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Posts from the Music Division

Walfredo Toscanini, 1928-2011

 Walfredo Toscanini (at left) with Arturo Toscanini, his grandfather, during the 1950 tour of the NBC Symphony Orchestra

It was with sad news that we heard of the passing of Walfredo Toscanni, who died on December 31, 2011.  An architect who was based in New York City, he was the grandson of conductor Arturo Toscanini and was instrumental in allowing NYPL's Music Division to obtain the Toscanini Legacy — the massive collection containing the conductor's personal papers,

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Happy New Year from NYPL's Music Division!

"Just Out" polka by Francis H. Brown (New York: Hall & Son, 1856)

Happy New Year!

Just as a new chick emerges from its shell, so does the new year come upon us. This polka was composed by Francis H. Brown (1818-1891), one of numerous and forgotten 19th-century American composers of popular music.

The colorful lithograph above was produced by the firm of Sarony, Major and Knapp. According to Wikipedia, Napoleon Sarony (1821-1896) worked as a lithographer for the noted firm of Currier & Ives, before launching his own business.

In 1867, 

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Wikipedia! The Musical! A Review!

Wikipedia! The Musical! design created by Lauren Lampasone

On October 22, “Wikipedia! The Musical!” was staged at The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. Despite its whimsical name, it was not really a musical but an editathon — a chance to edit Wikipedia with a group of people in an inspiring location. Though its focus was improving articles on musical theater, anyone interested in the performing arts was welcome.

For me, 

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Finding a Life at The New York Public Library

This last week of October, 2011 is Magic Week. Perhaps it's a good time to tell this true story about how I found a life at The New York Public Library:

In the spring of 1923, my grandfather, a magician, disappeared. This well practiced man of magic had pulled off his greatest trick of all. He was never seen again — at least not by my family. His love for the circus could not hold him to a small town, a young wife, and a three-year-old son. He left, and the memory of him was put aside. Occasionally my grandmother would 

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Great Albums You May Have Missed: Eels "Blinking Lights and Other Revelations"

Personal heartache and loss seem to be in the news a lot this week, and all of the world knows why. New Yorkers need no reminder, yet some music can’t seem to help but recall moments of heartache. The best music rises above and creates beauty, like the Eels masterpiece Blinking Lights and Other Revelations.

Knowing the behind-the-scenes stories of artists can at times strip away what makes the art special. Blinking Lights and Other Revelations needs no illumination, 

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Works Created with the Help of the Music Division, 2010-2011

As we go over statistics from the previous fiscal year (ending on June 30), we note with pleasure and pride numerous works that have been created utilizing materials from the Music Division.

Have you published a book or article, given a talk, or participated in a performance where your have benefited from research in the Music Division? We want to know about it! Please send me an e-mail so that I may include you in the list of works for the current fiscal year.

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Celebrating Lucille Ball with Music

First edition of the theme song for "I Love Lucy"

Happy belated 100th birthday to Lucille Ball!

While the Music Division of The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts may seem peripheral to Lucille Ball and her legacy, we do have an important connection to the theme music of her first television show.

To begin with, the Music Division has what is believed to be the first edition of the show’s theme song in sheet music 

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The Music Division's Patron Saint, Katharine Drexel

On Sunday, the first of October, 2000 in Rome, Pope John Paul II presided over the ceremony that would elevate Philadelphia born Katharine Drexel to sainthood. It’s doubtful that few, if any of the thousands present that rainy day in St. Peter’s Square were aware of the connection between the second American saint to be so designated and the collections of the Music Division of The New York Public Library.   Katharine Drexel was born on 26 November, 1858 in Philadelphia. As a child of the prominent Drexel ... Read More ›

Great Albums You May Have Missed: Trombone Shorty's Backatown (2010)

Great Albums You Might Have Missed finishes up our focus on the upcoming 2011 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival with our third classic album from this years performer’s. We have looked at some of the past and current music scenes of The Big Easy, now get ready for the future; Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue’s

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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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