About Jerwood Library

The Jerwood Library of the Performing Arts supports Trinity Laban’s mission to create informed performers of the highest calibre. Our core objective is to provide the music information, resources and materials that students and staff require.

Performing Special Collections: Jerwood Library Catch and Glee Club

Last Friday, after closing up, we transformed the library from a quiet research space into a lively performance venue. This was the culmination of our first ever CoLab venture where we devised, led and hosted a project based on music in our special collections.


Jerwood Library Catch and Glee Club: (L-R) Anna Chan, Bryony Purdue, Hannah Lee, Emily Harwood, Andrew Woodmansey, Peter Knapp

The idea for the project came about a few years ago when special collections librarian Emma Greenwood curated an exhibition about our unusual and extensive collection of catches and glees. Hoping to generate more interest in the repertoire through the CoLab festival, she then approached vocal professor Peter Knapp who kindly agreed to act as co-mentor. Together, they created a project which would not only see some of these little-known works performed but also encourage students to research and present the material themselves – all vital skills for the 21st-century musician. Sessions would be split between research in the library mentored by Emma and rehearsals mentored by Peter.

Basildon Catch for three ladies - Copy

One of the works performed by the Jerwood Library Catch and Glee Club: John Basildon’s Catch for Three Ladies from The Ladies Collection of Catches, Glees, Canzonets, Madrigals, &c. [c.1800]

The six singers who signed up for the project now had a real challenge on their hands: in just two weeks they had to go from having barely heard of catches and glees to choosing repertoire, researching its context, learning the music, and presenting the final performance. And all this while reading from out-of-print early editions with their unfamiliar notation, clefs and typography. Needless to say, everyone rose to the challenge and the end result was a fantastic success. Our audience clearly enjoyed the performance and the students agreed it had been a valuable experience. So, we’d like to say a huge thank you to all involved: singers Andrew Woodmansey, Bryony Purdue, Dominic Eatwell, Emily Harwood, Hannah Lee and Anna Chan, and mentors Peter Knapp and Emma Greenwood.

Now, what about CoLab 2017? If there are any Trinity Laban professors out there interested in working with library staff and collections on a similar project, do get in touch. We’d love to hear your ideas!


An Inside Look at Library Skills Sessions

This post was written by our multi-talented Helen Mason who alongside being cataloguer-in-chief and overseer of our AV collections has been turning her hand to teaching this term.

As everyone re-assembles after the performance/projects week, and librarians are gearing up for another round of library skills sessions with the new 2013 students, it seemed a good moment to write about what these sessions are all about.

Jerwood Library’s librarians offer training sessions tailored to the requirements of each of the modules taught in the Music Faculty. The idea is that these will help students develop and improve their research skills, discover and familiarise themselves with, and hopefully become confident using, the excellent online resources available via the library catalogue, resulting in brilliant written assignments, and an ongoing broadening of their understanding of the subject.

A couple of weeks ago we closed the library so our BMus students could have a free run of the shelves and get to grips with some offline, print-based resources.  This session moves from thinking about the strengths and weaknesses of types of resources, considering the merits of Urtext and non-Urtext scores and finding legal pathways through thorny matters of copyright. It culminates in a ‘treasure hunt’ exercise involving chocolate!  In a second session those same students are back with us to find out how to make best use of online study facilities in a session which mixes online demonstrations with practical ‘hands-on’ exercises.

As well as induction tours which happened in the second week of term, we’ve also held separate sessions for our musical theatre students, jazz students, and new MMus students and we have further sessions with other MMus students timetabled in for later in November.

It’s a busy time of year, but it is excellent that these practical research skills sessions are included as part of students’ core curriculum.  Librarians know what amazing resources their libraries hold, but the challenge is to broadcast that to others, spark their enthusiasm and, importantly, show that it’s fine to ask us for help.

If you have any comments about library skills sessions – if you’ve been to one of our sessions perhaps, or if you offer similar sessions elsewhere and have good ideas to share – please do get in touch!

New Exhibition: Conlon Nancarrow (1912-1997)

In April 2012 Trinity Laban’s Head of Composition Dominic Murcott was the Artistic Director for Impossible Brilliance, a festival of the music of Conlon Nancarrow at the South Bank Centre in London. Murcott has for some years been researching Nancarrow and had gained access to his Mexico City studio. Our current display contains artefacts from that studio as well as materials from Murcott’s private collection and that of the Jerwood Library.

Nancarrow actuator
“Actuator” built by Conlon Nancarrow as part of his unsuccessful attempt to make an automated orchestra (Dominic Murcott private collection. Used with permission)

Nancarrow’s output was almost entirely composed for player pianos (also known as pianolas). These were automated acoustic pianos, fitted with a mechanism that reads musical information in the form of a paper roll punched with holes. These were the precursors to the modern sequencing of electronic instruments, but were not particularly esoteric in their time; they were commonplace in domestic homes where they were a form of music reproduction. Piano rolls of all kinds of music were commercially available.

Nancarrow was drawn to them because he was interested in a certain type of rhythmic complexity in music: he wanted to make music in which the different voices were moving at different tempi simultaneously and it was very difficult to find players who were able to do this. (Much later in his life he found such players in the form of the Arditti quartet for whom he wrote a piece in poly-tempi.)

Not only did he cut out the need for live players but made the rolls himself and he was often photographed operating his own hole punching machine in his studio.

The process by which he worked out the spatial relationships between the note values of the different tempi is illustrated in our display as we have one of the rolls of paper on which he had drawn out a tempo scheme. We also have one of his hand-made piano rolls (see below)

Nancarrow hand punched roll
Piano roll hand punched by Conlon Nancarrow (Dominic Murcott private collection. Used with permission)

It has to be noted that the onset of the means to sequence this kind of material (relatively) simply with midi sequences has not produced an extended repertoire of this kind of music, but certainly Nancarrow was an interesting and original thinker.

Do you think you can follow 6 or 7 voices, all played on piano, moving at different tempi simultaneously? Would you enjoy the novelty of hearing, for example, a ‘right-hand’ part getting faster and faster whilst simultaneously the ‘left-hand’ part gets slower and slower; would you find it musically interesting when you had got over the novelty?

You can judge for yourself as the entire collection of pianola studies has been recorded by Wergo and is available on open access in the Jerwood Library (classmark PIA: NAN).

This post was written by our senior library assistant, and curator of this exhibition, Walter Cardew.

Avoid fines by renewing your items!

Piggy savings bank

Look after the pennies…
[image by Alan Cleaver shared under Creative Commons licence]

We’ve noticed recently that some students who haven’t been able to visit the library have been incurring fines unnecessarily when their items could have been renewed.

Remember, we can renew your items twice without needing to see them. There are a number of ways that you can do this:

  • Online  – via the My Account tab on the Jerwood Library Online Catalogue. You will need your library PIN, which we can provide to you on request.
  • Email – Send your query to jlpa@trinitylaban.ac.uk. This is checked throughout the day.
  • Phone – Contact the issue desk on +44 (0)20 8305 3951. If there is no answer, leave a message and we will get back to you.

For more information on how to contact individual librarians and library assistants, please visit the Jerwood Library’s website.

[This post was written by one of our library assistants, Ella, who promises to set up her own blog account soon!]