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!

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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, December 2015 / January 2016: Anthony Green at 60

Greyscale photo of Anthony Green

Anthony Green (photo used with permission)

Anthony (Tony) Green has had a long association with Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance as a professor of piano and as a lecturer, and additionally as the composer of a piece (Resurgence) to commemorate the then-Trinity College of Music’s move to Greenwich in 2001.

Faculty of Music staff and students are holding a concert to celebrate Anthony’s 70th birthday on Wed 6 Jan 2016, and in honour of this we are highlighting the CD recording Anthony Green at 60 as our item of the month for Dec 2015 – Jan 2016.

While researching Anthony using our QuickSearch research tool, I found a review of the CD by Colin Clarke in Tempo, where he stated “Green is clearly a superb pianist, and the full spectrum recording (OPR Musikhochschule Stuttgart) enables the listener to fully engage in Green’s structures.”[1] The full review can be read online via our subscription to Tempo, or in the library display.

Ian Mitchell, professor of clarinet at Trinity Laban and former Head of Wind, Brass and Percussion, shared some memories of Anthony with me for this blog post:

Tony and I gave a number of clarinet and piano recitals together [in the 1970s], one of which – in the Nottingham Festival – was particularly memorable. The concert was in a large church and we could have been giving the premiere of the Three Pieces for bass clarinet and piano that I commissioned from Janet Graham, a mutual friend. They are short dramatic movements with extremes of range and dynamics for both instruments. As we played, the equally, if not more, dramatic sounds of a tremendous thunderstorm broke overhead competing with us bar for bar. I’m not sure whether Tony and I or the elements won, but it was certainly some battle! Tony himself went on to write an equally dramatic Duo for bass clarinet and piano, though there was never any such thunderous accompaniment in performance.

My image of Tony at the keyboard brings to mind some paintings of nineteenth century romantic composer/performers such as Beethoven or Liszt: slightly wild looking; slightly unkempt (!), and obviously totally committed to what they are doing. I remember his extraordinary and highly impressive piano technique, infectious laughter and grin. Our paths eventually diverged and it was not until I joined the staff of Trinity Laban where Tony taught piano, that we bumped into each other occasionally. I saw him this year after quite a long gap since his retirement, and was delighted to see that the infectious grin and laugh are still much in evidence.

You can listen to the Anthony Green at 60 CD at the wall-mounted listening station at the far end of the North Library. The library holds a number of scores of Anthony’s work, which you can find by searching for his name in the Author/Composer field on the Jerwood Library catalogue.

Anthony’s birthday concert takes place at 6.30pm on Wed 6 Jan 2016 in the Mackerras Room, Faculty of Music. A preview of the programme is available in the Item of the Month display in the Jerwood Library!

[edited 14 Dec 2015 to clarify the Three Pieces were by Janet Graham]


[1] ‘CD Reviews’. Tempo 251 (January 2010), <http://journals.cambridge.org/action/ displayIssue?decade=2010&jid=TEM&volumeId=64&issueId=251&iid=7126636 > (accessed December 2015).

Faculty of Music performances now available to stream

At present, the service in this blog post is only available to current Trinity Laban staff and students.

Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music & Dance eStream logo

We’re pleased to announce that TL’s Music Tech team are now making Faculty of Music performances available for online streaming via eStream. Please note that most recordings are audio only.

To browse the available recordings, check out the Student Performances Music category on eStream and enter your usual TL login (same as for Moodle). Alternatively log in to eStream via the Library Links menu on Moodle and then browse Categories > Student Performances Music.

If you know the exact performance you’re after, we recommend searching eStream for it by date (in the format dd/mm/yyyy e.g. 22/06/2015). You can also search eStream by performer/ensemble or repertoire but this is less precise – ask us in the library for advice if you can’t find what you’re looking for.

Once you’re listening to a recording, in many cases you can browse the different pieces in the performance via the Chapters tab, or download the programme via the Related Media tab. Current students/staff can download the original recording file via the Details tab (Download button). You can also share a link to the recording with other students/staff via the Share button.

Screenshot showing the location of different eStream features on the page

So far recordings of several lunchtime concerts from this academic year are available, plus a selection of recordings from last academic year to whet your appetite, including a TL Symphony Orchestra concert of Rachmaninov and Mahler and a Senior Jazz Ensemble gig from the Inside Out Jazz festival.

Do get in touch with us or the Music Tech team if you have feedback on this new service. If you have technical difficulties with eStream please contact Ian Peppiatt in the Laban Library (who we are very grateful to for all his assistance in getting this up and running). Happy listening!

Making a Green Impact in the Jerwood Library

NUS Green Impact logo

NUS Green Impact is an environmental accreditation and awards scheme run by the National Union of Students. But what does it have to do with the Jerwood Library?

Well, Trinity Laban has been getting involved in Green Impact for the first time this year, with the support of the University of Greenwich. Green Impact enables student unions and teams of staff to make small changes in their institution which improve sustainability, for example by reducing waste and energy use. The Jerwood Library is one of several Green Impact teams set up this year, with Helen and Edith taking a lead in the library on green issues, and the library team aims to be awarded Bronze accreditation in this year’s assessment.

Here’s a few things we’ve been doing:

Using fewer paper coffee cups and saving money too!

Cappuccino in a reusable Keep Cup

It tastes better for being 10p cheaper!

Did you know that you now get a 10p discount on hot drinks in the cafés at the Faculty of Music and Faculty of Dance if you bring your own (clean) mug? This happened because library staff raised it as a concern at a Green Impact meeting, as we get through a lot of tea and coffee and were using a lot of paper cups as a result! Clive, Trinity Laban’s Head of Estates and Facilities, heard this at the meeting and was able to take it up with the catering company and negotiate the discount.

Transforming waste paper into notebooks

For years we’ve collected scrap paper (only printed on one side) next to our main photocopier and encouraged staff and students to reuse it for taking notes in the library. Spurred on by Green Impact, we’ve started transforming this waste paper into notebooks by adding waste card and metal spirals left over from binding student work. We’ve passed on some of these notebooks to other departments such as Reception and Room Bookings who have been very pleased to receive them!

Four notebooks made from scrap paper and spare binding materials

A few of our home-made notebooks

Greening our working environment

Tall leafy plant in a container in the Jerwood Library office

One of our new office plants

We’ve brought in a couple of plants to green our office. Plants remove pollutants from the atmosphere, give out oxygen and generally help make a healthier and more pleasant working environment. We’re hopeful that next academic year we can get funds to add a few plants to the library itself and improve the working environment for students.

 

What else should we do?

If you have any ideas about how we could make the library more sustainable, get in touch and we’ll see what we can do. If you’re a member of staff at Trinity Laban, why not get your team/department signed up for Green Impact next academic year? We would be happy to talk to you about our experiences.

The Jerwood Library of the Performing Arts celebrates the centenary of Benjamin Britten

Benjamin Britten c1949 (image courtesy of www.britten100.org)

Benjamin Britten c1949 (image courtesy of http://www.britten100.org)

If you’re in the area, why not pop in to the Jerwood Library to see our Britten display, celebrating 100 years since the birth of Benjamin Britten (1913 – 1976)? Tonight’s Choral Evensong at the Old Royal Naval College and next Tuesday’s Trinity Laban String Ensemble concert also mark Britten’s centenary.

“The old idea of a composer suddenly having a terrific idea and sitting up all night to write it is nonsense. Nighttime is for sleeping.”   –  Benjamin Britten

We’ve taken over the new items shelf, the glass display cabinet in the library, the wall mounted listening station and the display stand next to the library door in order to showcase just a small selection of the Britten materials that the library holds, including several new Britten CDs that have only just been added to stock!

Why not try putting ‘Benjamin Britten’ into our online catalogue, to instantly see exactly which materials the library holds by Britten and whether they are available.

Also, if you’re a student at Trinity Laban and find yourself writing essays about Britten or programme notes, why not try using our new search tool: QuickSearch. QuickSearch allows you to do a single broad search for your topic, giving you results which include journal articles, audio, reviews, magazines and books.

The display won’t last long, so come and have a look while it’s still here. If you are a student or staff member at Trinity Laban, and something on the display catches your eye, then why not ask at the desk to borrow it!

http://www.britten100.org/home is the official website celebrating the centenary of composer Benjamin Britten in 2013.

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.

Cataloguing Stanley Black and Carey Blyton

This is a guest post from Julija Paskova who has been working with us this year as a volunteer. We’ve been incredibly lucky to have Julija with us and are very grateful to her for lending us her time and expertise.

My name is Julija Paskova and I am a Latvian musicologist. So far I have spent three months at Trinity Laban’s Jerwood Library of the Performing Arts participating in a couple of projects on a voluntary basis. This is because as a musicologist I am very interested in the notion of merging two fields – musicology and librarianship, and on a path of a career change, volunteering is a perfect way to gain better insights.

The Jerwood Library is an excellent place to gain an extensive understanding of the music library world. Thanks to a friendly, supportive and highly professional library management and staff, I managed to build on my previous work experience in music cataloguing by discovering new perspectives such as manuscript and sound recording cataloguing.

The first project I was offered to work on was cataloguing a special collection of eminent British film composer, arranger, conductor and pianist Stanley Black. Some of the legendary film scores which are associated with Stanley Black’s name not only as a composer but as a musical director include It Always Rains on Sunday, Wonderful to Be Young! and The Long and The Short and The Tall.

Another special collection at the Jerwood Library which I created original records for are unpublished autograph scores of British composer and writer Carey Blyton (nephew of legendary children’s author Enid Blyton) who was also a professor of harmony, counterpoint and orchestration at Trinity College of Music. This collection due to its scarcity provides highly valuable material for research.

I was also given an opportunity to develop valuable skills working on an extensive collection of donated sound recordings. Donations often vary in quality and usefulness meaning that relevance needs to be taken into consideration.

The importance of quality music cataloguing is largely undervalued. The process of creating a user-friendly but multilayered record requires a strong musical background as well as librarianship. This is becoming more so the case due to the “digital revolution” leaving libraries with a sudden large amount of unsorted information.

I would like to thank Claire Kidwell, Helen Mason and Emma Greenwood for their warm attitude and willingness to create the best learning and working environment for me.