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Posts from the Music Division

Great Albums You May Have Missed: Galactic's Ya-Ka-May (2010)

With an eye still trained on the upcoming 2011 New Orleans Jazzfest, Great Albums You May Have Missed skews new school with the current sound of the Crescent City, captured perfectly on Galactic's 2010 Ya-Ka-May.

Galactic have been a Jazzfest and New Orleans staple ever since they released their first album Cooling Off in 1996. The outfit consistently brings in varying outside talent to help 

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My Library: An Interview with Ben West of UnsungMusicalsCo., Inc

In the heart of Lincoln Center, the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, nestled between the Metropolitan Opera and the Vivian Beaumont Theatre, thrives in its role as a vibrant circuit between historical research and cutting-edge performance. And few researchers illustrate the Library's unique vitality for the performing arts community better than Ben West.

Ben West is a regular at LPA, where theatre professionals who shape the performing arts scene come for inspiration through their research in the LPA’s

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A Spring Break Internship at LPA

Surveying an unprocessed collection

The Music Division is fortunate to have an internship program for several years. This program allows students the unique experience to see what it is like working in a large music research library. Most of our interns are library school students, but occasionally musicology students have been with us. The program is mutually beneficial with particular benefits for the intern: we give them representative projects to work on, and they in turn get to see and understand their efforts in the context of a large library. Interns have the 

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Howard Ashman and Our Digital Future

Howard Ashman's disks at the Library of CongressThe Performing Arts Library has an amazing collection of manuscript and typewritten drafts from some of the greatest writers and musicians in the world.  The processes that led to groundbreaking experimental music compositions like John Cage's Music of Changes or Imaginary Landscape No. 1 are documented in the artist's papers. The Fred Ebb collection allows a researcher to peer into the creative process that led to lyrics like "Life is a Cabaret" and 

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Yakov Kreizberg, 1959-2011

It can be a strange thing when professional life intersects with the personal in the form of archival documents.

For the past week, the music world has been mourning the death of conductor Yakov Kreizberg, age 51, who had been a rising star, especially in Europe. Though he performed infrequently in the United States, I had a close connection to him:  We were best friends during our college years at Mannes College The New School for Music, 1976-1979. 

One of our classes was Dr. 

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Sneak Preview: Special Collections in Progress

Miniature children's booksI might be old school, but my favorite way of picking what to read, watch, listen, or even do research on, is by browsing. Letting inspiration be a part of what I learn next. Unfortunately, browsing is out of the question when one deals with closed stacks, offsite storage, and of course special collections.

As a Specialist in the Library’s Special Formats Processing department, what my colleagues and I mostly work on making available to the public is exactly the kinds of materials one cannot find on the open shelves.


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African Americans in Early American sheet music

What was the view of African Americans as reflected in early American music? Most histories of American music begin in the mid-19th century with minstrelsy or folk music (the Wikipedia entry is typical, beginning around 1850). It’s rare for studies on African American music to go back earlier, in part because there is so little.

But there is some.

In making more of our collections accessible online, I recently I scanned the card file for our AM1 collection (called 

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Music Album of the Dickens Family

What better way to honor the 198th birthday of Charles Dickens than with of one of the Music Division's more unusual items: A volume of music owned by Charles Dickens and his family.

The original cataloging for this item (done decades ago) is sketchy, so I've not been able to figure out who or when it was donated to the New York Public Library, although it was probably before World War II.  The last owner 

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Who Do You Think You Are—A Musician? Genealogy in the Music Division

Genealogy is back on prime time with the resumption of the show Who Do You Think You Are?, now beginning its second season on NBC-TV on Friday, February 4th.  Genealogy is my hobby too, so I'm always excited when I can combine it with my professional activities in the Music Division.

According to the American Library Association, "Genealogical research has become one of America's favorite 

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Jacob Wrey Mould: Architect of Central Park and Lyricist

Angel of the Waters Fountain and Bethesda Terrace, Central Park, New York City - photograph by Ahodges7, used under Creative Commons license from Wikipedia

Each week for many years, Christopher Gray has written the Streetscapes column for the Sunday edition of the New York Times, focusing on out-of-the-way stories of curiosity, beauty, 

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New Year's Waltz

New year's wishes to everyone!

Just a few words on the music pictured above.  This anonymous piano work was published around 1827 by Samuel Bromberg of New York City.  The address listed on the music is 395 Broadway, but in the New York City directory of 1829-1830, the publisher is located at 80 Broadway "upstairs."  Bromberg apparently came from Denmark: his petition for naturalization was made on June 9, 1835.  (These immigration and naturalization documents are available online through

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Happy 240th, Beethoven! And thank you, Beethoven Association!

What better way to celebrate Beethoven’s birthday than with a unique portrait of Beethoven.  The impressive oil-painting above usually hangs in The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts on the 3rd floor in the Research Division.  (Due to recent reconfiguration of public space, the painting is temporarily taking a rest from public view.)  It measures 57 x 46 inches and has an impressive provenance.  You can see some of its former owners by looking at the

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Puccini's La fanciulla del West 100 years ago

The December 10, 2010 performance of the Metropolitan Opera’s production (which opens tonight) of Giacomo Puccini’s La fanciulla del West will mark the 100th anniversary of the opera, which had its premiere at the Met on the same date in 1910 featuring a stellar cast of Emmy Destinn, Enrico Caruso, and Pasquale Amato with Arturo Toscanini conducting.

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Follow An Archive Day in the Music Division

Friday November 12, 2010 was a special day for users of Twitter and users of archives.  The day was designated as “Follow An Archive Day” or, to use the Twitter hashtag, #followanarchiveday

All over the world, archives were encouraging users to visit an archive and tweet about it.  These archives could send out tweets reminding the world of its existence. (Twitter hashtags, i.e. the word preceded by a # sign, allow for posts from different users to be searched and retrieved by 

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Music manuscripts from the composer of the Star-Spangled Banner

It’s been a while since my last post, but the genesis of this post began with July 4th, 2010.  I was thinking:  What better way to observe the anniversary of the United States of America than with the national anthem. (The image above ‑ seen through mylar protection ‑ is of the first edition of the Star-Spangled Banner owned by the Music Division – one of 

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Orphans within the storm

(If you think this blog entry is about the 1922 film Orphans of the Storm by D. W. Griffith, you're not entirely wrong; wait until the end.)

With digitization of books being a hot topic, some of you may have heard of the term "orphan works." In brief, an orphan work is a work where the copyright holder cannot be found. For musical works, many assume that "the copyright holder" is simply the composer, but this is not always true. The copyright holder can be the composer's descendents, relatives, lawyers, or anyone that the creator designates as a legal successor after the 

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The scores of Beverly Sills come to the Music Division

Beverly Sills musical scores have arrived at Lincoln Center in a venue in which she never sang: The Music Division of the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. We take pride in announcing that we received the collection of her scores from her estate auction at Doyle's New York on October 7, 2009. (We also obtained two costume designs by Thierry Bosquet, a frequent designer for the New York City Opera, which I'll discuss in another post.)

The auction was filled with people seeking interesting 

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For the Haydn Bicentennial

This year has seen many concerts marking the bicentennial of composer Joseph Haydn's death on May 31, 1809. As part of these events, the publisher, G. Henle Verlag of Munich has issued a facsimile of one of the Music Division's prized manuscripts, Haydn's Variations in F Minor, Hob. XVII:6. Composed in 1793, this work contains (in the words of noted musicologist James Webster): "arguably Haydn’s most original and concentrated double-variation movement, with a coda (added in revision) of Beethovenian power."

It is not known who owned this manuscript after its 

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Unexpected Wittgensteiniana in an archival collection

Sometimes you can find unusual items in unusual places. Alexander Waugh's new book "The House of Wittgenstein" brings the Wittgenstein family and their legacy to the forefront of attention. Apart from this publication, scholars can now investigate a little-known source in the Music Division at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.

A few years ago we received a gift of the working and personal papers of the eminent music theorist and professor, Felix Salzer. Salzer (1904-1986) was a student of the noted music theorist Heinrich Schenker (1868-1935). The papers 

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