Ensemble. Formed in New York in 1961 by the violinist Lewis Kaplan, the Aeolian Chamber Players were the first American ensemble of mixed instruments to perform together on a permanent basis. The group, which first played at Mount Holyoke College, Massachusetts, in October 1961 and made its New York debut shortly thereafter (Town Hall, January 1962), originally consisted of Kaplan, flutist Harold Jones, clarinetist Robert Listokin, and pianist Gilbert Kalish. A cello was added in 1966, with the flute rarely used since 1977. The group has been the resident ensemble at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, since 1964, where the Bowdoin Summer Music Festival, co-founded and directed by Kaplan, takes place. Former members of the ensemble include Jennifer Langbaum and Ronald Thomas (cello), and Charles Neidrich and Thomas Hill (clarinet). The present group includes Kaplan (violin), André Emelianoff (cello), and Peter Basquin (piano). The group, which is recognized for its commitment to both traditional and contemporary repertoire, has toured throughout the United States and Europe. At the Salzburg Festival of ...
revised by Michael Baumgartner
Musical group formed in 2002 in Los Angeles. The most successful exponents of the Southern California style known as “banda rap” or “urban regional” music, Akwid is a duo of brothers Francisco and Sergio Gómez. Born in Michoacan and raised in Los Angeles, the Gomezes made their debut in the mid 1990s as English-language rappers Juvenile Style, then switched to Spanish and renamed themselves Akwid (a combination of their deejay pseudonyms, A.K. and Wikid) in 2000.
Their first album gained only lackluster sales, but after they signed with a subsidiary of Univision in 2003, their second, Proyecto Akwid, sold a third of a million CDs. Its sound mixed traditional Mexican music—especially the West Coast brass band style known as banda—with rhythms and studio techniques adapted from gangsta rap. Other groups were attempting similar fusions, but where most had to rely on outside producers, Akwid controlled their own sound and created a particularly organic musical combination, driven by the thump of tuba samples and clever use of familiar ...
David B. Pruett
Country music group. Acknowledged by the Academy of Country Music (ACM) in 1989 as the Artist of the Decade for the 1980s, Alabama is arguably the most celebrated country music group in the history of the genre. Three of the band’s members—lead vocalist Randy Owen (b Fort Payne, AL, 13 Dec 1949), multi-instrumentalist Jeff Cook (b Fort Payne, AL, 27 Aug 1949), and bassist Teddy Gentry (b Fort Payne, AL, 22 Jan 1952)—had been performing their unique blend of southern rock and country pop together throughout the American South since 1969. Beginning in 1974, the group began playing regular shows in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, where drummer Mark Herndon (b Springfield, MA, 11 May 1955) became the group’s fourth and final member in 1979, one year before Alabama signed with RCA. The group’s first major label release My Home’s in Alabama (RCA, ...
George J. Grella Jr.
Ensemble. Originally a group of students performing in new music concerts at the Eastman School of Music, Alarm Will Sound was formed professionally by artistic director Alan Pierson and managing director Gavin Chuck in 2001. The group made its debut in May of that year at Miller Theater, Columbia University, with Desert Music and Tehillim by Steve Reich. After giving several programs, each devoted to a single contemporary composer, the group began to both commission new works—including John Adams’s Son of Chamber Symphony, Wolfgang Rihm’s Will Sound, and David Lang’s Increase—and to perform arrangements of other music, notably Varèse’s Poeme Electronique, by the composer Evan Hause, and the rhythmically complex electronic dance music of Aphex Twin, Mochipet and Autechre, and the Beatles’ “Revolution 9,” all arranged by ensemble musicians. The group also began adding staging and other theatrical elements to their live performances, developed with director Nigel Maister. These took a range of forms, from stage blocking to the musical theater piece ...
Both an American Detroit-based hard rock band and the adopted name of its singer and main creative force Vincent Damon Furnier (b Detroit, MI, 4 Feb 1946). Cooper was the son of a minister and the nephew of the storyteller Damon Runyon, after whom he was named. He moved to Arizona, where he attended high school and formed the Nazz. This band eventually took the name Alice Cooper and developed an over-the-top, theatrical shock-rock style that influenced a host of other rock performers.
With snide and clever lyrics, Alice Cooper’s style was mainly hard rock, but some tunes were psychedelic and others would be suitable in a Broadway musical. After moving to Michigan, the band scored numerous hits in the early 1970s. Many of the songs were rebellious youth-focused anthems, including “Eighteen” (Warner, 1971) and “School’s Out” (Warner, 1972). Others centered on ghoulish menace or mere gothic gruesomeness like “Dead Babies” (Warner, ...
Ronald D. Cohen
Singing group and political activists. In late 1940 Pete Seeger met Lee Hays, a preacher and labor organizer from Arkansas, and his New York roommate, Millard Lampell, a writer from New Jersey. By February 1941 they had launched the Almanac Singers, a loose collection of musicians devoted to performing original and traditional folksongs, many with a hard political edge. Soon joined by Bess Lomax (sister of Alan), Baldwin (“Butch”) and Peter Hawes, Josh White, Woody Guthrie, Agnes (“Sis”) Cunningham, and others, they performed before various labor and left-wing groups. Their first album of peace songs, Songs for John Doe, appeared in early 1941. This was followed by two albums of traditional songs, Sod Buster Ballads and Deep Sea Chanties, and the pro-labor Talking Union. Their final album, Dear Mr. President, which consisted of pro-war songs, was released in 1942. Their left-wing politics led to much negative publicity, and with the start of World War II the group began to fragment. Seeger joined the Army, Guthrie entered the Merchant Marine, and the others went in various directions, but their creative songs and folk style would live on....
Instrumental ensemble. Founded in 1986 in San Francisco by Stephen Schultz (principal flutist with Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra and Musica Angelica), its members include Gonzalo X. Ruiz (oboe), Elizabeth Blumenstock (violin), Roy Whelden (viola da gamba), and Katherine Shao (harpsichord). The ensemble has performed in Europe and America, and been featured on National Public Radio. The group’s repertory includes 18th-century music and new works by American composers. American Baroque has recorded 14 CDs, beginning with quartets by Telemann—the “Paris” and Fourth Book sets (Amon Ra, 1989/Koch, 1990). In 1991, the group issued French Cantatas of the 18th Century, with soprano Julianne Baird, also on Koch. Galax (New Albion, 1993) followed, with music by Whelden (Quartet After Abel/Gamba Quartet), and Carl Friedrich Abel. Another collaboration with Whelden yielded Like a Passing River (1995), featuring poet/reader Rudy Rucker, on the same label. After albums of sonatas by Boismortier and Telemann (Naxos ...
E. Douglas Bomberger
Concerts consisting exclusively of works by American composers. The practice of promoting American composers by segregating their music has recurred often since the middle of the 19th century and was especially in vogue in the late 1880s, during World War II, and in the years around the Bicentennial of American independence in 1976.
The American Music Association was founded in 1855 by C.J. Hopkins to counter the assertion that American composers had not written enough compositions to present an entire concert. It presented ten concerts of works by native composers and resident foreigners in three seasons before succumbing to the financial panic of 1857. In May 1877, Russian pianist Annette Essipoff performed American Composers’ Concerts in Boston and New York on stages decked with red, white and blue.
The fad for American Composers’ Concerts in the 1880s was a reaction to inequities in the copyright laws of the era. Because the United States did not have an international copyright agreement, publishers could reprint foreign works without paying royalties. Even the best American composers—who were entitled to royalties—found it difficult to compete against cheaply produced foreign compositions flooding the American market. In addition to lobbying for copyright protection, composers and performers were determined to introduce their works to the public through performances....
George J., Jr. Grella
Ensemble founded in 2004 by the cellist Clarice Jensen, the conductor Donato Cabrera, and the manager Christina Jensen. Cabrera left in 2005 for a post with the San Francisco Opera. The group made its debut on 7 November 2004, at the Tenri Cultural Institute in New York. In 2008 ACME performed a month-long residency at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, and in March 2009 it appeared at Carnegie Hall for the first time, performing the premiere of Timothy Andres’ Senior with the New York Youth SO. The following year the ensemble toured with the pianist Simone Dinnerstein playing chamber arrangements of J. S. Bach’s keyboard concertos BWV 1052 and 1056, and participated in Louis Andriessen’s Carnegie Hall residency. It has also programmed and presented Composer Portraits at the Miller Theater, Columbia University. Through 2010, ACME had given 75 public concerts, performing music by John Adams, John Cage, Elliott Carter, George Crumb, Charles Ives, Phil Kline, Steve Reich, Neil Rolnick, Frederic Rzewski, Arnold Schoenberg, Toru Takemitsu, Kevin Volans, and Iannis Xenakis. The group’s repertoire, which also includes music by Henryk Gorecki and John Luther Adams, suits their musical artistry, precision, and flexibility; this last enables them to break down into a separate, highly capable string quartet. Members through ...
Opera company. It was founded in 1885 by Jeannette Thurber, whose policy was to engage competent, if unknown, American singers for productions of grand opera sung in English. Thurber appointed a board of eminent directors with Andrew Carnegie as president, and engaged theodore Thomas, who had his own touring orchestra, as music director. Among the fully staged operas presented by the troupe were W.A. Mozart’s The Magic Flute, C.W. Gluck’s Orpheus and Euridice, Richad Wagner’s Lohengrin and The Flying Dutchman, Victor Massé’s Galatea, Verdi’s Aida, Karl Goldmark’s Queen of Sheba, and the American premiere of Anton Rubinstein’s Nero; the repertory also included the ballets Sylvia and Coppélia by Léo Delibes. The first season opened on 4 January 1886 at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and the company’s ensuing six-month tour of the United States (mainly the Northeast) was hailed as an artistic success and a commendable effort in spite of poor management. After the first season, the company was reincorporated: Thomas became president, and it began its second season in ...
Tammy L. Kernodle
Founded by Everett McCorvey in 1995, the ensemble defines its mission as the preservation of the spiritual tradition. McCorvey, a native of Montgomery, Alabama and Professor of Voice and Director of Opera at the University of Kentucky, founded the group because he felt that the arranged spiritual tradition was not being celebrated in the same manner as other forms of African American sacred music, especially gospel music. The group’s membership, which ranges from 25 to 50 performers depending on the performance requirements, consists of singers who have performed on the stages of the Metropolitan Opera, the Houston Grand Opera, and concert halls throughout Europe. Although he traveled the world as a tenor soloist and has served as artist faculty at the American Institute of Musical Study in Graz, Austria, McCorvey has made a considerable contribution to the American concert tradition through the group. The group’s repertory includes not only arranged spirituals in the ensemble and art song format, but also jazz and Broadway tunes. It has traveled extensively around the world. In ...
Organization founded in 1942 to provide artistic, financial and organizational support for American orchestras. In 1999 its members included nearly 900 symphony, chamber, youth and university orchestras. In addition to offering seminars and workshops for orchestra managers, staff and volunteers, the league sponsors an Orchestra Management Fellowship Program and provides scholarships for black American student musicians. In ...
Lori Burns and Jada Watson
(b Newton, NC, Aug 22, 1963). American alternative-rock singer-songwriter, pianist, and record producer. She emerged in the early 1990s amid a resurgence of female singer-songwriters and has been one of the few well known alternative-rock artists to use the piano as her primary instrument. She attended the preparatory division of the prestigious Peabody Conservatory but left the school at the age of 11. She began to play her own music in nightclubs at 14, chaperoned by her father, who was a preacher. After Amos moved to Los Angeles in her late teens to pursue a recording career, her band Y Kant Tori Read released a self-titled album (Atl., 1987). Although this was unsuccessful, Atlantic Records retained her six-album contract.
Amos’s debut solo album, Little Earthquakes (Atl., 1992), earned her critical acclaim for her vocal expressivity, pianistic virtuosity, and fearless exploration of a wide range of personal themes, notably female sexuality, personal relationships, religion, sexual violence, and coming of age. The album ...
Roxanne R. Reed
Gospel ensemble. The Angelic Gospel Singers, or the Angelics, were an African American female gospel quartet based in Philadelphia. Founder, lead singer, and pianist Margaret Allison (1921–2008) a native of McCormick, South Carolina, moved with her family to Philadelphia as a youth. Allison joined the Spiritual Echoes in 1942 and learned vocal arranging, composition, and accompanying techniques. Allison’s family was affiliated with the Pentecostal Church, but stylistically her gospel sound was closer to that of the southern Baptist church and gospel tradition. Allison left the Spiritual Echoes in 1944 to form the Angelics. Joining her were fellow former Spiritual Echoes members Lucille Shird and Ella Mae Norris. The third member was Allison’s sister Josephine MacDowell. The quartet’s sound mimicked that of popular male quartets such as the Fairfield Four and the Dixie Hummingbirds with controlled harmonies and simple accompaniment. The Angelic Gospel Singers commonly performed with the Hummingbirds. As a group, the Angelics performed primarily on the Pentecostal Church circuit. Their rendition of Lucie Campbell’s “Touch Me, Lord Jesus” (...
Joanne Sheehy Hoover
Brass quintet. The group was founded in 1971 and disbanded in 1993. David Cran (trumpet) and Robert Posten (bass trombone) remained with the group for the duration through various personnel changes. It was the first American brass quintet to serve as the full-time and exclusive professional occupation of its members. The group toured extensively in the United States (New York debut, 21 January 1984), Canada, Europe, and Asia; they also became mainstays at music festivals and music camps worldwide. The group played a major role in developing brass quintet literature through editions of Renaissance and Baroque music and an active commissioning program; it gave over 75 premieres, including works by George Walker, Robert Starer, Lawrence Moss, and Jiri LaBurda. In 1979 the ensemble organized the Brass Chamber Music Society of Annapolis, and in 1980 it established the International Brass Quintet Festival in Baltimore, to bring together professionals from both Europe and the United States with student ensembles for brass performance and study....
Anna E. Kijas
A cappella vocal quartet, based in New York. The quartet has been a resident ensemble at St. Michael’s Episcopal Church in New York City since its formation in 1986. The founding members include New York natives, Johanna Marie Rose, Susan Hellauer, Marsha Genensky, and Ruth Cunningham. In 1998, Cunningham left the group and was replaced by Jacqueline Horner-Kwaitek, a native of Northern Ireland. Although the group announced its retirement as a full-time group in 2005, with the return of Cunningham (replacing Rose) in 2007, it continues to record and tour.
The group’s name is borrowed from the most important of the unsigned 13th-century treatises on music. This treatise describes the compositional styles and practices at the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris in the early part of the 13th century, and attributes works to master composers, Leoninus and Perotinus of the Notre Dame School. Upon formation, the group’s repertoire consisted of sacred and secular polyphonic music of the 11th to 14th centuries. Over the years it has expanded to include Renaissance music, which they often perform with the six-man vocal ensemble Lionheart; contemporary music; traditional music from the British Isles; and, more recently, American shape-note tunes, gospel songs, and folk songs....
Alexander Michael Cannon
Cambodian music ensemble. Named for the female celestial figures that adorn Angkor Wat, this music and dance ensemble has featured performances of Cambodian music for audiences in the United States since 1986. Dr. Sam-Ang Sam—a master musician who studied with court and village master musicians in Siem Reap and Phnom Penh and who was named a 1994 MacArthur Fellow—established the ensemble with his wife, Chan Moly Sam, a master dancer trained to portray both male (neay rong) and female (neang) dance roles. The artists met in Cambodia and studied at the University of Fine Arts before the rise of the Khmer Rouge. Later, he studied with José Maceda at the University of the Philippines. The couple immigrated to the United States in 1977. They formed the ensemble while he completed his doctoral dissertation on the pinn peat (court music ensemble) at Wesleyan University. Afterward, the ensemble moved to Washington, DC and partnered with the Cambodian-American Heritage Troupe directed by Sam-Oeun Tes, a master dancer who studied with the Cambodian Royal Ballet before moving the United States in ...
Ryan R. McNutt
Canadian indie rock band. With captivating live performances and acclaimed recordings, the Montreal-based multi-instrumentalist group stood at the forefront of indie rock’s ascendency in the 2000s, growing from internet fanbase to festival-headlining slots over the decade. Often augmented by friends and touring members live, the core band consists of husband and wife Win Butler and Régine Chassagne, with Will Butler, Richard Reed Parry, Tim Kingsbury, Sarah Neufeld, and Jeremy Gara.
Formed in 2001 in Montreal, Québec—where the Texas-born Butler brothers attended school and met Chassagne, the daughter of Haitian immigrants—Arcade Fire quickly earned a local cult following that exploded upon the release of Funeral, its 2004 debut (Merge Records). An ecstatic review on the popular music website Pitchfork is often cited as the catalyst, though the band capitalized on that enthusiasm with its theatrical live show. Soaring melodies and anthemic, singalong hooks earned the album endorsements from David Bowie, David Byrne, and U2, all of whom have since performed with the band....
Soul duo and songwriting and production team. Nickolas Ashford (b Fairfield, Hilton Head Island, SC, 4 May 1942; d New York, NY, 22 Aug 2011) and Valerie Simpson (b Bronx, NY, 26 Aug 1946) met in 1963; their first successful songwriting collaboration was “Let’s go get stoned” which, in a recording by Ray Charles (ABC, 1966), reached no.31 on the pop chart. They became staff writers and producers for Motown, where they worked with such performers as Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell (“You’re all I need to get by,” Motown, 1968) and “Ain’t nothing like the real thing,” Motown, 1968) and Diana Ross (“Ain’t no mountain high enough, Motown, 1970). Ashford produced two albums that Simpson recorded under her own name (Exposed!, Motown, 1971, and Valerie Simpson, Motown, 1972). After leaving Motown, they released their first album together for Warner Bros., ...