Friday, December 26, 2008

Music at Hungary's National Library

Over the Thanksgiving break, the Polley music librarian was fortunate to be able to visit libraries during her vacation in Budapest. The National Szechenyi Library has it's music collection in a combined music and theater department, the reading room of which is at the right.
My hostess for the visit was the sound archivist at the National Library. She first tempted me with some manuscripts from their collections. The have a fine collection of Haydn because of the Esterhazy connection -- Haydn worked for the Esterhazy's for nearly 30 years. Some of the Haydn materials will be traveling for the 200th anniversary of Haydn's death in May 2009.
I enjoyed looking at the Dohnanyi manuscript, but the one of most interest to me as a musician was the Bartok piano sonata. Bartok had performed from that manuscript and there were performance notations, scribbled measures to facilitate page turns and measures of music inserted in "bubbles".
The National Szechenyi Library has an active digitization program for their sound materials, including historic wax cylinders and other outdated formats. In the reading room, they have extensive playback facilities, making their sound collections accessible to their users.
I truly appreciated the opportunity to visit the National Library. Hungary has a long musical tradition and the library documents it well.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Happy birthday, Giacomo

Today is the 150th anniversary of Giacomo Puccini's birth. Of course, the Polley Music Library has a special display to celebrate. We have biographies about Puccini, books about his operas, opera vocal scores and libretti, DVDs, and CDs. A few of the books on display include:

  • The Unknown Puccini
  • Puccini Without Excuses
  • Puccini and the Girl
  • The Puccini Companion
  • Monsieur Butterfly
  • The Operas of Puccini
  • Puccini: a Biography

For listening or viewing, check out the following operas:

  • La Boheme
  • Madama Butterfly
  • Tosca
  • Turandot
  • La Fanciulla del West (Girl of the Golden West)
  • Manon Lescaut
  • Gianni Schicchi
  • La Rondine
  • Suor Angelica
  • Il Tabarro
  • Edgar
  • Le Villi

Happy birthday, Giacomo!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Polley visits Budapest Music Scene

While the Polley Music Library was closed for an extended Thanksgiving holiday, the Polley music librarian was vacationing in Budapest. Wow! Budapest is a city of music.

The new Palace of Arts in the Millennium City Centre is quite spectacular. It houses the Ludwig Museum of contemporary art as well as two concert halls. The smaller hall, the Festival Theatre, is home to the National Dance Theatre, while the larger hall, the Bartok National Concert Hall, is home to the National Philharmonic. The Concert Hall seats up to 1,800 and has a state of the art acoustical system that provides almost unlimited acoustical adjustability for a wide variety of music performances. Opened in 2005, the Palace of Arts also holds smaller concerts and performances on landings outside the halls. I was fortunate to tour the Palace of Arts.

The very ornate State Opera House opened in 1884. It was designed by the Hungarian architect Miklos Ybl. I attended a wonderful performance of Minkus' ballet, La Bayadere, performed by the Hungarian National Ballet. The dancing was great, including the corps de ballet. And the orchestra down in the pit played beautifully. The music of Leopold Minkus and the choreography fit together very well. La Bayadere is one of Leopold Minkus' most renowned ballets. And there is an operetta theater close by the opera house.

I toured the Franz Liszt Academy of Music. The Academy has two concert halls, the larger one seating 1,200, and the smaller one seating about 400. These halls are part of the Budapest music scene. A quirky note: while I was there, a student orchestra was on stage rehearsing; the orchestra first tuned to A, and then the oboe gave a B flat for the brass to tune a second time.

Music is performed elsewhere in Budapest, too -- churches, museums and libraries all host concerts. And then there is an active club scene.

Lincoln, too, has an active music scene. No spectacular 19th century opera houses, but a history of music performance back to the early days of the community. Especially this time of year, there are many musical events to enjoy.

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Music of Old Nebraska, Part 2

The music of old Nebraska was made up of much more than just sheet music. Music was an important part of the life of Nebraskans, and there was an active musical culture here. Lincoln had competing schools of music. There were many performance opportunities for amateurs. And, even professionals were able to make their way as Nebraska musicians.

The Polley Music Library collection documents this musical activity with programs, photographs, and other items, a selection of which have been digitized for the Nebraska Memories digital library project of the Nebraska Library Commission.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Music of Old Nebraska

One of the ways to get sheet music these days is to find it on the web and download it or print it off, sometimes for a fee, and sometimes for free. The Polley Music Library has free sheet music from our collection available on our web page in two collections, the Polley Digital Archive and the Music of Old Nebraska project. The digitization of this music was funded by LSTA grants.

Old Age Blues has music by Jess Williams and lyrics by Pete Curtis, and dates from 1921. Jess Williams is one of the people who kept ragtime music alive, performing at the American Folklife Festival in 1976. Information about the Nebraska composers is available in an annotated composer catalog.

The collection contains many songs about Nebraska.

World War I brought the service flag, and the stars changed from blue to gold with the death of the service member.

The variety of sheet music is quite amazing. And it's all by Nebraskans or about Nebraska or Nebraskans in the Music of Old Nebraska. Check out our digitized collections.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Music of Life

This fall the Polley Music Library compiled a list of compact discs that contained both relaxing and expansive music for use with a class at the local community college. Feedback was that the music was perfect for the intended purpose. Needless to say, musical emotions and reactions are very personal, and culturally predicated. If you would like to listen to relaxing and uplifting music as the hectic time of the holiday season approaches, you might try some of the albums listed here.
  • Bell, Joshua. Voice of the violin
  • Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. Intermezzo
  • Botti, Chris. Italia
  • Curiale, Joseph. Awakening
  • Curiale, Joseph. The music of life
  • Faure, Gabriel. Pelleas et Melisande, op. 80 [and] Dolly
  • Galway, James. The Celtic minstrel
  • Grusin, Dave. The orchestral album
  • Loussier, Jacques. Jacques Loussier Trio plays Debussy
  • Ma, Yo Yo. Simply baroque
  • Morricone, Ennio. Yo Yo Ma plays Ennio Morricone
  • O'Grady, Geraldine. The lark in the clear air
  • Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. Cinema serenade
  • Rittenour, Lee. Two worlds
  • Rodrigo, Joaquin. Concerto de Aranjuez
  • Rutter, John. Distant land
  • Satie, Erik. The magic of Satie
  • Tailleferre, Germaine. Works for two pianos & piano 4-hands

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

November is Native American Heritage Month

Lincoln City Libraries celebrates Native American Heritage Month with a Native American read-in and book displays. A display in the Polley Music Library features books on the music on Native Americans. Some of those included are:

  • The art of the native American flute, by R. Carlos Nakai and James Demars

  • Choctaw music and dance, by James H. Howard and victoria Lindsay Levine

  • Flute magic: an introduction to the native American flute, by Tim R. Crawford

  • Myth, music and dance of the American Indian, by Ruth De Cesare

  • The Power of Kiowa song, by Luke E. Lassiter

  • Putting a song on top of it: expression and identity on the San Carlos Apache Reservation, by David W. Samuels

  • Songprints: the musical experience of five Shoshone women, by Judith Vander

  • Southern Cheyenne women's songs, by Virginia Giglio

  • A study of Omaha Indian music, by Alice C. Fletcher

  • War dance: plains Indian musical performance, by William K. Powers

  • We'll be in your mountains, we'll be in your songs: a Navajo woman sings, by Ellen McCullough-Brabson and Marilyn Help

Of course the library has other resources on Native American music -- compact discs and the Smithsonian Global Sounds database, to name a couple.

One of the best resources on the web for Native American music is in the American Memories project of the Library of Congress, using sources from the American Folklife Center Archives. Check out the Omaha Indian Music page.

Nebraska, too, has many ties to Indianist composers who used Native American music, through inspiration or adptation. Thurlow Lieurance, Derrick Norman Lehmer, and Charles Wakefield Cadman all spent time in Nebraska with Indianist compositional leanings. Some Indianist pieces are included in the Music of Old Nebraska project on the Polley Music Library web page.