Saturday, August 2, 2014

|e artist:
Recognizing Sheet Music Illustrators

Since my time at the UNC Music Library cataloging sheet music is coming to a close, I wanted to share with others (and record for myself) some of the artists whose work and monograms I have come to know well. Sadly I cannot share all of my favorite cover images due to copyright laws, but even with these limitations I have a considerable number of photos to post. Since my job was solely confined to cataloging these scores and not digitizing them, the pictures included here are not of the highest quality. I simply would take a few quick snapshots of interesting covers at the end of my work day. Hopefully the quality of the images does nothing to diminish the artists' work. Luckily some of the items in the UNC Sheet Music Collection will soon be given the attention they are due through professional digitization. Work has begun on digitizing all of the sheet music in the collection associated with World War I, a few examples of which are included below. I am looking forward to seeing the entire collection online and think it will get a lot of use from students and scholars. I am personally thinking of using the collection this fall for a seminar on art and WWI.

While some might feel that noting the names of cover artists in bibliographic records for the Music Library is out of scope, I feel strongly that bib records should be created with a broad audience in mind so that the items cataloged are used more frequently and fully. Most individuals visiting the Music Library to see the Sheet Music Collection likely will only be interested in the musical characteristics of these items. Yet the objects themselves convey much more than notes and lyrics. By more completely documenting the information found in these items, one increases the possible ways they can be used. With procedures like More Product Less Process (MPLP) becoming more and more accepted, I realize giving such attention to these items is a luxury, but how would anyone but the most prepared scholar find covers by particular artists without including the artist as an added author? Therefore I have tried to include the artist who designed the cover to the music wherever possible and indicate his or her relationship to the work through adding "|e artist" to the end of the added author 700 field with the artist's name.

I feel that adding this information to these records is especially important because many of these cover artists are not accepted by the fine art world due to the commercial nature of their work. Because of this, you will not find the names or monograms of these cover artists alongside those of fine artists in Oxford Art Online or other databases. If both the art and music establishments disregard the contributions these artists have made, the information they created could become lost. Luckily Wikipedia and libraries have not allowed these artists to fall through the cracks. While I believe that the discipline of art history could remedy this threat and enrich their field through being more accepting of such works, that is a discussion for another time.

Enjoy the covers below and use the links I have included to find more works by each artist. To see the library records for the works below, search the UNC OPAC.

Artists & Examples

Rolf Armstrong (1889-1960)

Albert Barbelle (1887-1957)

Edward B. Edwards (1873-1948)

Mabel Betsy Hill (1872-1956)

The lyrics to this song will bring a smile to your face.

Frederick S. Manning (1874-1960)

Rosenbaum Studios / Morris Rosenbaum (1886-1953)

Collective signature for the brothers William & Frederick Starmer

André De Takacs (1880-1919)

Additional Artists
Majority of their work is still within copyright

Pud Lane

Sidney Leff (1901-2005)

Cliff Miska

Collections of Sheet Music Featuring Illustrations

Brown University Library for Digital Scholarship -World War I Sheet Music

Duke University Libraries - Historic American Sheet Music
Includes the option to search by illustrator and also has a helpful list of additional collections and resources to visit.

Gonzaga University Digital Collections - The Howard W. Wildin Sheet Music Collection
Gonzaga University also has created a LibGuide on sheet music that includes a section on "Cover Artists." 

Illustrated Sheet Music
Has a special focus on art nouveau and art deco covers and also conveniently allows you to search by illustrator.

Mississippi State Digital Collections - Charles Templeton Sheet Music Collection

"Perfessor" Bill Edwards: Professional Purveyor of Pianistic Pyrotechnics
- Cover Artist Profiles
Website created by Bill Edwards, a current cover artist. While the website design would benefit from being updated, this site includes good biographies of several key artists and their signatures/monograms.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Sandusky's Merry-Go-Round Museum

Merry-Go-Round Museum in Sandusky - former US Post Office

In addition to being known as "America's Roller Coast," Sandusky is also home to the Merry-Go-Round Museum. While this attraction may not rival the Millennium Force, its knowledgeable and friendly staff and beautiful historic carousel figures make it well worth a visit. For me, its location between Cleveland and Toledo made it a convenient attraction. This past weekend I was visiting some friends in Cleveland and then drove on to see my little brother who is interning at the Toledo Blade as a photographer. Stopping in Sandusky was a great way to break up my drive. I learned a lot during my short visit and even took a ride on the museum's own carousel after getting a little encouragement from the staff. They truly believe that carousels are a "joy for every generation."

While seeing beautifully carved and decorated wooden animals was the primary reason for my visit, the museum's informational signs and carving demonstration were what made a lasting impression on me. The museum pointed out many characteristics that are true for most carousels that I had not really realized. For example, did you know that almost all carousels spin counter clockwise? The museum displayed all of its carousel figures as if they were mounted on a functioning carousel. Deciding to exhibit the figures in this way made it so that the more decorated side, or romance side, of each carved animal could be seen by the viewer while the plainer side faced the wall. In carousel design, it is customary to make the side facing toward the outside of the carousel more ornate than the interior side because this side is seen more than the other. Consistently placing the carvings so that they appear to go from left to right also was helpful because it singled out one figure that did not follow this custom and faced the opposite direction. This figure was a British ostrich. Its orientation reflected the practice in the United Kingdom of constructing carousels to spin clockwise.

 British ostrich by Gustav Dentzel facing right to left

 Carousel on the Brighton Pier in England - 
Despite firsthand experience with British carousels, I hadn't fully realized they went in the opposite direction of American ones.

I also learned from the carving demonstration that most carousels are made out of basswood. This is because basswood has a very fine grain and is a softer wood. The close grain makes it so the wood is capable of rendering subtle details and can easily be painted over.

In addition, the museum made me aware of the major styles of carousel horses and the artists associated with each style. There are three distinct styles: Coney Island, Philadelphia, and County Fair. Coney Island figures are known for their use of gold leaf and elaborate decorations, the Philadelphia style is noted for its realism, and portability was a key feature of County Fair horses. The National Carousel Association's website provides additional information on these styles and prominent carousel artists.

                       Marcus Illions jumper (Coney Island style)             Charles Loof stander (Coney Island style)
                                       Note its gold leaf mane

Front tiger by Gustav Dentzel (Philadelphia style) - Both animals are standers, or figures that do not move and are typically on the outside edge of the carousel. Brass rings were first added to carousels to entice riders to choose standers.

Exotic animals by Gustav Dentzel

The functioning carousel within the museum follows the County Fair style. The figures are relatively small in size.

For a past horse lover and current student of art history, the Merry-Go-Round Museum was the perfect combination of fun and facts. If you're ever in Sandusky, consider stopping by the museum.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Just a few notes on working at the UNC Music Library

Among several other commitments, this summer I have been working at the UNC Music Library. The Music Library is tucked away in the bowels of Wilson Library and therefore is at times overlooked, but the library has a great staff and lots of interesting materials that I am just beginning to delve into. My job for the summer is to catalog a collection of sheet music that is primarily from the early 20th century. While I have never cataloged before, my Organization of Information course (INLS 520) and lots of help from my supervisor, Renée McBride, have helped me start making a dent in the piles of scores. While the progress I have made in the few short weeks I have been working so far is nearly imperceptible, I have come across a couple pieces of music that made me pause for a second and look at them more closely at them.

The first of these scores is "Gloomy Sunday" (or "Szomorú Vasárnap"), popularly known as the "Hungarian Suicide Song." The cover is still under copyright, but here's a link to an image of it. The song has supposedly been connected with nearly twenty suicides in Hungary and the U.S. These individuals left suicide notes with quotes from the song or were even found holding the sheet music for the song. While many are fascinated by the song's preoccupation with death and the urban legends that surround it, I was primarily interested in it because of its longevity and transfer from one culture to another (I also enjoy minor music). It was composed by Rezső Seress and the lyrics are by László Jávor. It became popular in the United States when it was translated from Hungarian to English by Sam M. Lewis in the 1930s. Since then it has been famously sung by Billie Holiday as well as by numerous other artists such as Mel Tormé and Sarah McLaughlin. For more artists and both the Hungarian and English lyrics, visit Wikipedia. In addition to the lyrics found on Wikipedia, the English version includes an additional final verse that lightens the somber song by suggesting all of the negative thoughts that came before were simply part of a dream and that the singer's love did not leave him.

Two other scores that I cataloged interested me simply because of their connections to the south generally and their candid lyrics and cover illustrations. These two songs are "Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes" and "Just a Little Bit South of North Carolina." Click here for a picture of the second song's cover. Both songs also reference a place where one would rather be and display a strong sense of home. As someone still adjusting to my new home, these lyrics resonated with me. "Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes" tells the story of a man who has just become a father and who is returning to Tennessee to meet his son (the owner of the ten little fingers and toes referred to in the song) for the first time. The lyrics to the song can be found here. In "Just a Little Bit South of North Carolina" a man sings of his desire to return to his sweetheart in South Carolina, which he refers to as "paradise." Click here for a version of the song by Dean Martin.

Beyond sharing a little bit about the music and lyrics, I especially wanted to post about these songs because it gives me a chance to share the cover illustrations. Because of the vast number of scores that need to be cataloged, scanning these covers is far beyond the possible scope of the project. Still, as someone interested in making and studying art, I think the covers are quite noteworthy. I have been doing my best to accurately describe the covers in my MARC 500 fields, but obviously these brief comments do not come close to replicating the images included here. These remarks do not even mention colors and typically only describe concrete subjects and not abstract designs. Hopefully descriptions will become increasingly more representative of all kinds of images as the field of library science progresses. Still, I understand that most people searching for these materials would plan to use them for the musical information they contain rather than their visual attributes.

I hope you have enjoyed reading about these three songs and hopefully I will find time to share a few more before the summer is up.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Welcome to Orange County
When most people hear the words Orange County their minds probably immediately think of that county in California that had a whole TV series named after it. The Orange County I am referencing is definitely not that one. I am talking about Orange County, North Carolina, which is home to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. This county has also been my home for the past few months.

My first semester as a dual-degree student at UNC in Library Science and Art History was a rather hectic one that kept me from posting. Before too much time has passed, I wanted to share a project and mapping assignment that I completed on my new home for a course I took at Cleveland State University on cartography (click on the image above). Doing the project was a lot of fun because it helped me research the area before moving. While some facts and figures on Orange County are included, keep in mind that the main focus of the assignment was the creation of maps. The class focused on gaining skills using MapInfo, but also covered the history of map making and the politics behind them. The course also introduced me to the mental maps of Kevin Lynch and Ian McHarg's text Design with Nature.

On the subject of the politics of mapping, during my first semester I did have the chance to see a cartography exhibition at Duke's Nasher Museum. It explored the relationship between mapping and empires. For more information on this past exhibition, click here.