Time at the top: classical vs popular music

One of the things that seems to distinguish ‘classical’ from ‘popular’ music is the fact that the same classical composers and works can remain at the top for very long periods of time – decades, even centuries – whereas popular music songs and artists can reach the top of the charts, sell millions of records, and disappear within a matter of months. But is this difference real?

Continue reading →

Music Honours

Yesterday saw the announcement of the 2019 New Year Honours in the UK, recognising those who have made a particular contribution to public life. Although we hear about Honours given to various celebrities and other well-known names, most of them are awarded to ordinary people for their service in science, education, charity work, the arts and other fields. I thought it would be interesting to investigate those given Honours for services to Music.

Continue reading →

Christmas Music

Christmas music is everywhere at the moment, so I thought I would look at the history of it. In the British Library Music Catalogue, of the one million or so total publications, almost 10,000 – very nearly 1% – have the words ‘Christmas’, ‘Noel’ or ‘Weihnacht’ in the title. This chart shows the proportion by publication date…

Proportion of festive titles in the BL’s sheet music catalogue. The white snowflakes are the proportions of Christmas works among publications in each ten year period centred on the dates shown.
Continue reading →

On the trail of Carlotta Cortopassi

Carlotta Cortopassi was one of the first ‘lost composers’ that I came across in my research into the use of statistics in music history (as described in this article), and I have often mentioned her as an example of one of the many thousands of names that have disappeared from music history. So I was delighted last week to be contacted by Mickey Cortopassi, a descendant of Carlotta and Luigi who emigrated to the USA in 1908, aged 41.

This prompted me to have another online search for her. It is always worth repeating searches from time to time, as new material comes online and search algorithms change. I managed to find two interesting things… Continue reading →

Women vs John

As part of my research into women composers, I have been playing around with first names – partly as a way of identifying genders among general lists of composers. The most common first name for female composers overall is Mary / Marie / Maria, followed by Anne, Florence, Alice, Dorothy, Elizabeth, Louise and Margaret.1

I thought it would be interesting to compare this with male composers, whose most popular first name is John / Johann / Johannes / Jean / Giovanni. Which are there more of, women, or Johns? Continue reading →

Franz Pazdírek’s Universal Handbook

Franz Pazdírek was a Viennese music publisher who, in the first decade of the twentieth century, compiled a ‘Universal Handbook of Music Literature’ – a composite catalogue of all sheet music then in print, worldwide. This ambitious undertaking (which, perhaps not surprisingly, was never repeated) was published over six years, and resulted in nineteen 600-page volumes listing music publications by 1,400 publishers covering every continent except Antarctica.  Continue reading →