Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Images from Life

Life was a weekly magazine published from 1936-1972 renowned for the quality of its photo-journalism. While the magazine ceased publication some time ago, Time-Warner Inc. has retained rights to its image archive. In collaboration with Google they have recently made a sizable part of their image archive available to view online.

Two million images have so far been scanned out of an eventual ten million. Naturally, historical events are well-represented, especially those of that time period. For the connoisseur of photographs, however, one of the primary attractions of this resource is the access it provides to work of the great photographers of the 20th century, many of whom worked for Life. Cornell Capa, Andreas Feininger, Alfred Eisenstaedt, Carl Mydans, Margaret Bourke-White, W. Eugene Smith, Gordon Parks, Hansel Mieth and Peter Stackpole are all well-represented.

Of course there are many photographs of celebrities as well as public figures of all kinds. Unfortunately the database lacks a librarian’s hand—the only indexing is by keywords, and the words used to describe the images are not always accurate or helpful. The shortcomings of the indexing and organization of this resource makes access to many of its wonderful and significant images almost serendipitous. Furthermore, each database query only brings up a maximum of 200 results even when the digital archive contains many more images. There are other quirks to the database. A search for Eugene Smith brings up no results, while a search for W Eugene Smith does; a search for Gordon Parks (without quotes) brings up no results, while a search for “Gordon Parks” (in quotes) does.

To search this resource visit the Life Photo Archive, or go to the image search page in Google and add the words source:life to your query.

This online effort considerably supplements the best printed index to images in Life magazine, Art in Life by Jane Clapp published in 1959 and its 1965 supplement. Art in Life has a different approach than the online resource. The author of this work is only interested in “provid[ing] immediate reference to reproductions of paintings and graphic arts in Life.” It includes images of architecture, decorative arts like jewelry and furniture, mythological figures, and portraits.

Art in Life does not index the spectacular photojournalism described above. It does, however, lead one to many important artistic images throughout the ages. It is particularly helpful in locating reproductions, often of the fine arts, by subject. Because very few of the images that Clapp has indexed have yet been scanned in online Life image database, Art in Life remains a valuable reference source.

Below are links to headings in the San Francisco Public Library catalog to monographs of works by Life’s famous photographers:

Cornell Capa -- Andreas Feininger -- Alfred Eisenstaedt --Carl Mydans -- Margaret Bourke-White -- W. Eugene Smith -- Gordon Parks -- Hansel Mieth -- Peter Stackpole

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Aurora Mandolin Orchestra at San Francisco Public Library

The Aurora Mandolin Orchestra will be performing from its repertoire this Saturday, November 22 at 3pm. The Orchestra is made up of professional and amateur musicians and features musicians playing mandolin, mandola, mandocello, guitar, string bass, accordion, flute and percussion. Their varied repertoire includes traditional and semi-classical works from Italy, Russia and Spain and contemporary orchestral works. In addition, audience members will be treated to a demonstration by dancers to a selection of Strauss waltzes.

There is a long history of Italian mandolin music in San Francisco. These ensembles were originally concentrated in the City's North Beach neighborhood and later spread through the Bay Area. Those interested in learning about this rich tradition should read Mandolins, Like Salami: A History & Personal Memoir by Sheri Mignano Crawford. This richly illustrated book provides a history of the local mandolinists and their repertoire.

This program will be held in the lower level of the Main Library in the Koret Auditorium and is free and open to the public.

Thanks to the Friends of the Library for sponsoring this event.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Final Curtain

Motion picture actors and actresses - Death. That's the rather morbid subject heading that the Library of Congress has assigned to the book Final Curtain: Deaths of Movie and T.V. Personalities, 1915-1992 by Everett G. Jarvis.

The heading nevertheless fits. This book does provide the death dates and causes of death of more than 4,000 deceased movie and television personalities. This information is organized both by year and by name. It also includes a directory of 83 star cemeteries, and a directory of interment locations both by name and by location. And if you are interested there is also a "statistical summary of deaths." (Note: heart attack is the principal killer of the stars).

We keep a copy of this book at our reference desk to answer ready reference questions. There is also a second copy to loan.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Amy Beach in the Classical Music Library

Recently the San Francisco Public Library has begun providing access to databases of streaming audio for library users and library card holders. These databases are African American Song, American Song, the Classical Music Library, Contemporary World Music and Smithsonian Global Sound for Libraries. They are all found on the Library's Articles and Database page after following the link for Art & Music.

The Classical Music Library includes 38 works by Amy Beach. To find these works, follow the Search tab on the database's front page. From here it is possible to browse by composer's last name.

It is also possible to create playlists. Library staff have created a short playlist including some of Beach's birdsong-themed piano music, and her Piano Quintet. To listen to this playlist select the "Playlist Folders" tab. At the bottom of this page go to the "Course Folders" and select the playlist entitled Amy Beach.

Performed by Joanne Polk:

1) A Hermit Thrush at Eve, op. 92, no. 1
2) A Hermit Thrush at Morning, op. 92, no. 2
3) A Hummingbird, op. 128, no. 3

Performed by the Endellion String Quartet with Martin Roscoe, pianist.

Quintet in F-sharp minor for piano and strings, opus 67

4) 1st movement: Adagio - Allegro moderato
5) 2nd movement: Adagio espressivo
6) 3rd movement: Allegro agitato

Program cover from the October 28, 1915 San Francisco performance of Beach's Piano Quintet

Beach's music sounds not unlike Brahms, but her harmonic language is somewhat impressionistic like early Debussy. The two "Hermit Thrush" movements incorporate birdsong-like figures into the music, while "A Hummingbird" instead captures the bird's frenetic tempo.

Remember to attend programs of Beach's music and to visit our exhibit--Amy Beach: Her Blissful Years In San Francisco.

Program notes from the October 28, 1915 performance