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Posts from the Music Division

Turn Left at Greenland: The Beatles Meet the Press

When you enter the exhibition and walk past the stage set-up (accompanied by the sound of screaming girls), you see a line-up of microphones and a video clip of the Beatles landing in NYC for their first Q&A session with the American press. The Beatles were not only wonderful songwriters and singers, but they were experts at peppering their press conferences with wit—and avoiding real answers to meaningful questions.

As it happens, the press conference that we all memorized is fictional—not from a real encounter with the press, but from

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I Read the Journal-American Today, Oh Dear: Beatles Files Part 2

I have been working in the Music Division since 1997 and have been a Beatles fan since I was ten years old. So, over the years, I have made an effort to keep track of any new Beatles’ related material that we acquire. The Music Division, like the theatre division, also has extensive clipping and photo files. Read More ›

Great Albums You Might Have Missed: Black 47's Fire of Freedom (1993)

I was sitting shotgun on DJ duty during a long volleyball road trip back in high school when I put on a new tape (yes, cassette days) that I was loving of a band I had recently seen playing live at SUNY Albany (yes, pre Internet days). The group was Black 47, the album

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The Holy Grail of the Percussion World, Part 1

William F. Ludwig himself put it best when he said, “On February 9th, 1964, a new musical event burst from the TV screens across America. The Beatles had arrived, featuring Ringo Starr and his Ludwig Black Oyster drums. Literally overnight everyone wanted a drum set like Ringo’s. The drum boom was born!”Read More ›

Finding a Life at The New York Public Library: Emily Dickinson, the Avid Music Collector

December 10th is the birthday of Emily Dickinson (1830-1886), a beloved poet who in her youth was a talented pianist and active music collector. The collections of The New York Public Library serve to illuminate those interests and activities in a variety of ways.

Archives & Special Collections,Amherst College, used with permission.In 1846, Emily Dickinson's second cousin, Olivia Coleman, wrote to Emily from Philadelphia: "We discovered a new Music Store, and I purchased the song 'I'm alone—all alone,' for I am truly alone without 

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Those Mysterious Shadowy Dancers

This post answers a question about the image that the Library’s web page has been using when it highlights the Vandamm exhibition, Pioneering Poet of Light. I was thrilled when the web editors selected it, since it illustrates the title so well. So, here’s an extended caption, with musical accompaniment.

Three’s a Crowd was a revue, presented in the 1930-1931 season. Like The Band Wagon in last week's post, it was choreographed by the brilliantly innovative Albertina Rasch and paired a young Broadway/vaudeville veteran with a European ballet 

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"What Do You Say Up There?" Shooting the Set from Above

The most recent post looked at Vandamm photographs of dance rehearsals from footholds on the catwalks, ladders and rigging stations of Broadway theaters. This one focuses on their photographs of the stage crew setting up for those rehearsals.

Like all theater photographers, they depended on the crews to set scenes, move furniture and props, and adapt lighting. But, as you can see from the portraits and action shots, the Vandamms esteemed their IATSE colleagues and photographed them with the same respect as the performers. There are portraits of individuals or 

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Or She to Hecuba... Vandamm's Greek Plays

Thorndike's 1919 production of The Trojan WomenDuring the War, Florence Vandamm had not lost her skill at showing character and movement. Her career was, in many ways, redefined by the portraits commissioned by Suffragist actress Sybil Thorndike in 1919. She photographed the cast of the 1919-1920 Holborn Empire (Theater) season of classical Greek and modern plays presented by Sybil Thorndike and Lewis Casson.

The images were used for press reproduction and in the season program. Thorndike chose to present the Gilbert Murray translations of The Trojan Women and 

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A Vandamm Postcard from London

Before leaving London in 1923, Florence Vandamm photographed Sybil Thorndike in at least five additional roles. Thorndike was known for her ability to play comedy and tragedy, so there was a wide range. She appeared in the suffrage play Jane Clegg for Edith Craig's Pioneer Players, 1922, reminding her audience that conditions remained despite the political victory. Thorndike also played in and presented modern comedies, such as Advertising April in 1923.

Theater promotional postcards were re-emerging after World War I restrictions on dark room materials.  

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Florence Vandamm

Perhaps the most widely published and least understood visual record of 20th century performing arts, the output of the Vandamm Studio has largely been utilized only as illustrative backdrop for the retelling of Broadway history. The prints, contact sheets, and negatives of theater, music and dance in London (1908–1923) and New York (1924–1963) are among the Library for the Performing Arts's most requested treasures.

Few are aware that the visionary photographer and portraitist who lent her talent and name to the studio was a woman and one who opened her 

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La veuve Boivin: A Woman at the Beginning of the Music Publishing Industry

Consider this a late contribution to this year's Womens' History Month.

When most people think of the involvement of women in music they probably think of performers or composers. To be sure, women performers have been at the forefront of music for centuries, and in recent years awareness of women composers has grown enormously, particularly with those from the twentieth century. But there is at least one other music-related field in which women have made a significant mark: publishing.

Between the seventeen-century to the middle of the nineteenth-century, 

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Art and Low Vision: The Sound of Monet’s Weeping Willow Series

Hear the audio version of this blog post. Narration: Kevin Gillins. Music performed by La Capella Reial de Catalunya; Le Concert des Nations; conductor: Jordi Savall.

I am looking at Monet's Weeping Willow series and want to describe these works to people who cannot see. I think music, with its sensual and dramatic language will most elegantly convey the power of these works.

In 1791, Mozart composed in Vienna parts of what is now known as the Requiem Mass in D Minor (K. 626). 

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New Mendelssohn Discoveries in the Music Division

Felix Mendelssohn's signature from Drexel 4903It is still possible to discover amazing things in the New York Public Library in 2013, its 108th year of existence. What's even more amazing about this story is that the discovered items have been with the Library since its founding and have gone unnoticed until now. I am happy to write this story in anticipation of February 3, 2013, the 203rd birthday of composer Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy.

Part of my work in the Music Division involves cataloging scores — not newly published materials, but a portion of the over 

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Happy Public Domain Day, 2013!

No copyright!

Our markets, our democracy, our science, our traditions of free speech, and our art all depend more heavily on a Public Domain of freely available material than they do on the informational material that is covered by property rights. The Public Domain is not some gummy residue left behind when all the good stuff has been covered by property law. The Public Domain is the place we quarry the building blocks of our culture. It is, in fact, the majority of our culture. —James Boyle, The Public Domain, p.40f, 2008, quoted on the ... Read More ›

Works Created with the Help of the Music Division, 2011-2012

I'm happy to present a review of how the Music Division contributed to knowledge for 2011-2012. Although my information is based on the fiscal year ending June 30, 2012, December seems like an appropriate time to post this information.

Today the pervasiveness of the Internet leads some to question the usefulness of libraries. Many try to determine a library's effectiveness by attendance: Surely 50 users in one day is better than 5? (I recall an article from library school that questioned whether it is worth collecting a book if it is consulted only once in 50 

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"It's Great! But Why is it Here?" Musical Revue Research Guide, Part 2

In the Research Guide, Part I, I advised that the easiest way to find information at LPA is by name or title. I advised that the research can benefit by compiling a list of every person in or involved in a production and serendipity can come your way. That third dancer from the left can become a star and/or obsessive collector or just happen to have the right piece of information in a clipping file. Sometimes, however, you can do your research prep and be looking in a 

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You Never Can Tell: Musical Revue Research Guide, Part 1

Visitors to the exhibition and blog channel The Great American Revue have peppered me with questions that can be summarized as: "where do you find that stuff?" Substitute artifacts for "stuff" and it becomes a request for a research guide.

The New York Public Library has been collecting performing arts content since the 1880s and online cataloging since the 1980s. Most of the material in the Revues 

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Advertising Through Marching: Sheet Music at LPA

The Music Division has an amazing amount of sheet music, much of which is not listed in the online catalog. Over the years, some of this sheet music has been compiled into different collections. One of these collections called, P.I. Marches or Popular Instrumental Marches, contains marches that were arranged for the piano.

While compiling a database of these marches I came across several that were written as advertisements. These marches were published between 1897 and 1923. They represent a range of companies whose 

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Wait for Me, World: The Kander, Ebb and Wasserman Musical that Never Was

Dale WassermanMost archivists will tell you that the best part of our job is the feeling of possibility. Every time you open a box and start digging through it, you might find that something amazing — you might be making an intellectual discovery. This can be especially exciting when you’re dealing with a subject that you thought you pretty much had down cold. Professionally, I live for these moments and I had one while processing the Dale Wasserman Papers.

After his tremendous success writing the book for 

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The Act I Finale

The Great American Revue is coming to the end of its run at the Vincent Astor Gallery, LPA. It employed Library for the Performing Arts treasures to represent the 15 revue series on Broadway, from the first Follies in 1907 — to the Pins & Needles series in 1939. The blog channel will continue and for the next few weeks, will focus on some of the treasures that we had to edit out of the exhibition.

For plotless revues 

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