Jerwood Library Who’s Who: Marion Harris

Tell us a bit about yourself and your role in the Jerwood Library

Photograph of Marion HarrisI studied Music at the University of Birmingham, and began my library career in 2011 as a Graduate Trainee at the University of Essex. I have since held positions at the University of Reading and Goldsmiths College, and joined Trinity Laban in February 2018, which makes me the newest staff member! I have an MSc(Econ) in Information and Library Studies, which I completed by distance learning with Aberystwyth University between 2012-2015.

I am one of the Jerwood Library’s two “Cataloguing, Enquiries and Acquisitions” Librarians, alongside my colleague Helen Mason.

What is a typical day at work like for you?

No two days are ever the same, but in general my work splits into 3 areas.

Cataloguing is a form of behind-the-scenes library work that involves writing descriptions of all the items in the library so that our students and staff can look them up on the online catalogue. In the last couple of months I have been focusing on cataloguing a big donation of horn and brass ensemble music. There is more information about what library cataloguing involves in my colleague Helen’s blog post from a couple of years ago.

Enquiries, obviously enough, is the time I spend answering questions from our library users, either in person at the desk or in writing via email or the online chat service. Enquiries can cover absolutely anything from a simple “do you have this piece of music in stock?”, to a more complex question about whether a piece is in copyright, or an extended archives query about someone who studied at Trinity in the 1920s which means digging through the old registers in our reserve stack room.

Acquisitions means purchasing new stock for the library. Certain staff members are responsible for purchasing different types of resources; my area of responsibility is for printed music requests. So if there is a score you would like the library to purchase, you can collect a Purchase recommendation form from the issue desk or download it from Moodle and I will do my best to order it for you (remember to get the form signed by your teacher first!). Some examples of music requests I have ordered recently are scores by Nicola LeFanu, Mel Bonis, Wolfgang Rihm and Eric Ewazen.

What do you enjoy most about your role?

After working for several years in university libraries more generally, I am enjoying working in a specialist music library where I can use my subject knowledge. Another interesting part of working in a small library is that there is lots of variety – because we are such a small team, I may be called upon do to anything from binding scores for a composition deadline to searching for photographs in the special collections.

Are there any hidden or little-known aspects of your work you’d like to share?

A lot of the work library staff do is hidden, as most of our users only see us when we are working at the issue desk or reshelving books. However, there is a whole range of behind-the-scenes work we do in the library office to keep things running smoothly. In my case, cataloguing is a classic example of “hidden” work as there is a lot of detail needed to keep the online catalogue running effectively. As well as obvious things like the title and author/composer, there are many other small details we record such as the date and place of publication, number of pages and parts, size and format of ensemble, and any identification numbers such as an ISBN or ISMN. We also include descriptions called “subject headings” which tell you more about the genre and contents of the item, so that when you are searching the catalogue you can hyperlink between related items.

Acquisitions also involves a lot of work behind the scenes. When I receive students’ purchase request forms I have to ensure I buy the correct version of the piece, for example it may need to be a specific edition or a particular format, such as miniature score or score + parts. I also need to consider which companies to buy music from, based on who can supply the item quickest or at the best price.

Finally, could you tell us something people may not know about you?

When I am not working in the library, one of my favourite things to do is choral singing. I am a member of an early music ensemble called The Iken Scholars.

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Oliver’s Choice: Cosi Fan Tutte

Librarian Oliver Witkin has chosen to display in the library small exhibition cabinet a facsimile reproduction of Mozart’s original manuscript score for Cosi fan Tutte, one of a number of facsimiles of Mozart’s late operas which are held in the Jerwood Library’s reference collection. These facsimiles offer a unique insight into Mozart’s working methods [REFERENCE FACSIMILE COLLECTION: MOZ]


Conventional wisdom in respect of this opera has been kinder to Mozart than it has to his librettist, Da Ponte. Cosi fan Tutte, the third and final collaboration between the two and the only one which is not based on a singular literary source, has historically been perceived as an opera of sublime music that is, to a greater or lesser extent, spoiled by its libretto.photo of library exhibition case

While not much is known about the earliest performances of Cosi fan Tutte following its premiere in 1790, the notion that its libretto is frivolous and even immoral was widespread throughout the 19th century and into the early years of the 20th. A number of eminent figures such as Beethoven and Wagner joined the chorus of disapproval. Performances were heavily revised and edited to appease the sensibilities of the times and it was only towards the middle of the 20th century that the opera found a much surer footing in the concert repertoire in its original and unexpurgated form.

While few people today would object to the play on moral grounds, even for a modern audience the relationship between the music and libretto seems puzzling. Mozart’s joyful but occasionally dark and melancholy music appears as the backdrop to a seemingly trivial comedy. This raises certain questions as to the intent of both composer and librettist. If there is a mystery here, it is not one which we can resolve by looking back at contemporaneous accounts of the opera – which might offer some clues as to how the work was conceived – they simply don’t exist.

The theme of the opera concerns the lovers’ expectations of sexual fidelity. The experiment, set up as a play within a play. is designed to test the truth value of this moral order and to reveal the true character of human nature. Behind it, one can sense the growing insecurity of the moral order in the modern world. This is perhaps reflected in some of the sadness that can be discerned in Mozart’s music. What appears, then, to be a trivial story, at odds with the music, is in fact a much more significant drama which is illuminated by it. Irony runs throughout the whole of this work. People are not what they appear to be in the eyes of others.

There is yet another aspect of the play; this concerns the relationship between men and women. It could be argued that there is something peculiarly modern about this, too. Women are shown to have passions and desires which are comparable with men, undermining the prevalent attitudes towards relations between the sexes in the society of Mozart and Da Ponte’s time. The audience is led, through a gentle comedy, to consider these aspects of a changing world.

It’s possible to see this opera as existing on more than one level. You can take it at face value and appreciate it as a light-hearted comedy, or you can look beneath the surface at the way in which it subtly challenges and undermines the moral certainties of the traditional order.

 

Chuck Berry

1926-2017

It was with great sadness that I heard of the death of singer, guitarist, songwriter and general rock ‘n’ roll legend, Chuck Berry. For anyone interested in pop, rock ‘n’ roll, American culture, song-writing and guitar playing Chuck Berry was a seminal figure.

He started playing rhythm and blues, i.e. music made by and aimed at black people, and perhaps his most important contribution was the realisation that by combining the story-telling traditions of American country & western and folk music (music associated with white America) with the sexual energy and drive of rhythm and blues he could produce a music that would transcend America’s fairly entrenched racial divide.

Photograph of Chuck Berry

Of course that realisation would not have amounted to much if he was not then able to produce the most entertaining and inventive insights into American life, considered so perceptive by the designers of NASA’s Voyager mission that they included a recording of his song Johnny B Goode on a record designed to communicate something of Earth’s culture to any (record player-owning) aliens encountered along the way.

There was a great deal of warmth and affection in the atmosphere created in his songs – completely at odds, it seems, from the personality of the man. In this lovely couplet from Memphis Tennessee  you also see his inventiveness with words and phrases, here substituting hurry-home drops for tears:

Last time I saw Marie she’s waving me good-bye
With hurry-home drops on her cheeks, that trickled from her eye

He also more or less defined the way electric guitar should be played in pop/rock music: the catchy guitar lick introducing the song (later brilliantly adapted by the Rolling Stones and others); the style of thickening the sound of electric guitar by playing two strings at once for his leads and solos which enabled him to maintain a rhythmic drive in his solos that was quite new. This way of playing was a huge influence on later players such as Jimi Hendrix and can be heard brilliantly on the afore-mentioned Johnny B Goode; which is, for all we know, being enjoyed at this moment at a party on OGLE-TR-56b.

Chuck Berry; 18 October 1926 – 18 March 2017. Rest in peace.

Chuck Berry in the Jerwood Library:
We only have one CD in our collection but it gives a very good overview:
The Blues Collection, (Orbis, 1993) which can be found in the Blues CD section: BLUES:BER

We also have his autobiography which recounts the development of the music and other aspects of his life (including a couple of spells in prison) in his inimitable and very readable style:
Chuck Berry: The Autobiography (New York, Fireside, 1988); classmark: 786.91 BER

Photo Credit: flutnace Flickr via Compfight cc

Helen’s choice…New Orleans, birthplace of jazz

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The Old Jelly Rollers in New Orleans (photo used with permission)

Inspired by the success story of Trinity Laban’s student group Old Jelly Rollers heading off to New Orleans during CoLab, and vocalist Cherise Adams-Burnett, winning seats on the British Airways VIP party flight celebrating the airline’s new route, synchronising with our excellent volunteer Genia Browning completing yet another large chunk of indexing work on the Dan Pawson collection, it seemed a good moment to showcase some of the New Orleans music items held here in the Jerwood Library.

The items in the small display cabinet refer to the ‘birthplace of jazz’ and also show the range of materials in Dan Pawson’s collection some of which featured in a Jerwood Library exhibition of jazz materials mounted in 2013.

Was New Orleans the birthplace of jazz?  The New Orleans Official Guide Online (1) states:

“Some will say that Jazz was born in 1895, when Buddy Bolden started his first band. Others will say 1917, when Nick LaRocca and his Original Dixieland Jazz Band recorded the first Jazz record, Livery Stable Blues. However, Ferdinand “Jelly Roll” Morton also said, “It is evidently known, beyond contradiction, that New Orleans is the cradle of Jazz, and I myself happen to be the inventor in the year 1902”.

Collier (2) acknowledges that despite various claims that jazz arose in in other places in America, most give New Orleans as its birthplace. He doubts that Buddy Bolden was the originator, as contemporary reports describe his music as a blues-tinged mix of ragtime and popular songs. Collier suggests that a groups of ‘Creoles of color’ played a significant role, with their music having ‘a rhythmic snap akin to the “swing” of jazz.’

Whether it was Buddy Bolden, “Jelly Roll” Morton or the Creole band, New Orleans seems to be the place where it all happened.

The selected recordings in the cabinet feature, in particular, some recordings by cornet player Nick LaRocca, born 11th April 1889 in New Orleans and died 22nd Feb 1961 in New Orleans. Writing in the Grove Dictionary of Jazz,  Sudhalter (3) suggests

“It is beyond dispute that LaRocca’s energy and ambition were the driving force behind the Original Dixieland Jazz Band. His style impressed Bix Beiderbecke, who became a lifelong admirer, and the steady drive and rhythmic freedom of LaRocca’s playing on the band’s recordings of 1936 demonstrate this affinity. LaRocca also co-wrote such standards as At the Jazz Band Ball and Clarinet Marmalade”.

The author of the New Orleans website (1) also notes that “it’s both possible and probable that Nick LaRocca heard, and was influenced by Buddy Bolden, who had the most popular black band at the turn of the century.”

The library has some of LaRocca’s recordings, for example the Original Dixieland jazz band : jazz originators Vol.4 (re-issues by Jazz Collector, JEL21 of recordings made in ca.1918/1919), First jazz recording 1917: the Original Dixieland Jazz Band (issued by Philips, BBE 12488), and the CD re-issue entitled New Orleans: Where Jazz was born (issued by Jazz Roots, CD 56021) [this last has been loaded into the juke box in the North Library for quick listening].

Collier (2) notes that “the  Original Dixieland Jazz Band was an enormous success, and its February 1917 recordings for Victor were the first jazz recordings. These became hits, and by the end of 1917 jazz was becoming a nationwide phenomenon with a large, primarily white, audience”.

Finally on the display shelves in the library there are related vinyl LPs (library listening only), and loanable CDs and books on the New Orleans topic, other LaRocca-related LPs, and of course, thanks to  Genia’s hard work, a catalogue search will reveal still more of the library’s resources.

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(1) New Orleans Official Guide online: http://www.neworleansonline.com/neworleans/music/musichistory/jazzbirthplace.html.

(2) James Lincoln Collier. “Jazz (i).” The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz, 2nd ed.. Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press, accessed February 28, 2017, http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com/subscriber/article/grove/music/J223800.

(3) Richard M. Sudhalter. “LaRocca, Nick.” The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz, accessed February 27, 2017, http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com/subscriber/article/grove/music/J259200.

Edith’s Choice: 15 years of the Jerwood Library

Display cabinet containing items related to the official opening of the Jerwood Library in 2002 (programme, invitiation, photos and a poem read at the event)

Library display commemorating fifteen years of the Jerwood Library

15 years ago today on 9 January 2002, the official opening of the Jerwood Library of the Performing Arts took place, which makes the library officially fifteen years old today. I’ve chosen to highlight this anniversary with a small display in the library this month.

I spoke about the library’s move to Greenwich with Walter Cardew, the only current member of library staff to have worked in both the TCM Library and the Jerwood Library of the Performing Arts, and David Butler, who now works in the Jerwood Library but in 2002 was studying for a BMus at Trinity College of Music (now Faculty of Music, Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance).

What was it like moving the whole library to Greenwich?

Walter: When I started here in Nov 2000 we knew the move was coming, and things kicked off in earnest when a new head librarian Rosemary Williamson started in 2001. We visited King Charles Court to see the space the library would be in and got an opportunity to explore the building including the attic spaces and even going out on the roof. Everyone was fascinated by the exposed wooden roof beams. I’ve heard various stories about their origins, including that they were timbers retrieved from sunk Spanish Armada ships, though I’m not sure that holds up to scrutiny…

Rosemary gave me the task of planning how the library stock would be packed and then organised in the new space. I had to plan in great detail and I devised an enormous spreadsheet mapping every single shelf in the old library to a specific shelf in the new library.

How did the new library compare to the old one?

David: Like King Charles Court as a whole, the new library was a lot more accessible for the students than the old one. The old building was a complete rabbit warren and the library was across three floors. The sequence of shelves didn’t feel logical, but the Jerwood Library has the whole collection in one space and all in sequence. I remember the old library having a few computers in the basement which were always busy and not the easiest place to study. I definitely used the library more after the move!

Walter: Because of the three floors staff had to put returned items for shelving in boxes and carry them up and down stairs so we were glad to move to one level. It also made it much easier for students to borrow items and get help from us as we weren’t tucked away on the top floor. The new library had closed stacks for our growing special collections including the Almeida Collection which we’d recently acquired and was a big addition to the library. 

The old buildings in central London were cramped and had been added to piecemeal as the institution grew. There were even some staff offices that could only be accessed from the rest of the site via a rooftop walkway! The move to a single building was unifying and we appreciated having a bit more office space too.

Were you at the official opening?

Walter: Yes, all the library staff were invited. My abiding memory is the actor Timothy West CBE reciting a poem he’d written commemorating Greenwich and the opening, which was very impressive. There was also a commissioned jazz piece performed by Iain Ballamy and others with poetry by Matthew Sweeney.

Representatives from the Jerwood Foundation were there too – the library was renamed the Jerwood Library of the Performing Arts when we moved, in honour of the generous grant they made towards setting up the library in Greenwich.

Hawksmoor and Wren, come back
to see your palace now.
Look at its new inside –
this library we are celebrating,
tables where beds were,
the original beams overhead
but with a raised, sunlit ceiling –
all is light now, all light

Excerpt from Black Beams by Matthew Sweeney, commissioned by the Jerwood Foundation for the opening of the Jerwood Library of the Performing Arts.

How has the library space changed since 2002?

Walter: The refurbishment was done to a high standard except it turned out no-one had thought about ventilation in the summer months. The library’s skylight windows couldn’t be opened and on a couple of occasions it got so hot we had to close the library completely. Fitting ceiling fans and a remote-controlled mechanism for opening the windows soon fixed that, to everyone’s relief.

David: The computers have shrunk in size and the shelves have filled up quickly! There were lots left empty when the library first opened but now there’s not a lot of free space and we’re squeezing in more shelving wherever we can…

Animated gif showing installation of new shelving in the Jerwood Library, summer 2014

New shelving being installed in the library in summer 2014

Thanks to both Walter and David for sharing their memories of the Jerwood Library’s first year with us.

A display is in the small cabinet in the library showing the programme from the official opening, Timothy West’s poem Ode to Greenwich and other related materials from the TCM Archive, housed at the Jerwood Library.

We’re delighted to have served the students and staff of the Faculty of Music for the last fifteen years and look forward to many more!

David’s choice – Shostakovich Symphony No. 5

Shostakovich Symphony No. 5, Op. 47

Monday 21st November 2016 marks 69 years since the Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Yevgeny Mravinsky, gave the world premiere of Symphony no. 5, op. 47 by Dmitry Shostakovich.

‘Shos 5’ (as it’s often referred to) is one of my all time favourite pieces of music. I feel like I know it very well (and not just the cello part!), having rehearsed it at length and having performed it several times over the years. The first time I performed it, and probably the most memorable for me, was with my youth orchestra, the Lancashire Students Symphony Orchestra (LSSO for short), as it was known then, under the baton of Malcolm Doley. What an amazing experience. Aged 15, we went on tour to Tuscany in Italy and performed this incredible symphony several times over the 10 days that we were away, in some amazing places. Also in the programme was another one of my favourite pieces, Elgar’s concert overture ‘Cockaigne’.

Concerts in Italy didn’t start till 9.30pm and Shostakovich symphony no. 5 is around 50 minutes long and was always in the 2nd half of the concert. Therefore, concerts didn’t finish till very late indeed! I do remember closing my eyes briefly one evening, during the 16 minute ‘Largo’,  letting the still, calm yet desolate sounds wash over me…….and then struggling to open them again! (I think anyone who has been on any sort of residential youth orchestra course/tour will empathize with this!) There was no danger of dozing however in the fierce and powerful fourth movement, using full bows on each fortississimo quaver for a whole of the last page or so of music! (See image of score below). Referring to this ending, Erik Levi explains in the CD sleeve notes to Vol. 22, No. 8 of the BBC Music Magazine CD, “Whether this resolution is genuinely optimistic remains an open question given the music’s lugubrious tempo”.

Dmitry Shostakovich, Symphony no. 5, op. 47 Edition Eulenburg No. 579 (minature score) London, (Ernst Eulenburg, 1967)

Dmitry Shostakovich, Symphony no. 5, op. 47 Edition Eulenburg No. 579 (miniature score) London, (Ernst Eulenburg, 1967)

It is interesting to listen to various and vastly different interpretations of the end of the fourth movement and hear the massively contrasting speeds this passage is taken at and how this affects the whole mood of the final movement. Personally, I prefer the slower tempo for the end of the symphony, closer to the actual metronome mark of ‘quaver = 184’ as shown in the example above. This is expertly demonstrated on a live recording, with Mstislav Rostropovich conducting the LSO in 2005, (shelved at ORC: SHO in the library). This contrasts considerably with the 1969 LP recording of the Philadelphia Orchestra, conducted by Eugene Ormandy, (LP no. 167d in the library)

Prior to the composition of his 5th Symphony, it was a difficult time for Shostakovich. He’d had a couple of unfavourable editorials, one of which was entitled, ‘Muddle instead of Music’, and subsequently decided to pull his 4th Symphony on the morning of the premiere. There was a lot resting on the 5th Symphony, which Shostakovich composed in a short space of time, between April and July 1937. He went back to the conventional 4 movement structure for the first time since his 1st Symphony and reduced the orchestra to a more conventional size, only adding celesta and piano, rather than the huge additional forces which were needed for the 4th Symphony.

It is interesting to note how well received the 5th symphony actually was. As Roy Blokker puts it in his book, ‘The Music of Dimitri Shostakovich – The Symphonies’, (shelved at 789 SHO), “In 1937 they did not want tragedy in art, yet the Fifth is tragic…..The Soviet leaders wanted folk music and nationalistic ideas; the Fifth contains none. The second movement is a grotesque dance based upon themes from the still unperformed Fourth Symphony that had parodied the very critics who had ostracised the composer in 1936. Yet the score was such a massive tour de force that it melted away all the opposition”

“The première of the Fifth Symphony on 21 November 1937 was the scene of extraordinary public acclamation. There was open weeping in the slow movement and a half-hour ovation at the end”. Grove Music Online.

It was clear that the audience at the premiere had identified the ‘tragic struggle’ in the music and how this paralleled their own daily struggles at the time.

november-item-of-the-month-2016-shostakovich-cabinet-photo

Library display cabinet showing – ‘David’s choice’ –  Shostakovich Symphony No. 5, Op. 47

For students and staff who want to find out more, why not start with Quicksearch, for articles, recordings, reviews and much more. Why not have a read of ‘Testimony: the memoirs of Dmitri Shostakovich as related to and edited by Solomon Volkov’ which you can find at 789 SHO or check out the DVD of ‘Testimony : the story of Dmitri Shostakovich’ shelved at DVD / FILM : TES

 

Roy Blokker with Robert Dearing, The Music of Dimitri Shostakovich, The Symphonies London : Tantivy Press, (Rutherford : Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1979)

Dmitry Shostakovich, Symphony no. 5, op. 47 Edition Eulenburg No. 579 (minature score) London, (Ernst Eulenburg, 1967)

David Fanning and Laurel Fay. “Shostakovich, Dmitry.” Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press, (accessed November 9, 2016) http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com/subscriber/article/grove/music/52560pg3.

 

 

Claire’s Choice: on an autumnal theme!

conkers

As the mornings grow colder and squirrels are to be seen hoarding conkers for the winter, what better for “Claire’s Choice” than to highlight two songs in the Jerwood Library collection celebrating the venerable chestnut tree.

village-blacksmith

 

Written in 1840 by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, the poem The Village Blacksmith was set to music in 1854 by the English composer and celebrated bass singer Willoughby Weiss. It starts “Under a spreading chestnut tree the village smithy stands…” and continues to describe the blacksmith’s daily life. Weiss offered the copyright of the work to a firm of publishers for the sum of 5 pounds, but when his offer was turned down, he decided to publish it on his own account. As luck would have it, it went on to become a hugely popular Victorian parlour song, earning him and his family a considerable income!

 

Moving forward into the 20th century, the second song The Chestnut Tree, with words and music by Jimmy Kennedy, Tommie Connor and Hamilton Kennedy, was composed in 1938. This popular novelty song was also inspired by Longfellow’s The Village Blacksmith. However rather than focussing on the virtuous, hard-working, church-going, qualities of the blacksmith, it centres on the blacksmith’s daughter and “the spreading chestnut tree”, the goings-on under which certainly didn’t appear in Longfellow’s poem!

But this was only one aspect of the song. In fact, the writers had been specifically commissioned to come up with something that was going to take dance halls by storm. Indeed the inspiration behind selecting The Village Blacksmith as inspiration came from a photograph of King George VI at a boy scout jamboree in which his, and all the scouts’, hands were held to their heads. Further research unearthed that this was part of a performance in which the scouts recited The Village Blacksmith. With assistance from Adele England (who had choreographed The Lambeth Walk) they devised some steps to go with their song, which are illustrated in the printed edition. It became a huge hit, selling over 10,000 copies per day.

This edition comes from the Jerwood Library’s Rita Williams popular song collection. Rita Williams sang with the Billy Cotton Club, among other groups, and was an avid collector of popular songs. The overall collection comprises some 3000 individual songs dating from Victorian times to the 1970s. It is handlisted here. Do get in touch with us if you’d like to see any other hidden gems in the collection.

Items from the Jerwood library collection:

Weiss, W.H. “The Village Blacksmith”. In The Songs of England, volume 1, edited by J.L. Hatton, 245-249. London: Boosey & Co, 1910

Kennedy, Jimmy, Tommie Connor and Hamilton Kenny, The Chestnut Tree. London: Peter Maurice Music Co, 1938

James’ Choice: Antonio de Almeida’s score of Iannis Xenakis’ Metastasis

a photograph of Antonio de Almeida's copy of Xenakis' Metastasis

Antonio de Almeida’s markings on Xenakis’ Metastasis

This month the library item I’ve decided to highlight is the score for Iannis Xenakis’ (1922-2001) Metastasis from the printed music collection of the conductor Antonio de Almeida (1928-1997), complete with his performance markings. There are a number of reasons for my choice. As well as being a landmark piece of twentieth-century modernism, it’s a visually-striking score on account of its size and intricacy. Moreover, Antonio de Almeida’s pencil markings are a fascinating insight into the practical considerations required for performing a piece like this. It’s also an excellent example of Xenakis’ unique approach to composition, and one with a very explicit connection to his work as an architect.

score

Written in 1953-4, and premiered at the Donaueschingen Festival in 1955, Metastasis is Xenakis’ first major work after the completion of his studies with Olivier Messiaen. In this piece, Xenakis lays down the foundation for many of the approaches and attitudes to music composition that were to occupy him for the rest of his career. The work combines an idiosyncratic system for controlling pitch material and an approach to sound best described when he says ‘the sonorities of the orchestra are building materials, like brick, stone and wood […] The subtle structures of orchestral sound masses represent a reality that promises much’.[1] In this piece, each orchestral player has a separate part, and Xenakis combines, on the one hand, the continuous evolution of enormous glissando structures and, on the other, the discontinuous permutation of pitches.

 ‘I was interested in two things in those years. One: I wanted to write a kind of dodecaphonic music with the help of computation – a music whose macroform emerges from a few basic principles. In Metastasis I made computations based on the permutations of intervals, with the help of the axiomatic approach known in mathematics.

Two: I was interested in the continuous changes of chords. […] How to make that change a continuous one? So long as one remains in the same scale, the only solution is a glissando. […] That was the basic idea.’[2]

 

Metastasis is also the first work in which Xenakis’ compositional planning for the piece involved using a two-dimensional projection. Here, time is on the x-axis and pitch on the y-axis, and ruled straight-line paths are bent into curved surfaces.

Composition sketch for Xenakis metastasis showing the basis for the hyperbolic paraboloids of the Philips Pavillion

Image scanned from Bálint András Varga, Conversations with Iannis Xenakis, (London: Faber and Faber, 1996), 74

Xenakis also employed this technique in later compositions (such as Stratégie and Syrmos), but it’s particularly fascinating how it was also translated directly into his work as an architect. The connection is immediately obvious with how these curves built from multiple straight-line paths (hyperbolic paraboloids) were incorporated into the distinctive shape of his design for the Philips Pavilion for the 1958 Brussels Exposition Universelle, built during his time working in the office of Le Corbusier. Incidentally, the pavillion had another connection to musical modernism in that it formed the setting for performances of Edgard Varèse’s Poème électronique.[3]

expo again

Image by Wouter Hagens, accessed from http://www.archdaily.com/157658/ad-classics-expo-58-philips-pavilion-le-corbusier-and-iannis-xenakis, licensed under Creative Commons CC BY-SA 3.0

The score on display was plucked from the personal printed music library of Antonio de Almeida, housed in the Jerwood Library’s special collections. Consisting of 5,456 volumes, including scores acquired by him from the collections of Charles Munch and Pierre Monteux, it’s a wide-ranging collection, reflecting his own diverse musical interests. Alongside the Xenakis score, the collection ranges from other leading lights of twentieth-century modernism, via more mainstream orchestral repertoire of the 19th and 18th century, to composers such as Carlos Chavez, André Grétry, Howard Hanson, Hans Pfitzner and Henri Serpette. Not to mention works by Offenbach and Boccherini, in whom de Almeida had a particular interest. Described by Grove as ‘a conductor of elegance and fastidious detail’, he was also awarded the French Ordre des Arts et des Lettres and the Légion d’Honneur.[4]

 


 

[1] Iannis Xenakis quoted in Peter Hoffmann, ‘Xenakis, Iannis’ in Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online <http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com/subscriber/article/grove/music/30654&gt; (Accessed August 25th, 2016)

[2] Iannis Xenakis quoted in Bálint András Varga, Conversations with Iannis Xenakis, (London: Faber and Faber, 1996), 72.

[3] Peter Hoffmann, ‘Xenakis, Iannis’ in Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online <http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com/subscriber/article/grove/music/30654&gt; (Accessed August 25th, 2016)

[4] Noël Goodwin, ‘Almeida, Antonio (Jacques) de’ in Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online <http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com/subscriber/article/grove/music/00643&gt; (Accessed August 23rd, 2016)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Item of the Month: Stanley Black’s film music for “The Young Ones” starring Cliff Richard

20160805_114218This summer’s Item of the Month features items from our Stanley Black archive relating to his music for the Cliff Richard film The Young Ones for which he wrote the music.

A pianist, conductor, composer and arranger, Stanley Black was known primarily for his many film music scores, his jazz and popular music arrangements and his work for the BBC as conductor and presenter of light music programmes. This collection comprises hundreds of autograph manuscript scores as well as ephemeral material including concert programmes, correspondence, contracts and photographs. The majority of the scores are listed separately on the library’s online catalogue – to browse a list of them, choose Stanley Black collection from the source option.

His filmography includes:

It Always Rains on Sunday (1948)
Too Many Crooks (1958)
Make Mine a Million (1959)
Jack the Ripper (1959)
The Battle of the Sexes (1959)
Hand in Hand (1960)
The Flesh and the Fiends (1960)
Sands of the Desert (1960)
The Siege of Sidney Street (1960)
House of Mystery (1961)
The Day the Earth Caught Fire (1961)
Valentino (1977)

The image above shows a close up of part of the score for reel “5M1” of The Young Ones. The scores give a fascinating glimpse of the working practices involved in producing film music: notice the penciled-in remark concerning the violin solo – possibly made by an arranger or sound engineer.

Item of the Month: May 2016

Though it may seem surprising to us now, Richard Strauss’s symphonic poem Also Sprach Zarathustra op.30 caused a great deal of controversy when it premiered in 1896. Based on Nietzsche’s novel, in which the title character, Zarathustra, descends from the mountains after ten years of solitude to enlighten his fellow man, this philosophical allegory (itself the subject of some controversy) was thought inappropriate by many concert goers. A number of critics went as far as to accuse Strauss of musical philosophising. However, the composer said that his intention had not been to translate Nietzsche’s philosophical ideas into music. Rather, the inspiration was derived from Nietzsche’s overarching concept; the progress of mankind from its earliest origins through to what Zarathustra presents as humanity’s ultimate goal, a perfect being or “superman”.

There are certainly parallels between Strauss’s claims for his project in Zarathustra and Wagner’s similar claim for Der Ring des Nibelungen. Notwithstanding the difference in scale, both claim to represent the movement of human history from its origins to the critical point that divides the old world from the new; the watershed being the end of the 19th century and the ushering in of the 20th. The arresting motif which opens Also Sprach Zarathustra, announcing the dawn of this new age, is perhaps one of the most striking in all music. It was used to great effect in Stanley Kubrick’s film 2001 A Space Odyssey, extending the appeal of Strauss’s music beyond concert audiences.

We have a number of recordings in the library and on our online streaming services. However, if you would prefer the excitement of seeing a live performance, Also Sprach Zarathustra is being performed by the Trinity Laban Symphony Orchestra at Cadogan Hall on 16th June.

A display about Also Sprach Zarathustra is in the small display case next to the library enquiries desk until the end of May.