Tag Archive | Music/Musical Instruments

Object: Doll

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Unknown date, likely 20th Century
Materials: Cloth, hair, Ceramic

Chikanobu Toyohara, Foxfires, 1898.The print depicts Yaegaki-hime carrying the helmet of the warrior Shingen as she dances amidst magical foxfires.  Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Chikanobu Toyohara, Foxfires, 1898.The print depicts Yaegaki-hime carrying the helmet of the warrior Shingen as she dances amidst magical foxfires. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

This Japanese doll is a depiction of princess Yaegaki-Hime, the heroine of a five-act drama called Honcho Nijushiko or The 24 Models of Filial Piety. This drama was originally preformed in 1766 as a Bunraku, a Japanese puppet theater originating in Osaka, and then became a popular drama in the live acting Kabuki theater. The character of the princess Yaegaki-Hime has gained fame through the Bunraku and Kabuki plays. The Yaegaki-Hime doll presented depicts her holding the legendary helmet that had been gifted to a samurai lord named Takeda Shingen by a fox god called Suwa Myojin. The helmet is enchanted to protect the samurai who wears it so that the samurai will always win and, when in need, the helmet would summon 808 foxes to protect the owner. In the famous scene of heroinism, Yaegaki saves her lover, Katsuyori, from the wrath of her father. He had sent two men to kill Katsuyori because of a family feud, Yaegaki prayed there was something she could do and mourned for her lover. She touched the enchanted helmet and became possessed by its power, with the protection of two white foxes she ran across a frozen lake to warn Katsuyori. The climax of both Bunraku and Kabuki plays is Yaegaki’s dance as she becomes possessed by the fox spirit and saves Katsuyori. The story ends as the family feud is resolved, the lovers marry and live happily ever after.

A Japanese man plays a shamisen while another man sings. Photo by Rdsmith4, via Wikimedia Commons.

A Japanese man plays a shamisen while another man sings. Photo by Rdsmith4, via Wikimedia Commons.

In the Bunraku tradition, scenes are narrated by musical chanting with the accompaniment of a shamisen, which is a stringed instrument of the lute family. The narrator voices the characters using a unique emotional vocal style for each character, sometimes for important scenes there may be multiple narrators chanting together. The puppeteer, or chief handler, also plays a role in narrating the story with his own exaggerated facial expressions, he would operate the head and right hand while 2 assistants, dressed and hooded in black, control the left hand and lower body movement.

The tradition of puppet theater in Japan stems from 11th century traveling story tellers and may have been influenced by Central Asia. The style of puppets has evolved from simplistic, hand-less and leg-less puppets to intricate full bodied puppets with moveable mouths and eyes. Japanese puppet theater was considered a sophisticated, adult pastime and was immensely popular the during the Tokugwa, or Edo, Period (1600-1868). The Japanese puppet theater did not gain the name ‘Bunraku’ until the late 18th century, it derives from the troupe established by Uemura Bunrakuken in Osaka, Japan. The plays for the puppet theater were written playbooks, published in authorized editions and, at the height of the puppeteering tradition over 1,000 plays were written and performed.

A new type of Japanese entertainment emerged in the beginning of the 17th century called Kabuki, where women would play both male and female parts in storytelling with song and dance. Many of the stories in the original Kabuki tradition were those of everyday life however, many of the successful Bunraku plays were adapted for the Kabuki stage. During this period, when women played the roles, Kabuki was not deemed as sophisticated as its puppeteering counterpart. The themes of these stories were often comical, suggestive and the women were usually prostitutes. The Shogunate banned women from acting to discourage prostitution and became a tradition of performance with a completely male cast. [Sara Countryman, edited by Kathryn S. McCloud]

Visit the Asian Festival at the Institute of Texan Cultures on February 4th to see live performances of Asian music and dance.

Additional Resources:

Kennedy, Dennis. The Oxford Companion to Theatre and Performance. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.

Levinson, David, and Karen Christensen. Encyclopedia of Modern Asia. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2002.

Sasaguchi, Rei. “A Master of Many Voices: Living National Treasure Tells a Bunraku Classic.” The Japan Times, September 5, 2001.

Object: Mask


Opera Mask
Unknown date, likely 20th century
Materials: Paper Mache

This is a Chinese Opera mask depicting  Jian Wei, a character who appeared in the The Romance of the Three Kingdoms. This traditional Chinese drama combines historic events, and legends, from the third century AD and the civil wars after the fall of the Han Dynasty. The wars between the Shu, Wu, and Wei kingdoms spawned stories of violence, betrayal, heroism, and romance.

Jiang Wei is represented with a red, white and black three tiled face with a taijitu, or yin yang, symbol on his forehead. The colors and symbols on the face of an opera character give the audience insight to the personality of the character. Red represents loyalty and courage in Chinese culture. Because his face is mostly red, it suggests an overall positive character. The taijitu on his head tells the audience that he is a Taoist master and has an immense knowledge of the universe. Jiang Wei was a historical figure who was originally a general for the Wei kingdom but his authority was not respected so he became a general of the opposing kingdom of Shu. He later became the successor to the famed Zhang Liang, however, he betrayed the Shu kingdom by manipulating them, allowing the Wei kingdom to overthrow the Shu.

Beijing Opera "Qiujiang." Photo by KIMURA Takeshi, via Wikimedia Commons.

Beijing Opera “Qiujiang.” Photo by KIMURA Takeshi, via Wikimedia Commons.

Masks such as these have several purposes, they can be used for ceremonies, protection, festivals, and theater. In this case, the mask would be worn by an opera performer, today actors typically wear face paint rather than masks. Using paint is more difficult and requires skill, but it allows the actor to better convey emotion.

In the Chinese Opera there are four different types of roles. The first is the female role or dan usually young a maiden, elderly woman, or warrior woman. Second is the male role or , which refers to a young man, elderly man, or sheng combat warrior. Then there’s the clowns or chou which can be either male or female, the clowns are comical characters that can act as the villain or simply provide comic relief. Finally there’s the painted face roles, called jing, which are powerful male roles. The painted face characters usually include generals, villains, gods, supernatural beings, or other powerful characters. The singing style is different for the painted face roles, it requires a deep nasal voice. Their costumes are big and demand attention, with large shoulder pads and heavy fabric these characters take up a lot of space.

Actors of the Chinese Theater in Costume. Beijing, 1874. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Actors of the Chinese Theater in Costume. Beijing, 1874. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Tales like these have been an important part of Chinese literature for centuries with the opera being a form of historical education for many common, or even illiterate, Chinese peoples. However exaggerated and whimsical the operas appear, many of the  stories contain historical fact in the events and characters. The legends told in the Chinese Opera have influenced the identity of the Chinese culture and people. During the mid-nineteenth century, China was in increasing contact with Europe though many western explorers. Europeans journeyed to China to learn about and study the Chinese culture, spread religion, or secure trade routes. The Chinese identity was challenged by the sudden and immense exposure to western society. The traditional tales performed in the opera encouraged and reinforced the Chinese identity. On an international level Chinese Americans brought the Peking Opera to America when there was an increase in immigration in due to the 1849 gold rush. The Chinese have used opera to continue and spread their legends and history. Today the Chinese Opera can be found in countries across the world and has influenced modern media. Chinese themes, stories, and characters play parts in video games like Dynasty Warriors, novels like Journey to the West, comic books, and some have been adapted into full-length feature films. [Sara Countryman, edited by Kathryn S. McCloud]

Don’t forget that the Asian Festival at the Institute of Texan Cultures will be February 4th!

Additional Resources:

Lei, Daphne Pi-Wei. Operatic China: Staging Chinese Identity Across the Pacific. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006.

Mackerras, Colin. Peking Opera. Hong Kong: Oxford University Press, 1997.

Siu, Wang-Ngai, and Peter Lovrick. Chinese opera: images and stories. Vancouver : Seattle: UBC Press, University of Washington Press, 1997.

Texas Folklife Festival is next weekend!

2016 TFF card

The 45th annual Texas Folklife Festival is just around the corner, don’t forget to get your tickets! Advance tickets can be purchased HERE. This year the ITC has collaborated with VIA Metropolitan Transit, Lyft, and B-Cycle to help everyone get to the festival with reduced fares and park-and-ride service from Crossroads Mall.

In addition to all the great music, dancing and food you’ve come to expect from Folklife over the years the museum is adding some great new attractions to the event. Be sure to check out the new El Zócalo, a specially curated area by Chef Johnny Hernandez. It will include Mexican artisans, food demonstrations by chefs from Culinary Institute of America and  Pharm Table, as well as a a pop-up of El Machito.

Don’t miss out on this great RAIN OR SHINE event, June 10th-12th at the Institute of Texan Cultures.

Asian Festival this Saturday!


Image via: Institute of Texan Cultures, Asian Festival 2015

Be sure to stop by the Institute of Texan Cultures this Saturday for all the great music, entertainment, and FOOD at Asian Festival!

Park and ride service will be offered to Asian Festival from the Crossroads Park and Ride, and service will begin at 9:15 a.m. and will run until 5:30 p.m.

Uber is also offering a special promotion for the festival. Sign up for Uber and insert the promo code TXASIAN to receive up to $20 off your trip! This promotion is for first time riders only and you can get started here! If you’ve already taken your first Uber trip, share this promotion with friends and family so that they can enjoy their first ride. This promo doesn’t expire until 2/29/16.

Don’t forget to order your Asian Festival tickets!

2016 Asian Festival card with time1

Asian Festival tickets are on sale now! Call 210-458-230, or click here, to get yours today.

Object: Record

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Record, Phonograph
Diana Ross and the Supremes with the Temptations
Materials: Paper/Ink/Plastic

This object is a 33-rpm record album stored in the original record jacket for T.C.B. featuring music from the television special of the same name. T.C.B. stands for ‘Taking Care of Business’ and aired December 9, 1968 on NBC.  This was the first of two television specials that starred Diana Ross and the Supremes with the Temptations. The broadcast was nominated for a Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Electronic Production. The record of the original soundtrack knocked the Beatles out of the number #1 LP sales slot.

From the left: Mary Wilson, Diana Ross, and Cindy Birdsong; December 22, 1967

From the left: Mary Wilson, Diana Ross, and Cindy Birdsong; December 22, 1967. Via Wikimedia Commons

Diana Ross (born Diane Earle), Mary Wilson, and Florence Ballard met while living in Detroit’s Brewster housing project.  Due to segregation, African-Americans were obligated to live in separate parts of the city from Anglo-American citizens, often in unsafe conditions. In response to the need for safer housing, Brewster Homes broke ground in 1933 as the first federally funded housing project for African-Americans. The original property featured several town-homes. Eventually in the 1950’s the homes were converted into six towers called the Frederick-Douglass Towers with 14 stories each. The initial process to approve residency was highly selective. Residents were required to meet a number of requirements like income standards and marital status. However, as early as the 1960’s the process became less rigid. As more people moved to the suburbs and as racial tensions increased, the Brewster projects fell into decline. They experienced high levels of drug and criminal activity. The buildings themselves started to fall apart. By 2008 the towers were no longer occupied by any residents and in 2014 the buildings were torn down.

After meeting, the girls formed a quartet, first including Betty McGlown and then Barbara Martin as teenagers. The group was named The Primettes because they started as a sister act to The Primes. Two members of The Primes, Eddie Kendrichs and Paul Williams, later formed the Temptations. Originally, Florence Ballard was the lead singer of the Primettes. However, as time moved on, it was Diana Ross who eventually became the leader the group.

The Supremes on The Ed Sullivan Show, May 1, 1966

The Supremes on The Ed Sullivan Show, May 1, 1966. Via Wikimedia Commons

The girls had their big break in January of 1961 when the group signed with an all black-owned record label, Motown Records.  They changed their name to the Supremes, and by 1964, they had received 7 gold records. Their tenth release “Where Did Our Love Go?” sold 2 million copies and became their first number one hit in the summer of 1964. The same year, they topped the charts with their songs “Baby Love” and “Come See About Me”. In fact, the group had 5 U.S. number one hits in a row between 1964 and 1965.

The Supremes were the most commercially successful female group and among the top 5 pop/rock/soul acts of the 1960’s.  They were the first group to have 5 consecutive records reach the top of the bestseller charts. During this decade the Civil Rights Movement was at its height and the Supremes were embraced as a symbol of African American achievement. They appeared multiple times on mainstream TV with guest appearances on the Tonight Show. In 1967 the group released “Reflections,” the first song to be credited with the groups new name, Diana Ross and the Supremes.

In 1969, Diana Ross left to start her solo career. She starred in several films, including Lady Sings the Blues in 1972, Mahogany in 1974, and the Wiz in 1984. In 1972, she won a Grammy for Top Female Singer and later was named female entertainer of the year. The Supremes last top 40 single after Ross left was “I’m Gonna Let My Heart Do the Walking” in 1976. Diana Ross and the Supremes were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988. No Motown act matched their success and Diana Ross and the Supremes were the second most successful singing group of their decade, next to the Beatles. [Ashton Meade, edited by Joscelynn Garcia]

Additional Resources:

Osborne, Richard. Vinyl A History of the Analogue Record. Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2012.

Rudinow, Joel. Soul Music Tracking the Spiritual Roots of Pop from Plato to Motown. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2010

Smith, Suzanne E. Dancing in the Street: Motown and the Cultural Politics of Detroit. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1999.

Mark your calendars for the 2016 Asian Festival!

2016 Asian Festival card with time1

Visit the ITC website for more information.

Object: Music Sheet

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Music, Sheet
“Texas Pride of the South”
Ella Hudson Day
20th Century
Materials: Paper

This is sheet music featuring music composed by Ella Hudson Day entitled “Texas Pride of the South.” Ella Hudson Day was born Luella Lucile Hudson in Texas and raised in the Hill County. Reportedly she started to compose piano music at the age of ten. She studied music and voice in Austin, Texas and was also known to have played a few stringed instruments. In her 20’s she taught music in San Marcos, Texas and later, Comanche, Texas. Luella married Eugene Ramsey Day on October 12, 1897. Her family was among the first to help establish Rotan, Texas in 1907. Her first composition “Quality Rag” was printed in 1909, followed by “Texas, Pride of the South” which is used in many Texas colleges and schools. Her most famous composition, “Fried Chicken” followed in 1912, and “You, Just You” in 1926. Her final composition was published in 1948, and was titled “I’m in Love With You.” Besides being a composer, she was a member of the Poetry Society of Texas, a newspaper correspondent, and represented the city of Rotan at the first Texas Centennial Celebration in Austin.

Texas has been the home and birthplace of many female composers. Among these composers was Raidie Britain, a classical composer who was based out of Silverton. Born in 1897, Raidie was educated in Chicago and Europe. By the time she was 91 years old, she had composed over 280 pieces for the orchestra, piano, organ, and chamber music. She was known to compose in a isolated canyon, seeking inspiration from the landscape of her southwest home.

Other Texan composers include Julia Frances Smith  born in Carwell, Texas in 1905. As a teenager she studied with Harold von Mickwitz at the Institute of Musical Arts in Dallas. She earned her Bachelors Degree from North Texas State Teachers College (now known as University of North Texas) in 1930 and her Masters & Doctorate degree (1933 and 1952 respectively) from Juliard. She mostly wrote classical compositions including “Waltz for Little ‘Lulu’” in 1937, the opera “Cynthia Parker” which premiered in 1939, and a composition written in honor of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s inauguration in 1965. Besides being a composer, she was an accomplished concert pianist, author, and advocate for women composers. Julia was also the chairman of the American Women Composers. After her death in 1989, her home became a part of the University of North Texas campus.

Female composer Mary Jeanne Van Appledorn was born in Holland, Michigan in 1927. She studied composition with Bernard Rogers and Alan Hovhaness at the Eastmen School of Music. There she earned a Bachelors Degree in 1948, a Masters Degree in 1950, and a Doctorate in 1966. She received several ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) awards between 1980 and 1988. In 1967 she was appointed as a teacher at Texas Tech University .

Contemporary female composer Tina Marsh was born in 1954 and was primarily based out of Austin, Texas. She was co-founder and creative director of the Creative Opportunity Orchestra Jazz ensemble. Tina also became a member of the Texas Hall of Fame as well as the Austin Arts Hall of Fame. Among her many talents, Tina was also a jazz vocalist.  [Ashton Meade, edited by Joscelynn Garcia]

Additional Resources:

Hudson, Kathleen. Women in Texas Music: Stories and Songs. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2007.

Jasinski, Laurie E., Casey J. Monahan, Gary Hartman, and Ann T. Smith. The Handbook of Texas Music. Denton, Tex: Texas State Historical Association, 2012.

Julia Smith Papers / Music Library

Object: Radio

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RCA; Atwater Kent
Materials: Wood, metal, glass

This object is an RCA radio with an Atwater Kent speaker that attaches to the radio. There are a couple of different people credited as pioneers of the radio and include Henrich Hertz, Nikola Tesla, and Guglielmo Marconi, to list a few. As technology has evolved so has the appearance and use of the radio. This particular style of radio would have been primarily used within the home. It would have been a one way transmission which means that the radio would receive a signal from the nearest broadcasting tower, but would not be able to send a signal back.

The first major wireless communications were from ships at sea to other ships or land-based stations. However, since voice transmission was not yet available these messages would be sent by coded dots and dashes also known as Morse CodeMorse Code worked by assigning letters and numbers a set of dots and dashes. Letters used often would get a simple code, while letters less used would get a more complex code. As radio correspondence between ships became more available, questions regarding correspondence were raised. A major debate at the time was the number of operators working on these ships, and after the sinking of the Titanicthe Radio Act of 1912 was passed. This act made sure that all radio operators on the ships would have licenses to operate the radios and that radios would be under constant watch 24 hours a day.


Young girl listening to the radio.

Once the long distance transmission of a human voice and music was made possible, radios started to be used as a form of entertainment. The period between the 1920s and 1930s is considered the golden age of radio. It was during this time the radio broadcast of comedies, dramas, variety shows, and popular music gathered millions of listeners. The large audience resulted from radios being made smaller and less expensive. Having a radio in the living room was as common as having a television today. Listening to the radio brought communities together and the audience also related to the heroes in the programs they listened to. Besides entertainment, the radio was used to listen to the news. One example of this was the Hindenburg disaster which was covered by radio reporter Herb Morrison. The radio was also used to listen to Franklin Roosevelt’s fireside chats, a series of presidential speeches aired on the radio. These speeches made the public feel closer to the President in a whole new way.

One popular company who produced radios was the Radio Corporation of America (RCA) which was formed in 1919 and the brand of the radio shown here. A. Atwater Kent the man who the speaker is named after, was an inventor and owner of the largest radio factory in Pennsylvania. The Atwater Kent Company produced a number of different models of radios and at one point was the world leader in radios. Kent spent more than $500,000 on advertising for his radios, at the time a huge sum, and he even had his own radio show called The Atwater Kent Hour, which was one of the most popular shows on the radio. 

As television became more popular many of the shows that people listened to on the radio moved to the television screen. However, radio has not been completely taken over by television and it is estimated that 95% of Americans listen to the radio at least once a week. As radio platforms continue to change one thing is for sure, the radio has come a long way. [Abby Goode, edited by Joscelynn Garcia]

Additional Resources:

Dalgleish, D. I. (1989). An introduction to satellite communications. London, U.K: P. Peregrinus on behalf of the Institute of Electrical Engineers.

Kahn, F. J. (1978). Documents of American broadcasting. Englewood Cliffs, N.J: Prentice-Hall.

Richter, W. A. (2006). Radio: A complete guide to the industry. New York: P. Lang.

Roosevelt, Franklin D. Fireside Chats. New York: Penguin Books, 1995.



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