strong group of films, and oddsmakers were predicting the tightest contest in recent memory, with these many returns to history pitted against an immersive, high-tech cinematic experience of the future.

In The Wolf of Wall Street, Jordan Belfort, a real-life financial scam artist played by Leonardo DiCaprio, finds himself unable to drive home after an overdose of Quaaludes that leaves him prostrate on the front steps of his country club. Summoning all his strength, he manages to slither across the driveway, hoist himself into his gull-winged sports car, and steer through a series of obstacles unscathed. Or at least that’s how the events unfold the first time, in what appears to be Jordan’s experience of reality. Immediately after that sequence, we see the police arrive and Scorsese presents us with a revisionist version, with a wreckage of cars and signposts left flattened in his wake. Hollywood’s approach to the past often resembles the first, more delusional of these scenes, with the heroic figure emerging triumphant from history.

In 12 Years a Slave the historical devastation caused by slavery is more frightening because the damage is all pervasive, because nothing is left uncorrupted by the system that frames every interaction through the lens of property. Screenwriter John Ridley and director McQueen had the courage to let Solomon Northup’s story remain largely unchanged from the original autobiography and to frame the most searing images in the simplest, most direct way, as in the agonizingly long take where a near lynching unfolds almost in slow motion. And in the best tradition of classical Hollywood cinema, McQueen manages to combine a compelling narrative with a series of subtle character portraits, as Northup travels through a looking glass from his prior existence as an accomplished musician and family man in New York to what seems like an alternative universe, where survival depends on the stripping away of those markers of identity and humanity. Rather than present slavery as an incomprehensible evil from another time, the film also chronicles the everyday rationalizations that allow the master to accept depravity as a way of life and the foundation of an economic order.

In most years the Oscars ceremony performs a bait and switch, as we await the announcement of the year’s best films and hear the name of a soon-to-be-forgotten film. But the Academy Awards also remind us why we continue to care about movies and ascribe to them a social significance and power all out of proportion with the relatively modest ambitions of even the Best Picture nominees, let alone the more standard studio fare. The Oscars are an advertisement for the potential of cinema to engage with traumatic historical and contemporary realities, even if we usually have to look elsewhere for the films that address those issues in all of their complexity. 12 Years a Slave, one of the few masterpieces also to win the award for Best Picture, reminds us that sometimes those films can come straight from Hollywood.

James Tweedie is Associate Professor of Comparative Literature and a member of the Cinema Studies faculty at the University of Washington. He is the author of The Age of New Waves: Art Cinema and the Staging of Globalization.

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18. Beyond Ed Sullivan: The Beatles on American television

By Ron Rodman

Sunday, 9 February 2014 marked the 50th anniversary of the American television broadcast of the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show. For many writers on pop music, the appearance on the Sullivan show not only marked the debut of the Beatles in the United States, but also launched their career as international pop music superstars. The mass exposure to millions of television viewers rocketed the Fab Four to national prominence in the United States, and created a chain reaction for stardom in the entire world.

The Beatles, 1963

The Beatles, Stockholm, 1963

While the charisma and quality of the Beatles’ music drew great popularity in 1964, the group’s success was assisted by the entrepreneurial skills of American television, notably by the expertise of Ed Sullivan. However, several other television broadcasts predated the Sullivan show appearance, and laid the groundwork for the Beatles’ stardom in the United States. In particular, two news stories about the Beatles were aired in November 1963, four full months before the Sullivan appearance. This, plus another taped appearance by the group by another entrepreneur, NBC’s Jack Paar, paved the way for the Beatles’ stardom in the United States.

The Ed Sullivan Show

Ed Sullivan began his career as a journalist throughout the 1920s and worked his way into the position as theater columnist for the New York Daily News when Walter Winchell left the paper in the early 1930s. Sullivan was also a host for Vaudeville theaters, serving as master of ceremonies for a number of shows during World War II. He broke into television as host of telecasts of New York’s Harvest Moon Ball on CBS, and was asked to host a weekly variety show called Toast of the Town in 1948. The show would be renamed The Ed Sullivan Show in 1955.

With his journalistic experience, Sullivan was able to use his contacts to attract a wide range of celebrities on the show. He attracted comedians such as Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, Broadway stars like Julie Andrews, jazz greats like Dizzy Gillespie and Ella Fitzgerald, and even opera singers like Maria Callas and Robert Merrill. However, Sullivan may be best known for bringing rock‘n’roll to the small screen. He had Elvis Presley on the show on 6 January 1957, and many rockers such as Buddy Holly, Fats Domino, Bo Diddley, and many others thereafter.

Sullivan’s embrace (or at least tolerance) for rock music paved the way for the Beatles. Sullivan reportedly heard (or heard of) the Beatles during a trip to London and decided to put them on his show. He offered the band $10,000 to appear, a figure that, adjusted for inflation, would be a somewhat modest $75,000 in today’s dollars.

As the show opened on that historic night in 1964, Sullivan reported that Elvis Presley and his manager, Colonel Tom Parker, had sent a telegram to the Beatles wishing them luck. In his introduction, Sullivan also used the increased viewership to plug some of his other acts on previous shows, notably Topo Gigio (the Italian/Spanish mouse puppet created by Maria Perego), Van Heflin, Ella Fitzgerald, and Sammy Davis, Jr. But the tension to hear the Beatles was palpable, and he segued into a commercial quickly, promising the Beatles after the break.

Click here to view the embedded video.

The appearance by the Beatles almost didn’t happen. George Harrison reportedly had a sore throat the week before, but by broadcast, was better. So, the Beatles went live with their full line-up, performing five songs that night: “All My Loving,” “Till There Was You,” “She Loves You,” “I Saw Her Standing There,” and “I Want To Hold Your Hand.”

Click here to view the embedded video.

News stories

While the Ed Sullivan appearance marked the first live US TV appearance of the Beatles, the groundwork had already been laid to introduce the band to the United States a few months earlier. NBC News did a four-minute story on the Beatles that was broadcast on The Huntley-Brinkley Report on 16 November 1963, three full months before the Sullivan show. The feature was narrated by reporter Edwin Newman, who would later anchor the NBC News.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Not to be “scooped” by NBC, CBS News also produced a five-minute piece on the Fab Four, which aired on 21 November, the eve of the fateful day on which President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Alexander Kendrick, CBS’s London Bureau Chief taped the story, which showed footage of the Beatles performing in England, and the story ended with Kendrick ruminating on the social significance of the group, representing England’s youth, or at least England’s youth as they “wanted to be.”

The Jack Paar Program

Also predating the Sullivan Show, the first prime time film footage of the Beatles actually aired on 3 January 1964. The person responsible was another entrepreneur—NBC’s Jack Paar. Like Ed Sullivan, Paar was not a TV celebrity “natural” and came to television as a master of ceremonies. After World War II, Paar made some appearances in a few low-budget films, and made his way to television as a game show host. He was chosen as the regular replacement for Steve Allen as the host of NBC’s Tonight Show in 1957. Paar did not have Allen’s musical talent, nor his talent for sketch comedy or practical jokes, but was able to surround himself with unusual talent to market his show. While not as “wooden” on stage as Sullivan, Paar tended to be low-key and conversational, rather than charismatic and presentational. Like Sullivan, Paar also had a flair for discovering unique talent and is often credited for discovering, or at least popularizing, such off-beat characters as comedians Jonathan Winters, Bill Cosby, and Bob Newhart. Paar left the Tonight Show (ushering in the Johnny Carson era) in 1962, but went on to host a weekly variety show called The Jack Paar Program, that aired on Friday nights on NBC. It was on this program that he introduced the Beatles to the United States.

Like Sullivan, Paar had heard of the Beatles while in London and decided to show some film footage of the band as a joke. “I thought it was funny,” he quipped later on a television retrospective. He admitted that he had no idea that the band would change the course of music history. On the 1963 broadcast, after showing the footage, he quipped: “Nice to know that England has risen to our [American] cultural level.”

The episode with the footage was taped on 16 November 1963, the same date as the NBC news story (undoubtedly the story was fed to Paar from the network news bureau), but was not aired until 3 January 1964, undoubtedly delayed by the Kennedy assassination. Paar’s film clip still predates the Sullivan appearance by more than a month.

Would the Beatles have made it as superstars without the entrepreneurial efforts of Ed Sullivan and Jack Paar to give them TV coverage? The answer is undoubtedly yes. But the mass exposure they receive through American TV broadcasts by Sullivan and Paar (as well as NBC and CBS news) laid the groundwork for the Beatles success by presenting the group to millions of television viewers in the United States, and the world.

Ron Rodman is Professor of Music at Carleton College, where he teaches courses in the music and cinema and media studies departments. He has published numerous articles on tonal music theory, film music, and music in new media. He is author of Tuning In: American Narrative Television Music.

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Image: The Beatles i Hötorgscity 1963, Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

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19. When art coaxed the soul of America back to life

By Sheila D. Collins

Writing in the New York Times recently, art critic Holland Cotter lamented the fact that the current billionaire-dominated market system, “is shaping every aspect of art in the city; not just how artists live, but also what kind of art is made, and how art is presented in the media and in museums.” “Why,” he asks, “in one of the most ethnically diverse cities, does the art world continue to be a bastion of whiteness? Why are African-American curators and administrators, and especially directors, all but absent from our big museums? Why are there still so few black — and Latino, and Asian-American — critics and editors?”

It wasn’t always like this. During the 1930s under the New Deal, the arts were democratized, made accessible to ordinary people who lacked the means to buy paintings worth hundreds of thousands of dollars or to attend Broadway shows at over $100 a ticket. The New Deal’s support for the arts is one of the most interesting and unique episodes in the history of American public policy.

The federal arts programs initiated in the 1930s were intended to alleviate the economic hardships of unemployed cultural workers, to popularize art among a much wider segment of the population, and to boost public morale during a time of deep stress and pessimism, or as New Deal artist Gutzon Borglum remarked, to “coax the soul of America back to life.”

WPA Federal Art Project Poster

WPA Federal Art Project Poster, 1936. Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

The best known of all the programs that were enacted during the Depression was the WPA (Works Progress Administration) Art Project. It consisted of four distinct projects: a Federal Art Project, a Federal Writers’ Project, a Federal Theatre Project, and a Federal Music Project.

Paintings were given to government offices, while murals, sculptures, bas relief, and mosaics were seen on the walls of schools, libraries, post offices, hospitals, courthouses, and other public buildings. Over the course of its eight years, the WPA commissioned over five hundred murals for New York City’s public hospitals alone. Among the now well-known artists supported by these programs were painters such as Thomas Hart Benton, Jackson Pollack, Willem de Kooning, Raphael and Moses Soyer, and the sculptor, Louise Nevelson.

The print workshops set up by the WPA prepared the ground for the flowering of the graphic arts in the United States, which until that time had been limited in both media and expression. Moreover, since prints were portable and cheap, they became a vehicle for broadening the public’s understanding and appreciation of the creative arts.

Some 100 community art centers, which included galleries, classrooms, and community workshops, were established in twenty-two states–but particularly where opportunities to experience and make art were scarce. Through this effort individuals who may never have seen a large painted scene or a piece of sculpture were given the opportunity to experience not only a finished work of art but to participate in the creative process. In the New York City area alone, an estimated 50,000 people participated in classes under the Federal Art Project auspices each week. According to Smithsonian author, David A. Taylor, “the effect was electric. It jump-started people beginning careers in art amid the devastation.”

The Federal Writers’ project provided employment and experience for editors, art critics, researchers, and historians, a number of whom later became famous for their novels and poetry, such as Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison, Studs Terkel, and Saul Bellow. They were put to work writing state and regional guidebooks that were to portray the social, economic, industrial, and historical background of the country. These guidebooks represented a vast treasury of Americana from the ground up, including facts and folklore, history and legend, and histories of the famous, the infamous, and the excluded. There were also seventeen-volumes of oral histories of the last people who had lived under slavery. An additional set of folklore and oral histories of 10,000 people from all regions, occupations, and ethnic groups were collected and are now held in the American Folklife Center of the Library of Congress.

Federal Theater Project poster, 1938. Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Federal Theater Project poster, 1938. Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

The Federal Theatre Project was the first and only attempt to create a national theatre in the United States, producing all genres of theater, including classical plays, circuses, puppet shows, musical comedies, vaudeville, dance performances, children’s theatre, and experimental plays. They were performed wherever people could gather—not only in theaters, but in parks, hospitals, convents, churches, schools, armories, circus tents, universities, and prisons. Touring companies brought theater to parts of the country where drama had been non-existent, and provided training and experience for thousands of aspiring actors, directors, stagehands, and playwrights, among them, Orson Wells, Eugene O’Neill, and Joseph Houseman.

The program emphasized preserving and promoting minority cultural forms. At a time of strict racial segregation with arts funding non-existent in African American communities, black theatre companies were established in many cities. Foreign language companies performed works in French, German, Italian, Spanish, and Yiddish.

The Federal Theatre Project also brought controversial issues to the foreground, making it one of the most embattled of all the New Deal programs. Its “Living Newspaper” section produced plays about labor disputes, economic inequality, racism, and similar issues, which infuriated a growing chorus of conservative critics who succeeded in eliminating the program in 1939.

The Federal Music Project employed 15,000 instrumentalists, composers, vocalists, and teachers as well as providing financial assistance for existing orchestras and creating new ones in places that had never had an orchestra. Many other musical forms—opera, band concerts, choral music, jazz, and pop–were also performed. Most of the concerts were either free to the public or offered at very low cost, and free music classes were open to people of all ages and abilities.

In addition to the arts programs, the Farm Security Administration’s photography program oversaw the production of more than 80,000 photographs, as part of the effort to make the nation aware of the plight of displaced rural populations. These images–produced by photographers such as Walker Evans, Gordon Parks, and Dorothea Lange helped humanize the verbal and statistical reports of the terrible poverty and turmoil in the agricultural sector of the economy and brought documentary photography into the cultural pantheon of the nation.

Between 1933 and 1942 ten thousand artists produced some 100,000 easel paintings, 18,000 sculptures, over 13,000 prints, 4,000 murals, over 1.6 million posters, and thousands of photographs. Over a thousand towns and cities now boasted federal buildings embellished with New Deal murals and sculpture. Some 6,686 writers produced more than a thousand books and pamphlets, and the Federal Theatre Project thousands of plays. More than the quantity of the output, however, is the way in which these programs shaped Americans’ understanding of who they were as a people and their country’s possibilities. Before the New Deal, the notion that government should support the arts was unheard of, but thanks to the New Deal, art had been democratized and, for a time, de-commodified, made accessible to the great majority of the American people.

Perhaps Roosevelt himself best summed up the significance of the New Deal arts programs:

A few generations ago, the people of this country were often taught . . . to believe that art was something foreign to America and to themselves . . . But . . . within the last few years . . . they have discovered that they have a part. . . . They have seen in their own towns, in their own villages, in schoolhouses, in post offices, in the back rooms of shops and stores, pictures painted by their sons, their neighbors—people they have known and lived beside and talked to. . . some of it good, some of it not so good, but all of it native, human, eager, and alive–all of it painted by their own kind in their own country, and painted about things that they know and look at often and have touched and loved. The people of this country know now . . . that art is not something just to be owned but something to be made: that it is the act of making and not the act of owning that is art. And knowing this they know also that art is not a treasure in the past or an importation from another land, but part of the present life of all the living and creating peoples—all who make and build; and, most of all, the young and vigorous peoples who have made and built our present wide country.

New Deal support for the arts had coaxed the soul of America back to life, but we are in danger of losing it again. Under the obsession with deficits, arts programs in the public schools are being cut, federal funding for the arts has dropped dramatically, and even private funding has been reduced. Without art, we are ill-equipped as a people with the collective imagination that is needed if we are to resolve the enormous challenges that confront us in the twenty-first century. Who or what will there be to coax this generation back to life?

Sheila D. Collins is Professor of Political Science Emerita, William Paterson University and editor/author with Gertrude Schaffner Goldberg of When Government Helped: Learning from the Successes and Failures of the New Deal. She serves on the speakers’ bureau of the National New Deal Preservation Association, the Research Board of the Living New Deal and the board of the National Jobs for All Coalition, is a member of the Global Ecological Integrity Group and co-chairs two seminars at Columbia University.

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20. Women of 20th century music

Women musicians are constantly pushing societal boundaries around the world, while hitting all the right notes. In honor of Women’s History Month, Oxford University Press is testing your knowledge about women musicians. Take the quiz and see if you’re a shower singer or an international composer!

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Portrait of Billie Holiday, Downbeat(?), New York, N.Y., ca. June 1946. via Library of Congress.

Portrait of Billie Holiday, Downbeat(?), New York, N.Y., ca. June 1946. via Library of Congress.

Maggie Belnap is an intern in the Social Media Department at Oxford University Press. She is a student at Amherst College.

Oxford Reference is the home of reference publishing at Oxford. With over 16,000 photographs, maps, tables, diagrams and a quick and speedy search, Oxford Reference saves you time while enhancing and complementing your work.

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21. Harry Nilsson and the Monkees

By Alyn Shipton

Singer-songwriter Harry Nilsson worked in the computer department of a California bank throughout the early 1960s. For much of that time, he managed the night shift, clocking on in the early evening and finishing around 1 a.m. Then, instead of going to sleep, he wrote songs all night. Being a man of considerable energy, he spent the daytime hawking his songs around publishers.

There were a few successes. He made a small number of single records himself, and some of his songs were picked up by others, including Phil Spector. He recorded some of them with the Ronettes and the Modern Folk Quartet, but failed to issue the discs at the time.

Then in March 1967, the Modern Folk Quartet’s bassist Chip Douglas began working as a producer for the Monkees. He invited Nilsson to come and demonstrate some of his songs, and the result was that the Monkees, with Davy Jones singing the lead vocal, recorded “Cuddly Toy”.


This became a hit, and Nilsson earned enough in royalties to be able to quit his job at the bank, and begin his own career as a singer. The song also marked the beginning of a long friendship with the Monkees, and particularly Micky Dolenz and Davy Jones, who would, many years later, star in the London stage production of Nilsson’s fantasy musical “The Point”.

In between, there was plenty more music. Nilsson penned “Daddy’s Song” for the Monkees movie Head, and he and Davy Jones appeared together singing in television commercials. There was horseplay in the Los Angeles studios of RCA, when the Monkees and Nilsson found themselves in adjacent booths, recording for the label. And there was hanging out together, as Nilsson would do at Dolenz’s Laurel Canyon home, thinking up ideas for songs, playing parlor games, and having the occasional drink or seven. Nilsson and Micky became such close buddies, that when Nilsson went to Ireland to meet his prospective wife’s parents, Micky came along as well. Micky was also one of the many rock stars who borrowed Nilsson’s London apartment (that would later become infamous when both Mama Cass and Keith Moon died there).

Although he was perhaps more famous for his associations with John Lennon and Ringo Starr, Nilsson was equally involved with “America’s answer to the Beatles”.

Alyn Shipton is the award-winning author of many books on music including Nilsson: The Life of a Singer-Songwriter, A New History of Jazz, Groovin’ High: the Life of Dizzy Gillespie, and Hi-De-Ho: The Life of Cab Calloway. He is jazz critic for The Times in London and has presented jazz programs on BBC radio since 1989. He is also an accomplished double bassist and has played with many traditional and mainstream jazz bands.

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Image credit: Monkees disc cover via 45cat.

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22. Shirley Temple Black: not a personality to be bunked

By Gaylyn Studlar

How does one talk about a child star without lapsing into clichés? Shirley Temple was “the biggest little star,” the “kid who saved the studio,” and as she was called in the 1930s, “the baby who conquered the world.” Temple, who died 10 February 2014, at the age of eighty-five, was not Hollywood’s first child star and she was by no means the last, but she was inarguably the most important and certainly the most iconic. Temple became a cultural phenomenon as well as a movie star. Reported to be the most frequently photographed person of the world in the 1930s, she eclipsed the success of all previous child actors. Number-one box-office draw in the United States for four years in the mid-1930s, she was ranked within the top-ten list of box-office attractions for a record seven years by the Motion Picture Herald exhibitors’ poll. Temple was popular with audiences wherever Hollywood feature films were shown—with the notable exception of France, which never took to her. Her appeal was not just to children, and it was widely asserted that it was the adult public that made her a star.

Temple in costume THE LITTLE COLONEL 1

Mrs. Gertrude Temple, a Santa Monica housewife, groomed her only daughter for stardom. She put three-year old Shirley in a dance school famous as a conduit into the film industry and styled the child’s blonde hair into the famous 55 sausage curls. After a brief stint in Poverty Row shorts, Shirley Temple rose to stardom in 1934, at age six (published age five) after drawing attention for her role in a major feature film, Fox’s Stand Up and Cheer! (1934). In 1934, Hollywood needed a visible renewal of innocence on screen in the wake of threats of a nationwide boycott of the movies by the Catholic Legion of Decency, but Fox Film Corporation was initially not sure what to do with her. The studio loaned her out to Paramount for what would be her first big hit, Little Miss Marker (1934), a Damon Runyon tale in which she plays an orphan reluctantly adopted by a misanthropic bookie (Adolphe Menjou).

Temple quickly went from featured player to “the name above the title” in musical comedies shaped for her. Temple’s profitability to the Fox Film Corporation, reorganized in 1935 as Twentieth Century-Fox, was tremendous. Her almost two-dozen star vehicles made for the studio usually cost less than $300,000 each to produce but were reputed to have grossed from $1 million to $1.5 million on first-run showings alone.

Her popularity may seem strange now, but watching child performers was nothing new. Temple was part of a tradition. Theatrical entertainments highlighting the spectacle of children were very popular in the late 19th century in the United States and Britain, and in the 1910s, Hollywood was filled with child actors, mainly in supporting roles. Temple’s films at Fox have been dismissed as sentimental goo, but there was also something about her — an exciting quality shared with many other mega-stars over the years, an unsettling of boundaries instead of just a confirming of comfortable truths, whether about gender, sexuality, race, class, or age. Other stars had it too: Greta Garbo, in her androgynous beauty; John Wayne, in his occasional display of almost feminine gentleness. Temple was a charismatic musical star, a beautiful little white girl who was an eager acolyte to black tap dance artist Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, a fearless, daring tom boy, but also a cuddly daddy’s girl.

Temple & Kibbee CAPTAIN JANUARY 1

While audiences of the 1930s were fascinated with her energy and humor, 21st century cultural commentators, including many feminist film critics, find Temple’s films redolent of pedophilia, as did British novelist and film critic Graham Greene, who was sued by Fox in 1938 for his published comments on her (he lost). Adult desire and its imposition on children is real but so too is the complexity and range of meaning and pleasures located by audiences in the performances of movie stars, including Temple. While Greene thought Temple a fleshy coquette who aroused old men unaware of their own desires, theater critic Gilbert Seldes thought that Temple communicated a refusal to be fooled, to be “bunked,” sparking men’s admiration for and identification with her as a personality. Temple was a symbol of cheerful resilience and America’s most powerfully persuasive common values. In her films she energetically embodied the promise of a more perfect future.

But love cannot last forever, and little girls grow up. In the late 1930s, the luster of both Temple’s curls and her box-office power dimmed. Temple’s contract with Fox was abrogated in 1940. She made one film Kathleen (1941) at MGM, and a feature for B-picture producer Edward S. Small, Miss Annie Rooney (1942). Both were flops, and she “retired” to finish high school. David O. Selznick offered her a lucrative contract based on his confidence in George Gallup’s Audience Research Institute: their polling suggested Temple was beloved, possessing more drawing power than many of the top female attractions in the film industry. With Selznick, Temple had a brief resurgence, including two films in which she played America’s most famous fictional teenager, Corliss Archer. Temple longed to be in more films like Since You Went Away (1944), which marked her successful return to the screen, but her boss could not mount his personal productions quickly enough to satisfy the balance sheet on her salary, and loaning her out often made him a large profit.

Temple in KISS AND TELL 1

By the late 1940s, a young mother entering her twenties, Temple found herself type cast in the role of the teenage bobbysoxer. In 1949, she divorced John Agar, whom she had wed as a seventeen-year-old. She met Charles Black, ex-Naval officer and scion of one of California’s most socially prominent families. As recounted in her best-selling 1988 autobiography, Child Star, she was determined not to be fooled again by a man’s good looks. he had Charles Black investigated by her friends in the FBI before she walked down the aisle with him in December of 1950. They would be married until his death in 2005.

Shirley Temple reveled in her role of wife and mother (of three), but took a plunge into politics with an unsuccessful run for a congressional seat in 1967. She had a longtime interest in international affairs, first demonstrated when she asked Selznick to let her go to a world youth conference in the United Kingdom at the height of World War II (he refused). She was appointed in 1969 to the United Nations delegation by Richard Nixon and later served as ambassador to Ghana and then Czechoslovakia. In spite of skepticism, she succeeded in these and other important diplomatic assignments, winning praise from Henry Kissinger as “very intelligent, very tough-minded, very disciplined.” Here was a woman, like the child, who was not a personality to be “bunked.”

Gaylyn Studlar is David May Distinguished Professor of the Humanities at Washington University in St. Louis and author of Precocious Charms: Stars Performing Girlhood in Classical Hollywood Cinema (2013, University of California Press), which features a chapter on Temple, “Cosseting the Nation; or, How to Conquer Fear Itself with Shirley Temple.” She is a contributor to Oxford Bibliographies in Cinema and Media Studies.

Developed cooperatively with scholars worldwide, Oxford Bibliographies in Cinema and Media Studies offers exclusive, authoritative research guides. Combining the best features of an annotated bibliography and a high-level encyclopedia, this cutting-edge resource guides researchers to the best available scholarship across the field of Cinema and Media Studies.

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All images courtesy of Gaylyn Studlar.

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23. Composer Hilary Tann in eight questions

We asked our composers a series of questions based around their musical likes and dislikes, influences, challenges, and various other things on the theme of music and their careers. Each month we will bring you answers from an OUP composer, giving you an insight into their music and personalities. Today, we share our interview with composer Hilary Tann

Hilary Tann, photo credit: Lawrence White.

Hilary Tann, photo credit: Lawrence White.

Praised for its lyricism and formal balance, Hilary Tann’s music is influenced by her love of Wales and a strong identification with the natural world. A deep interest in the traditional music of Japan has led to private study of the shakuhachi and guest visits to Japan, Korea, and China. Her compositions have been widely performed and recorded by ensembles such as the European Womenʼs Orchestra, Tenebrae, Lontano, Meininger Trio, Thai Philharmonic, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, BBC National Orchestra of Wales, and KBS Philharmonic in Seoul, South Korea.

Which of your pieces are you most proud of and/or holds the most significance to you?

The large orchestral work, From Afar, comes to mind immediately. I especially enjoyed the Korean Broadcast Symphony performance because it captured the sense of the traditional music of Japan so well. From the chamber music repertory, Nothing Forgotten (piano trio) stands out as an Adirondack piece, and from the choral repertory, The Moor (SA) recalls Wales and my interest in sacred music.

Which composer were you most influenced by and which of their pieces has had the most impact on you? 

In the early days I was influenced by the music of Roberto Gerhard, especially LibraHymnody, and the Concerto for Orchestra. In fact, I began postgraduate work with Jonathan Harvey in Southampton University, studying Gerhard’s oeuvre, and it was this work which initially took me to Princeton University in the United States.

Can you describe the first piece of music you ever wrote?

The Wye Valley for piano. When he interviewed me for BBCWales, Ian Skidmore called this “the beginning of my tradition of being inspired by nature”. I responded that at age 6 I wasn’t thinking that I was beginning a tradition!

If you could have been present at the premiere of any one work (other than your own) which would it be?

Monteverdi’s Vespers of 1610 — all the pageantry, all those timbres, wonderful!

What might you have been if you weren’t a composer?

A geologist. I grew up when plate tectonics were coming into the public eye and, coming from Wales, rocks have always excited me. But actually, writing music has been at the forefront ever since I can remember.

What is your favourite piece of music in the OUP catalogue that isn’t yours? 

Hard to say. . . lots . . . but I loved William Matthias‘s Symphony No. 2 (Summer Music) when I first heard it, and John Buller‘s Theatre of Memory bowled me over on first listening.

Is there an instrument you wish you had learnt to play and do you have a favourite work for that instrument?

Harp — not so much the Romantic harp, but the works of Turlough O’Carolan — Celtic harp. In fact I did take lessons some 20 years ago before writing From the Song of Amergin (fl, va, hp) and I really enjoyed getting to know the 43-string instrument. (My main instruments are piano and cello, but my hands are small for these, whereas I’m told have “good” harp hands. Perhaps one day I can return to this haunting sound world.)

Is there a piece of music you wish you had written? 

The Bach Cello Suites — especially the preludes and sarabandes. I’ve always loved the narrative solo line and enjoy writing pieces for solo instruments. In fact, I’ve just completed Seven Poems of Stillness for Guy Johnston (Gregynog Festival, June 2013).

Welsh-born composer Hilary Tann lives in the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York where she is the John Howard Payne Professor of Music at Union College, Schenectady. She holds degrees in composition from the University of Wales at Cardiff and from Princeton University. From 1982 to 1995 she held a number of Executive Committee positions with the International League of Women Composers. She was guest Composer-in-Residence at the 2011 Eastman School of Music Women in Music Festival and will be composer-in-residence at the 2013 Women Composers Festival of Hartford.

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24. Grand Piano: the key to virtuosity

by Ivan Raykoff

“Play one wrong note and you die!” The recently-released feature film Grand Piano, directed by Eugenio Mira and starring Elijah Wood, is an artsy and rather convoluted thriller about classical music and murder. Wood plays a concert pianist plagued by an overwhelming case of stage fright; it doesn’t help that there’s a sniper in the audience threatening to assassinate both him and his glamorous wife if he misses a single note in the “unplayable” composition that has proven to be his undoing before. Looking past the silly plot, however, it’s revealing to see how this movie plays into a number of persistent popular culture tropes around Romantic pianism. It’s even possible to read the story as a parable about the pressures of a performing career in the world of classical music today.

First consider the grand piano itself as portrayed in the film’s evocative opening credits. The camera takes us deep into this menacing mechanical contraption of piano keys, metal strings, tuning pins, and tiny gears turning like clockwork while the accompanying music thuds, slithers, and slashes with ominous import. Wait, grand pianos don’t have tiny gears turning inside. This must be quite an unusual piano, as the first scene of the film clarifies.

press_Grand Piano

Grand Piano stars Elijah Wood as a concert pianist contending with both stage fright and a sniper in the audience. Image: Elijah Wood in Grand Piano, a Magnet Release. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures via Magnet Releasing.

We see moving guys in a creepy old mansion rolling this instrument out of storage while the thunder rumbles overhead on a blustery overcast day. There’s always been something mysterious about grand pianos, since the large black coffin-like case hides the mechanics inside from the listener’s view as the pianist plays on one side of it. There’s some kind of ghost in the machine of the Romantic pianist’s intriguing instrument.

There’s also the ghost of the pianist’s deceased mentor, Godureaux, the eccentric teacher who had composed that unplayable composition and designed that mysterious instrument. He stares out from large posters in the lobby looking like a cross between Rachmaninoff and Rasputin. “La Cinquette” is the title of his notoriously difficult and “terrifying” piece that has something especially problematic about its last four bars. Maybe the title refers to the fact that it is Godureaux’s op. 5, or that it requires “five little” fingers of each hand to play it to perfection. (The film’s closing credits scroll over an unexpected delight: the song “Ten Happy Little Fingers” from the 1953 film musical The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T, written by Theodor Seuss Geisel, a.k.a. Dr. Seuss. Displeasure over wrong notes begins quite early in the young pianist’s career.) Fortunately our hero-virtuoso is equipped with “the fastest, most agile fingers of any pianist alive,” indeed there are only “a few people who can play it, who can move their fingers that fast and spread them that wide.”

Fingers take on symbolic meanings around the male virtuoso pianist; these appendages have frequently been represented in popular culture as signifiers of a muscular technique and masculinity. “You need to ease up!” the sniper instructs our hero as he begins to play that challenging piece. “You’re going to tire out your fingers!” Indeed, this performance is framed as our hero’s opportunity not only to redeem his career, but his identity as well: “I’m offering you the chance to become your own man again.” Elijah Wood’s wide-eyed stare easily conveys the crisis of masculinity implied by the pianist’s uncertainty over his playing technique, while his body language conveys a nervousness and an impotence (see his scared-stiff kiss with his wife at intermission) that also reflect these familiar tropes.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Wood has spoken publicly about the off-screen technical challenges of making this film. At a discussion session at the Film Society of Lincoln Center, he described his own skills on the instrument remembered from piano lessons when he was young, but also how he worked with pianist Mariam Nazarian in Los Angeles for three weeks to learn to make it look like he knew how to play; in Barcelona he worked with the hand double for this film (the credits list Toni Costa as hand double, and John Lenehan as the soundtrack recording pianist). Wood recalls practicing first on a real piano (“the sound helped me to know if I was on the right track”) and then filming to the recording on a dummy piano, which made it possible to act out his gestures without worrying if he were hitting all the correct notes. It was also useful for Wood to watch a video of the real pianist’s hands from the pianist’s point-of-view, then to imitate what he saw as he watched his own hands on the keyboard. Some critics have noted the impressive “hand-synching” in this film production (see Eric Snider’s write-up) and the actor’s learning curve with this playback technique (see Clark Collis’ interview). One of the movie’s selling points, in fact, is our persistent fascination with virtuoso technique (see Harleigh Foutch’s interview): “So the main thing I walked away from this movie thinking was how damn difficult this part must have been for you.”

Serious pianists and pianophiles will probably roll their eyes over the inane plot and the unrealistic playing scenes in this movie. Which concertos have tutti sections so long that the pianist can run off-stage so often for urgent business? Why wouldn’t the professional pianist play from memory? Perhaps there ought to be a law against texting while playing! The moral of the story might be about that perfectionism we’ve come to expect in this era of note-perfect recordings. “I want you to play the most flawless concert of your life,” the sniper exhorts the virtuoso. “Just consider me the voice in your head telling you that good is not good enough tonight.” The conductor tries to comfort the anxious pianist by saying about the audience, “If you’re going to play music this dense, you’re going to hit a wrong note, and they won’t know. They never do.” The critics-as-snipers might notice and mark down your technique, but the real crisis is the Romantic pianist’s musical reproducibility. As the conductor points out, “you make your living playing stuff other people write.” The concert virtuoso has become “a genius puppet,” as he puts it, a technological wonder that stays close enough to the notes of the score and just far enough from the great recordings to sound like a unique epitome of a time-honored tradition. “Do you really want to be the thousandth guy to give me a respectable Bach,” the conductor asks, “‘cause you can keep that. I don’t need respectable.” This pianist saves his life by literally changing the score.

Ivan Raykoff is Associate Professor of Music in the interdisciplinary arts program at Eugene Lang College, The New School for Liberal Arts in New York. He is author of Dreams of Love: Playing the Romantic Pianist.

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25. Mark Vail remembers synth pioneer Bob Moog

By Mark Vail

While I wasn’t born early enough to know Antonio Stradivari, Henry E. Steinway, or Adolphe Sax personally, I did see 95-year-old Leon Theremin from afar at an outdoor Stanford University concert on 29 September 1991. Not many people have the opportunity to meet in person, or speak on the phone with, someone who designed and built a special musical instrument. I have been fortunate to have many such experiences with pioneers of my favorite instrument, the synthesizer, along with those who have invented other products used in the field of electronic music.

Synthesizers first stole my interest as a senior in high school when I read an article by Wendy Carlos in 1973’s The Last Whole Earth Catalog. In the making of Switched-On Bach and other early albums, Carlos used a Moog synthesizer, so naturally I wanted one too. In late 1976 I bought my first synthesizer, a Minimoog — America’s best-selling analog synthesizer of the 20th century.

In January 1988, in my first assignment as a member of Keyboard magazine’s editorial staff, I flew to Anaheim to attend my first Winter NAMM show, the biggest music convention in the Western hemisphere. Music merchants introduce their latest instruments, dealers and store owners comb the exhibition booths for items to sell, and other interested attendees play instruments, gather documentation, and greet old friends.

On the first day of the four-day event, my new boss — Editor-in-chief Dominic Milano — asked me if I wanted to meet synthesizer pioneer Bob Moog. Who wouldn’t? Just before the introduction, I switched the cassette recorder in my shirt pocket into record mode. I’ve since lost that tape, but thankfully before he passed at the young age of 71 in August of 2005, I became good friends with Bob.

Bob wrote for several Keyboard columns, including one called “Vintage Synths.” His first appeared in the September 1989 issue, and it was appropriately about the Minimoog. This and subsequent columns fueled a fire of interest in a technology that had been mostly abandoned through much of the decade: analog synthesis. Bob wrote three more vintage columns over the next five months then, following his January 1990 column on E-mu’s early lineup of modular synths, told Dominic that he preferred looking forward into the future instead of toward the past. Wonder of wonders, the “Vintage Synths” column fell right into my lap. I consider that one my luckiest days because it turns out that writing about old stuff – even if considered obsolete by some – never goes out of style.

Years later, in July 2004, I had the great fortune to visit and spend a few days with Bob in Asheville, North Carolina. During the tour through the Moog Music office, I spotted an odd device with knobs and jacks sitting on a shelf and asked Bob what it was. He said he didn’t know, but grabbed and posed with it.

Synthesizer pioneer Bob Moog poses with an unknown device in the Moog Music office in July 2004.

Synthesizer pioneer Bob Moog poses with an unknown device in the Moog Music office in July 2004. Photo courtesy of Mark Vail.

Many NAMM attendees yearned to meet Bob Moog, especially after he had legally recovered the right to use his own name on musical instruments again in 2002 and developed a Minimoog for the 21st century, the Voyager. During the January 2005 convention, two friends and I were determined to have dinner with Bob, but we more or less had to kidnap him from the Moog Music booth where dozens were waiting for his autograph. We had to convince several of the autograph seekers to return on Sunday to meet Bob, and quickly whisked him away from the scene.

The four of us—synthesists Amin Bhatia and Dave Gross, plus Bob and I—got into my car with no idea where we were going to eat. Our clueless excursion through Anaheim first took us past a flashy bordello, which Bob kiddingly said might be fun, before finding a quiet but festively painted Vietnamese restaurant where we enjoyed a wonderful dinner.

From left to right, author Mark Vail, synth pioneer Bob Moog, Seattle synthesist Dave Gross, and synthesist/composer Amin Bhatia.

From left to right, author Mark Vail, synth pioneer Bob Moog, Seattle synthesist Dave Gross, and synthesist/composer Amin Bhatia. Photo courtesy of Mark Vail.

At the time, Amin Bhatia was working on an all-electronic version of Ravel’s “Bolero,” using a series of renowned vintage synthesizers and drum machines and he wanted Bob to introduce the piece with in a voiceover. Bob loved the early snippets of Amin’s music and was thrilled by the idea, but within a few months the news came that Bob was battling brain cancer, which eventually took his life on 21 August 2005. I dearly miss my brilliant and jovial friend Bob Moog, whose business card listed him as the Grand Poobah.

Building on his life-long interest in music, Mark Vail discovered synthesizers in 1973 and bought his first in 1976. After earning an MFA in electronic music in 1983, he served on the editorial staff at Keyboard magazine from 1988 to 2001. The author of Vintage SynthesizersThe Hammond Organ: Beauty in the B, and The Synthesizer, Mark is internationally acknowledged as a foremost authority on synthesizers.

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