## Eli Maor on Music by the Numbers

That music and mathematics are somehow related has been known for centuries. Pythagoras, around the 5th century BCE, may have been the first to discover a quantitative relation between the two: experimenting with taut strings, he found out that shortening the effective length of a string to one half its original length raises the pitch of its sound by an agreeable interval—an octave. Other ratios of string lengths produced smaller intervals: 2:3 corresponds to a fifth (so called because it is the fifth note up the scale from the base note), 3:4 corresponded to a fourth, and so on. Moreover, Pythagoras found out that multiplying two ratios corresponds to adding their intervals: (2:3) x (3:4) = 1:2, so a fifth plus a fourth equals an octave. In doing so, Pythagoras discovered the first logarithmic law in history.

The relations between musical intervals and numerical ratios have fascinated scientists ever since. Johannes Kepler, considered the father of modern astronomy, spent half his lifetime trying to explain the motion of the known planets by relating them to musical intervals. Half a century later, Isaac Newton formulated his universal law of gravitation, thereby providing a rational, mathematical explanation for the planetary orbits. But he too was obsessed with musical ratios: he devised a “palindromic” musical scale and compared its intervals to the rainbow colors of the spectrum. Still later, four of Europe’s top mathematicians would argue passionately over the exact shape of a vibrating string. In doing so, they contributed significantly to the development of post-calculus mathematics, while at the same time giving us a fascinating glimpse into their personal relations and fierce rivalries. As Eli Maor points out in Music by the Numbers, the “Great String Debate” of the eighteenth century has some striking similarities to the equally fierce debate over the nature of quantum mechanics in the 1920s.

What brought you to write a book on such an unusual subject?

The ties between music and mathematics have fascinated me from a young age. My grandfather played his violin for me when I was five years old, and I still remember it quite clearly. He also spent many hours explaining to me various topics from his physics book, from which he himself had studied many years earlier. In the chapter on sound there was a musical staff showing the note A with a number under it: 440, the frequency of that note. It may have been this image that first triggered my fascination with the subject. I still have that physics book and I treasure it immensely. My grandfather must have studied it thoroughly, as his penciled annotations appear on almost every page.

Did you study the subject formally?

Yes. I did my master’s and later my doctoral thesis in acoustics at the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology. There was just one professor who was sufficiently knowledgeable in the subject, and he agreed to be my advisor. But first we had to find a department willing to take me under its wing, and that turned out to be tricky. To me acoustics was a branch of physics, but the physics department saw it as just an engineering subject. So I applied to the newly-founded Department of Mechanics, and they accepted me. The coursework included a heavy load of technical subjects—strength of materials, elasticity, rheology, and the theory of vibrations—all of which I did as independent studies. In the process I learned a lot of advanced mathematics, especially Fourier series and integrals. It served me well in my later work.

I started my musical education playing Baroque music on the recorder, and later I took up the clarinet. This instrument has the unusual feature that when you open the thumb hole on the back side of the bore, the pitch goes up not by an octave, as with most woodwind instruments, but by a twelfth—an octave and a fifth. This led me to dwell into the acoustics of wind instruments. I was—and still am—intrigued by the fact that a column of air can vibrate and produce an agreeable sound just like a violin string. But you have to rely entirely on your ear to feel those vibrations; they are totally invisible to the eye.

When I was a physics undergraduate at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, a group of students and professors decided to start an amateur orchestra, and I joined. At one of our performances we played Mozart’s overture to The Magic Flute. There is one bar in that overture where the clarinet plays solo, and it befell upon me to play it. I practiced for that single bar again and again, playing it perhaps a hundred times simultaneously with a vinyl record playing on a gramophone. Finally the evening arrived and I played my piece—all three seconds of it. At intermission I asked a friend of mine in the audience, a concert pianist, how did it go. “Well,” she said, “you played it too fast.”  Oh Lord!  I was only glad that Mozart wasn’t present!

Throughout your book there runs a common thread—the parallels between musical and mathematical frames of reference. Can you elaborate on this comparison?

For about 300 years—roughly from 1600 to 1900—classical music was based on the principle of tonality: a composition was always tied to a given home key, and while deviating from it during the course of the work, the music was invariably related to that key. The home key thus served as a musical frame of reference in which the work was set, similar to a universal frame of reference to which the laws of classical physics were supposed to be bound.

But in the early 1900s, Arnold Schoenberg set out to revolutionize music composition by proposing his tone row, or series, consisting of all twelve semitones of the octave, each appearing exactly once before the series is completed. No more was each note defined by its relation to the tonic, or base note; in Schoenberg’s system a complete democracy reigned, each note being related only to the note preceding it in the series. This new system bears a striking resemblance to Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity, in which no single frame of reference has a preferred status over others. Music by the Numbers expands on this fascinating similarity, as well as on the remarkable parallels between the lives of Schoenberg and Einstein.

You also touch on some controversial subjects. Can you say a few words about them?

It is generally believed that over the ages, mathematics has had a significant influence on music. Attempts to quantify music and subject it to mathematical rules began with Pythagoras himself, who invented a musical scale based entirely on his three “perfect intervals”—the octave, the fifth, and the fourth. From a mathematical standpoint it was a brilliant idea, but it was out of sync with the laws of physics; in particular, it ignored other important intervals such as the major and minor thirds. Closer to our time, Schoenberg’s serial music was another attempt to generate music by the numbers. It aroused much controversy, and after half a century during which his method was the compositional system to follow, enthusiasm for atonal music has waned.

But it is much less known that the attraction between the two disciplines worked both ways. I have already mentioned the Great String Debate of the eighteenth century—a prime example of how a problem originating in music has ended up advancing a new branch of mathematics: post-calculus analysis. It is also interesting to note that quite a few mathematical terms have their origin in music, such as harmonic series, harmonic mean, and harmonic functions, to name but a few.

Perhaps the most successful collaboration between the two disciplines was the invention of the equal-tempered scale—the division of the octave into twelve equally-spaced semitones. Although of ancient origins, this new tuning method has become widely known through Johann Sebastian Bach’s The Well-Tempered Clavier— his two sets of keyboard preludes and fugues covering all 24 major and minor scales. Controversial at the time, it has become the standard tuning system of Western music.

In your book there are five sidebars, one of which with the heading “Music for the Record Books: The Lowest, the Longest, the Oldest, and the Weirdest.”  Can you elaborate on them?

Yes. The longest piece of music ever performed—or more precisely, is still being performed—is a work for the organ at the St. Burkhardt Church in the German town of Halberstadt. The work was begun in 2003 and is an ongoing project, planned to be unfolding for the next 639 years. There are eight movements, each lasting about 71 years. The work is a version of John Cages’ composition As Slow as Possible. As reported by The New York Times, “The organ’s bellows began their whoosh on September 5, 2001, on what would have been Cage’s 89th birthday. But nothing was heard because the score begins with a rest—of 20 months. It was only on February 5, 2003, that the first chord, two G-sharps and a B in between, was struck.” It will be interesting to read the reviews when the work finally comes to an end in the year 2640.

I’ll mention one more piece for the record books: in 2012, astronomers discovered the lowest known musical note in the universe. Why astronomers?  Because the source of this note is the galaxy cluster Abell 426, some 250 million light years away. The cluster is surrounded by hot gas at a temperature of about 25,000,000 degrees Celsius, and it shows concentric ripples spreading outward—acoustic pressure waves. From the speed of sound at that temperature—about 1,155 km/sec—and the observed spacing between the ripples—some 36,000 light years—it is easy to find the frequency of the sound, and thus its pitch: a B-flat nearly 57 octaves below middle C. Says the magazine Sky & Telescope, “You’d need to add 635 keys to the left end of your piano keyboard to produce that note!  Even a contrabassoon won’t go that low.”

Eli Maor has taught the history of mathematics at Loyola University Chicago until his recent retirement. He is the author of six previous books by Princeton University Press: To Infinity and Beyonde: the Story of a NumberTrigonometric DelightsThe Pythagorean TheoremVenus in Transit; and Beautiful Geometry (with Eugen Jost). He is also an active amateur astronomer, has participated in over twenty eclipse and transit expeditions, and is a contributing author to Sky & Telescope.

## Mitchell Cohen: The Politics of Opera

The Politics of Opera takes readers on a fascinating journey into the entwined development of opera and politics, from the Renaissance through the turn of the nineteenth century. What political backdrops have shaped opera? How has opera conveyed the political ideas of its times? Delving into European history and thought and an array of music by such greats as Lully, Rameau, and Mozart, Mitchell Cohen reveals how politics—through story lines, symbols, harmonies, and musical motifs—has played an operatic role both robust and sotto voce.

Politics is not usually the first thing most people think about when it comes to opera. Why did you write a book on politics and opera?

MC: It was natural. I have a passion for opera and I am a professor of political theory and co-edited Dissent, a political magazine. I began writing the book in order to explore the intersection of two apparently disparate domains. Moreover, if the relation between aesthetic ideas and political ideas interests you, opera provides a great terrain for exploration. Of course, not all operas are political, but more are—or have political implications—than many people realize. I should add: politics does not consume all there is to say about those operas that are political. The Politics of Opera is about how and when two domains come together, and I define politics broadly. In any event, there was also a selfish dimension to my project: I had to go to the opera for work. There are worse things to have to do.

Your book is unusual because of the time span you cover, roughly from the birth of opera through Mozart, some two hundred years. Why choose this period?

MC: Well, let’s start at the beginning. Modern politics—the modern state in Europe—was, broadly speaking, born at the time of the Renaissance. Opera emerged in the late Renaissance. In the last decades of the 16th century, humanist intellectuals in Florence debated about “ancient” and “modern” music—they meant Greek antiquity and their own day. Galileo’s father was one of them. Their conversations led to experiments that, in turn, became opera at the turn of the 17th century. In roughly this era, in Italy and France, important debates occurred and books were published about politics and the nature of politics because it was transforming. One might say that Machiavelli, decades earlier, began the discussion. Of course he didn’t write operas (he did write plays). The parallel between the development of a new form of politics and a new form of musical stage art intrigued me. But in Mozart’s day there was a massive political crack-up, the French revolution—there was, then, great upheaval and great genius at the same time. That’s why I took the late 18th century as a natural historical border. The Politics of Opera seeks to sink operas into the political times in which they were first imagined and not to imagine them as somehow standing outside their times. Another way of saying that is that if you want truly to grasp the politics of an opera you must look deeply both into history and into the ideas that were current when it was written and composed. You have to know what was being argued about then and not just impose your own contemporary preoccupations, although your own preoccupations may be enlightening too—so long as you keep an eye on the differences between your ideas and those found, say, in an opera by Monteverdi or Rameau or Mozart.

For whom are you writing?

MC: I try to write for a broad intelligent public and for scholars. I sought to make a contribution to our understanding of interesting, not-always-evident matters but in accessible ways. I hope that opera fans along with scholars and students of history, culture, music and politics will all be engaged by it. I hope they’ll learn something of what I learned in writing and researching it.

Your book’s prologue speaks of the itinerary of your explorations. What was the route?

MC: Italy, France, Vienna. Florence under the Medicis was the obvious place to begin because those humanists I mentioned were talking about relations between music, feelings, and ideas. The earliest opera for which we still have both the libretto and the music retold the story of Eurydice and Orpheus for a political event, the marriage in 1600 of Maria de’ Medici to France King Henri IV in Florence (He didn’t show up but sent a stand-in!). But then there was a leap of musical imagination when, in Mantua just a few years later, Claudio Monteverdi began composing operas, first of all his remarkable Orfeo. I am always tempted to call him “the great Monteverdi” and indeed he was the first great composer of opera, although he wrote many other wonderful compositions too. He would eventually be fired from Mantua’s ducal court but then he received a much more prestigious position in Venice, a republic. Towards the end of his life he composed some amazing operas in collaboration with librettists who were close to power in Venice. This included the first directly political and historical opera, The Coronation of Poppea. In it the philosopher Seneca and Roman emperor Nero quarrel over ‘reason’ versus ’emotion’ in ruling. From Italy I went to France, more precisely to the birth of French opera thanks to Jean-Baptiste Lully during the reign of Louis XIV. Then I turned to the quarrel in the 18th century between a great composer and theorist of harmony, Jean-Philippe Rameau, and a popular but not-so-great composer of opera, Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Yes, the Rousseau, the famous political philosopher who advocated sovereignty of the people but who also aspired to be a composer. Poor Rameau! Poor Rousseau! Rameau was the great artist and my book devotes considerable space to his opera Les Indes galantes, a remarkable opera that in part reflects the Age of Exploration—what others would call the Age of Imperialism. But Rameau was not a spectacular writer and Rousseau’s music, well, let’s just say you wouldn’t want to go too often to his best-known opera, Le Devin du Village (the Village Soothsayer). However, you really wouldn’t want to get into polemics with him since he was a master of them.

From France I went on to Vienna, to Metastasio, the Imperial Poet of the Holy Roman Empire whose librettos were set by many composers, including Vivaldi. For my purposes the most interesting of them was Cato in Utica, which is about the last Roman republican resistance to the rise of the Roman Empire—Cato versus Julius Casesar. Of course, the book must finally come to Mozart’s operas.

As I looked at all these operas I tried to contextualize them and also to show parallels with key political ideas and problems of the times—ideas and problems that are embedded in them. So readers will come across a number of important thinkers and writers—some well-known, some less-known today—weaving throughout the book. These range from Machiavelli and Tacitus to Jean Bodin, Diderot, Edmund Burke, Rousseau and others.

Was Mozart political?

MC: Mozart was, of course, a man of music before anything else. We should be forever grateful for that. The more you study him, the more amazing he becomes. He didn’t write on politics but he certainly had problems with authority. His operas are filled with political themes and political issues of his time. He didn’t write his librettos but he helped to shape them. I try in The Politics of Opera to give a close reading (and hearing) to the results. The book actually stretches a little beyond Mozart and rounds off by discussing a little known work. The German poet Goethe wrote a sequel to The Magic Flute a few years after Mozart’s death. Goethe never finished it and nobody was brave enough to write music for it. In it there is a regrouping of the forces of darkness. Led by the infamous Queen of the Night they launch an assault against Sarastro’s enlightened realm—he is on a sabbatical—and Tamino and Pamina. Goethe wrote it in the mid 1790s. It is easy to think of it in light of wars and politics in Europe just then. There is, of course, much more to be found in it too.

You certainly cover a lot of territory. How do you approach it all?

MC: By using insights drawn from many thinkers and varied methods—political, philosophical, musicalogical, historical—in different combinations. I don’t impose one model on everything. I prefer what I call a methodological medley. It seems to me a particularly fruitful way to be inter-disciplinary.

Mitchell Cohen is professor of political science at Baruch College and the Graduate School of the City University of New York and an editor emeritus of Dissent. His books include The Wager of Lucien Goldmann and The Politics of Opera: A History from Monteverdi to Mozart. He has been a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies at Princeton and has written for many publications including the New York Times Sunday Book Review and the Times Literary Supplement (London).

## Get ready for the Bard Music Festival

The Bard Music Festival began in 1990 to promote new ways of presenting the history of music to a contemporary audience. This year the theme is ‘Puccini and His World.’ Over the course of two weekends, August 5-7 and August 12-14, festivalgoers from the world of music and opera will participate in panels and listen to music contemporary to Giacomo Puccini. To learn more about his life and times, Giacomo Puccini and His World, edited by Arman Schwartz and Emanuele Senici, is essential reading. This collection of essays by an international roster of music specialists explores a wide array of topics, from Puccini’s engagement with spoken theater and operetta, to the philosophical problems raised by ‘realist’ opera, to his complex interactions with the Italian fascist state. For more information, follow the conversation on Twitter with @Bard_FisherCtr.

## “Carlos Chávez and His World” at the Bard Music Festival starting August 7th

Carlos Chávez (1899–1978), subject of this year’s Bard Music Festival, is the central figure in Mexican music of the twentieth century and among the most eminent of all Latin American modernist composers. The seventh child of a Creole family, his highly individual style—diatonic, dissonant, contrapuntal—addressed both modernity and Mexico’s indigenous past. Chávez was also an educator, journalist, music theorist, and conductor and founder of the Orquesta Sinfónica de México. He became an integral part of the emerging music scene in the United States in the 1920s.

This summer represents the Bard Music Festival’s first examination of a Latin American composer, focusing on one who, though little known today, may have shaped American music more than any other. Along with building an impressive oeuvre couched in an acerbic modernist idiom, Mr. Chávez almost single-handedly remolded Mexican culture through his official roles in national arts institutions after the Mexican Revolution.

Today, Princeton University Press is proud to release Carlos Chávez and His World, the volume to accompany the Bard Music Festival’s concerts and panels over the course of the next two weekends. Robin writes in The New York Times:

“The idea that he was a quintessential ‘Mexican composer’ and that in his case it was not a picturesque, postcard folklore, but some sort of really internal, almost racial essence, marked him forever,” the musicologist Leonora Saavedra said recently. An associate professor at the University of California, Riverside, Ms. Saavedra serves as the Bard festival’s scholar in residence and has edited an insightful volume of accompanying essays published by Princeton University Press.

Bard Music Festival 2015:
Carlos Chávez and His World
Bard College
August 7-9 and August 14-16, 2015

If you’d like to see a schedule of Bard Music Festival events, here’s where you can find one.

Leonora Saavedra, author of Carlos Chávez and His World, is associate professor of music at the University of California, Riverside.

## Story/Time’s Bill T. Jones to Receive a 2013 National Medal of Arts

What an incredible accomplishment – Princeton University Press Story/Time author Bill T. Jones is to be honored with a 2013 National Medal of Arts for his “contributions as a dancer and choreographer” and for his “provocative performances that blend an eclectic mix of modern and traditional dance” which “challenge us to confront tough subjects and inspire us to greater heights.”

The National Medal of Arts is “the highest award given to artists and arts patrons by the federal government. It is awarded by the President of the United States to individuals or groups who are deserving of special recognition by reason of their outstanding contributions to the excellence, growth, support, and availability of the arts in the United States.”

President Barack Obama will present the National Medals of Arts in conjunction with the National Humanities Medals on Monday, July 28, 2014, at 3:00 p.m. ET, in an East Room ceremony at the White House. You can watch the event live, here.

This is a truly momentous day for Mr. Jones, and we at the Princeton University Press are thrilled to have the privilege of publishing his book.

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

# Bill T. Jones is the author of:

 Story/Time: The Life of an Idea by Bill T. Jones Hardcover | September 2014 | \$24.95 / £16.95 | ISBN: 9780691162706 | 104 pp. | 10 x 7 1/2 |eBook | ISBN: 9781400851881 | Reviews  Table of Contents  Preface[PDF]

## Q&A with Damon Phillips, Author of “Shaping Jazz”

Damon Phillips, author of Shaping Jazz: Cities, Labels, and the Global Emergence of an Art Form, recently sat down with Princeton University Press’ Eric Schwartz to discuss his new book and some of the topics it covers.

There are over a million jazz recordings, but only a few hundred tunes have been recorded repeatedly. Why did a minority of songs become jazz standards? Why do some songs–and not others–get rerecorded by many musicians? Shaping Jazz answers this question and more, exploring the underappreciated yet crucial roles played by initial production and markets–in particular, organizations and geography–in the development of early twentieth-century jazz.

Damon Phillips considers why places like New York played more important roles as engines of diffusion than as the sources of standards. He demonstrates why and when certain geographical references in tune and group titles were considered more desirable. He also explains why a place like Berlin, which produced jazz abundantly from the 1920s to early 1930s, is now on jazz’s historical sidelines. Phillips shows the key influences of firms in the recording industry, including how record companies and their executives affected what music was recorded, and why major companies would rerelease recordings under artistic pseudonyms. He indicates how a recording’s appeal was related to the narrative around its creation, and how the identities of its firm and musicians influenced the tune’s long-run popularity.

Applying fascinating ideas about market emergence to a music’s commercialization, Shaping Jazz offers a unique look at the origins of a groundbreaking art form.

Damon J. Phillips is the James P. Gorman Professor of Business Strategy at Columbia University and a faculty affiliate of Columbia’s Center for Jazz Studies and the Center for Organizational Innovation.

## String Theory On a Whole New Level

When Steven S. Gubser wrote The Little Book of String Theory, he probably never imagined anything like what this guy came up with: a cover of Queen’s infamous “Bohemian Rhapsody” that explains the complicated mysteries of string theory.

Perhaps I should repeat that.

Timothy Blais, a graduate student at McGill University, submitted a YouTube video along with his thesis paper. This video was a homemade cover of Bohemian Rhapsody with altered lyrics to talk about string theory, a highly debated theory in theoretical physics.

With lyrics like:

“Is string theory right?
Is it just fantasy?
Caught in the landscape,
Out of touch with reality
Compactified
On S5 or T*S3”

Blais’ song might be a bit of a struggle to fully understand, which is why we’re suggesting you might want to read The Little Book of String Theory, which offers a short, accessible, and entertaining introduction to one of the most talked-about areas of physics today. String theory has been called the “theory of everything.” It seeks to describe all the fundamental forces of nature. It encompasses gravity and quantum mechanics in one unifying theory. But it is unproven and fraught with controversy. After reading this book, you’ll be able to draw your own conclusions about string theory.

Whether you’re pro string theory, or you’re just trying to tie your shoelaces, check out this incredibly unique take on quantum physics:

## Why You Hear What You Hear

Why You Hear What You Hear . . . has much to interest physicists and physics students. . . . This book contains a lot of physical insight, and I think it will be the rare acoustician who does not enjoy reading it. I particularly liked the use of color coding to introduce (with a minimum of math) a graphical algorithm to represent autocorrelation. Also interesting are the author’s diversions into history, including a story in which John William Strutt (Lord Rayleigh) and William Henry Bragg seem to have been mistaken about an echo transposed in pitch. . . . Acousticians will enjoy its interesting perspectives, and physicists and engineers outside of acoustics will find it an attractive introduction to some important parts of the discipline.”–Joe Wolfe, Physics Today

### Why You Hear What You Hear: An Experiential Approach to Sound, Music, and Psychoacoustics by Eric J. Heller

Why You Hear What You Hear is the first book on the physics of sound for the nonspecialist to empower readers with a hands-on, ears-open approach that includes production, analysis, and perception of sound. The book makes possible a deep intuitive understanding of many aspects of sound, as opposed to the usual approach of mere description. This goal is aided by hundreds of original illustrations and examples, many of which the reader can reproduce and adjust using the same tools used by the author.

• The first book on sound to offer interactive tools, building conceptual understanding via an experiential approach
• Supplementary website (http://www.whyyouhearwhatyouhear.com) will provide Java, MAX, and other free, multiplatform, interactive graphical and sound applets
• Extensive selection of original exercises available on the web with solutions
• Nearly 400 full-color illustrations, many of simulations that students can do

Endorsements

Watch Prof. Eric Heller during “Alex Dalgarno Celebratory Symposium”, held at The Institute for Theoretical, Atomic and Molecular and Optical Physics (ITAMP), Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CFA), Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Web resource for the book that provides Java, MAX, and other free, multiplatform, interactive graphical and sound applets

Sample this book:

Preface [PDF]

Request an examination copy.

## Two for Tuesday – The Musical Mind & Shaping Jazz

Music is universal but what makes it so special? Why do some jazz songs become standards and others not? We are pleased to announce the publication of two new books to explore these questions and more. We invite you to read sample chapters online.

Reflections on the Musical Mind:
An Evolutionary Perspective
by Jay Schulkin
With a foreword by Robert O. Gjerdingen

http://press.princeton.edu/chapters/i10027.pdf

What’s so special about music? We experience it internally, yet at the same time it is highly social. Music engages our cognitive/affective and sensory systems. We use music to communicate with one another–and even with other species–the things that we cannot express through language. Music is both ancient and ever evolving. Without music, our world is missing something essential. In Reflections on the Musical Mind, Jay Schulkin offers a social and behavioral neuroscientific explanation of why music matters. His aim is not to provide a grand, unifying theory. Instead, the book guides the reader through the relevant scientific evidence that links neuroscience, music, and meaning.

Jay Schulkin is Research Professor in the Department of Neuroscience and member at the Center for the Brain Basis of Cognition, both at Georgetown University. He is the author of numerous books, including Roots of Social Sensibility and Neural Function, Bodily Sensibility: Intelligent Action, Cognitive Adaptation: A Pragmatist Perspective, and Adaptation and Well-Being: Social Allostasis.

Shaping Jazz:
Cities, Labels, and the Global Emergence of an Art Form
by Damon J. Phillips

http://press.princeton.edu/chapters/i10026.pdf

There are over a million jazz recordings, but only a few hundred tunes have been recorded repeatedly. Why did a minority of songs become jazz standards? Why do some songs–and not others–get rerecorded by many musicians? Shaping Jazz answers this question and more, exploring the underappreciated yet crucial roles played by initial production and markets–in particular, organizations and geography–in the development of early twentieth-century jazz.

Damon J. Phillips is the James P. Gorman Professor of Business Strategy at Columbia University and a faculty affiliate of Columbia’s Center for Jazz Studies and the Center for Organizational Innovation.

## Country/Rap Song on Race Relations

Brad Paisley and LL Cool J on the same track? That’s equally as strange as the Tim McGraw and Nelly duet in 2004’s “Over and Over”. Unlike that smooth song about heartbreak, however, Paisley and LL’s song has a much different topic. The new song is titled “Accidental Racist” and is causing quite a stir.

The song is supposed to be interpreted as a song about overcoming racial tensions caused by past events in American history. However, as is everything that exists, its message is subject to interpretation. Race relations has never been an easy topic to discuss and many are calling the song an epic fail. The duo calls the song “a conversation starter.”

While the two may have had good intentions in writing this song, to get a better picture of race relations and how they are evolving, check out some of these PUP books.

Creating a New Racial Order: How Immigration, Multiracialism, Genomics, and the Young Can Remake Race in America by Jennifer L. Hochschild, Vesla M. Weaver & Traci R. Burch

The American racial order–the beliefs, institutions, and practices that organize relationships among the nation’s races and ethnicities–is undergoing its greatest transformation since the 1960s. Creating a New Racial Order takes a groundbreaking look at the reasons behind this dramatic change, and considers how different groups of Americans are being affected. Through revealing narrative and striking research, the authors show that the personal and political choices of Americans will be critical to how, and how much, racial hierarchy is redefined in decades to come.

The authors outline the components that make up a racial order and examine the specific mechanisms influencing group dynamics in the United States: immigration, multiracialism, genomic science, and generational change. Cumulatively, these mechanisms increase heterogeneity within each racial or ethnic group, and decrease the distance separating groups from each other. The authors show that individuals are moving across group boundaries, that genomic science is challenging the whole concept of race, and that economic variation within groups is increasing. Above all, young adults understand and practice race differently from their elders: their formative memories are 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, and Obama’s election–not civil rights marches, riots, or the early stages of immigration. Blockages could stymie or distort these changes, however, so the authors point to essential policy and political choices.

Portraying a vision, not of a postracial America, but of a different racial America, Creating a New Racial Order examines how the structures of race and ethnicity are altering a nation.

Jennifer L. Hochschild is the Henry LaBarre Jayne Professor of Government, professor of African and African American studies, and Harvard College Professor at Harvard University. Vesla M. Weaver is an assistant professor in the Woodrow Wilson Department of Politics at the University of Virginia. Traci R. Burch is assistant professor of political science at Northwestern University and research professor at the American Bar Foundation.

America is preoccupied with race statistics–perhaps more than any other nation. Do these statistics illuminate social reality and produce coherent social policy, or cloud that reality and confuse social policy? Does America still have a color line? Who is on which side? Does it have a different “race” line–the nativity line–separating the native born from the foreign born? You might expect to answer these and similar questions with the government’s “statistical races.” Not likely, observes Kenneth Prewitt, who shows why the way we count by race is flawed.

Prewitt calls for radical change. The nation needs to move beyond a race classification whose origins are in discredited eighteenth-century race-is-biology science, a classification that once defined Japanese and Chinese as separate races, but now combines them as a statistical “Asian race.” One that once tried to divide the “white race” into “good whites” and “bad whites,” and that today cannot distinguish descendants of Africans brought in chains four hundred years ago from children of Ethiopian parents who eagerly immigrated twenty years ago. Contrary to common sense, the classification says there are only two ethnicities in America–Hispanics and non-Hispanics. But if the old classification is cast aside, is there something better?

What Is Your Race? clearly lays out the steps that can take the nation from where it is to where it needs to be. It’s not an overnight task–particularly the explosive step of dropping today’s race question from the census–but Prewitt argues persuasively that radical change is technically and politically achievable, and morally necessary.

Kenneth Prewitt is the Carnegie Professor of Public Affairs at Columbia University. His books include The Hard Count: The Political and Social Challenges of Census Mobilization. He served as director of the U.S. Census Bureau from 1998 to 2001.

Not Even Past: Barack Obama and the Burden of Race by Thomas J. Sugrue

Barack Obama, in his acclaimed campaign speech discussing the troubling complexities of race in America today, quoted William Faulkner’s famous remark “The past isn’t dead and buried. In fact, it isn’t even past.” In Not Even Past, award-winning historian Thomas Sugrue examines the paradox of race in Obama’s America and how President Obama intends to deal with it.

Obama’s journey to the White House undoubtedly marks a watershed in the history of race in America. Yet even in what is being hailed as the post-civil rights era, racial divisions–particularly between blacks and whites–remain deeply entrenched in American life. Sugrue traces Obama’s evolving understanding of race and racial inequality throughout his career, from his early days as a community organizer in Chicago, to his time as an attorney and scholar, to his spectacular rise to power as a charismatic and savvy politician, to his dramatic presidential campaign. Sugrue looks at Obama’s place in the contested history of the civil rights struggle; his views about the root causes of black poverty in America; and the incredible challenges confronting his historic presidency.

Does Obama’s presidency signal the end of race in American life? In Not Even Past, a leading historian of civil rights, race, and urban America offers a revealing and unflinchingly honest assessment of the culture and politics of race in the age of Obama, and of our prospects for a postracial America.

Thomas J. Sugrue is the David Boies Professor of History and Professor of Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania. His books include Sweet Land of Liberty: The Forgotten Struggle for Civil Rights in the North and The Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit (Princeton).

## Jennifer Lena Interview about book Banding Together

What makes country music so popular in the South? Why does heavy metal only gain traction in certain communities? Why are tweeny bop tunes the go-to music for the middle school girl population? By examining the common economic, organizational, ideological, and aesthetic traits among contemporary genres, Jennifer Lena’s book Banding Together: How Communities Create Genres in Popular Music reveals the attributes that together explain the growth of twentieth-century American popular music.

Sudhir Venkatesh interviewed Lena about the book and her work. Here is an excerpt from the interview:

Q. You are interested in factors that determine whether particular musical styles, genres, etc., will gain mass appeal — or remain circumscribed to a small niche. Have you discovered something about the process of “influence” or “contagion” that the social network scholars have ignored or underemphasized? What does your work tell us about the role of networks in shaping popular tastes?

A. The most common way for music to blow up from a small scene into global pop is for a controversy to erupt. Music history is littered with examples of “moral panics”: be-bop jazz was blamed for white-on-black race riots in the mid-1940s, just as rap music was blamed when riots erupted in Los Angeles following the Rodney King trial. In both cases, sensationalized news reports and especially a focus on the “dangerous” elements in the music attracted young people in droves. Moral panics, like magnets, repel and attract. This is also true when disputes involve dueling scenes, like the fights between “mods” and “rockers” in the U.K. in the early 1960s or the battles between fans of heavy metal and punk that played out on the pages of Creem magazine in the early 1980s. It is equally true when outsiders attack: the Parents’ Music Resource Center’s efforts to ban heavy metal and rap music resulted in those Parental Advisory stickers. When rock fans staged the infamous Disco Demolition at Comiskey Park they may have kept disco in the limelight for an extra year.

In my book, I try to understand popular tastes, but also niche communities. By looking at how the communities that support music grow and change (or wither and die), I realized that people’s tastes depend as much on the characteristics of the community as the music being played. Some people are into local music scenes because they like to interact with the musicians and other fans on a regular basis. They like that ticket prices are low and that the music is relatively unknown outside of their core group. They’re so invested in this kind of relationship with music that they’re open to different styles.

In contrast, the global pop music experience is almost totally mediated by screens—blogs and music videos, for example—and most Pop fans have no unmediated interaction with the performers. Even concerts rely on screens to make the performance visible. In other words, the fan who prefers local, “underground,” or “independent” rap music has different tastes than the fan of pop rap, and that difference doesn’t reside only in the songs.

On the face of it, this is counter-intuitive. We tend to think about taste as being all about aesthetic style, but ask someone what kind of music they like and they are likely to say, “Oh, I like a little of everything.” Of course, we don’t actually like all music, indiscriminately. Instead we choose what bluegrass we like, or what kind of rock appeals to us based on our preference for one kind of music community over another.

Check out the full interview here.

## A Mix-tape for Our President

An Election wrap-up from Jennifer Lena, author of Banding Together: How Communities Create Genres in Popular Music

“A wise man once said, “never discuss philosophy or politics in a disco environment.”” Frank Zappa interview with Grace Slick on Rockplace (11 February 1984)

In celebration of the end of a long election season, I created this mixtape for our returning President, Barack Obama. For those who have never heard of a mixtape, they are compilations of songs designed for a particular purpose (e.g., as a romantic gesture, to celebrate an accomplishment). The term derives from the 1980s when cassette tapes were the medium in use, although music fans now create mixtapes on CDs and on social media platforms like Spotify.  The thematic link between the songs listed below are the issues our new (and returning) President is likely to consider during his next term in office. The list isn’t exhaustive, and I’ve balanced the thematic relevance of each song with its aesthetic quality and my desire to highlight examples of excellent pop music. Where possible, I’ve included a recording of the song, but readers should note that some songs include profanity and should listen to them before playing the songs around children.

1. “Letter to my countrymen,” Brother Ali (Mourning in America and Dreaming in Color, 2012).

“I used to think I hated this place/Couldn’t wait to tell the president straight to his face.” Brother Ali, and many other Americans, enter Obama’s second term feeling as if the American Dream has slipped through their fingers in recent years, or never thought it was their dream to have. Ali’s song is a hopeful and mature response to the disappointments of life in America—eight lines in, he admits: “I wanna make this country what it says it is.” He’s concerned about the corrosive effects of two myths: that of American exceptionalism, and of meritocracy and individual achievement. In the lingering wake of the Occupy movement, and while we are still in what some call America’s “Second Gilded Age,” the President need to lead us in a conversation about privilege—whether it comes from the color of your skin or the class of your parents, and criticize this still-popular notion that we get up on our own.

2. “Reagan,” Killer Mike (R.A.P. Music, 2012).

Obama faces a crisis of legitimacy in some parts of our country. You might argue this is a problem that Nixon created, but this particular president continues to face challenges from Birthers, those who doubt his Christian faith, despair from his handling of the economy (and from a rogue’s gallery of conspiracy theorists with some truly odd ideas).  Rapper Killer Mike lost his faith in the presidency in the 1980s, a transformation he describes in a song titled “Reagan.” Using two audio samples from Regan’s denial and later acceptance of his administration’s exchange of arms-for-hostages, the song’s lyrics chart the political development of a young man watching the Iran-Contra affair and then the war on drugs, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan…and at each step, his distrust of, and anger against, the government grow stronger. The lyrics speak to a number of issues the new president must consider, but it’s strongest and longest attack is reserved for the culture of incarceration: “thanks to Reaganomics, prisons turned to profits/Cause free labor is the cornerstone of US economics.” America leads the world in incarcerating its citizens. According to one estimate, we had 5% of the world’s population in 2008, but a full quarter of its prisoners.  One in 100 American adults is in prison, and that number jumps to about 5 of every 100 adult African-American men (and 9 of every 100 black men between 25-40).   The incarceration of citizens affects not only the criminal and his family, but also taxpayers: the costs of incarcerating so many Americans are enormous. By one estimate, California spent \$4 billion more on prisons than on the state college systems in 2011. It costs that state less than \$10,000 a year to educate a student, while housing, policing, and (hopefully) reforming a prisoner costs over \$45,000 per inmate.

3. “Watching the Detectives,” Elvis Costello and the Attractions (My Aim is True, 1977)*.

Privacy laws have arguably not kept up with technology, and the post-9/11 era has been one in which politicians must balance citizens’ civil liberties against the value of new police technologies designed to keep us safe.  In recent months, the ACLU is among those organizations and citizen’s groups that have appeared before government panels to take a stand against these threats, including warrantless wiretapping, domestic drones, and face recognition technology. The new President should consider these issues while listening to Elvis Costello and the Attractions, 1977 hit song “Watching the Detectives.”

*“Watching the Detectives” was released as a UK single in October 1977, but wasn’t on the album; in the U.S. version of the album, it was the last track on the A-side.

4. “Price Tag,” Jesse J (Who You Are, 2011); “It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding),” Bob Dylan (Bringing It All Back Home, 1965).

One of the more controversial legal decisions in recent years was “Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.” The new president will consider campaign finance reform and challenges to the notion of corporate “personhood” from those who think money is not speech. For a soundtrack to this discussion, I recommend Jesse J’s huge hit song “Price Tag:” “Seems like everybody’s got a price/ I wonder how they sleep at night/ When the sale comes first and the truth comes second.” Or, if he’s in a more mellow mood, Bob Dylan’s just the thing to remind him that “money doesn’t talk, it swears.”

5. “The City Consumes Us,” The Delgados (Universal Audio, 2004)

According to the U.S. Census, eight out of every 10 people lived in a metropolitan area in 2010, and more than one in 10 lived in either New York or Los Angeles.  We might think America’s culture is defined by its heartland, it’s “breadbaskets,” or its “prairies,” but most of us live in concrete jungles. “Watch how the city consumes us,” sing the Delgados, “Watch how the city destroys us,” and yet, it is a “cost I am happy to pay.” The list of great songs about cities is too long to share, but here are some of my runners-up: (1) the live version of Mano Negra’s “Guayakill City,” (2) Brazilian Girls, “Internacional,” (3) “Chocolate City,” Parliament, (4) almost the entire Jay Z catalog including “Heart of the City (Ain’t No Love),” and, of course, “Empire State of Mind,” (5) “Living for the City” (Stevie Wonder), (6) “Every Ghetto, Every City,” Lauryn Hill, (7) “Detroit Rock City” (Kiss), and (8) “Welcome to the Jungle” by Guns n’ Roses, perhaps the best song ever written about Los Angeles.

6. “Disparate Youth,” Santigold (Master of My Make-Believe, 2012)

Although Santigold’s 2012 single “Disparate Youth” is not a commentary on climate change, it is one of the changes she despairs in this tremendously good song. “Don’t look ahead, there’s stormy weather/ Another roadblock in our way/But if we go, we go together/Our hands are tied here if we stay.” According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, we can expect temperature rises, more frequent heavy rainfall events, more serious summer-drying and drought, less snow and sea-ice, and the retreat of glaciers and ice-caps.  Our hands are tied if we stay.

7. “All Falls Down,” Kanye West (The College Dropout, 2004)

Remember when George Bush told us that the best response to 9/11 was to fly and go on vacations? Now that millions of Americans have found themselves unable to afford their mortgages, the time is right to have a national discussion about consumer spending and debt. America’s consumer debt rose to \$13 trillion in the second quarter of 2012, just \$2 trillion shy of our country’s total yearly economic output.  Kanye West has a message for our new president, in his 2004 song “All Falls Down:” “It seems we living the American dream/But the people highest up got the lowest self esteem/The prettiest people do the ugliest things/For the road to riches and diamond rings/We shine because they hate us, floss cause they degrade us/We trying to buy back our 40 acres/And for that paper, look how low we a’stoop”

8. “Fire Fire,” M.I.A. (Arular, 2005)

The U.S. Census Bureau set the official poverty rate in America at 15.1% in 2010, with over 46 million of our nation’s citizens falling below that threshold. Our president might heed the concerns of British-Sri Lankan-American pop artist M.I.A., who has developed a reputation as a voice of the poor and oppressed. Any one of the songs from her chart-topping 2005 album Arular, 2007’s effort Kala or 2010’s Maya would provide our new president with a frank examination of poverty and its consequences on political activity, daily life, gender relations, and family. “Fire Fire” is one song that warns of the dark side of poverty: the militarization of the poor—a theme that reflects M.I.A.’s concern about the persecution of her native Tamil people, and echoes themes in contemporary Americans’ concern about Islamic fundamentalism: “You shoulda been good to me,” M.I.A. sings, in the persona of a young rebel, “Then I wouldn’t get so rowdy rowdy/ You shoulda kept ya eye on me/ Then I wouldn’t get so baddy baddy.”

9. “Once in a Lifetime,” Talking Heads (Remain in the Light, 1981)

The Baby Boomer generation is aging, and the Census estimates the dependency ratio (the number of people 65 and older to every 100 people under 65) will climb rapidly in these two decades (from 22 to 35).  By 2030, one in five Americans will be over 65. David Byrne fronts the Talking Heads in their classic song about change, and time, and getting older: “Time isn’t holding us, time isn’t after us/Time isn’t holding us, time doesn’t hold you back.” If you prefer something with more…jazz fingers…try Tom Lehrer’s “When You Are Old and Grey.” The president will, of course, consider the impact of our rapidly aging baby boom generation on health care policy, and for this, I suggest Loudon Wainwright III’s “My Meds.”

I’ve considered adding a song to speak to the issues faced by Hispanic-Americans; only Mexico (112 million) has a larger Hispanic population than the United States (50.5 million in 2010) and that population is expected to grow to over 130 million by July 2050.  Of course, our education system is perennially the subject of public discussion, along with our financial and immigration systems, and the problem of bullying and self-inflicted harm in the LGBTQ community (especially among the young), to name a few of many issues.

Our second term President faces an extraordinary number of challenges, which I’ve only started to address in the above. I need at least another five songs to finish my playlist—what should they be?

This post was inspired by Dorian Warren and includes suggestions from R. L’Heureux Lewis, and Daniel Radosh.