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Article

Tony Bacon and Arian Sheets

[bass guitar]

Electric guitar, usually with four heavy strings tuned E′–A′–DG. Early forms of the electric bass guitar were brought to market by Vivi-Tone of Kalamazoo, Michigan, in the early 1930s, Rickenbacker (or Ro-Pat-In) of Los Angeles in 1935, Audiovox of Seattle in 1936, Vega of Boston in 1939, and Regal of Chicago in 1939. Gibson also made several electric basses prior to World War II, but did not formally market them. Early electric basses employed a variety string types and pickups, but most had longer scales and were fretless, designed to be played in a manner similar to conventional acoustic upright basses. Audiovox, with its short-scale, fretted version, was a notable exception.

The modern full-scale fretted solid-body electric bass guitar was introduced by Leo Fender and was first marketed as the Fender Precision Bass in late 1951. The instrument was introduced to meet the needs of musicians playing the bass part in small dance bands in the USA: they wanted not only a more easily portable instrument than the double bass, but one that could match the volume of the increasingly popular solid-body electric guitar, and could be played with greater precision than their large, fretless, acoustic instruments. Fender’s electric bass guitar answered all these requirements. It was based on his already successful Broadcaster (later named Telecaster) six-string electric guitar, with a similar solid body of ash and neck of maple. The four strings were tuned to the same notes as the double bass (an octave below the bottom four of the six-string electric guitar), and a single pickup fed controls for volume and tone; the fretted fingerboard offered players the precision they wanted....

Article

Claire Levy

(b Sofia, 8 Dec 1934; d Sofia, 12 July 2008). Bulgarian conductor, composer, pianist, and arranger, of Armenian origins, remembered for his prominent role as a musician and public figure in the development of popular music in Bulgaria. He graduated from the Technical University in Sofia (1957) and studied in the Faculty of Theory at the Bulgarian State Conservatory. In 1953 he joined the band Jazz of the Young. By the end of the 1950s he played the piano also at the Satiric Theatre Orchestra and founded Studio 5, a band famous for its supportive role in promoting young singers. Following a similar purpose, later on he initiated Trombata na Vili (‘The Horn of Vili’), a radio contest for discovering new talented pop singers. Since 1960 Kazassian’s music activities have been closely associated with the newly created Big Band of the Bulgarian National Radio where he took successively the positions of pianist (...

Article

Claire Levy

(b Haskovo, 29 June 1896; d Sofia, 31 July 1978). Bulgarian singer, internationally famous as a schlager performer, nicknamed the ‘Knight of the Upper F’. As a child he was a solo singer in the church choir in the town of Stara Zagora. Later on he went to the military school in Sofia and in 1920 took professional vocal lessons. In 1923 Leshnikoff went to Berlin, where he received a scholarship at the Sternischen Konservatorium. In 1927 he was appointed at the Grosses Schauspielhaus – a review theatre – and in 1928 joined Comedian Harmonists, a newly formed male vocal sextet, to perform the first tenor part. Becoming one of the most popular groups in Europe before World War II, Comedian Harmonists developed a style, based on aspects of German schlager, bel canto opera singing, pleasing tunes influenced by traditional lyrical songs, and Afro-American-derived patterns associated with the blues, gospel, and close harmony vocal techniques. Their records were released by labels including Odeon, Electrola, Columbia, and His Master’s Voice. In ...

Article

Claire Levy

(b Ruse, 7 Nov 1911; d Sofia, 24 Oct 1971). Bulgarian composer, acknowledged as the father of Bulgarian schlager/pop song and a contributor to the acculturation of Western urban mentality in music during the decade before World War II. In 1939 he graduated from the Law Faculty of Sofia University and, in parallel, took lessons in music theory and composition with Pavel Stefanov and Vesselin Stoyanov. Along with his prolific work as a composer in the 1930s and 40s when he wrote numerous vocal and instrumental pieces, including tangos, foxtrots, rumbas, and waltzes, as well as operettas for the Odeon Theatre in Sofia, he was among the founders of the Bulgarian Radio in 1936 and managed the gramophone label London Records (1937–40). Among the most popular of his songs created in the 1950s were Kervanut (‘Caravan’) and Spi, moya malka sinyorita (‘Sleep, My Little Señorita’). However, after World War II the genre of ...

Article

Karel Steinmetz

(b Chrudim, Czechoslovakia, 24 June 1947). Czech pop singer. The daughter of musical parents, she was taught the piano and singing as a child. As a student she was successful in talent competitions in Prague, voted fourth – and two years later, first – in a poll of Czech singers. After completing high school (Gymnasium) at Chrudim (1965) she became a member of the Rokoko Theatre in Prague, and began making recordings for radio and appearing on television. In 1966, together with Marta Kubišová, a colleague at the Rokoko Theatre, she took part in the prestigious Czechoslovak Bratislavská lýra festival, and won the second prize. In 1968, together with Marta Kubišová and Václav Neckář, she set up the Golden Kids, a very successful trio, which was dissolved three years later owing to the politically motivated prohibition of further performances by Marta Kubišová. At that period she became the most successful Czech female singer abroad; she recorded albums for companies in Japan and in the German Federal Republic, and appeared regularly at international festivals and venues in Canada, Brazil, Cuba, and Turkey, achieving her highest success in winning the Grand Prix in ...

Article

Ian Mikyska

Czech string quartet, founded 1999. Its line-up has remained constant since its foundation: David Pokorný and Vladimír Klánský on violins, Vladimír Kroupa on viola, and Vít Petrášek on cello. Although classical repertoire remains central to their professional lives, the Epoque Quartet is remarkable for the breadth and professionalism of its ‘crossover’ work. The quartet has performed with the leading artists of Czech popular music, arranged world music from various traditions (most recently with the clarinettist Irvin Venyš for their CD Irvin_Epoque), and given the premières of over 80 pieces, the style of which ranges from rock- and jazz-influenced music to contemporary art music, mostly by Czech composers including Jan Kučera, Petr Wajsar, Jan Dušek, Gabriela Vermelho, and others.

Their open-mindedness and long-standing interest in various musical fields allows them to perform stylistically in a way classically-trained ensembles often find problematic, particularly in terms of rhythm, feeling, and energy when performing jazz- and rock-influenced repertoire....

Article

Karel Steinmetz

[Plekancová-Vondráčková, Lucie]

(b Prague, 8 March 1980). Czech pop singer and actress. Her family was one of musicians (her father, Jiří Vondráček, is an actor and singer, her mother, Hana Sorrosová-Vondráčková, writes lyrics, and her aunt, Helena Vondráčková, is also a singer). Lucie was trained in music and drama at the Prague Conservatory and later obtained the doctorate in the Arts Faculty at Prague University (2006). From early childhood she appeared in films and TV serials for children; in 1992 she became a presenter of children’s programmes on TV, and in 1993 she issued her first record album. There have been more than 10 of these, and all have been enthusiastically received by her public in sales; she regularly features as one of the most popular Czech singers. As an actress, she often plays major roles in Czech films, stage plays, and musicals.

Article

Czech underground band formed in Prague in 1968. Its principal members were Milan (Mejla) Hlavsa (1950–2002; founder, lead vocal, bass, composer), Vratislav Brabenec (b 1943; saxophone, clarinet), Josef Janíček (b 1947; guitar, keyboards, vocals), Jiří Kabeš (b 1946; violin, viola), and Martin (Ivan) Jirous [Magor (‘Loony’)] (1944–2011; artistic director/manager). Their main influences included The Velvet Underground, Frank Zappa, and The Fugs. With psychedelic stagecraft that included fires built in urn-like receptacles, flickering flying saucers, painted faces, and togas, the PPU started performing weekly shows in February 1969. These props served the band’s concept of a mythological world of sun and planets and what they called the ‘great nation’ that ‘lives in velvet underground’. This early repertoire was sung mostly in English with Czech recitatives in between. Their innovative approach and charisma helped them attract a devoted audience and win the national competition of amateur bands in ...

Article

Pavla Jonssonová

(‘Tooth and Nail’)

Czech rock group. Formed by university students in Prague in 1980 as Plyn (‘Gas’), with Marka Horáková (Míková; b 1959; piano, bass, vocals), Pavla Fediuková (Slabá, Jonssonová; b 1961; guitar, vocals), and Hana Kubíčková (Řepová; b 1961; drums, vocals). All of the members contributed songs in a punk, girl-band, dadaist fashion, playing college clubs and alternative music festivals. After Plyn was blacklisted, they re-formed under a new name as Dybbuk, and were joined by Kateřina Nejepsová (Jirčíková; b 1963) on the flute and saxophone, and Eva Trnková (b 1963) on the lead guitar. Their eponymous EP (Panton, 1987) was released during the communist era. Dybbuk disbanded in 1987.

In 1988 Míková started Zuby nehty with Slabá on the bass, Naďa Bilincová (1959−2011) on the guitar, and Tomáš Míka (b 1960) on the saxophone. In 1991 Dybbuk reunited to record their 1980s material on the album ...

Article

J. Richard Haefer

[juspeña, guitarra quinta]

Five-stringed guitar of Mexico, probably originating in the Tecalitlán area of Jalisco. It was one of the earliest mariachi instruments. It is also colloquially known as quinta or jarana (not to be confused with the jarana huasteca or jarana jarocha). Typically it has a soundbox 33 cm long, 31 cm wide (maximum), and 11 cm deep; a 32 cm neck (4 cm of the fingerboard overlapping flat on the soundboard) with 12 metal frets; and 56 cm string length. The soundhole is decorated with nácar (mother-of-pearl) and wood inlay in a starburst pattern, and the purfling has intricate limoncillo wood inlay. The five wooden pegs are inserted from the rear of the pegboard, which has distinctively curved sides and two open f-holes between the pegs. The woods used to build golpes are the same as those for guitarrones.

Tunings used nowadays including the following: d–g–b–e–a (used by Gaspar Vargas); ...