Sunday, November 4, 2018

Björk's 34 Scores


Copies of Björk's 34 Scores for Piano, Organ, Harpsichord and Celeste have just arrived at the San Francisco Public Library.  Properly speaking these are not arrangements of her songs for solo instruments, but for voice accompanied by one of these instruments.  (In one case there is an arrangement for voice and two pianos).

The Biography In Context database entry on Björk describes her as "an Icelandic singer and musician known for her experimental sound and unusual look."  She is difficult to pin down by genre, having performed in diverse styles like pop, rock, electronica and classical music.  34 Scores spans 22 years of her career, including songs from the Debut, Post, Homogenic, Selmasongs, Vespertine, Medúlla, Drawing Restraint 9, Volta and Vulnicura albums.

Björk has always performed her songs with in a variety of settings and with a variety of ensembles, so the some of the unconventionality of this collection is not surprising.  How often do you hear music for the celeste (also called celesta)?

from Music and Musicians by Albert Lavignac (Henry Holt and Company, 1907).

This keyboard instrument is best known from Tchaikovsky's use of it in the "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy" from the Nutcracker

Already, there are online celeste versions of Björk's "All Is Full Of Love."


She has written that this collection came about through a self-examination of the meaning of "music documentation."

When cds were slowly becoming obsolete, i was curious about the difference of midi (digital notation) and classical notation and enthusiastic in blurring the lines and at which occasions and how one would share music in these new times.
Popular music songbooks and sheet music long preceded recorded sound.  They have always only provided an incomplete representation of songs.  They especially miss a singers' unique style and inflection.  Naturally Björk's florid vocalizing cannot be adequately captured in musical notation.  Nevertheless these arrangements give us the essential elements of the songs and capture her music in a novel way.

34 Scores for Piano, Organ, Harpsichord and Celeste by Björk (Wise Publications, 2017).


Further reading on Björk and her music:


Björk: There's More to Life Than This: The Stories Behind Every Song by Ian Gittins (Thunder's Mouth Press, 2002).

Björk by Nicola Dibben (Indiana University Press,|2009).

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

The Queen of Boogie Woogie: Wendy DeWitt Sings at SFPL


Born in San Francisco, Wendy DeWitt is a Santa Rosa High School graduate. She was only 10 when she caught the attention of Western Swing Hall of Famer, Tommy Thomsen’s attention. Since then she has gone on to win regional competitions and been a finalist at the International Blues Challenge. Her album, Gateway, made the top of the charts in Italy. She has had the distinction of playing with Hank Ballard and the Midnighters, Charlie Musselwhite, Otis Rush and Jimmy Thackery. She produces the annual Queens of Boogie Woogie and San Francisco International Boogie Woogie Festival. Chris Spector of Midwest Record once said about her, “All the cool kids already know DeWitt is one smoking boogie woogie piano/organ gal and it’s time the word to spread beyond her regional awards.”

San Francisco Public Library’s Art and Music and Recreation Department is delighted to have her come back and conduct an interactive presentation on boogie woogie and blues as she takes us on a journey through America’s most grooving roots music, how it all started, and how it went to influence the world. DeWitt sprinkles her performance with stories, fascinating information, photos, and examples.

San Francisco Public Library has a wonderful collection of musical scores, CDs, DVDs, and books about boogie woogie music. Curious patrons can do a Subject Searches (Piano music (Boogie woogie)) or a Keyword Search (boogie woogie).


Here’s a list of suggested titles:


Beginning Boogie & Rags for Piano (Boston Music Co., 2006) 

The Story of Boogie-Woogie: A Left Hand like God by Peter J. Silvester (Scarecrow Press, 2009.)

Boogie Woogie Piano [DVD] / featuring Mitch Woods (Hal Leonard, 2006)

Boogie Woogie Rareties, 1927-1932 [33 rpm LP record]. (Milestone, 1969)

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Designing San Francisco



 (from the Art, Music and Recreation Center's Newspaper Clipping file)

Since the book's arrival a year ago, all of our copies of Designing San Francisco: Art, Land, and Urban Renewal in the City by the Bay have been checked out nearly continuously.  Alison Isenberg's account of how our City was shaped by new visions of landscape, architecture and urban planning resonates in current San Francisco because of the massive changes taking place today.

For the most part Designing San Francisco does not discuss actual architectural and landscape features at length and instead focuses on creative, political and financial forces that shaped each project.  The book looks at specific projects like Ghirardelli Square, Sea Ranch, the Golden Gateway, the Embarcadero Center and the un-built San Francisco International Market Center.  Isenberg also explores issues like historic preservation, adaptive reuse and renovation, public versus private space and ownership, urban renewal, and height limits within the collective effort to design the City.

(from the San Francisco Historical Photograph Collection)

Isenberg also hones in on particular figures who helped to guide and shape the City's built landscape like Karl and Jean Kortum, Lawrence Halprin, Ruth Asawa, Stuart and Caree Rose, Marion Conrad, Barbara Stauffacher and Virginia Green.

Those who have read and enjoyed this book can delve further into that time and place by using the Newspaper Clipping files in the Art, Music and Recreation Center.  We have contemporaneous files of newspaper clippings, flyers, and brochures for the following topics:

Bank of America
Buildings - Highrises
Embarcadero Center
Embarcadero Plaza
Ghirardelli Square
Golden Gate
Maritime Museum
Hyatt Regency
San Francisco Maritime National Historical ParkSan Francisco Urban Design Plan
Transamerica Spire

We also files for the following people on our Artists File:

Asawa, Ruth (artist)
Esherick, Joseph (architect)Halprin, Lawrence
Temko, Allan
Wurster, William Wilson (architect)

Designing San Francisco: Art, Land, and Urban Renewal in the City by the Bay by Alison Isenberg (Princeton University Press, 2017).

 (from the Art, Music and Recreation Center's Newspaper Clipping file)

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Gee but ...

A fun game to play while using the Dorothy Starr Collection database is to enter the first couple words of a title and see the alphabetized list of completed song titles.  The opening "Gee! but" (or "Gee, but") is a nice example.  The word "gee" is not as common an exclamation as it once was.  The Oxford English Dictionary defines it as "An exclamation of surprise or enthusiasm; also used simply for emphasis."  It's a milder, less irreverent way of exclaiming of "Jesus!" 

In "Gee! But there's class to a girl like you" (1908), the "gee" is almost an expression of wonder. There are song titles of opposing sentiments - "Gee! but I'm blue" (1927) and "Gee! but I'm happy" (1936 - lyrics by the famous "Ukulele Lady" May Singhi Breen).  "Gee, but it's good to be here" (1922) contrasts strongly with "Gee! but I hate to go home alone" (1922).  There are also two lovelorn country songs -- "Gee, but it's lonely" (1958) by Phil Everly of the Everly Brothers and "Gee, but it's lonesome out tonight" (1950) by Fred Rose.

The OED dates the earliest usage of "gee" from 1895.  In our older collection of HP "hit parade" sheet music collection there are three early "Gee, but" songs: "Gee! But this is a lonesome town" (1906), "Gee, but it's great meet a friend from your home town" (1910), and "Gee, but I'd like to furnish a flat for you, dear" (1910).  The latter song was from the show The Summer Widowers is an indirect marriage proposal (change your "Miss to Missus" and I'll let you wear my name), and the syllable "Gee" adds a little emphasis.

The latest songs of this batch date from 1958, indicating that "gee" as an exclamation was on the wane.  "Gee, Officer Krupke" (1957) from West Side Story signals this with the mock innocence of the Jets sang.  But a cross section of songs gives a sense of the popular language of the first half of the twentieth century.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Chagall, Modigliani and Delaunay: 3 Artists of Uncommon Beauty


A Slide Show and Discussion with Marlene Aron

Enjoy a fascinating slide lecture on three artists who created work that was bold, beautiful and deeply personal. Chagall, Modigliani, and Delaunay worked in paint, stained glass, stone, and clay. They designed sets for ballet and theatre, collaborated with poets, and were part of the new avant-garde sweeping Europe and America at the turn of the 20th Century. Marlene Aron will discuss the lives and art of these three dynamic artists who created work that was diverse and powerful and who paved the way for the modern art movement that was to come. 

Wednesday, August 1, 2018
6:00pm - 7:30pm
Main Library, Latino/Hispanic Room, lower level


Further readings from our collection:

Chagall : love, war, and exile / Susan Tumarkin Goodman (709.2 C346g)

Chagall : modern master / Simonetta Fraquelli (759.7 C346fr)

Modigliani : a life / Meryle Secrest (759.5 M72s)

Modigliani / Amedeo Modigliani (709.2 M721fr)

Modigliani unmasked / Mason Klein (709.2 M721kl)

My life / Marc Chagall (759.7 C346a 2011)

Sonia Delaunay / Sonia Delaunay (709.2 D375k)

Sonia Delaunay : art, design, fashion / Sonia Delaunay (709.2 D375a)

Sonia Delaunay : the life of an artist / Stanley Baron (709.2 D375b)

Monday, July 9, 2018

Index to Art Periodicals

The reference set Index to Art Periodicals is a reprinting of a card catalog from the Ryerson Library at The Art Institute of Chicago. The cards, reproduced over 9,635 pages across eleven volumes each 14 inches tall, index nearly 300 periodicals from the early twentieth century through 1960.

This publication is strictly a subject index. There are subject cards for people, artistic subjects, names of artworks, countries, cultures, cities and institutions.  The index includes both fine arts and crafts.


I enjoy consulting indexes to see what kind of coverage they bring to our city, San Francisco.  The image above shows three entries.  The first two entries are from non-art publications -- Harper's and Life -- which would not surface in an art database search.  The third publication is kept in storage at the Library.  Photo-Era magazine of November 1923 has an article by Charlotte H. Mackintosh entitled "San Francisco, My City Beautiful" that shows photographs City scenes taken by members of the California Camera Club.



The top entry above indexes a photograph in Scribner's Magazine of February 1910.  Searching the caption text in Google books brings a scan of the magazine and places the photograph within the context of an article by Henry T. Finck entitled "The Progressive Pacific Coast."

We can access the second publication -- Brush and Pencil -- through the JStor database.  JStor is a fantastic resource, but this article would be very far down the lists of results in a search of this database. A search for the terms art earthquake san francisco 1906 in JStor pulls in over 1400 results, but "Details of the Art Loss in San Francisco" appears very far down in the search results.

The article from Horizon by Allan Temko, the long-time the long-time architecture critic for the San Francisco Chronicle.  This article is a beautifully illustrated nearly 20 page color spread on the arts scene in San Francisco in the late 1950s in a general periodical.

When researching there is a danger of assuming that everything can be found on the internet or in databases.  The information may be there, but it may not be readily accessed.  Do not searching in older print indexes and bibliographis that provide other access points that can pull in fruitful results.

Friday, June 22, 2018

The Band Name Book


In the preface to The Band Name Book, author Noel Hudson states that one of his hopes for the book is to motivate readers to search out new bands they’ve found through browsing. He continues to explain, "there are plenty of lists out there with hilarious band name whose existence cannot be proven...I decided to insist on hearing some music by each artist in the book."

The organizing feature of the book is  the category – some are straight forward - The Animals, e.g., and others mimic the zany humor of band names themselves:  “Enough About Me, let’s Talk About My Hair.”  Within this theme there are two subcategories, “On the Outs with the In Crowd” and “Dyed and Coiffed Up.” One of the entries in the former section is from a group from Denver who play with grammar: “Drop Dead, Gorgeous,” riffing on “drop-dead gorgeous.”

Neither the list of categories or subcategories are alphabetical, presumably to encourage browsing, or confound librarians. The page(s) of contents are visually oriented, with a picture of an album from the category placed in a left hand column. The category name in bold san serif type is easy to read; the subcategories are listed in much lighter type underneath. The column on the right holds the page numbers in large light type.

Categories within the book have their own title page using an illustrative photo; subcategories are listed here also. The author uses sidebars for comic effect and visual interest, including names that are still available in a particular subcategory, ("Sockmonkey’s Uncle,"Fleetwood Macaque"…) The entries for the band name themselves vary in length from one sentence to several paragraphs. On the shorter side is the entry for Savage Garden:

The name comes from a line in Anne Rice’s novel, The Vampire Chronicles: ‘The mind of each man is a savage garden.'

The larger entries may also include details about where the band is from, names of first records, titles of hits, etc. Unfortunately, it is rare that dates of activity are listed  (though this would be a daunting task.) Back matter includes image credits, a bibliography and an index with minuscule print.

It should be noted that the book was published in 2008. To date the book another way, the author listed myspace as one of his sources.  There are some conspicuous absences, also – the author apologizes to initial and number bands such as U2, UB-40, INXS, and royal themed bands such as Queen and Kings of Leon. "You're in the sequel, I promise."

The band name book / Noel Hudson.
Erin, Ont.: Boston Mills Press, 2008.