More information on this album can be found at Discogs.
Over the past few months, I had the wonderful opportunity to work with the Hellmuth Wolff Organ Collection at the Marvin Duchow Music Library. My work involved sorting and describing the various items in the Collection such as organ plans, photographs, and other textual documents associated with the activities of the organ building firm Wolff & Associés.
Hellmuth Wolff (1937-2013) was an important and respected organ builder who took a leading role in the revival of historical organ building practices in North America in the early 1960s. Born in Switzerland, he studied and apprenticed in Europe and the United States before he immigrated to Canada in 1963 to work for the company Casavant Frères in St-Hyacinthe, Quebec. In 1968 he established his own atelier, Wolff & Associés, in Laval, and started a productive and influential career as a builder of historically-informed tracker organs. Between 1968 and 2008, Wolff designed, built, and installed fifty instruments in churches, universities, concert halls, and homes across North America.
The Collection, which is now located and available for consultation at the Marvin Duchow Music Library, consists of organ plans, pamphlets, concert information, photographs, posters, three-dimensional models, periodicals, and correspondence that document the industriousness of Wolff’s workshop, which was active from 1968 until 2012. Of great importance are the organ plans for nearly all of the fifty organs that Wolff built. These range from preliminary sketches to large-scale drawings, and thus form a unique opportunity to study the development of mechanical organ building in North America. The plans also attest to the mastery of Wolff’s craft, as the art of organ building requires a sophisticated familiarity with several disparate fields such as music history, acoustics, architecture, art history, and engineering. Notable organs that Wolff produced include the beautiful instrument at Redpath Hall on the McGill campus, which was completed in 1981, as well as the instrument at Christ Church Cathedral in Victoria BC, completed in 2006.
My work also involved curating the exhibition “Hubert Bédard and Hellmuth Wolff: Visionaries of the Early Keyboard Revival,” which will be on display at the Marvin Duchow Music Library until December. This exhibit, which was coordinated with Historical Keyboard Society of North America’s annual Conference held at McGill in May, was meant to showcase some of the items in the Hellmuth Wolff Organ Collection. This involved digitizing and reproducing several of the organ plans, as well as choosing photographs, CDs, and pamphlets for the exhibition.
The Hellmuth Wolff Organ Collection provides invaluable insight into the style, construction, and installation of the fifty organs produced by Wolff & Associès over the span of forty years. The Collection is thus an indispensable resource for not only documenting the evolution of Wolff’s style, but also for capturing the activities of a pioneer in the historical keyboard revival and the building of tracker organs in North America.
In celebration of UNESCO’s World Day for Audiovisual Heritage, the Marvin Duchow Music Library’s Audiovisual Archives opened its doors on Monday, October 27, inviting visitors to learn more about its collections and services, as well as its ongoing preservation efforts.
In addition, special guests Gaétan Pilon and Meggie Savard from the Musée des Ondes Emile Berliner provided a wealth of information regarding the museum’s preservation and conservation efforts, while regaling us with stories of Montreal’s unique audio heritage.
As the preservation of unique performances on obsolete formats is of global concern, the McGill Audiovisual Archives plays a vital role in providing continued access to its unique collection for current and future students, teachers and scholars. In order to shed some light on the precariousness of some of these audiovisual formats, visitors were invited to view a display showcasing a sample of audio and video objects of interest.
Here, we see a few items showing various degrees of deterioration: the long-term effects of fingerprints on a shellac 78 disc, the delamination of an aluminum-based lacquered transcription disc, as well as a CD showing signs of “bronzing”, a form of CD rot.
Unstable formats, deteriorating materials, scarcity of playback equipment and parts in addition to qualified repair technicians are but some of the challenges audiovisual archivists are faced with when it comes to preserving content stored on the multitude of formats typically found in their care.
The open door event in celebration of the World Day for Audiovisual Heritage provided us an opportunity to share with our peers, students and faculty the importance of these preservation initiatives as we continue our efforts to ensure the accessibility of our audiovisual collections for generations to come.
Paul Helmer’s Growing with Canada Collection is now preserved in the Marvin Duchow Music Library’s special collections room and is available for consultation. For detailed information about the Collection, please refer to the finding aid on the McGill Music Library website. Certain restrictions apply.
Paul Helmer’s Growing with Canada Collection consists of material gathered by former Schulich School of Music Associate Professor of Musicology, Dr. Paul Helmer for his book, Growing with Canada: The Émigré Tradition in Canadian music, published by McGill-Queen’s University Press in 2009. The Collection contains original documentary evidence including interview transcripts and recordings, as well as Dr. Helmer’s notes and drafts for Growing with Canada and copies of primary and secondary sources.
Growing with Canada is an account of the lives and legacy of 121 musicians who emigrated from Europe to Canada between 1933 and 1948. Fleeing racial and political persecution in their home countries, these individuals made a lasting contribution to Canadian music. Paul Helmer’s Growing with Canada Collection, then, constitutes an important resource for research in Canadian music culture of the twentieth century. Of particular interest are the interview transcripts described by Robin Elliot, Jean A. Chalmers Chair in Canadian Music at the University of Toronto, as “an invaluable resource of national importance.” The Collection also contains Helmer’s edited transcripts (originally intended to be published in a second volume), audio recordings, and biographical information for each “émigré” musician discussed.
Dr. Helmer’s research files contain many gems for the scholar or the performer interested in Canadian music of the post-war period. As a performing musician, for example, I find Paul Helmer’s diary of notes from his studies with Béla Böszörmenyi-Nagy at the Banff School of Fine Arts in the summer of 1952 particularly fascinating.
For those interested in the development of post-secondary music education in Canada, there are extensive files on Helmut Blume and Arnold Walter. These two musicians revitalised the Faculties of Music of McGill University and the University of Toronto, respectively, laying the foundation for growth and prosperity in the following decades.
Another important subject broached in Growing with Canada is the internment of “enemy aliens” by the British and Canadian governments during World War II. An unpublished collection of internment camp chronicles by Hans Kaufman entitled “Behind Barbed Wire” sheds light on the lives of internees.
Most importantly, however, the Collection contains the voices of European émigrés who fled racial and political persecution and found a new home in Canada.
The Marvin Duchow Music Library invites those who wish to consult Paul Helmer’s Growing with Canada Collection to contact Cynthia Leive, Head Music Librarian.
 Helmer uses the word “musician” here “in its widest sense to include not only vocal and instrumental performers, teachers and educators, conductors, and composers, but also music administrators, musicologists, ethnomusicologists, lexicographers, broadcasters, managers and music patrons.” See Paul Helmer, Growing with Canada: The Émigré Tradition in Canadian Music (Montreal-Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press), 4.
 Paul Helmer’s Growing with Canada Collection, Box 1, S.1/F.1, i, Marvin Duchow Music Library, McGill University, Montréal, Québec.
Submitted July 28, 2014 by Eric Braley.
In my first few weeks as audiovisual archivist at the Marvin Duchow Music Library, I’ve had the pleasure of becoming acquainted with the archives and the vast array of projects that await within; from sorting through stacks of audio/visual material (various tapes, LPs and 78s) and assessing the digitization and dissemination of 10 inch 78 RPM jazz recordings, to planning the ongoing preservation and conservation of our collections. There is much to be done and much to be shared. Being given the keys to the archives is like being granted access to a musical Shangri-la. Discoveries abound and possibilities seem endless, much to this archivist’s delight.
In our trust are some impressive collections including the David Edelberg Handel Collection, the world’s most complete collection of Handel long-playing recordings, as well as the Noel Vallerand Collection of Gustav Mahler and Richard Wagner recordings.
One of the projects we are currently working on involves a unique collection which belonged to the late Ted Comben, head of the jazz department of the much-lamented Sam the Record Man store, formerly located a few short blocks away from the Library on Ste. Catherine Street. Tucked into the one of the shelves among the LPs, was a copy of Mr. Comben’s obituary, paying tribute to this iconic and notoriously acerbic jazz buff.
Working our way through the collection in order to eventually bring it all to the public’s eyes and ears, we find some top rate jazz LPs such as Thelonius Monk’s Five by Monk by Five issued on Riverside’s Contemporary Series (Thelonius Monk, piano; Thad Jones, cornet; Charlie Rouse, tenor sax; Sam Jones, bass; Art Taylor, drums) and J.J. Johnson’s Dial J.J. 5 released on Columbia (J.J. Johnson, trombone; Bobby Jaspar, tenor sax, fl & cl; Tommy Flanagan, piano; Wilbur Little, bass; Elvin Jones, drums).
Part of the fun of going through collections is finding bits and pieces of related material, as well as some choice recordings. Among the great LPs in Mr. Comben’s vast collection were a few quirkier selections such as this gem, from Dr. Samuel J. Hoffman dubbed “Haunting themes for the Theremin… an unforgettable musical experience.”
After an early start as a violinist under the name Hal Hope, Dr. Hoffman (a podiatrist by trade), went on to become an accomplished thereminist, recording on various soundtracks (Spellbound, The Day the Earth Stood Still, The Thing from Another World, etc.) as well as releasing three albums under his own name.
This LP features two of these three albums: Music Out of the Moon (1947) with works composed by Harry Revel and arranged by Les Baxter, and Music for Peace of Mind (1950) with works composed by Revel, and arranged by Billy May.
Part lushly-orchestrated lounge jazz, part ethereal mood music, this is the stuff space-aged easy listening dreams are made of. In fact, Music Out of the Moon is reported to have been brought by Neil Armstrong on Apollo 11…
Did you know the Music Library has a theremin expert on staff? David Curtis could tell you more about the history of this unique and historically important early electronic instrument.
In 2000 the Association of College and Research Libraries published a document, “Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education,” which quickly became the foundation of 21st-century library instruction. That document is now undergoing a radical revision.
The old standards define “the information literate individual” as someone who can identify when information is required; efficiently locate relevant, high quality information to address this need; and incorporate new information ethically into her own creation. A lengthy checklist of specific practices draw a composite sketch of this individual. To mention only 3 of the over 50 characteristics, the information literate student “confers with instructors and participates in class discussions,” “identifies keywords, synonyms and related terms for the information needed,” and “legally obtains, stores, and disseminates text, data, images, or sounds.”
These standards have been incredibly useful for librarians as they collaborate with faculty to arm students for success in the information age, but as my examples above may suggest, they could also raise obstacles. They are extremely prescriptive and task-oriented. Given the number of habits the information literate student is meant to adopt, the challenge of producing one at the end of 4 years of post-secondary education was well nigh impossible. The concept of information literacy was rigidly contained within its hierarchy of standards, performance indicators, and outcomes.
The proposed new framework, now available in 2 draft sections, takes an entirely different tack. It adopts the pedagogical approach of “threshold concepts.” Threshold concepts are (to quote the glossary found at the end of the 1 draft document) “core or foundational concepts that, once grasped by the learner, create new perspectives and ways of understanding a discipline or challenging knowledge domain.” Instead of dictating a master set of skills that defines the information literate person, the new framework presents 6 fundamental ideas that act as the passage from novice to expert in the understanding of our information environment. These are:
- Scholarship is a conversation
- Format as process
- Research as inquiry
- Searching is strategic
- Authority is constructed and contextual
- Information as commodity (This concept has not yet been released but was mentioned at the recent online consultation held by the chairs of the ACRL task force charged with the revisions, Craig Gibson and Trudi E. Jacobson.)
What’s reassuring is that all these concepts already percolate through the instruction I do at McGill thanks in large part to the exemplary models of my colleagues in the Schulich School of Music faculty. “Scholarship is a conversation” is one of the core principles music students are introduced to in first-year history classes. One of my favourite exercises with students explores threshold concept #2. We brainstorm as many sources of information useful to the music scholar and I shock them with the admission that as a librarian I can see value in all of them. There’s information to be gained from any source – from the shoddiest vanity press publication to the most authoritative peer-reviewed title – it all depends on knowing one’s question, critically evaluating the sources and their relevance to the question, and deploying the evidence in a reasoned way in whatever new creation one produces as a result of the inquiry. i also love exploring the mechanisms (for example, comparing the peer review process with Wikipedia’s “world brain” philosophy) that shape the information we take in daily.
So while the information literacy conversation shifts – for the better I hope – the fundamentals remain surprisingly consistent. I look forward to more conversations on this topic with my colleagues at McGill, across the country (here’s a shout-out to Laura Snyder’s forthcoming presentation on “Threshold Concepts and Information Literacy for Music” at this year’s CAML conference), and internationally through MLA (here’s hoping the Public Services Committee’s plenary proposal on the revised ACRL framework and the future of MLA’s own “Information Literacy Instructional Objectives for Undergraduate Music Students” is accepted…)
Le sacre du printemps, the brilliant, game-changing ballet that sprang from the collective efforts of composer Igor Stravinsky, choreographer Vaslav Nijinsky, conductor Pierre Monteux, designer Nicholas Roerich, impresario Sergey Diaghilev and the dancers of Les Ballets russes turns 100 today. At the premiere, the modernist rhythms, harmonies and dance movements brought to life the “primitive,” ritualistic Tableaux de la Russie païenne [Scenes of Pagan Russia] and in the process shocked many and divided public opinion. Today, this seminal work is widely appreciated and universally recognized for its influence on classical music and dance.
In 1987, the Joffrey Ballet staged the first full revival of the 1913 production turning to the research of dance and design historians Millicent Hodson and Kenneth Archer to recreate the original choreography, costumes and scenic elements. Two videos in the Music Library’s collection explore their work: Stravinsky and the Ballets russes [DVD 1915] and The search for Nijinsky’s Rite of spring [DVD 1537]. The Mariinsky Theatre staging of the same production is also recommended viewing.
Newcomers to Le sacre may also be entertained by the 2005 BBC film Riot at the Rite and A Riotous Premiere – Igor Stravinsky: The Rite of Spring presented by Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra [DVD 1536 and on the SFSO website].
For the scholar, there are many resources available including Pieter C. Van den Toorn’s Stravinsky and the Rite of spring: the beginnings of a musical language [ML410 S932 V38 1987, ebook version (McGill access only)] and the Stravinsky chapter of Thomas Forrest Kelly’s First nights: five musical premieres [ML63 K44 2000]. Researchers can also arrange to consult the Music Library’s copy of Boosey & Hawkes’ 1969 facsimile edition of the score [ML96.5 S865] and will soon have access to the Centenary edition of Le Sacre du printemps consisting of 3 volumes: the autograph fair copy, the version for piano four hands and a collection of studies entitled Avatar of Modernity.
Every April, the Pulitzer Prizes for excellence in American journalism and arts are announced. The music award is given “[f]or distinguished musical composition by an American that has had its first performance or recording in the United States during the year.” This year’s winner is multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, and composer Caroline Shaw, who at age 30 is the youngest recipient in the award’s history. Her work, Partita for 8 Voices, was developed in collaboration with the new music ensemble Roomful of Teeth (which includes recent McGill graduate Esteli Gomez) and incorporates a broad range of vocal styles from Inuit and Tuvan throat singing to pop vocals and traditional American hymn singing. You can find the piece on Shaw’s site (both recording and score excerpts). Listen to the entire Roomful of Teeth recording on Naxos Music Library. The first live performance (2009) of Movement IV: Passacaglia is captured on YouTube.
Submitted by Kimberly White
“The most significant feature of the emergent popular music industry of the late 18th and early 19th centuries was the extent of its focus on the commodity form of sheet music.”
What might a romance by Loïsa Puget, a lied by Franz Schubert, a mélodie by Victor Massé, a quadrille by Strauss Jr., a piano-vocal arrangement of grand opéra and a chanson by Edmond Lhuillier all have in common? They were all produced as popular sheet music, printed by the thousands and disseminated widely throughout 19th century France. But who purchased this music? In what kinds of venues might these pieces have been performed? What do the musical, textual, and iconographic characteristics reveal of the various sub-cultures represented by these heterogeneous works?
The McGill Music Library’s collection of 19th century French sheet music through its intermingling of “high” and “low” art as well as its broad representation of a wide spectrum of musical styles should be able to provide some of the answers. The collection contains well over 3,000 pieces ranging from the 1820s to the early 1900s. Comprising genres from the romance to the mélodie, as well as chansonnettes and chansons from the earliest cafés-concerts in the 1840s-50s to those pieces sung in the music-halls beginning in the 1860s and even in the cabarets artistiques in the 1880s, the collection offers scholars an exceptional opportunity to trace the origins and development of several of these popular music genres and sub-genres. With such a large sample of pieces determining the characteristics of the music, texts, subjects, performance styles and venues should vastly enhance understanding of popular forms of music in 19th century France.
Salon culture—those semi-private, semi-public concert-gatherings given in the homes of the aristocracy, the rich bourgeoisie and professional musicians—is well represented by the large number of works in the collection by well-known romance and mélodie composers, such as Loïsa Puget, Amédée de Beauplan, Hippolyte Monpou, Louis Clapisson, Albert Grisar, Jacques Offenbach, Victor Massé, and J.B. Weckerlin. Often disparaged as “easy music,” these genres provide a fascinating glimpse into the cultural constructions of femininity and masculinity, social mores such as marriage, fidelity and inheritance as well as contemporary perceptions of the oriental “Other.” Those wishing to explore the ways music engages with social and political upheaval, might turn to the chansons and chansonnettes performed in the cafés-concerts, in music-halls and in the cabarets artistiques. In this repertoire, one can find some of the patriotic music composed in response to France’s humiliating defeat after the Franco-Prussian conflict of 1870-71, as well as examples of the chansons réalistes made popular by the singer Aristide Bruant (1851-1925), who sang of the plight of the working classes and the gritty reality of Parisian street life. Finally, there are a host of genres like the scène comique, performed by singing actors from Parisian boulevard theatres, that have received little—if any—scholarly attention.
Overall, this sheet music collection promises to open up new avenues of research on the social and cultural “work” of 19th century sheet music as well as reveal issues of genre, performing contexts, and the various actors involved in the creation and dissemination of the music (performers, composers, librettists, publishing houses, music-hall and café-concert owners, etc.).
As a recent PhD graduate in musicology at McGill, my job is to evaluate the collection, collaborate with the library staff to develop a system for cataloging the pieces and to write research articles on the collection. After only three weeks of digging, the music of interest to me has rapidly grown in number to the hundreds. From my initial survey, I’ve decided to channel my research interests to two areas. The first examines how the sheet music industry capitalized on the celebrity of popular opera stars for marketing purposes and the ways singers, in turn, used popular song as promotional tools and to fashion their public image. I will be presenting a paper on this topic at the Canadian University Music Society Conference in Victoria, B.C., in June 2013. My second research topic will focus on changing perceptions towards women’s work throughout the 19th century, as revealed by a marked shift in tone in the text, music and iconography of sheet music produced after 1850.
Please stay tuned for more information on this exciting collection.
 Richard Middleton and Peter Manuel, “Popular music,” Grove Music Online, Oxford Music Online (Oxford University Press, accessed February 28, 2013).