Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The Most Requested Art, Music and Recreation Center books in January 2017

The top three titles on our current list match well with the nonfiction bestsellers listed in last Sunday's Chronicle.  In the Bay Area, Born a Crime ranks at number 6 and The Princess Diarist ranks at number 4.  Bruce Springsteen's memoir ranks number 3 nation-wide.

Books on hollywood, show business and entertainment in general often do well on the lists of holds.  Memoirs by Anna Kendrick, Lauren Graham, Megyn Kelly as well as the oral history of the Daily Show are all very popular.  In past lists rock and pop music memoirs have also faired well, but only Born to Run and Robbie Robertson's Testimony place on this list.

One slightly surprising title is Walking Through Walls by Marina Abramović.  While Abramović has achieved great renown in performance art circles, she seems out of place among the celebrities of this list.  But, I think the book's popularity reflects San Francisco's readers who have also shown favor towards two books about fine art - How To See by David Salle and a History of Pictures by David Hockney.

Sex sells - even sex from 80 years as Mary Astor's Purple Diary shows.  And anything with the Murakami touch will do well with our readers as can be seen with his book of conversations about music with Seiji Ozawa.

If these books excite you as well, you may have get in line to read them.  Thankfully, the majority of the titles are also available in eBook formats.

Happy reading.

1. Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah (Spiegel & Grau, 2016).

2. The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher (Blue Rider Press, 2016).

3. Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen (Simon & Schuster, 2016).

4. Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick (Touchstone, 2016).

5. Talking as Fast as I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls, (And Everything In Between) by Lauren Graham (Ballantine Books, 2016).

6. Settle For More by Megyn Kelly (Harper, 2016)

7. The Daily Show (The Book): An Oral History As Told By Jon Stewart, The Correspondents, Staff and Guests by Chris Smith (Grand Central Publishing, 2016).

8. The Godfather Notebook by Francis Ford Coppola (Regan Arts, 2016).

9. Kathy Griffin's Celebrity Run-Ins: My A-Z Index by Kathy Griffin (Flatiron Books, 2016).

10. Mary Astor's Purple Diary: The Great American Sex Scandal of 1936 by Edward Sorel (Liveright Publishing Corporation, 2016).

11. Testimony by Robbie Robertson (Crown Archetype, 2016).

12. Superficial: More Adventures From the Andy Cohen Diaries by Andy Cohen (Henry Holt and Company, 2016).

13. The Magnolia Story by Chip & Joanna Gaines, with Mark Dagostino (W Publishing, , 2016).

14. Walk Through Walls: A Memoir by Marina Abramović, with James Kaplan (Crown Archetype, 2016).

15. How To See: Looking, Talking, and Thinking About Art by David Salle (W.W. Norton & Company, 2016)

16. Absolutely On Music: Conversations by Haruki Murakami with Seiji Ozawa, translated from the Japanese by Jay Rubin (Alfred A. Knopf, 2016).

17. Celebrate Everything!: Fun Ideas to Bring Your Parties To Life, written and illustrated by Darcy Miller (William Morrow, 2016).

18. Harry Potter: The Artifact Vault, written by Jody Revenson (Harper Design, 2016).

19. A History of Pictures: From the Cave to the Computer Screen by David Hockney & Martin Gayford (Abrams, 2016).

20. Wonderland: How Play Made the Modern World by Steven Johnson (Riverhead Books, 2016).

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Longhair Outgrosses Baseball - a headline from the Variety Golden Jubilee issue

Longhair Outgrosses Baseball 
Classics, Now a $50,000,000 Boxoffice Bonanza As Against
The National Pastime's $40,000,000 Per Annum -- Symph,
Opera and Ballet Big Middlebrow Draw

This a headline for a Arthur Bronson article on page 467 in the January 4, 1956 special 50th anniversary issue of Variety Magazine.  

The Variety Anniversary Issue was an annual love letter between the entertainment press embodied by Variety Magazine, the primary trade journal for the entertainment industry, and all the people in the entertainment industry who benefited from the magazine's knowledge and reach.  The opening pages of the Golden Jubilee issue are filled with individual full page advertisements taken out by all of the top Hollywood studio executives congratulating the magazine on its longevity.  There are hundreds of other sponsored notes of congratulations from entertainers and corporations throughout this 512 page issue.

The entertainment industry for Variety comprises every sort of performing art, with an emphasis on those that make lots of money.  But the fine arts did have a place within its pages where it was (one hopes affectionately) known as "longhair."  The article below the headline above notes that in 1956 the "boxoffice" for classical music, ballet, opera put together exceeded that of baseball - that certainly gets the reader to stand up and notice.  It goes on to note the importance of the arts in cultural diplomacy, the amount of money spent on classical long playing records and role of film, radio and television in popularizing the arts.  Variety articles are often full of statistics -- this one notes that in 1940, 1,000 American towns offered concert series.  By 1956 the number had risen to 2,600, certainly suggesting a growing interest in classical music.

The Anniversary Issue is full of lists and sidebars.  One includes a list of "actors who have played actors."  There is another list of "remakes of feature films" (by 1956 there had been 3 major releases of both Anna Karenina and Moby Dick).  Gone With The Wind was at the top of the "all-time top money films," but who would have guessed The Robe would come in at number two?  (Adjusted for inflation, Gone With The Wind is still the top grosser).

There is also a chronological chart "50 years of U.S. musical comedy and operetta" listing all the major shows that opened between 1905 and 1956.   Later in the issue there is a table of "Broadway production statistics." This shows the Broadway peaked in 1927-28 with 264 productions throughout the season. It was only natural that the number of productions would taper off owing to the introduction of sound motion pictures and the Great Depression.

Just a year and a half after the Army-McCarthy hearings, this issue has an article entitled "Were You Ever Blacklisted?" subtitled "Variety was - many times, but found friends and special issues kept it going."  This article has a table listing a "chronology of special issues" in Variety magazine over the years.

KRON-TV (the NBC and San Francisco Chronicle affiliate) is among the advertisers, touting a potential 4 million viewer audience and $5,158,223,000 in sales in 1954 (that figure must be for the entire Bay Area).  An advertisement for "The Seven Ashtons," an acrobatic act from Australia notes that they were then performing at Bimbos in San Francisco.

Then there is this provocative headline:

Burlesque -- Its Rise and Demise
Offshoot of Minstrelsy and Extravaganza, Cradle
Of Comedians, Once a Family Amusement, Burlesque
Succumbed to Smut and Strippers

 While today there is a resurgence of interest, in 1956 Burlesque was thought to be on its deathbed.  The article is written by the then 86 year old Barney Gerard, a long time practitioner of the art.  (I cannot find a good biography of Gerard, but he has a number of credits in the Internet Movie Database and a Google Books search brings up myriad articles that show his deep involvement in vaudeville and burlesque).  His article traces the "rise and demise in 60 years" of burlesque.  He many stories including an explanation of the origin of the "hook" used to pull performers who were bombing off the stage.  He even devotes a couple paragraphs to the scene in San Francisco with the Bella Union concert hall in the late 1800s and the Belvedere on O'Farrell Street around the time of the 1906 earthquake.  In the end he laments that burlesque was "strip-teased into oblivion."

As far as I can tell these annual issues have not yet been indexed or scanned online, so they remain a little-known but fascinating on entertainment in all of its forms.  The Library own issues of this annual from 1956 through 1989. 

Variety. Anniversary Edition (Variety, Inc., [1956]-1983).

 Variety. Show Business Annual (Variety, Inc., c1984-1989).

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Feminist Film Theory

I recently checked out Feminist Film Theory and Cleo from 5 to 7 written by Hilary Neroni and enjoyed it thoroughly. Being a fan of the French New Wave cinema movement and movies by directors involved indirectly with the Wave, I had never managed to watch a film by Agnes Varda, who was a part of the Rive Gauche (Left Bank) movement along with Alain Resnais and Chris Marker. Reading the book became the impetus to watch Cleo from 5 to 7 directed by Agnes Varda in 1962. In a refreshing approach and a jargon free language Neroni walks the reader through the arc of feminist film criticism and theory, and then having done so, employs Varda’s classic film examining how a (feminist) female oriented movie operates.

The book informs the reader that feminist film criticism was initially inspired by the second wave of feminism and postcolonial theory. Neroni talks about the influence of Freud and Lacan and conditions under which Laura Mulvey wrote her seminal essay “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema” in 1973 analyzing the “male gaze” and objectification of the female body in classic Hollywood cinema. Later theoreticians criticized Mulvey for only relying on a Eurocentric and heterosexual lens(es). For example, bell hooks, the African American academic, pointed out that black women viewed those films with an “oppositional gaze” instead of identifying with the white male gaze. Other theoreticians asserted, also, that viewers were capable of a “dialectical gaze” and may assert bisexual desires. Lesbian desire and gaze, too, complicate male/female power paradigm. Issues of race, class, and sexual preference have also been layered upon Laura Mulvey’s initial thesis. 

San Francisco Public Library has a very good collection of books on film criticism and feminist film criticism. Interested patrons can also do a Subject search under: Homosexuality in motion picture. In recent times, Queer theory has also gained prominence when understanding the issue of “male gaze”.

For basic reading, we recommend the following titles:

Feminist film theory and Cléo from 5 to 7 / Hilary Neroni

Feminist film theorists : Laura Mulvey, Kaja Silverman, Teresa de Lauretis, Barbara Creed / Shohini Chaudhuri

Chick flicks : theories and memories of the feminist film movement / B. Ruby Rich

Theory of the image : capitalism, contemporary film, and women / Ann Kibbey

The Routledge encyclopedia of film theory / edited by Edward Branigan and Warren Buckland

Paris is burning : a queer film classic / Lucas Hilderbrand

Framed : lesbians, feminists, and media culture / Judith Mayne

Postcolonial theory and Avatar / Gautam Basu Thakur

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Aurora Mandolin Orchestra: Their Annual Performance

The Main Library will be hosting the ever-enchanting, Aurora Mandolin Orchestra on Saturday, December 3, 2016, from 2-4pm, in the Koret Auditorium. 2008 was the first year that the Library hosted the Orchestra, and they've been coming back every year, ever since.Their sound derives from the string-heavy combination of mandolin, mandolla, mandocello, guitar, string bass, accordion, flute and percussion,. They will play a mixture of semi-classical, folk and show tunes - something for everybody! In addition, Susanna Uher Jimenez will sing several songs.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Dorothy Starr interviewed

It has been more than 26 years since Dorothy Starr passed away and more than 25 years since the San Francisco Public Library acquired the stock of her store The Music Stand.

A small amount of personal ephemera came along with the hundreds of thousands of scores and pieces of sheet music. This included a cassette tape of an interview with Dorothy Starr made in November 1986.  The interview covers many bases -- her experiences as a musician, her reminiscences about musicians she had known, her approach to selling music, her musical preferences, etc...  Unfortunately, we have no record of who conducted the interview (If you are out there let us know!)

Please enjoy the words and the wisdom of San Francisco's First Lady of Sheet Music, Dorothy Starr.

The Dorothy Starr Collection database now contains nearly 40,000 entries. Many other scores from Dorothy Starr's stock of scores and sheet music have also been added the Library's circulating and reference collections.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Shock and Awe - Performance by Ethan Rafal, San Francisco Artist and Book Maker

A twelve-year, autobiographical project examining the relationship between protracted war and homeland decay, Shock and Awe is a meticulously crafted image, text, and found object journal that blurs the line between author and subject, and personal and authoritative histories. Completed over countless years traveling the United States, the project pulls from the traditions of documentary photography and writing set on the American road.

The Shock and Awe Book Tour returns the journal to the people and places depicted, bringing author, subject, and viewer into an exploration of the total meaning of the work. Due to the interdisciplinary nature of the project, the performance of Shock and Awe is equal parts story-telling, show-and-tell, and group discussion. Books will be sold at this event.

More info about the project: http://ethanrafal.com/

About Ethan Rafal:
Ethan Rafal is an artist and photographer based in San Francisco. His work deals with the individual and collective experience of violence, and the ways in which subsequent representations of violence inform personal and national mythologies. Photography is an essential ingredient in his practice, due to the unique relationship between image and violence, but his work employs performance, installation, video, new-media, and social-practice methodologies. He teaches, mentors, helps run an art space, and collaborates with Art For a Democratic Society in the Bay Area, where he has been based since 2007.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016, 6:00pm - 7:30pm
Main Library - Latino/Hispanic Room, lower level

Monday, November 14, 2016

A Pre-History of the San Francisco Community Music Center

On November 20, 2016, the San Francisco Community Music Center will hold a "Field Day" to celebrate its 95th Anniversary.  This event features an afternoon full of musical performance by Community Music School students and faculty. 

This anniversary commemorates the arrival of the San Francisco Community Music School (the Community Music Center's name until the 1950s) at its present location at 544 Capp Street.  The Community Music Center, however, has earlier roots that originated in a larger movement that sought to provide free or low cost music instruction as a way to ameliorate social conditions in American cities.

The settlement movement was a social reform movement in the late 19th century aiming to provide cultural and educational uplift to the urban poor.  According to Boyer, the goal of the settlement movement was "consciousness raising" to make the urban poor, often immigrants, aware of a "larger world beyond the tenement or factory, the richness of their cultural heritage, and the possibilities of community organization and cooperative effort."

In San Francisco this movement was set in motion in 1894 when Chicago-based activist and social worker Jane Addams came to lecture.  Motivated by her example, local social reformers soon set to work in the immigrant communities in the South of Market neighborhood establishing the South Park Settlement.

The South Park Settlement at 15 South Park (source: The Commons June 1897)

The South Park Settlement, which eventually became the San Francisco Boys' Club, did not focus on girls leaving an opening for the efforts of the Rachael and Eva Wolfsohn who started the Girls' Club of San Francisco in a small flat on Clara Street, also in South of Market, in 1900.  Devoting their energies on young women who came from modest means, Rachael Wolfsohn wrote that "the club had a "...two-fold purpose at that time ... to assist girls in delinquency prevention and to prepare these young ladies for the responsibility of womanhood."  The club became an important part of their social life with its activities directed toward education and recreation.

A few years later the Girls' Club moved to 262 Seventh Street, a site that was destroyed in the 1906 earthquake. A 1904 article in the San Francisco Chronicle mentioned music instruction and music instruction as part of the club's wider offerings which also included "domestic economy," cooking, and various crafts. The workers at the club were described as "university people" (faculty and students from institutions like the University of California and Stanford University).

The club's members at that time were between the ages of 8 and 14 who lived in the surrounding neighborhood. In an oral history, a club member for the Girls' Club's earliest days recalled that the teachers and many of the students were Jewish, but that religion was never discussed at the club.

Girls' Club at 362 Capp from 1911, W.E. Dassonville, photographer
Source: The Girls' Club of San Francisco: Its Music School at 362 Capp Street (San Francisco History Center collection)

With financial support from Jewish businessmen and philanthropists like the Hellman, Fleishacker, Sloss, Lilienthal and Stern families, a new building was constructed for the Girls' Club in 1911, designed by the architectural firm Ward and Blohme.

At the outset, it was apparent that music would play an important part of the club's activities. This new emphasis is demonstrated in the brochure The Girls' Club of San Francisco: Its Music School at 362 Capp Street.  Below are photographs of a chorus and an orchestra from that 1912 publication.

 Friday Night Choral directed by Wallace Sabin (source: same as above)
Senior Orchestra directed by Hother Wismer (source: same as above)

The pamphlet lists prices for instruction:
Individual half hour lessons with a student teacher ... 25 cents
Individual full hour lessons with a student teacher ... 50 cents
Individual half hour lessons with an experienced teacher ... 50 cents
Individual full hour lessons with an experienced teacher ... $1.00
Orchestra classes, with weekly rehearsals ... 50 cents a month
Class lessons in chorus, theory, ear-training and sight-reading open free of charge to all members of the Girls' Club and music school students.
Twenty-five cents would be equivalent to six dollars today.  They also provided scholarships for which they depended upon sponsorship from donors within the community.

The pamphlet also names a very accomplished faculty:
Department heads:

Singing (vocal music) - Mrs. M. E. Blanchard
Voice and ear training - Miss Elizabeth Putnam
Choral classes - Mr. Wallace Sabin
Orchestral classes - Mr. Hother Wismer
Pianoforte - Mr. Julius Rehn Weber
Violin - Mr. Hother Wismer
Violoncello - Mr. Arthur Weiss
Theory of music and harmony - Mr. E. G. Stricklen
Mrs. Blanchard was a voice teacher a Mills College. Wallace Sabin was a composer and organist at Temple Emanu-El and St. Luke's Episcopal Church. At that time Arthur Weiss was the principal 'cellist of the San Francisco Symphony.  Hother Wismer, a Danish-American was a concert violinist who was later a member of the San Francisco Symphony.  Julius Rehn Weber, who later changed his last name to Waybur, was a pianist who became a major benefactor of the Music Department of the San Francisco Public Library.

At that time San Francisco had many music schools and private music instructors.  In the brochure, the Girls' Club emphasized that they did not want their efforts to undercut the livings of professional music teachers:
It is to be distinctly understood that the school does not wish to encroach upon the domain of the professional teacher. Its aim is to start modestly and to accept only such pupils who, after the strictest investigation, are found to be unable to pay the regular professional prices. To accomplish this object many loyal, devoted teachers of good standing have volunteered their services.
The San Francisco Community Music School of the Girls' Club of San Francisco was part of a wider groundswell to provide wholesome recreation within the City. One organization spearheading this was the Recreation League of San Francisco of San Francisco which advocated building parks and playgrounds, and also supported amateur athletics, theater and music for all ages. It was led by Jesse W. Lilienthal, then the president of the United Railways and the San Francisco Bar Association.  He and his wife were donors to the Girls' Club of San Francisco and later to the Community Music School.  She was also the organization's president during that time.

The Recreation League encouraged community singing to draw them away from listening to ragtime music by converting to become "patrons of [musical] art in its exalted expression."  A San Francisco Examiner article mentions the Girls' Club as one of the organizations where the Recreation League planned to teach "singing based on systematic study and practice under teachers who are masters of their craft."

The popularity of the music classes is evidenced by the fact that by 1918 the Girls' Club spun off a separate Community Music School at 914 Dolores Street (the site of the present-day Edison Elementary School).

The Community Music School at 914 Dolores Street (from Musical America November 15, 1919).

Harriet Selma Rosenthal, a violin student of Leopold Auer, came from New York in 1918 to direct the school's activities, at the behest of Mrs. Jesse Lilienthal, the president of the Girls' Club of San Francisco at that time. There she already had 8 years experience at the New York Music School Settlement.

Mrs Jesse Lilienthal in 1937 (image source: San Francisco Historical Photograph Collection)

She evidently was a tireless worker.  An article in Musical America reported on Harriet Rosenthal and the school:
The institution is composed of a board of far-seeing and large-hearted women; a building at 914 Dolores Street, reconstructed and completely equipped for the purpose at considerable expense; instruments--not only pianos, but violins, celli, wood-wind and brass, lent by the leading music houses of the city;--a faculty of thirty from among the many splendid instructors of San Francisco; pupils from department stores, irons works, factories and the like, to the number of 176 receiving private instruction besides class work and orchestral or choral experience; and--Miss Rosenthal.
Community Music School of The Girls' Club letterhead 
(source: Alfred Hertz Papers, Art, Music and Recreation Center, San Francisco Public Library)

In October 1919 Harriet Rosenthal wrote to Alfred Hertz, the conductor of the San Francisco Symphony, asking whether he would agree to be the Honorary Director of the school.  "We know of your interest in the school and would appreciate it we could look to you for your advice and guidance."  Hertz replied that he would "be very happy indeed to accept this position" and that he was "looking forward with pleasure to see you Monday evening at the school." 

In 1920 the school had 250 students taught by 30 faculty members which included such luminaries as Alfred Hertz, the San Francisco Symphony's concert master, Louis Persinger, and Elias Hecht, a flutist and organizer of the San Francisco Chamber Music Society.  Students also benefited from donations of tickets that enabled them to attend concert and stage performances.

Alfred Metzger, the editor of the Pacific Coast Musical Review, extolled the work of Harriet Selma Rosenthal and the Community Music School.  He posited that:
If it is possible to inculcate the idea in a child's mind that music exercises a certain beneficial influence upon everyone, even outside actual artistic performance, a most important step toward future realization of what constitutes fine citizenship has been taken.
By the time the Community Music School opened its doors at 544 Capp Street in 1921, its mission had been shaped by more than 25 years of community activism. The efforts at reform by the settlement movement, the Girls' Club of San Francisco and the Recreation League all shared the belief that participating in music and receiving music instruction by accomplished musicians were a means of ameliorating social problems and of providing social and cultural uplift.  It is impressive to see how some of San Francisco's most esteemed community leaders and musicians supported the provision of musical instruction to all.  These early ideals have continued and remain expressed in the Community Music Center's mission statement - "to make high quality music accessible to all people, regardless of their financial means."


Alfred Hertz Papers, Art, Music and Recreation Center, San Francisco Public Library.

Amy Steinhart Braden: Child Welfare and Community Service / an interview conducted by Edna Tartaul Daniel (Regional Cultural History Project, The Bancroft Library,1965).

Beals, Elena M., "Sumptuous Musical Feast to Regale San Franciscans," Musical America vol. 3, no. 3 (November 15, 1919), 185-187.

Boyer, Paul, Urban Masses and Moral Order in America 1820-1920 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1978).

"'Bright Eyes' Will Sparkle in Aid of New Girls' Club," San Francisco Chronicle (October 29, 1911), 37.

Brown, Ray C., "Music Claims Obeisance Due in New World," San Francisco Chronicle (October 19, 1919), 29.

Character Building Resources; A Study of the Recreational Opportunities and Facilities Provided by Agencies Affiliated with the Community Chest of San Francisco: Made for the Special Committee on Recreation of the Council of Social and Health Agencies of San Francisco, November, 1924-March,1925 by Josephine D. Randall, E. P. Von Allmen, Esther De Turbeville (San Francisco: Press of the Margaret Mary Morgan Co., 1926.

Edwards, George Boosinger, "A Music School and the Community Spirit," Pacific Coast Musical Review vol. 36 no. 7 (May 17, 1919), 6.

Ethington, Philip J., The Public City: The Political Construction of Urban Life in San Francisco 1850-1900 (University of California Press, 2001).

"Girls' Club Has Housewarming," San Francisco Chronicle (February 28, 1904), 41.

"Girls' Club One of City's Monuments," San Francisco Chronicle (December 20, 1929), 9.

"Girls' Club To Dedicate New Home; Gift Marks 20th Anniversary," San Francisco Chronicle (February 22, 1920), 23.

The Girls' Club of San Francisco: Its Music School at 362 Capp Street ([San Francisco]: [Girls' Club of San Francisco], 1912). 

The Girls' Club, San Francisco [oral history transcript]: Recollections of Members and Associates / interviews conducted by Leah Selix and Adrienne Bonn in 1972-73 (Regional Oral History Office, The Bancroft Library, University of California, 2005).

Metzger, Alfred, "Re-organization of Girls Club to Result in a Community School," Pacific Coast Musical Review vol. 34, no. 23 (September 7, 1918), 1.

M'Lean, Fannie W., "South Park Settlement," The Commons (June 1897), 1.

Mason, Redfern, "List of Songs Selected for Community Singing," San Francisco Examiner (June 25, 1914), ??.  In San Francisco programs. Music (San Francisco Public Library, 1915-196.

"National Register of Historic Places Inventory -- Nomination Form: Girls Club." National Park Service [website].

"Nobody Lives There Now; South Park Settlement Deserted," San Francisco Chronicle (August 5, 1895), 12.

"Planning Concert in Aid of the Girls' Club Settlement," San Francisco Chronicle (January 28, 1910), 3.

Rackle, Karl E., "Community Singing in San Francisco," Musician vol. 22 (January 1917), 22-23.

Rosenbaum, Fred, Cosmopolitans: A Social and Cultural History of the Jews of the San Francisco Bay Area (University of California Press, 2009).

"Teacher in Girls' Club Gets Leave," San Francisco Chronicle (November 1, 1919), 11.