Posts Tagged ‘duet’

Everly Brothers Fan Survey

October 14, 2009

I have created a survey for Everly Brothers fans, hoping to capture some interesting viewpoints and data to use in my dissertation. I was restricted to 10 questions, but I think that will be enough. If any of my fellow musicologists are listening, let me know if the questions seem reasonable or what tweaks need to be made.


Hall & Oates

October 12, 2009

Daryl Hall and John Oates are releasing a 4-CD retrospective box set of the career, which began in the late 1960s. CNN has a short article on them with audio clips if you need a refresher. I admit to listening to them a lot in junior and senior high school and maybe even a bit into the 80s, but I don’t think I ever bought their albums (as in LP…as in the near-dinosaur era). And I know I never bought their CDs (new or reissues). It’s not that I don’t think they had a good sound or that their music wasn’t important to the pop music sound and production of that era. I’ll admit that many of their melodies were quite singable. Some of their lyrics were clever–maybe not in the intellectual, high brow way, but in the roll-off-your-tongue way. But somehow their music never jolted me enough to spend money. It may have been that the production was too ornate, too studied, too controlled, and consequently too unemotional (or sometimes too cloying). Their songs resonated with a lot of people during that era and so it is important to uncover the reasons. But I think I’ll leave it for others to discover.

Because probably one reason I didn’t like them so much was there just weren’t enough opportunities to harmonize.

Best Duets Ever

October 5, 2009

A few years ago, the Telegraph published a list of the 50 best duets ever. And yes, they included one by the Everly Brothers, “Let It Be Me,” chosen, it seems, for its significant role in their reunion concert in Albert Hall in 1983.

I particularly like the “key moment” analysis included with most of the songs on the list. It is instructive to see what resonates with people about duets. The critics who compiled the list believed at the time (2003) that the duet was making a comeback, but that is because of a number of hip-hop and pop songs pair different individual stars. To me, they seem present but not together in the recording.

To complement their best-of list, of course, they also provided a worst duets ever list. No commentary, though.

Road Trip

April 17, 2009

I’m heading to NYC for a few days with my son. We plan to see a Broadway show (of course), do some of the touristy things, and eat fun and exotic foods. I’m also going to drag him to the New York Public Library so I can spend time with the Billy Rose Theatre Collection. I’m hoping to find the name of at least one duo from the minstrel or vaudeville era or to find examples of people singing duets in the shows. When I return, I’m also planning to visit the Harvard Theatre Collection in the Houghton Library. They have programs from both minstrel and vaudeville shows. Ideally I would love to find descriptions of how the duos performed, but absent that, I may be able to make some extrapolations if I know what songs, what shows, what theaters, and so on. Actually I think I have a good how idea how the vaudeville acts performed from listening to numerous recordings of duets in the Cylinder Preservation and Digitization Project at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Making the connection between American musical theater and duos

January 26, 2009
Muttering to myself…
  • Vocal duets are inherently dramatic. Two voices suggests two people. The voices interact, even if they sing in unison. That interaction defines the dramatic elements and adds a layer to the interpretation of the text. 
  • Duets can be found throughout opera and other forms of musical drama but less so in other forms of vocal art music, such as lied or chanson. Duets in American popular music are directly connected, historically and paradigmatically, to musical theater. This is due in part to the fact that popular music in America, at least until the advent of rock and roll, was intertwined with musical theater–Broadway, revues, variety, vaudeville, minstrelsy.
  • Musical theater, for a long time, provided the model (as well as the material) for the musical and rhetorical structure of duets. For example, voices in alternation suggest a dialogue. If the same text is sung by both, then two viewpoints (possibly in opposition) exist. The point at which the voices join implies a connection or a reconciliation.

Singing Duo

January 21, 2009

Singing Duo

I saw this license plate in New Hampshire. I wanted to hop out of the car and rush up to this person and ask about it, but the line of traffic behind me presented a problem.

Harmonic Convergence

January 13, 2009

According to scientists at Cornell, the mosquito Aedes aegypti harmonize when mating. The female (400 Hz) and the male (600 Hz) adjust their whines to a common frequency (1200 Hz) to create a duet.

This reminds me of the bird duet phenomena I found earlier.

Boston Theaters in the Late 19th Century

December 10, 2008


From the Boston Athenaeum website

From the Boston Athenaeum website

I’m investigating duets in minstrelsy, vaudeville, and the integrated musical in order to understand both the backdrop and the background for vocal duos in the rock era. I came across a wonderful site today. The Boston Athenaeum has a collection of playbills and programs from theaters in Boston during the latter portion of the nineteenth century. They have created an online database in which you can search by theater, actor, play title, and/or date. As I understand it, the database reflects their playbill holdings. In conjunction with the database and collection, they also have brief histories of each of the theaters for which they have playbills. They also have links to some local (Boston) collections, as well as others. 


Clearly a trip into town is on the horizon for me.

What I Want for Christmas

December 8, 2008

I want my qualifying exams all done and passed.

I want my proposal to be approved.

I want to make contact with people who were involved with the early days of the Everly Brothers.

I want to make contact with anyone who knew (knows) the brother duets in country music that preceded the Everly Brothers.

I want to talk to people who actually heard the Everly Brothers live or on the radio or bought their records back in the day.

I want to talk to other people who sing in duets about their experiences, how it feels, what makes it special, what makes it hard, and so on.

I want to make my family happy.

I want world peace.

I’m bound to get something from this list.

Birds Do It…

October 10, 2008

…but I don’t think bees or educated fleas do it. Sing duets, that is.

In fact, scientists study this phenomenon. With birds, dueting is believed to be either in response to agonistic acts such as territorial disputes or cooperative acts such as bonding and mating. Patricia Arrowood studied canary-winged parakeets to determine to what extent dueting is important in forming pairs. Though these parakeets exhibit cooperative dueting, Arrowood could not confirm that it is necessary to bonding; it appears duets are more critical to defense for those birds.

David Logue recently learned that black-bellied wrens perform duets in a variety of situations, such as territorial conflicts and nest building. He notes that males use duetting to locate their mates during territorial conflicts. Females respond to males with specific duet codes that do not change over time or with new mates.

Besides the agonistic response and cooperative aspects of dueting, other aspects of bird duets that have been studied include the study of geographical dialects (Wright and Dorin). But the use of duets in both war and peace, to borrow from a recent article in Science News suggests that the fundamental question of the role of duets remains the high priority.

An interesting tidbit I learned is from a spectrogram by Arrowood that shows the vocalizations of dueting pair of canary-winged parakeets. The two voices blend together and could easily be mistaken for one–an interesting survival technique. (The spectrograms can be seen on page 169 in Animal Vocal Communication: A New Approach).

While demonstrating a biological imperative for dueting is not important for my purposes, I like to consider what makes it a compelling art form from as many angles as possible.



Arrowood, Patricia Cates. “Pairing and dueting in Canary-Winged Parakeets, Brotogeris v. versicolurus P.L.S. Muller (AVES: PSITTACIDAE) (BONDING, VOCAL COMMUNICATION)”. Ph.D. diss., University of California, Davis, 1986

Logue, David M. “Duet structure and the adaptive significance of coordinated singing in the black-bellied wren”. Ph.D. diss., Colorado State University, 2004.

Milius, Susan. “Birds Duet to Fight and Seek.” Science News. Web edition, September 5, 2008.

Owings, Donald Henry and Eugene S. Morton. Animal Vocal Communication: A New Approach. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998.

Wright, Timothy F. and Melinda Dorin. “Pair Duets in the Yellow-Naped Amazon (Psittaciformes: Amazona auropalliata): Responses to Playbacks of Different Dialects.” Ethology 107, no. 2 (December 20, 2001): 111-124.