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).
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.
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.”
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!
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.
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”
“(De)Translating Mozart: The Magic Flute in 1909 Paris”
“‘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?”
Teachers and students looking for extra insight into the interpretation and technical challenges of various essential recital or concert works will be interested in some of the recent masterclass resources acquired by the Music Library. With something for everyone, the award-winning series of videos produced by the Masterclass Media Foundation forms the largest portion of this part of our collection. The Music Library currently owns 42 DVDs in the series in the following categories: Piano (13 titles), Strings (18), Percussion (1), Chamber Music (2), Trumpet (1), Flute (1), Singing (3), and Conducting (3). Among the featured virtuosi imparting their wisdom are András Schiff, Joanna MacGregor, Maxim Vengerov, Yuri Bashmet, Steven Isserlis, Evelyn Glennie, Hakan Hardenberger, Emmanuel Pahud, Joan Rodgers, and Bernard Haitink. For a list of our holdings, search ‘Masterclass Media Foundation’ in the McGill Catalogue.
Additional related resources include:
Conducting: Marek Janowski, conductor & teacher [DVD 2148]
Voice: José van Dam, singer & teacher [DVD 2152]
Alfred Brendel on music [DVD 2213]
Kenneth Gilbert, harpsichord & organ [DVD 2153]
Fred Karpoff / 3-D piano (6-DVDs) [DVD 2058]
Nikita Magaloff : pianist & teacher [DVD 2151]
Violin: Heifetz master classes [DVD 2073]
Viola: Yuri Bashmet, playing & teaching the viola [DVD 2150]
“… you are the music while the music lasts.” – T.S. Eliot (The Dry Salvages)
From time to time, the McGill Music Library “closes” and changes its identity into a progressive performance venue. In 2011, the Music Graduate Students’ Society (MGSS) began coordinating with Library staff to present “Library After Hours” open mic events. In so doing, the MGSS aims to provide music students with the opportunity to experiment with new repertoire, collaborate with others and improvise in an informal environment.True to form, a recent “Library After Hours” event included an eclectic mix of contributions: a performance of Ferneyhough’s Bone Alphabet, an improvisation session involving electronics and a double bass duo, a presentation of several jazz standards, and more.
MGSS “Library After Hours” events are another good example of what is going on behind the scenes at the Music Library as well as an illustration of McGill Library’s motto, Everything you need — including a place to perform on a Friday night, with scores, recording equipment and an enthusiastic audience close at hand.
Every Autumn, early risers in Montreal are treated to some spectacular displays of solar energy. In the days leading up to Halloween and the Celtic Festival of Samhain, the sun and our modern Stonehenge of office towers align to produce inspiring bridges of light across the south end of the Marvin Duchow Music Library floors. A great way to start the day!
Welcome to Sounds from the field: what I hope will be regular blog entries on library collection additions related to contemporary, electronic/electroacoustic, and experimental music. To start the ball rolling, musical/hardware offerings from Tristan Perich.
When is a CD not a CD? When it’s an electronic sound-making device! This summer the Music Library acquired a copy of 1-Bit Symphony by New York composer and visual artist Tristan Perich. Described as an “electronic composition in five movements on a single microchip”(1), this object is both the musical composition and the hardware (microchip, toggle selector, volume control, battery, on-off switch and headphone socket) to reproduce the composition. It’s the ultimate in WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get)!
Though in recent years there’s been a penchant in electronica for 8-bit digital audio (think Space Invaders video games) Perich is exploring the sound world of beeps and blips from the most basic of everyday electronics. As Sukhdev Sandhu notes “only alarm clocks or microwaves deal in one-bit tones”(2). Nonetheless, the music is surprisingly arresting, engaging the listener through repetitive tonal motifs ranging from a simple melody to multi-layered complexity.
From a library staff perspective this item presents wonderful challenges for descriptive cataloguing (hence 1 electronic sound-making device) and circulation (it comes in a handy CD container, to which we have added our library call number of CD 28028). Fetchingly minimalist, both musically and visually, I recommend the hands-on approach to listening to this piece. You can even examine the programming code on the accompanying liner notes! However, the musical recording of this work is also available online through Naxos Music Library.