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Geneva Southall

[Blind Tom]

(b Columbus, GA, 25 May 1849; d Hoboken, NJ, 13 June 1908). Pianist and composer.

He was blind from birth and was bought as a slave with his parents in 1850 by James N. Bethune, a journalist, lawyer, and politician in Columbus. He demonstrated musical aptitude and exceptional retentive skills by his fourth year and was given musical instruction by Bethune’s daughter Mary. He was exhibited throughout the state by his master in 1857, and then hired out to Perry Oliver, a planter of Savannah, who took him on an extensive concert tour throughout the slaveholding states; this included a command performance at Willard Hall in Washington for visiting Japanese dignitaries. His programs included works by Johann Sebastian Bach, Ludwig van Beethoven, Frydryk Chopin, Franz Liszt, Sigismond Thalberg, and other European masters, improvisations on operatic tunes and popular ballads, and several of his own published and unpublished compositions. He could perform difficult pieces after one hearing, sing and recite poetry or prose in several languages, duplicate lengthy orations, and imitate the sounds of nature, machinery, and various musical instruments. On the outbreak of the Civil War, he was returned to the Bethunes, who continued to exhibit him in the South to raise money for the Confederacy. After the Bethunes were successful in a guardianship trial in ...


Fabian Huss

(b Brighton, Feb 26, 1879; d Eastbourne, Jan 10, 1941). English composer, violist, and conductor. He entered the Royal College of Music in 1896 as a violin student, before winning a foundation scholarship in 1899 to study composition with C.V. Stanford. During his remaining four years at the College he produced a number of ambitious chamber works, and began to establish a reputation as a chamber musician, particularly as a violist. He was a member of the English, Grimson, and Motto String Quartets. His rising stature was signalled by an invitation to perform with the Joachim Quartet in 1906, and he would perform with many eminent musicians in the next decade. From around 1912 onwards he began to curtail his activities as an instrumentalist, focussing increasingly on conducting and composition; this was partly due to an apprehension that his image as a performer hindered his stature as a composer....


Mary Lou Humphrey

revised by Jonas Westover

(b Paterson, NJ, 20 Feb 1951). Composer.

A graduate of Yale University, where he was the first Lustman Fellow, he gained international recognition in the 1970s as a virtuoso pianist and as the director of Episteme, a chamber ensemble specializing in improvisation. In 1992 Davis became Professor of Music in African American Studies at Harvard, and in 1998 he assumed a full-time professorship at the University of California at San Diego; he has also held academic positions at Cornell and Yale. Best known as an operatic composer, Davis’s works exemplify his aesthetic desire to create an authentic American operatic art form through the use of vernacular musical styles, as well as his attempt to break down the divisions between popular culture and serious art. His other work in the theater includes his collaboration with the choreographer Ralph Lemon and his Broadway debut, in 1993, as the composer for ...


Todd Decker

[Gumm, Frances Ethel]

(b Grand Rapids, MN, 10 June 1922; d London, England, 22 June 1969) Singer and actress, mother of Liza Minnelli

She began her career at age three in a family vaudeville act. As a child, she was billed as “the little girl with the great big voice.” The musical short Every Sunday initiated Garland’s long-term connection with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer when she was 13. After taking a featured role as Sophie Tucker’s daughter in Broadway Melody of 1938, Garland became a major musical film star following the release of The Wizard of Oz (1939) and a series of teen-oriented musicals with Mickey Rooney. Her first adult role, in For me and my Gal (1942), introduced Gene Kelly to Hollywood. Under the direction of Vincente Minnelli, who became her second husband, Garland made a final appearance as a teenager in Meet me in St. Louis (1944...


Patricia Surman

(Rose Esther)

(b Aug 26, 1933, Calais, France). French composer and pianist. Raised in a musical family, her mother and father (Jacques Gotkovsky) were violinists; her father played in the Loewenguth Quartet. Her siblings Ivar (piano) and Nell (violin) were accomplished musicians, performing together regularly.

Gotkovsky began composing at the age of eight and studied at the Conservatoire national supérieur de musique et de danse de Paris (CNSMDP) and later taught at the CNSMDP and in the US. Composition teachers included Tony Aubin, Nadia Boulanger, and Olivier Messiaen. She has won many composition prizes, most notably the Prix Lily Boulanger (1967). Her oeuvre includes operas, ballets, orchestral and wind band works, concerti, and numerous chamber works. Noted as a wind band composer, significant works in this genre include the Poème du feu (1978), Danses rituelles (1988), Brillante symphonie (1988–1989), Le Chant de la forêt for chorus and wind orchestra (1989), and ...



P. Pitoeff


Oboe of the Kota people of the Nilgiri Hills, south India. Locally made, it is about 30 to 35 cm long and comprises four parts telescoped together, to which is added the reed: the conical bell is of neemwood, its rim reinforced by a brass flange; the cylindrical body has six fingerholes and is of fig- or rosewood, its two ends bound by brass bands; a brass tube or staple, of much smaller diameter, carries a large metal disc against which the player rests his lips; and a bird-quill extension carries a double reed affixed by binding. A simpler type has the bell and body made from one piece of wood. It is played in pairs, together with other Kota instruments—tābeteke (drums) and kombu (semicircular trumpets)—to accompany songs, dances, and processions. The Kota play music also for the mourning ceremonies of the Toda and certain Badaga clans, the latter sometimes call the Kota ...


Christopher Lynch

Opera translators. Ruth Kelley Martin (b Ruth Berenice Kelley, Jersey City, NJ, April 14, 1914; d New York, Dec 11, 2000) and Thomas Philipp Martin (b Thomas Philipp Fleischer, Vienna, May 28, 1909; d New York, May 14, 1984) together translated over 40 operas into English, and Thomas translated four American operas into German. Throughout their careers they participated in the American debate over translated opera, vigorously defending the practice in newspapers and magazines.

Son of bass-baritone Arthur Fleischer, Thomas was raised in a musical family. He was trained in conducting at the Vienna Conservatory and then conducted at the Vienna Volksoper. Ruth studied English and music at Smith College. After graduating in 1936 she continued her studies in the summers of 1937 and 1938 in Austria, where she met Thomas. She also reported on the Salzburg Festival as a correspondent for the New York Times...


Laurence Libin

(Peter Samuel)

(b London, England 27 Dec 1927). English musician,organologist,instrument curator, and collector.

After military service, he trained at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, London, as a conductor, and horn and percussion player. He performed as a professional percussionist from 1950 to the mid-1990s, and conducted his own orchestra from 1951 to 1956 with special attention to early music performance practice. He pioneered the reconstruction of medieval percussion instruments, which were used in performance with Musica Reservata from the late 1950s to 1980; this effort led to research and numerous publications on biblical, medieval, and later instruments.

In 1960, as curator of instruments at the Horniman Museum, he became interested in ethnographic instruments, and began to form his own comprehensive collection to illustrate his lectures and publications. He has lectured at colleges and universities including King’s College and Goldsmiths College of the University of London, was Heath Visiting Professor at Grinnell College, Iowa, 1970–71, and in 1981 was appointed Lecturer/Curator of the Bate Collection in the Faculty of Music, University of Oxford, retiring in 1995. Montagu was Honorary Secretary of the Galpin Society from 1965 to 1971 and was elected its President in 2006. In 1975 he co-founded the Fellowship of Makers and Researchers of Historic Instruments (FoMRHI) and was its Honorary Secretary until 2000. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Anthropological Institute in 1960 and a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London in 1987. He received the Anthony Baines Memorial Prize of the Galpin Society in 2004 and the Curt Sachs Award from the American Musical Instrument Society in 2010. He is an Emeritus Fellow of Wadham College, Oxford. Montagu has contributed many articles to dictionaries and encyclopedias and is one of the editors of the ...




Pair of double-headed cylindrical drums of Tamil Nadu (pambai) and and Andhra Pradesh (pamba), south India. The heads are braced on hoops and attached by Y-lacing. The drums, about 30 cm long, are bound together and played horizontally. In Tamil Nadu, one drum is usually made of wood, the other of brass; the Andhran ...


Matthew Shaftel


(b Peru, IN, 9 June 1891; d Santa Monica, CA, 15 Oct 1964). Composer, songwriter, and lyricist.

One of the most celebrated Broadway and film composers of his era, Porter also penned his own lyrics, which were famous for their wit and sophistication.

The son of Kate Cole, an amateur pianist, and Sam Porter, an amateur guitarist, pianist, and singer, Cole Porter began his musical training at an early age. In addition to singing at the local Lutheran church, Cole studied the violin and the piano, attending the Marion Conservatory in Indiana at age six. He wrote his first song in 1901, “The Song of the Birds,” and his first publication was a short piano work, The Bobolink Waltz (1902). As a youth, he played violin in the conservatory orchestra, provided piano accompaniment for silent movies, and even starred in a school production of Snow White...