Tag Archives: julie

Have Your Cake and Concert, Too!

“Have You Tried the Music Library?”

In 1938, a group of musically prominent Pittsburgh citizens approached the director of Carnegie Library [of Pittsburgh] requesting that he consider the establishment of a music collection. He agreed and selected a thirty-year-old library assistant to be its initial organizer. Irene Millen gathered together the music materials scattered throughout the library system and made them accessible to the public. When it became clear that the acquisitions budget for music would not meet the demands of the enthusiastic public, Irene harnessed that enthusiasm to found the Friends of the Music Library, with an administrative board comprised of representatives from every Pittsburgh musical organization. The Friends served both as fundraiser and as public relations resource for the music collection. “Have you tried the library?” was something she taught the board to ask their constituencies whenever they had a music need or problem.

Ida Reed, the Music Department manager who succeeded Irene Millen, wrote this description of the establishment of the department. In my role as the current manager, I also like to ask the “Have you tried the Music Library?” question. Users, supporters and friends all know—there’s no better resource in Pittsburgh for the serious musician, as well as anyone with a casual interest in music, including, in the words of Irene Millen, “parents whose children are studying music, program annotators, and non-practicing music lovers.”

1938 — 2013

Next month the Music Department will celebrate 75 years of service to music fanciers in Pittsburgh and beyond. Cue the trumpets! Our new concert series heralds a coming season of celebration.

Sounds Upstairs: Hear the Library’s Music Department Collection Come to Life!

Sounds Upstairs intends to lead listeners of all ages up the welcoming marble staircase to the second floor of the Main Library in Oakland, to hear acoustic presentations of music drawn from our collection. The thousands of books, scores, and recordings that fill our department leave no room for concertizing, so our series will be held down the hall, in the International Poetry Room. 

Sunday, September 8, our inaugural concert presents violinist Sandro Leal-Santiesteban and cellist Hannah Whitehead performing both solo and duo pieces in a program ranging from Bach to Gershwin with recent compositions by Mark Summer and Pittsburgher Sean Neukom.

Sandro Leal-Santiesteban

Sandro Leal-Santiesteban

Hannah Whitehead

Hannah Whitehead

Sunday, September 8
3:30 — 4:30 PM
CLP – Main, International Poetry Room (second floor)

Before the concert, join us for a birthday cake reception hosted by the Friends of the Music Library, beginning at 2:30, in the Music Department.

After you try the library, please spread the word!



Filed under Uncategorized

Do You Know the Way?

The Music Library Association (MLA) held its annual meeting last month. Four hundred music librarians convened in the urban center of Silicon Valley, San José, California. Educational sessions included real if not exactly glamorous topics: the new cataloging standard (RDA, “Resource Description and Access”); music archives; and music preservation. Matters tending more toward the philosophical were discussed, too, including existential threats to libraries and evolving librarian responses and actions.

Because the number of public libraries with distinct music departments has diminished in recent years, public music librarians at the MLA conference were significantly outnumbered by college and university music librarians. (Pittsburgh is fortunate. Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh maintains a robust music collection and dedicated staff.)

MLA’s Public Libraries Committee, chaired by CLP’s own David King, is a small yet undaunted group that provides opportunities to share common work experience.

Each year the Committee organizes a tour of the host city’s public library. This year we visited Martin Luther King, Jr. Library, a collaboration between the City of San José and San José State University, the first joint use library in the United States shared by a major university and a city as its main library. The project was first announced in 1997, with the grand opening celebrated in 2003.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Library, San Jose, CA

Martin Luther King, Jr. Library, San José, CA


CD and DVD browsing collections on the ground floor

The King Library’s ground floor atrium acts as a bridge between twin entrances. One set of doors opens from a busy city street corner, the other from the SJSU campus. The lower three floors house public library materials.


Rules for eating, drinking, talking

Students Study

Quiet study floor

Floors six and eight are quiet study areas. Floor seven is—shhh!—for silent work.

All San José residents have access to the academic collection of materials from the SJSU Library. Academic databases, including business databases, streaming video and music, are available to everyone using the King Library.





All King Library patrons also have access to special research collections, including The Steinbeck Center


John Steinbeck enjoys recorded music






Beethoven Center guide prepares to demonstrate historic instrument

and The Beethoven Center (a favorite of our MLA group).


It’s fun to daydream: what if CLP and University of Pittsburgh’s Hillman Library combined, making both collections accessible to students and non-students alike? Hillman-Carnegie Library has a nice ring to it!



Filed under Uncategorized

Lift Every Voice and Sing

We celebrate Black History Month every day of February. One of those days of reflection, February 12, is also the birth date of Abraham Lincoln. Here’s a true story about how Black History Month and Lincoln’s birth date hold hands.

The Johnson brothers were at the beginning of their careers in 1900. James Weldon Johnson became principal of Stanton School in Jacksonville, Florida, in 1894, at the age of 23. He went on to study law, and was the first African American to be admitted to the Florida Bar.

James Weldon Johnson

James Weldon Johnson
Photo: Yale Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library

John Rosamond Johnson, known as J. Rosamond, studied music at the New England Conservatory of Music and in Europe in the 1890s. In 1901, he moved to New York City to work in musical theater as composer, singer, actor, and founder of the Music School Settlement for Colored People in Harlem. But it was while the Johnson brothers were residing in their hometown of Jacksonville that they collaborated to write a song that remains significant and powerful more than 100 years after its birth.

J. Rosamond Johnson

J. Rosamond Johnson
Photo: Yale Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library

James Weldon Johnson wrote poems, and J. Rosamond Johnson frequently set his brother’s words to music. One of the first songs they created was for the Stanton School’s celebration of Abraham Lincoln’s birthday on February 12, 1900. Five-hundred students united their voices, and the song “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” eventually known as the Black National Anthem, sounded in air for the first time.

In 1935, James Weldon Johnson wrote

Our New York publisher, Edward B. Marks, made mimeographed copies for us, and the song was taught to and sung by a chorus of five hundred colored school children. Shortly afterward my brother and I moved from Jacksonville to New York, and the song passed out of our minds. But the school children of Jacksonville kept singing it, and they went off to other schools and sang it, they became teachers and taught it to other children. Within twenty years it was being sung over the South and in other parts of the country. Today, the song, popularly known as the Negro National Hymn, is quite generally used.

Follow these links to a few of the many “Lift Every Voice and Sing” library resources, including two illustrated song books, a celebration in print of the song’s 100th anniversary, printed music, and a recorded version.

Lift Every VoiceLift Every Voice and Sing, illustrated by Bryan Collier

 Lift Every Voice and Sing: A Pictorial Tribute to the Negro National Anthem

 Lift Every Voice and Sing: A Celebration of the Negro National Anthem: 100 Years, 100 Voices

Songs for PeaceSongs for Peace: 100 Songs of the Peace Movement

A Choral Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.A Choral Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.



Filed under Uncategorized

One A Day

Sounds I expect to hear during December.

1. Bells.

2. “Oh Boy! What smells so good in the oven?”

3. Snow Blowers. (I hope not!)

4. Scrape of snow shovels. (I hope so!)

5. Tire chains.

6. Crows cawing as they gather at twilight.

7. Clinking radiators.

8. “Light one candle.”

9. A match striking.

10. An axe splitting fire wood.

11. A crackling fire.

12. Carol singing.

13. “Bah! Humbug!”

14. The squeak of snow under foot.

15. Hockey referee’s whistle (after the strike ends).

16. Champagne corks popping.

17. The same holiday song over and over again, at every grocery store, coffee shop, bank . . .

18. Postal and package delivery trucks stopping on my street.

19. My own footsteps taking me to the window to see if one of those trucks has a present for me!

20. “Attention shoppers!”

21. The lonely winter wail of a train horn passing through Panther Hollow.

22. “Hi Mom, we just landed. Can’t wait to see you!”

23. Wind.

24.  The hush after snowfall.

25. “Ho! Ho! Ho!”

26. Candles spitting.

27. Chattering teeth.

28. Campaign robo calls. (Wait — that was November!)

29. Skate blades on ice.

30. Roar of the crowd as the Steelers score!

31. “Happy New Year!”

Someone who really pays attention to sound is the Canadian composer R. Murray Schafer. In The Tuning of the World he writes about the soundscape throughout history, and explores and analyzes our present acoustic environment. A recent New York Times essay led me to a new book, The Universal Sense: How Hearing Shapes the Mind by Seth Horowitz, an auditory neuroscientist who handles very technical aspects of hearing and sound with humor and grace.



Filed under Uncategorized

Arcangel’s AUDMCRS

A turntable, headphones, a pair of white gloves, and 839 cataloged record albums.

This Friday, a study table in our Music, Film & Audio department will become the home of an art installation entitled AUDMCRS Underground Dance Music Collection of Recorded Sound, a new work by Cory Arcangel.

Mr. Arcangel’s collection of trance and underground dance music is yours to peruse and listen to from November 2, 2012 through January 27, 2013, during the Carnegie Museum of Art’s exhibition, Cory Arcangel: Masters. Visit the Music, Film & Audio department during library hours, and one of our at-your-service librarians will gladly give you a tour.

Tina Kukielski, who moved to Pittsburgh to co-curate the 2013 Carnegie International, recently told me, “I insist on taking visiting participating artists on tours through the library because I love it. Cory, when he was here, was inspired!” She describes the exhibition in the following quote from the Museum’s web site.

Best known for his modified versions of obsolete video games, Arcangel employs readymade digital technology as his primary medium, bringing a playful hacker’s sensibility to critical modifications of pervasive pop-culture phenomena such as websites, YouTube videos, Hollywood films, music, and various other internet platforms. Cory Arcangel: Masters provides a focused survey of Arcangel’s practice in the form of predominantly time-based works and performances, which live as witty interventions into contemporary culture that expose ephemeral moments of modern life. The exhibition reflects the artist’s work since 2002, including the debut of a new installation in the neighboring Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s main branch, and Selected Single Channel Videos, a performance by Arcangel.

“In the past decade, few artists have so successfully melded criticality with the sense of playful irreverence that pervades our modern do-it-yourself digital culture as Cory Arcangel,” says Kukielski. “We live in a technological world that combines ubiquity with rapid obsolescence. Some artists turn away from our oversaturated world, while Arcangel embraces the noise.”

Stop by and see/hear for yourself.



Filed under Uncategorized

You can do anything so long as you sing it.*

In place of Julie’s regularly scheduled post, we’re proud to present a special guest, Rebekah, a fellow music librarian and a participant in Pittsburgh’s vibrant opera scene.

It’s fall and in addition to the leaves changing and the air becoming a bit cooler, seasons begin for many music organizations, including opera companies.  Pittsburgh Opera opens its 2012-13 season of classics in October with Rigoletto and continues with Don Giovanni, The Secret Marriage (performed by its resident artists), Madama Butterfly and La Cenerentola.  CLP’s Music Department has partnered with the Pittsburgh Opera’s education department since 2001 to produce a resource guide to help you immerse yourself in the operas of the season.  Books, librettos, CDs and DVDs await you as you get ready to experience revenge gone wrong, a womanizer getting what he deserves, a wedding of undercover lovers, a tragic love story and a fairytale romance.  I’m excited to see Don Juan in action in a new production of Mozart’s opera.

If you still want more opera, Pittsburgh has plenty of it.  Quantum Theatre, the nomadic theater company, will present the Pittsburgh premiere of Argentinian composer Osvaldo Golijov’s work, “Ainadamar,” based upon the life of Federico García Lorca.  Previously they had staged Astor Piazzolla’s opera tango, “María de Buenos Aires” at the deserted East Liberty YMCA.  It will be interesting to see how they use the space at East Liberty Presbyterian ChurchCarnegie Mellon’s Opera Workshop offers “Into the Woods” as their fall production.  I know, I know, it’s a musical… or is it?  We have to wait until February to see Duquesne University Opera Workshop’s production of “Dialogues of the Carmelites” but they will have an aria night in October.  Microscopic Opera just finished a run of “Riders to the Sea” (the play and the opera) and “Lizbeth,” all works about family tragedies.  Next up will be “The Little Sweep” in March.  Undercroft Opera, a company of all local singers, will stage “The Barber of Seville” in February and has yet to announce their 2013 summer production.  We also anticipate the next season of Opera Theater Summerfest.

Dare I mention venturing to the movie theater for the Metropolitan Opera’s Live in HD broadcasts?  It’s opera on the big screen and you don’t have to hop the Megabus to New York.  You just venture to the Cinemark Theaters at Pittsburgh Mills or Robinson Township or Rave Motion Pictures-Pittsburgh North 11.  Last season, many people experienced Robert Lepage’s innovative Ring Cycle.  I was not among them as I am not a fan of Wagner’s epic work unlike my boss, Julie, who has seen over 10 different productions.  I think she and I can both agree that opera plots can be about anything.  Maybe I’ll see you at one this year.

— Rebekah

*A quotation from the fabulous Anna Russell who parodied the Ring Cycle in solo concert performances


Filed under Uncategorized

Faster Than a Speeding Book Review!

In librarians’ lingo, the term for helping patrons choose a book to read—Readers’ Advisory—is often referred to as RA. Librarians employ strategies and tools to help us recommend books we haven’t read ourselves.Our most enticing recommendations, though, pour from our hearts when we offer a title we know and love.

The Eleventh Stack blog provides a handy channel for enthusiastic, first-hand, written book recommendations. “I loved this book. You might too, and here’s why.”

But let me describe a kind of RA that has a different slant: eight librarians delivering one-minute introductions, one after the other, to the books we most want to share with readers.

Tomorrow, September 11, at noon in Pittsburgh’s downtown Market Square, a troupe of librarians (myself included) will dazzle listeners with an RA performance named 30 Books in 30 Minutes.

We’ll pull rabbits out of hats, flames will shoot from our fingertips, and the sun will disappear behind the moon. Or we hope you’ll think so, as we lead you swiftly beyond formulaic best sellers to a land of diverse books plucked from the shelves of our beloved Carnegie Library.

My contributions will include a 1993 novel by a local author; a biography of composer John Cage, born 100 years ago this month; a history of the delicious food fish, American shad; and a well-researched, serious yet light-hearted guide to sad songs.

Wolf Whistle by Lewis Nordan


Novelist Clyde Edgerton said he’d rather read Lewis Nordan than find money. Nordan’s Wolf Whistle is based on a real-life murder. Somehow the author, a former University of Pittsburgh professor who passed away last year, turns this grim subject matter into a magical tale.




Begin Again: A Biography of John Cage by Kenneth Silverman

Reading about Cage’s creative life uplifts and inspires me. The author of this bio is not a music scholar—the narrative’s focus includes not only Cage’s music, but poetry, visual art, and philosophical influences such as Marshall McLuhen, Buckminster Fuller, and Zen Buddhism.


The Founding Fish by John McPhee

McPhee could write a thousand words about watching a tree grow and hold the reader’s attention. A 350-page book about one type of fish? You won’t want just a bite—you’ll want to eat the whole thing. Bonus tip: The “book on tape” version (actually on CD) is in McPhee’s own voice.



This Will End in Tears: The Miserabilist Guide to Music by Adam Brent Houghtaling

Why are sad songs so appealing? Why do composer write them? This collection of short essays explores a wide range of song writers. In one of a few longer pieces, Houghtaling describes his attempt “to coalesce disparate artists separated by time and traditional genres into a new system based on emotional cues (sad is the new jazz).”





Filed under Uncategorized

Clink, chime!

Boom, clang, tinkle.

Last weekend my husband and I explored Pennsylvania north of Pittsburgh. A converted 5 & 10 store in Franklin, now the home of DeBence Antique Music World, provided irresistible bait. From tour guide, executive director, and ace restorer Scotty Greene, we learned the history of the DeBence collection of over one-hundred working, automatic musical instruments. A retired mechanical engineer, Scotty and his wife Dottie are dedicated caretakers of this mechanical wonderland. It’s impossible not to grin widely while listening to music boxes, player pianos, street organs, fairground organs, calliopes, nickelodeons and other self-playing instruments.

Ring, jingle, toll.

The music that fills DeBence’s, though composed decades ago, comes to life on instruments unmitigated by the recording process. (Not surprisingly, recording technology rapidly displaced the technology of automatic musical instruments.) A tour of DeBence’s will easily prove that electric amplification is not required to produce sounds capable of traveling long distances.

WurliTzer 125 Military Band Organ, Bayernhof Museum

Drum, thrum,
clatter, throb.

Close your eyes. Are you at the circus? Riding a carousal? You might be standing in front of a live marching band. But this is no parade. It’s live music booming from a 1920s military band organ.

According to the company catalog of 1928, the WurliTzer band organ, manufactured in North Tonawanda, NY, was built for “skating rinks, fairs, carousels and summer resorts. WurliTzer Military Band Organs produce lively, enjoyable music of such great volume that they are sure to attract Crowds . . .” When Scotty flips the on switch, be ready to skate away. The volume directly in front of the mighty WurliTzer, style 165, succeeds in generating “the loud, lively, enjoyable music that everybody likes, and that cannot be drowned out by the noise of the skaters.”

Just across the Allegheny River from Pittsburgh, Sharpsburg’s Bayernhof Museum provides an opportunity to hear a band organ closer to home. Their WurliTzer Military Band Organ, Style 125, was also employed in amusement parks for carousels and in skating rinks. Bayernhof’s web site understates the sound when it proclaims, “It’s 101 pipes are a bit overpowering when played indoors, even in a room as large as its home in Bayernhof. In addition, it has percussion in the form of a bass drum, snare drum and top mounted cymbal. It is quite substantial, weighing almost 800 pounds. WurliTzer built band organs in several sizes, with the larger ones having trombone and saxophone pipes, bells, castanets, and crash cymbals, in addition to a larger number of organ pipes.”

Rattle, snap, thunder
Crash, roll!

Next time you’re strolling down a board walk, riding a painted horse, or gliding in a rink, hear the music. You might be in the presence of a self-playing musical instrument from another ear. In the mean time, the Music Department’s mechanical instrument guide books and recordings await you.


Barrel Organ: The Story of the Mechanical Organ and Its Repair, Arthur W. J. G. Ord-Hume

Encyclopedia of Automatic Musical Instruments, Q. David Bowers

Player Piano Treasury: The Scrapbook History of the Mechanical Piano in America as Told in Story, Pictures, Trade Journal Articles and Advertising, Harvey Roehl


Catch the Brass Ring [Recording made from a WurliTzer band organ, style 165!]

The Circus Is Coming: Old Fashioned Calliope Music

Mechanical Music Hall: Street, Penny & Player Pianos, Musical Boxes & Other Automata

Please Don’t Shoot the Piano Player: Old Fashioned Player Piano Music



Filed under Uncategorized

Good Listeners

Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh holds history. The most obvious form of history housed here may be the written word, but the spoken word lives here too, in both recordings and transcripts.

I read in today’s newspaper that James Billington, the Librarian of Congress, announced that a collection of recorded interviews has been donated to the Library of Congress.

More than 25 years ago, retired music executive Joe Smith accomplished a Herculean feat—he got more than 200 celebrated singers, musicians and industry icons to talk about their lives, music, experiences and contemporaries. The Library of Congress announced today that Smith has donated this treasure trove of unedited sound recordings to the nation’s library.

Yesterday I leafed through Joe Smith’s book, Off the Record: An Oral History of Popular Music. In entries of only a page or two, the individual voices of 200 musicians gleam like select gems.

Oral History as a scholarly discipline emerged with the advent of portable recording devices, which allowed taped interviews with subjects where they lived and worked. John and Alan Lomax, father and son oral history pioneers, collected folk songs as well as interviews with singers, preserving not only the music, but also the stories behind the songs. One of Alan Lomax’s best known projects is his 1938 recording of interviews with and performances by Jelly Roll Morton. The result is nine hours of recordings that fill seven CDs—Jelly Roll Morton: The Complete Library of Congress Recordings by Alan Lomax. An eighth disc includes a PDF document containing a complete transcription of all dialogue and lyrics on discs one through seven.

Studs Terkel, who helped establish oral history as an important historical genre, began his career with the Federal Writers’ Project, part of the WPA. The FWP produced written guides to each state. Part travelogue, part local encyclopedia, these books and pamphlets include material from oral histories collected from residents throughout the United States, many from previously unexplored and unrecorded regions. A history of the FWP was published in 2009,  Soul of a People: The WPA Writers’ Project Uncovers Depression America, and a companion DVD, Soul of a People: Writing America’s Story: A Unique & Powerful Portrait of 1930s Americana.

Division Street: America, Studs Terkel’s first book of interview transcripts, debuted in 1967. Two companion books followed, Hard Times: An Oral History of the Great Depression (1970), and Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do (1974). One reviewer stated, “His success is, I think, due less to the questions he asks than to his genuine interest in people and his genuine curiosity about their points of view. He is that rarest of birds among radio or television personalities, a good listener.”

In my next post, I’ll introduce you to a few more good listeners who documented musicians’ stories and songs, in both written and recorded forms.

Happy listening!



Filed under Uncategorized

What’s big and fun and read all over?


A poster showing the chorus girls of a 1900 extravaganza. Image from Library of Congress’s Prints and Photographs division, Wikimedia Commons.

And it’s coming to Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh in Oakland this Sunday, June 10, 2012.

Extravaganza’s official purpose is to promote summer reading programs. But whether or not you sign up for “Summer Reading” (we offer programs for every age group), there are many reasons to visit the Oakland Library between 12:00 and 5:00 PM this Sunday.

For the past eleven years, kids and adults, friends and families have gathered inside and outside the library on a June afternoon to celebrate the beginning of summer. This Sunday’s festivities will include lots of hands-on activities as well as entertainment—puppet shows, story tellers, and an enticing menu of musical offerings. I’d like to point you to one particular program, 2:30 – 3:30 PM inside the library. Come to the Quiet Reading Room (not so quiet today), get out of the sun, have a seat, and listen to the Riversong String Ensemble, from the Pittsburgh Mandolin Society.

The Riversong String Ensemble is six musicians, each of whom plays at least two different instruments. You will hear various combinations of fiddle, dulcimer, mandolin, mandola, mandocello, bass, guitar, tenor banjo, cello banjo, harmonica, and hurdy-gurdy. A YouTube channel provides a preview.

The leader of Riversong contacted the Music Department and asked if we’d be interested in assisting them put together a program that would highlight materials the library has to offer. She wrote, “For example, we could play a piece by John Dowland (16th century), and then tell the audience that, if they liked it, they can get copies of his works in your printed music section. Then we could play a piece by Gershwin, and tell the audience that they can hear more of his work in your audio music section.”

Librarians get excited by this kind of project. My colleague, Kirby, eagerly put together a long list of relevant printed music, recordings, and books.

I’ll be there Sunday, ready for the pluck, strum, plunk, pick, and twang.

By the way, as of April 18, I’m the new Head of the Music, Film & Audio Department. In a future post I’ll tell you more about myself and what the future might hold for MF&A.


Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized