Paul Helmer’s Growing with Canada Collection

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.

Helmer book

Growing with Canada is an account of the lives and legacy of 121 musicians who emigrated from Europe to Canada between 1933 and 1948.[1] 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.”[2] 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, Kaufman photographlaying 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.

[1] 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.

[2] 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.

Audiovisual Archives: A Room Full of History, Treasures and Curiosities

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.

J J  Johnson - Dial J J  5 (3)

Dial JJ 5,  by J.J. Johnson

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.”

Hoffman Theremin LP (3)

Music Out of the Moon and Music for Peace of Mind, by Dr. Samuel Hoffman

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.

Threshold concepts and music information literacy

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…)

 

Bonne fête Le sacre du printemps

Le sacre sketches by Valentine Gross-Hugo (1913)

Le sacre du printemps sketches by Valentine Gross-Hugo (1913)

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.

Hear the 2013 Pulitzer Prize winner for music on Naxos Music Library

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.

19th century French sheet music collection

Talazac_Chanson

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.”[1]

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.

Valse_CantatricesSalon 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.

Kimberly White


[1] Richard Middleton and Peter Manuel, “Popular music,” Grove Music Online, Oxford Music Online (Oxford University Press, accessed February 28, 2013).

Hard drives, keyboards and cameras, Oh My!

The MDML has acquired several new types of equipment for loan and already they are proving to be popular additions.

For students who need to transfer files that are too large to email, we’ve purchasd two portable external hard drives. There are two 500GB hard drives available for short term loan. These drives are intended to facilitate transfers only, so please be sure to bring your own personal storage solutions for backups and more permanent storage.

Students can also make use of our four new portable keyboards. There are two M-AUDIO KeyRig 49 and two KORG microKEY-37 USB powered MIDI keyboards available to borrow. As the names suggest, the KeyRig 49 has 49 separate velocity-sensitive keys while the microKey 37 has 37 velocity-sensitive keys.

To keep up with the ever-growing demand, the Music Library has also obtained four new handheld HD camcorders. The ZOOM Q2 HD video recorders are extremely portable, user-friendly and can shoot in 720p and 1080p for high definition recordings. The camcorders take SD, SDHC and SDXC memory cards.

Music students, faculty and staff can reserve in advance any of the equipment highlighted in this post at the service desk on the 4th floor. If reservations are not booked, the hard drives, keyboards and cameras are loaned on a first-come, first served basis.

 

 

 

BnF Music department card catalogue now searchable online

Just announced today: A significant improvement for all who are interested in research at the Music department of the Bibliothèque nationale de France. 560, 538 card catalogue records dating from the 16th century to 1991 are now searchable via the Library’s online catalogue: http://catalogue.bnf.fr. Online access just became a lot easier!

Here are more details from Laurence Decobert of the BnF:

“The ressources described – manuscript and printed music, treatises, methods, critical works, archives, programs, newspaper cuttings – entered the Library between the 16th century and 1991. They enable to study a definite work – from its conception to its reception – as well as researches on French musical life, edition and diffusion of sheet music, organology, performer’s work and social condition of musicians.

“Readers will find, among other ressources, the rich collection of canon Sébastien de Brossard (1655-1730), rare musical editions and treatises of the 15th and 16th century, the quite complete production of 19th musical French edition as well as working libraries of composers, performers or musicologists.

“This project will be presented at the next IAML Conference in Vienna by Sophie Renaudin, in charge of this retroconversion.”

Beck’s Song Reader: Recording or Score?

Coming soon to the Music Library: Beck’s latest album, Song Reader. A library user’s request brought the album to my attention. It’s a novel approach to a sound recording: Beck produces the sheet music and you, the fans, produce the performances. You can read more about the project and watch selected interpretations at www.songreader.net.

I wonder where we’ll put it in the Music Library collection. Do we respect the author’s vision of the work and classify it as sound recording or do we ignore the larger context and deal only with the portion that we collect, that is the sheet music? Then again, how is Beck’s work any different from a score produced by Beethoven or Monteverdi other than its new conceptual frame. We’ll definitely link to the related site from the catalogue record. Watch the library catalogue for its ultimate classification. We’ll depend on our intrepid music cataloguer’s judgement!

Informing practice with historical context

The Schulich School of Music is that rare institution that specializes in more than one aspect of the discipline: music performance meets theory meets composition meets technology meets psychology…. And the Music Library loves to enrich those connections as a place where students, professors, and professionals meet and discover collections and facilities that serve the diverse needs of Montreal’s music community.

Papageno from the Puppenballett des Marionettentheaters Schloss Schönbrunn

Just one serendipitous example came through my email today where musicology and performance intersect. Of special interest to the Opera McGill students preparing for the March 2013 production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute: Opera Quarterly‘s current issue dedicated to the opera.

The contents start with Mozart’s contemporary Goethe and trace the reverberations of The Magic Flute through history:

Here are the articles:

“‘The Monstrous Rights of the Present’: Goethe and the Humanity of Die Zauberflöte
Jane K. Brown

“Live Marionettes and Divas on the Strings: Die Zauberflöte’s Interactions with Puppet Theater”
Martin Nedbal

“(De)Translating Mozart: The Magic Flute in 1909 Paris”
William Gibbons

“‘So Take This Magic Flute and Blow. It Will Protect Us As We Go’: Impempe Yomlingo (2007–11) and South Africa’s Ongoing Transition”
Sheila Boniface Davies, J. Q. Davies

“Papageno Redux: Repetition and the Rewriting of Character in Sequels to Die Zauberflöte
Hayoung Heidi Lee

“Who Were the Drei Knaben?”
Adeline Mueller

Happy reading!