player piano

Player Pianos and the Commodification of Music

Half of all American homes had a piano or player piano a century ago, but very few do now. Whatever happened to the parlor piano?
Seven Against Thebes

“Thoughts and Prayers” in Greek Tragedy

With national tragedies now as frequent and predictable as sunrises, no phrase has lost consolatory power more swiftly than “thoughts and prayers.”
Julia Ward Howe

The Long, Winding History of the “Battle Hymn of the Republic”

Julia Ward Howe wrote her most famous poem, the legendary Civil War song, “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” in a single burst of inspiration 156 years ago.
Rudy Vallee

The Gender Politics of the First Boy Bands

Crooning, a musical style of the late 1920s and early 1930s, was fraught with gender panic. Where the singers manly enough?
Dance hall illustration

Jane Addams’s Crusade Against Victorian “Dancing Girls”

Jane Addams, a leading Victorian-era reformer, believed dance halls were “one of the great pitfalls of the city.”
Janet Jackson in concert

The Lasting Power of Janet Jackson’s “Got ‘Til It’s Gone”

Twenty years ago, Janet Jackson released her single "Got ‘Til it’s Gone." Today, we celebrate the layered artistry that led to the video's timeless appeal.
Harpsichord

Why We Will Never Hear What Mozart Heard

Modern pianos are the product of a 600-year evolution—from Hermann Poll's 1397 clavicembalum, to clavichords, harpsichords, and the modern grand piano.
Graceland facade

Was Graceland Elvis’ Greatest Aesthetic Masterpiece?

When you think of the aesthetic life of Elvis Presley, you probably think of the gaudy glitz of Graceland. But what did the tacky décor really mean?
Hormel Girls

The Singing, Dancing Hormel Girls Who Sold America SPAM

SPAM was introduced 80 years, but it was a military-style corps of singing women that helped the canned meat skyrocket in the years after World War II.
Howard square dance

The Slave Roots of Square Dancing

Square Dancing's lily-white reputation hides something unexpected: A deep African-American history that's rooted in a legacy of slavery.