Thursday, November 2, 2017

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

Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson (Simon & Schuster, 2017).

Going into Town: A Love Letter to New York by Roz Chast (Bloomsbury, 2017).

Reckless Daughter: A Portrait of Joni Mitchell by David Yaffe (Sarah Crichton Books, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2017).

We're Going to Need More Wine: Stories That are Funny, Complicated, and True by Gabrielle Union (Dey St.,  2017).

Unqualified: Love and Relationship Advice From a Celebrity Who Just Wants to Help by Anna Faris with Rachel Bertsche (Dutton, 2017)

Basketball (and Other Things): A Collection of Questions Asked, Answered, Illustrated by Shea Serrano with illustrations by Arturo Torres (Abrams Image, 2017).

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

The Unfinished Palazzo: Life, Love and Art in Venice: The Stories of Luisa Casati, Doris Castlerosse and Peggy Guggenheim by Judith Mackrell (Thames & Hudson Inc., 2017).

Generation Wealth by Lauren Greenfield (Phaidon, 2017).

Macramé: The Craft of Creative Knotting for Your Home by Fanny Zedenius (Quadrille Publishing, 2017).

A Stash of One's Own: Knitters on Loving, Living with, and Letting Go of Yarn, an anthology edited by Clara Parkes (Abrams Press, 2017).

Meet Me in the Bathroom: Rebirth and Rock and Roll in New York City, 2001-2011 by Lizzy Goodman (Dey St., 2017).

Rabbit: The Autobiography of Ms. Pat by Patricia Williams with Jeannine Amber (Dey St., 2017).

On Trails: An Exploration by Robert Moor (Simon & Schuster, 2016).

By far, the current block-buster from our collection is Walter Isaacson's new work on Leonardo da Vinci.  While the wait list for this title is currently looks daunting, we have many additional copies on order.

The only holdover from our next most recent list of most requested books of January 2017 is Trevor Noah's Born A Crime.  There are also three books by actresses and comediennes, We're Going to Need More Wine by Gabrielle Union, Unqualified by Anna Faris and Rabbit by Patricia Williams.

In lists from previous years we have seen memoirs by women singer-songwriters like Patti Smith, Carrie Brownstein, Viv Albertine, Carly Simon, Grace Jones, Chrissie Hynde, and Kim Gordon.  This month, Joni Mitchell is featured in the biography Reckless Daughter by David Yaffe.

The city of New York is highlighted in two titles -- Roz Chast's Going into Town and Meet Me in the Bathroom.  And luxurious living gets a little attention with The Unfinished Palazzo and Generation Wealth.

Crafting books draw steady interest and this month there is a title on Macramé and on knitting -- A Stash of One's Own.  On Trails is an outlier in terms of its subject matter, but it sounds like a fascinating meditation on hiking and nature.

All the titles except Unqualified are available as eBooks.  Many are also available as audio book.  Happy reading.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Vintage Vinyl on the 4th Floor

We are very pleased to introduce a new collection of vinyl recordings to the San Francisco Public Library.  The Library has four "Vinyl Destinations" -- the AV Center on the 1st floor of the Main Library, the Eureka Valley/Harvey Milk Branch, the Marina Branch, and the Park Branch.

Up to 1989, with the temporary closure of the Main Library following the Loma Prieta Earthquake, the Main Library collected nothing but vinyl recordings.  There are still more than 2,500 records from that collection housed on the 4th floor of the Main Library in the Art, Music and Recreation Center.

While the resurgence of interest in vinyl recordings is exciting, the marketplace for new vinyl seems to only extend to popular music styles like pop, rock, rhythm and blues and rap.  The vintage vinyl collection offers genres of music that we cannot represent well in our new collection like classical music, musical theater, world and folk music, and spoken word recordings.

So after perusing the shiny new vinyl collection on the 1st floor, consider taking an elevator ride to the 4th floor to browse through our eclectic collection of vintage vinyl.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Regional Airplay and National Charts in 1966

The front page of the July 2, 1966 issue of Billboard magazine featured an article entitled "Detroit & L.A. Sales 'Happening Places'."  This article detailed the various the contributions of various regional markets to the national hit charts -- Detroit came on top owing to the song "Cool Jerk" by Capitols, though it's hard to imagine that the Motown label didn't play a role in its prominence.

San Francisco placed third with 7 chart lists.  The article makes special note of the San Jose-based Syndicate of Sound's song "Little Girl" "moving up the charts."

Indeed the song is shown in the 11th position on the weekly charts with a red star given to "sides registering proportionate upward progress" for the week.  (By the way, harkening back to an older era, Frank Sinatra topped that week's chart with "Strangers In The Night."  Representing the new era, The Beatles charted at no. 2 with "Paperback Writer.")

According to Joel Whitburn Presents Top 10 Singles Charts, "Little Girl" peaked at #8 during the week of July 9, 1966, squeezed between "Cool Jerk" by the Capitols at #7 and "Paint It Black" by the Rolling Stones at #9.  It repeated at #8 the following week of July 16 and then faded away.

According to the Billboard Book of One Hit Wonders, the Syndicate of Sound recorded "Little Girl" on January 9, 1966 at Golden Gate Recorders in San Francisco at 665 Harrison Street.  Leo de Gar Kulka opened Golden State Recorders in 1964 after moving north from Los Angeles and soon began recording many of the bands of the "San Francisco Sound."  In If These Halls Could Talk, Heather Johnson describes it as "one of the few music recording studios in town with a recording room comparable in size to established L.A. and New York facilities."

The KFRC Weekly Music Charts 1966-1970 show "Little Girl" charting earlier in the Bay Area.  On May 25, 1966 it was ranked #11, June 1, 1966 at #9 and on June 8, 1966 at #14 on the station's "Big 30."  After that it did appear in the Top 30 again.  It achieved its peak of popularity in the Bay Area a month before its national success. 

This is an interesting time because radio stations were programmed locally and their record charts still reflected local tastes.  That same week "Don't Bring Me Down" by The Animals reached #3 on KFRC, but it never reached Billboard's Top Ten.

 The Billboard Book of One-Hit Wonders has a brief chapter describing the band's history and the creation of their hit song.  The lead singer recalled: "I had no idea how I would interpret it vocally.  It didn't really work putting melody on top ... so we agreed I'd do it, without a melody, but with attitude."

A black and white video from that time captures that attitude.

The Billboard Book of One-Hit Wonders by Wayne Jancik (Billboard Books, 1998).

Hall, Claude, "Detroit & L.A. Sales 'Happening Places'." Billboard (July 2, 1966), 1; 26.

If These Halls Could Talk: A Historical Tour Through San Francisco Recording Studios by Heather Johnson (Thomson Course Technology, 2006).

Joel Whitburn Presents Top 10 Singles Charts: Chart Data Compiled from Billboard's Best Sellers in Stores and Hot 100 charts, 1955-2000 (Record Research, 2001).

KFRC Weekly Music Charts. 1966-1970 by Frank W. Hoffmann (Paw Paw Press, 2015).

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

50 Poison Pieces: a chess puzzle book for beginners
A book talk with nationally ranked chess player Lauren Goodkind
             Event detail

Nationally ranked chess player, author, and instructor, Lauren Goodkind, will discuss her new book 50 Poison Pieces: solve 50 puzzles where the unprotected piece is toxic and talk about her life in chess. Lauren will facilitate chess puzzles from her book and chess boards will be set up for free play and Q&A after the discussion. Books will be available for purchase at this event.

Wednesday, September 13th, 2017
6:00pm - 7:30pm
Learning Studio (5th Floor) - Main Library

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

My Words, My Music - Sunday, August 27

The Art, Music and Recreation Center is please to present My Words, My Music, a family concert presented by Composing Together in the Koret Auditorium at 2 PM, Sunday, August 27.  Composing Together is an organization that has been bringing applied learning music composition into Bay Area middle and high school classrooms for nearly a decade.

My Words, My Music is a fun concert for all ages with a string trio of professional composers accompanying readings of favorite new and old children’s books and original poetry by Composing Together’s Poet in Residence. The grand finale will be a words-and-music "composition” created with the audience members.

This program is supported by a Faculty Enrichment Grant from the San Francisco Community Center.  All programs at the San Francisco Public Library are free and open to the public.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Queen of the French New Wave

When we talk about one of the most enduring cinema movements, we think of the French New Wave. And when we think of the New Wave, we think of its five main directors – Chabrol, Truffaut, Godard, Rivette, and Rohmer – and of course the queen of the French New Wave, Jeanne Moreau, who passed away on July 31, 2017, at the age of 89.

Although she acted only in a handful of films directed by the New Wave Five, it was her film Les Amants by Louise Malle which critics credit with making the the French New Wave possible. Just as her role in Les Amants is a premonition of things to come with regards to the new sensibility about French women of the post-World War II, her performance in the Jules and Jim turned her into the iconic image of the wave.

In 2011, Académie Française introduced a new word into the French language, Attachiante, which refers to a woman one can't live with but also can't live without, as personified by the character Catherine, played by Jeanne Moreau, in François Truffaut's Jules et Jim. She carried the sensibility and essence of the wave beyond, to the roles in movies directed by other contemporary French directors, giving her audience countless memorable performances.

We have in our collection at San Francisco Public Library several books DVDs that deal with her life and performance. We recommends some of the following:

Books -

La Moreau : a biography of Jeanne Moreau / Marianne Gray
New York : Donald I. Fine Books
791.4302 M813g 1996

French cinema / by Roy Armes
New York : Oxford University Press, 1985
792.5944 Ar54f

The French cinema book / edited by Michael Temple and Michael Witt
London : BFI Pub.,
2004 791.4309 F887

French cinema since 1950 : personal histories / Emma Wilson
Lanham, Md. : Rowman and Littlefield, c1999
791.4309 W692f

Films –

The bride wore black / directed by Françoise Truffaut

La notte / directed by Michelangelo Antonioni

Going places / directed by Bertrand Blier

Jules et Jim / mise en scène, FrançoisTruffaut

Les amants / directed by Louis Malle

The diary of a chambermaid / directed by Luis Bunuel

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Emilia Musto Tojetti (1860-1920)

image source: San Francisco Call (April 6, 1910), 16.

The San Francisco Public Library established a Music Department with opening of the former Main Library building in 1917.  Emilia Musto Tojetti is credited with being a driving force behind the Department's creation.  It was Madame Tojetti (as she was often known) who first raised money to add musical scores to the Library's collection.

With the backing of the California Club, Madame Tojetti and others had  advocated for the addition of a "good musical library as an annex to the Free Library." Around 1902 the trustees of the San Francisco Public Library provided funds Madame Tojetti select $100 worth of printed music for the Library collection (this was equivalent to about $2,600 today).  Afterwards the Library appropriated $100 annually to build upon this.  Unfortunately this initial effort at building a score collection was destroyed in the Earthquake and Fire of 1906.

A September 28, 1912 article in the Pacific Coast Musical Review describes her early role:

It was in 1901 that Mme. Emilia Tojetti, of the California Club, first proposed the addition of music to the San Francisco Public Library. George T. Clark, who was then the librarian and the trustees, took up the matter with enthusiasm. Mme. Tojetti suggest the first purchase, and after that one hundred dollars a year was appropriated and Dr. Lisser was consulted in the selection of music.
Emilia Tojetti was the daughter of Joseph Musto who emigrated to San Francisco from Italy in 1851.  He was the patriarch of the family that founded Joseph Musto Sons-Keenan, a firm that imported the marble that went into many post-1906 government buildings, hotels, theatres, churches and mansions in the Bay Area.

Anne Bloomfield and Arthur Bloomfield note in Gables and Fables that "Joseph and Maria [Musto] had seven children, the first five of whom were girls."  The only one of the five to marry was Emilia who married the artist Eduardo Tojetti (1851-1930).  The match must not have been propitious because the Bloomfields also note that after marriage "she returned to the family roost."

There is a record of the marriage of Eduardo Tojetti to Emilia Musto on August 12, 1875 in the Sacramento Daily Union. She would have been 15 years old.  Also known by the first names of Edward and Edwardo, her husband was a prominent artist of that time, in part owing to fame of his father Domenico Tojetti and elder brother Virgilio Tojetti. Eduardo Tojetti is mentioned in standard art references, but it seems that his best and most representative works were interior murals that were also destroyed in the 1906 Earthquake and Fire.

The Daily Alta California of January 18, 1889 shows Emilia Tojetti filing for divorce "on the grounds of violation of marital obligations." A month later, her divorce was granted on "grounds of adultery." ("Millie's Column" in about article about the Tojetti family in the  Chronicle of March 6, 1963 also mentioned her marriage to Eduardo Tojetti. The 1900 Census lists her as Amelia [sic] Tojetti and widowed).

Nevertheless, Emilia Tojetti had embarked on her concert career already by 1885.  In June of that year she presented lecture performance at her house at 807 Pine Street in a concert series for the Impromptu Club with her husband "Prof. E. Tojetti" among those in attendance.  The Club's March 9, 1886 event at their home was presented to "a very select number of friends [who] listened with delight to the brilliant execution of many talented young amateurs."

Madame Tojetti first achieved an independent listing in the 1889 Langley Directory as Emilia Tojetti, residing a 1236 Hyde Street - the Musto family home of that time.  The San Francisco Chronicle of March 4, 1889 concurrently noted that "Mrs. Emilia Tojetti is now residing at the home of her parents where she will receive her friends."  Soon she was active as a concert and performer and as the Secretary of the San Francisco Girls' Union.

She was later a force in the local branch of the California Federation of Women's Clubs, an organization formed in 1900 and devoted to such causes as child labor laws, conservation of redwood forests, earthquake relief and women's suffrage. She became their Chairman of Music and performed and gave lectures.  A history of the organization applauded a speech she gave at their 1914 convention were she gave "an able-bodied assault on ragtime as 'music'."  She told members of the club that they must work to "abolish this pernicious rhythm and melody which is having such a demoralizing effect not only upon children but upon the musicality and ethos of the entire nation."

On December 9, 1915 she joined a group of panelists as a representative of the Pacific Musical Society at a luncheon sponsored by the Recreation League of San Francisco on the topic "Music: Its Place In The Community Life."  She also became a patron of the League's San Francisco People's Orchestra, an organization that aimed to present "the best music at the lowest price" for the working people of the City.

Portrait of Emilia Tojetti from the San Francisco Historical Photograph Collection

In addition to her work for music and social uplift, Emilia Tojetti was a member of the Vittoria Colonna Club, an Italian-American women's organization in San Francisco, and the Laurel Hall Club.  Both of these organizations offered musical tributes to her after her passing on December 21, 1920.  Her obituary described her as a graduate of San Francisco's Girls High School who learned her musical skills in the City.  She was praised "both as a concert singer and a promoter of good music."

Her will, found in, directly bequeaths a sum of $500 (the equivalent of more than $6,000 today).

To the Public Library I give five hundred dollars to be used for music for the Music library.
Emilia Musto Tojetti

Emilia Tojetti's advocacy for a music collection in the San Francisco Public Library was a part of her wider belief in the power of music, specifically European art music, to be a force for the betterment of society.  If ordinary San Franciscans were given the benefit of studying the finest music of the world they would lose interest in the frivolous and harmful musical life then prevalent in the City's bars, theatres and dance halls.  Madame Tojetti would probably be scandalized to learn that today a search for the subject heading Ragtime Music brings up more than 200 results in the San Francisco Public Library catalog. But we are grateful that her vision helped establish an innovation in library service that could serve the musical needs of all.


Anthony, Walter, "La Boheme Will Start Repertoire," San Francisco Call (September 22, 1912), 29.

Anthony, Walter, "La Scala Artists Will Give Brief Season at Cort," San Francisco Chronicle (April 16, 1916), 24.

Anthony, Walter, "Music's Place in Community Life," San Francisco Chronicle (December 5, 1915), 24.

Beals, Elena, "San Francisco's Musical Life Thrives In Spite of the War," Musical America (October 19, 1918), 150-1.

"California Club in Throes of Triangular Fight for President," San Francisco Call (April 6, 1910), 16.

"Divorce Proceedings," Daily Alta California (February 22, 1889), 4.

"The Divorce Record," Daily Alta California (January 18, 1889), 4.

Bloomfield, Anne and Arthur, Gables and Fables: A Portrait of San Francisco's Pacific Heights (Heyday Books, 2007).

Falk, Peter Hastings, Who Was Who in American Art, 1564-1975: 400 Years of Artists in America / Audrey Lewis, head of research (Sound View Press, 1999).

Gibbs, Jason, "'The Best Music at the Lowest Price': People's Music in San Francisco," MLA Northern California Chapter Newsletter Vol. 17, no. 1 (Fall 2002).

"Girls' Union: Annual Meeting Yesterday at the Home," San Francisco Chronicle (September 17, 1891), 7

Hughes, Edan Milton, Artists in California, 1786-1940 (Crocker Art Museum, 2002).

"The Impromptu Club," Daily Alta California (June 15, 1885), 7.

"The Impromptu Club," San Francisco Chronicle (March 9, 1886), 6.

Langley's San Francisco directory for the year commencing 1889 (Francis, Valentine & Co., 1880- ).

"Married," Sacramento Daily Union (August 17, 1875), 2.

"Miscellaneous," San Francisco Chronicle (March 4, 1889), 4.

"Mme. Tojetti, Art Patron and Singer Dies in Her Home," San Francisco Chronicle (December 22, 1920), 9.

Murray, Elizabeth, "California Women's Clubs," Sunset vol. 10, no. 4 (February 1903), 343-350.

"The Music Division in the Public Library," Argonaut (September 28, 1912), 207.

"Music in a Library," San Francisco Call (August 2, 1895), 14.

"Music in Public Library," Pacific Coast Musical Review vol. 22, no. 26 (September 28, 1912), 4.

A Record of Twenty-Five Years of the California Federation of Women's Clubs, 1900-1925, Volume 1, Handbook for Clubwomen, compiled by Mary S. Gibson (California Federation of Women's Clubs,|c1927).

Robbins, Millie, "The Boys Followed in Papa's Footsteps," San Francisco Chronicle (March 6, 1963), 20.

Robbins, Millie, "Building with Musto Gusto," San Francisco Chronicle (July 30, 1967), 19.

"Want a Music Library," San Francisco Chronicle (December 13, 1902), 14.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Monet, Renoir, Pissarro and the Impressionist Movement: A slide show and lecture by Marlene Aron

Event detail
It's Paris, 1874 and the world of art is about to change forever. View over eighty works of art by Monet, Renoir, Pissarro, Cezanne, Lautrec, Morisot, Sisley, Degas, Van Gogh and Gauguin. Artists who experienced and expressed the world about them each in their own unique and personal way.

These artists gathered together in studios, cafes, bars, and on the streets to talk and argue about art, its meaning, and how and what to paint. Together they shaped the avant-garde world of Impressionism, and in turn opened the doors to the Modern Art Movement of the 20th Century and beyond.
Join Marlene Aron as she presents an in-depth slide lecture on the lives and art of the new, avant-garde artists of the 1800's.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017
6:00pm - 7:30pm
Koret Auditorium, Main Library

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Hit Parade: Inspired by the Musical Archives of the San Francisco Public Library

Public Knowledge is an ongoing project of the The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.  It is an effort to bring art to the community and the community to art and to the museum.  Public Knowledge involves collaborations with scholars, artists and community members.  The current project is a collaboration with the San Francisco Public Library called Hit Parade.

This is our second time working with the Museum of Modern Art. During the summer of 2014 we hosted the Chimerenga Library in collaboration with them and the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.

The current project includes many components, including public rehearsals and performances - Mission Branch on July 11, 2017, Bayview / Linda Brooks Burton Library on July 12 and Western Additional Branch on July 13.  These same branches had "storytelling" sessions where members of the community spoke of the musical memories.

Another aspect of the project has been researching the library's archival resources for histories and sheet music.  They have created a lively blog that presents some of the treasures they have unearthed from the San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Historical Photograph Collection and the Art, Music and Recreation Center of the Library.

Keep returning to visit the Hit Parade blog to see what else the researchers turn up!

Saturday, June 17, 2017

The Black Cedar Trio returns

The Art, Music and Recreation Center is pleased to again present the Black Cedar Trio on Sunday, June 18, 2017 at 3:00 PM in the Koret Auditorium.

Black Cedar is the winner of a 2014 Musical Grant from San Francisco Friends of Chamber Music and an affiliate ensemble with San Francisco Friends of Chamber Music.  It is the only ensemble entirely devoted to creating, discovering, and re-imagining chamber music for guitar, cello, and wood flute or alto flute. With this unique mix of sonorities, Black Cedar brings to life Renaissance lute songs and dances, Baroque trio sonatas, Classical and Romantic-era salon pieces, Appalachian folk music, and modern works from living composers.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Contemporary Theatre, Film, and Television

Gale Research is familiar today as a database provider, but originally they were a publisher of many series of reference works.  In the past these sources were indispensable to librarians and researchers, but over the past few decades much of the information they held has become available online.  Over the intervening years, Gale Research mined many of their print reference books to create very useful and in-depth databases.

One of Gale's reliable research tools was the reference set Contemporary Theatre, Film & Television.  Subtitled "A biographical guide featuring performers, directors, writers, producers, designers, managers, choreographers, technicians, composers, executives, dancers, and critics in the United States, Canada and the world," the first volume of this set was published in 1984.  The print edition of the series ended with the 123rd volume in 2013.

This entire reference set is available as a component of Gale's Biography in Context database.  This database covers many resources, including magazine and newspaper articles, so that the information from Contemporary Theatre, Film & Television can easily lost inside within the search results.  When looking up an individual in this database, you can find the information from this reference set beneath the "Biographies" tab.

This reference set grew out of earlier reference resources, Who's Who In The Theatre and Who Was Who in the Theatre.  The former also included biographies and credits for the London and New York stage.  The text of some of its volumes are also included in the Biography in Context database.

Contemporary Theatre, Film & Television presents much of its information like a resume - film, television and stage credits, awards, guest appearances, etc... Online resources like the Internet Movie Database and Wikipedia can provide much of this same information.  But the listings on these websites can be limited or too sprawling to be easily scanned.  The reference database also includes contact information and a bibliography.  The information cannot be as up-to-date as internet sources, but it is clearly and accurately presented.

While our reflexes often suggest that we should go to search engines to find information about every personality that we are searching for, the Library's subscription databases are very solid resources that should not be overlooked.  The vast Biography in Context database can also bring a wide range of additional information to our attention.

Biography In Context [database]

Contemporary Theatre, Film, and Television (Gale Research Co., 1984-2013).

Who's Who in the Theatre (Pitman; Gale Research, 1912-1981).

Who Was Who in the Theatre, 1912-1976: A Biographical Dictionary of Actors, Actresses, Directors, Playwrights, and Producers of the English-Speaking Theatre / compiled from Who's Who in the Theatre, volumes 1-15 (1912-1972) (Gale Research Co., 1978).

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Vintage Talking Books

Cover art from The Black Cat, read by Arthur Luce Klein

Today we are very familiar with audio eBooks - digital sound files of literary works that can either be streamed or downloaded.  Until recently spoken work compact discs were another popular form of talking book.  And, of course, audio cassettes were the format that was responsible for making the talking book such a popular medium.

These three formats all had the virtue of being portable -- they could be listened to through a car stereo, walkman or mp3 player.  The very first books on tape (audio cassette format) were introduced in 1969 and could have up to an hour of continuous recitation on a side.  Spoken books on compact disc began to appear during the 1990s and could contain up to 74 minutes per side (and had a higher audio quality).  Streaming audio appeared not long afterward and could present a continuous narration of any duration.

There is a pre-history to this consumer-friendly, portable form of enjoying talking books.  The earliest talking books were manufactured on vinyl records that played at the slower speed of 16 2/3 rotations per minute.  For a period of time, many record players had settings for 16 2/3 rpm, 33 1/3 rpm (the long playing record), 45 rpm (the single) and 78 rpm (the much earlier shellac record).

The rule of thumb with audio recording is faster speeds mean better sound.  This slower speed worked because the spoken word does not need to have the same rich audio spectrum as music.  A 12 inch disc played at 16 2/3 rpm could have an hour of music per side, whereas a 33 rpm record could own contain a half hour.  The Library of Congress began issuing records at the speed in 1962 to serve the blind community and later even issued recordings the slower 8 1/3 rpm speed.

A blurb on the back of The Pit And The Pendulum (1972)

We do not have any of these slower recordings in our collection, but we do have sizeable collection of 12 inch vinyl spoken word records played at 33 1/3.  These include plays, poetry, legends, speeches and stories.

You can browse our holdings of literature on vinyl by searching for the call number LIT PD (Literature Phonodisc).

Because of their relative brevity, the stories of Edgar Allan Poe could provide a fulfilling vintage audio book experience.  Below is a listing of Poe stories on vinyl in our collection.

The Black Cat; read by Arthur Luce Klein (Spoken Arts, s.d.).

A Descent Into The Maelström; read by Paul Hecht (Spoken Arts, s.d.).

The Facts In The Case Of M. Valdemar; read by Arthur Luce Klein (Spoken Arts, s.d.).

The Murders In The Rue Morgue; read by Arthur Luce Klein (Spoken Arts, 1970?).

The Pit And The Pendulum; read by Edward Blake (Listening Library, 1972).

The Pit And The Pendulum; read by Alexander Scourby (Spoken Arts, 1962).

The Purloined Letter; read by Arthur Luce Klein (Spoken Arts, s.d.).


Dicecco, Mike, "A History of 16-RPM Records, Part Two: Audio Books,"  Antique Phonograph News
Canadian Antique Phonograph Society
(May-June 2010).

Encyclopedia of Recorded Sound, Frank Hoffmann, editor (Routledge, 2005).

Thursday, April 27, 2017

The Jazz Standards: A Guide To The Repertoire

As one comes to know and appreciate jazz, it becomes apparent that jazz musicians create their own compositions, avail themselves of other jazz compositions, or utilize familiar songs that have become known as "standards."  Standards are often songs from the Broadway stage, but can be any popular tune from the recorded era.  The standard provides a form (verse, chorus, sometimes bridge), a chord progression and a melody that is played at the beginning and end.

With his guide, The Jazz Standards, Ted Gioia provides a great service to anyone interested in exploring jazz by discussing more than 200 of the best known melodies employed in the jazz repertoire.  His entries first give some background on a melody's pre-jazz origins.  He also shares his personal response to each standard often highlighting some of his favorite renditions.  The end of each entry includes a short discography of his preferred recordings.

Despite disliking the melody and chord changes of "All The Things You Are" by Jerome Kern, the author claims it as a favorite standard of his.  He appreciates it for its "exciting set of possibilities as a springboard for jazz improvisation."  The song first appeared in the 1939 musical flop Very Warm For May , but it soon grabbed the attention of jazz musicians.  By the end of the year Tommy Dorsey and his Orchestra introduced it and took it to the top of the charts.  The author spoke to saxophonist Bud Shank near the end of his 60 year career "who never felt he had exhausted the possibilities of this specific song."

Writing about "I'm In The Mood For Love," by the standard-making songwriting team of Jimmy McHugh and Dorothy Field, Gioia noted that it had the misfortune to be prominently sung by the character of Alfalfa in a Little Rascals short. However, that was already a year after the song had been introduced by Frances Langford in the film Every Night At 8, released in August 5, 1935. The review in Variety magazine noted that "she reprises 'I'm in the Mood for Love' several times" but predicted other songs from the movie would get more attention from the jazz orchestras.  Variety was proven wrong when Louis Armstrong powered it to number 3 on the charts a few months later, assuring its status as a standard.

While he sort of disparages one of my favorites, Vincent Youmans' and Irving Ceasar's "Tea For Two, ("the melody is monotonous and akin to a second-rate nursery song"), Gioia illuminates the song nonetheless.  He repeats the apocryphal tale about how Harry Frazee, the backer of the song's show No, No Nanette, sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees to finance his show.  I enjoyed reading about Dmitri Shostakovich's scoring of the song for orchestra (see volume 10 of the composer's collection works - Sobranie sochineniĭ v soroka dvukh tomakh).  Gioia is at is best when he tells of how New York's finest jazz pianists seemed to try one-up each other with more brilliant renditions of this tune.

Many of these songs are well established within the Great American Songbook making the contents of this book elide well with our Dorothy Starr Collection of sheet music. The cover illustrations above all come from the collection.  You will not find yourself always agreeing with Gioia's assessments, but he takes us on an entertaining and informative journey through this repertoire and will certainly entice you to listen to more jazz.

Art Tatum playing "Tea for two"

The Jazz Standards: A Guide to the Repertoire by Ted Gioia (Oxford University Press, 2012).

Joel Whitburn's Pop Memories, 1890-1954: The History of American Popular Music: Compiled from America's popular music charts 1890-1954 (Record Research, 1986).

Sobranie sochineniĭ v soroka dvukh tomakh, volume 10, by D. Shostakovich (Muzyka, 1979-1987).

Variety Film Reviews, volume 5 (Garland Pub., 1983).

Sheet music:

"All The Things You Are," music by Jerome Kern (Chappell & Co. Inc., 1939).

"I'm In The Mood For Love," words and music by Jimmy McHugh and Dorothy Fields (Robbins Music Corporation, 1935).

"Tea For Two," music by Vincent Youmans (Harms Inc., 1924).

Blossom Dearie singing "Tea for two"

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Ballroom Dancing in the Art, Music and Recreation Center Newspaper Clipping Files

One of the tools of the old school reference librarian is the vertical file or newspaper clipping file.  Even as more information is available to be searched on the internet and through databases, the Art, Music and Recreation Center continues to maintain and add to our files.  In recent years we have been adding quite a bit less because we have stopped clipping articles from the San Francisco Chronicle (which has a strong online presence and a database that we subscribe to).  But we continue make an effort to locate material in neighborhood and weekly papers.

Browsing through these files is always a serendipitous experience.  You never know what you will find.  In this entry, we will present a small snapshot of the sort of articles one might find using the Ballroom Dancing file.

Ballroom dance is an activity that takes place away from the glare of the public  spotlight and involves amateurs and enthusiasts of all backgrounds.  Skimming through this folder of at least 100 clippings one can see ballroom dancing as a continuous current flowing through our city's cultural life.

"Allure of Swinging Attracts Fans of All Ages to Amura Ballroom Dance Studio" by Shiela Husting appeared in the Sunset Beacon in July 2007.  This article lists six dance studios in the Sunset District.  Unfortunately, the Amura Ballroom Dance Studio has since shut down, despite rave reviews online.

"Ballroom Dancing Remains on the Hill," by Christina Li appeared in The Potrero View of June 2008.  It discusses Cheryl Burke Dance taking over the space at 17th and DeHaro that was occupied for 17 years by the Metronome Ballroom.  Both of these studios represent the past of 1830 17th Street which is scheduled to be torn down so the Smuin Ballet can build a studio there.

"It Don't Mean a Thing If It Ain't Got That Swing!," by Karen Ahn appeared in San Francisco Downtown in July 1998.  This article discusses a swing dance revival at spaces like Bimbo's, Cafe du Nord and The Inferno Lounge.

"Tea Dancing" by Joan Hockaday appeared in the San Francisco Progress on December 2, 1979.  It describes a Friday night tea dancing event held at the Hyatt Regency at the Embarcadero.

"Strictly Ballroom, Dancing Classes for Kids," by Angela Neal Richardson appeared in the Nob Hill Gazette of October 1993.  This article discusses The Mid-Weeklies, a series of dance classes for 6th, 7th and 8th graders.  Dance is also taught to these children as a form of social etiquette.

"Strictly Ballroom... and Tango, Swing, Cha Cha..." by Kevin Davis appeared in The Guardsman, the student newspaper of the City College of San Francisco.  This article discusses the school's ballroom dance classes.  It includes this fascinating information: "The 2,200-strong dance community at City College is really a cult-like entity unto itself, extending out  to a wide, underground movement."

Our newspaper clipping files provide a small window into this "underground" world.  It shows that there is a devoted subculture of San Franciscans who sustain this art form.  The popularity of different dance forms may wax and wane, dance venues may come and go, but the continuous enthusiasm and activity of these dancers remains documented in our files.

We have collected information into files on all aspects of the visual and performing arts as well as sports and recreation.  We also have biographical files on visual and performing artists.  Here are links to the indexes of our vertical file collection.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Maurice J. Gunsky - a San Francisco music idol of the 1920s

Maurice Gunsky, from the San Francisco Historical Photograph Collection

Maurice Gunsky was the number one vocal star in the early days of Bay Area radio broadcasting.  Yet the small modern remembrance that we have of him is as a butt of a Herb Caen joke.  Caen wrote in a 1979 column:
Maurice Gunsky, idol of thousands of women who had never laid eyes on him, made the mistake of emerging from the radio studio for a personal appearance in a Market St. Theater. The crowds were enormous -- but not for long. For Maurice Gunsky, of the romantic pipes, turned out to be rather short, dumpy and balding. His career went into fatal decline. 
(Caen repeated a similar story in 1988).

Maurice Jacob Gunsky (who frequently went by Maurice J. Gunsky) was born August 10, 1888 in Petaluma, California to Joseph and Fannie Gunsky, immigrants from Russian Poland.  His father who worked as a tailor in San Francisco, Ukiah and Petaluma, died when Maurice was twelve.

The most detailed account of the singer's life appeared in the 1930 biographical encyclopedia California and Californians.  This resource explains that because of his parents' early deaths he had go to work to support his family. He became a printer's apprentice, then a pressman who was a member of the San Francisco Printing Pressman's Union No. 24 -- not seemingly a likely background for a successful singer and songwriter. This source further noted that he "has struggled to recognition and fame in the musical world under the spur of poverty and limited opportunities."

He was apparently a practicing Jew since his first notice in the Chronicle tells of his performance as a tenor at a performance for B'rith Abraham in San Francisco in 1909.  While Gunsky showed ability as a vocalist, he could not overcome stage fright, which kept him off the stage for many years.  He then tried his hand at songwriting, primarily as a lyricist.

One of his earliest appearances in print was with the 1914 song "My 'Kewpie' Doll" written in collaboration with San Francisco songwriter and theater impresario Nat Goldstein.  The lyrics are not outstanding ("I've got the cutest little pet that any one get, / And he's my fav-'rite chum, because he's never glum") but they did respond to the craze for these dolls in 1914.

Goldstein and Gunsky had a fruitful, twenty year collaboration writing more than twenty songs including "That Haunting Waltz" recorded by Joseph M. Knecht and Waldorf-Astoria Dance Orchestra (1921),  "Honolulu Blues" recorded by the Oriole Terrace Orchestra (1922), the New Orleans Black Birds (1928) and Red Nichols and the Five Pennies (1931).  "Alone in Lonesome Valley" was recorded as "Lonesome Valley" by Glen Rice and his Beverly Hill Billies. "Linger Longer" was recorded by the Graham Prince Palais D'Or Orchestra in 1932.

After a time it occurred to him that he could overcome his fear of performance for an audience by singing over the new medium of radio to promote his songs before the public.  Gunsky got his start in radio at the San Jose station KJBS in September 1925 and shortly afterward worked at KFRC.  KPO's new program director, pianist Jean Campbell Crowe, then hired Gunsky and by late November he was a regular singer with the station.

source: San Francisco Chronicle November 13, 1925

He made an immediate sensation - an article in Radio Digest reported that "his first appearance brought thousands of letters."  These were the earliest days of early broadcasting when the radio spectrum was still clear and programming was fairly scarce.  Newspaper notices as far afield as Billings, Montana and Albuquerque, New Mexico announced the times when Gunsky would be singing live on air. The Berkeley Daily Gazette reported in 1927 that "Each time Gunsky goes 'on the air' ... he receives requests for songs from Los Angeles to British Columbia, and since he first began singing they have run into the hundreds of thousands."  He signed on with the West Coast Theaters circuit and became their highest paid performer and biggest box office attraction.

Soon after becoming a radio idol, the Victor label brought him into the recording studio.  His first disc, "Lay My Head Beneath a Rose" backed with "Why Do I Always Remember?" was recorded in Oakland on May 1, 1926.  He later traveled to New York where he made more records and performed on air.  In 1928 he returned to the Bay Area with the San Francisco Chronicle proclaiming: "Since going East, KPO has been besieged with telephone calls and letters asking for Gunsky. His return home is an auspicious event in radio circles."  He returned to the east again to make some recordings for the Columbia label.  At the height of his popularity, Gunsky was earning 3,000 dollars a week.

from the Catalog of Victor Records 1930

from the Catalog of Victor Records [1938]

The Popular Jazz Archive provides a discography for Maurice Gunsky as a soloist with 30 sides recorded for Victor and 12 sides recorded for Columbia between 1925 and 1929.  The creator of that blog has digitized several of these songs and uploaded them to  Eighteen of his Victor sides were still listed in print in the 1930 Victor catalog. By 1938 only his debut recording "Lay My Head Beneath a Rose" backed with "Why Do I Always Remember" remained available.  This recording was simultaneously issued in Great Britain on the Zonophone label and had sold more 230,000 copies by 1932.

 "Lay My Head Beneath A Rose" as featured by Maurice Gunsky, K.P.O. artist
"Lay My Head Beneath a Rose" as featured by Maurice J. Gunsky, Victor Record and radio artist

He continued to have success as a radio singer through the early 1930s.  Even a news item in the Lubbock Morning Avalanche March 1, 1930 announced: "Maurice Gunsky, radio tenor, has returned to KPO after a tour of eastern stations" implying that he had appeared live on many stations.  During the 1930s, his singing was relayed to other stations like KNX in Los Angeles.  His programs were also transcribed to records.  He also became the musical director for MacGregor and Sollie, one of these transcription services.

Though his stardom waned through the 1930s he continued to sing.  Radio listings from 1931 show him performing Sunday mornings on KFRC.  In 1933 he had his own half-hour "Maurice Gunsky Review," broadcast locally on KYA, but transcribed and broadcast all over the country.  He also made a foray into songwriting for Hollywood.  Gunsky made a bit of a comeback on KSFO in 1938

It's not accurate to call Gunsky's music jazz.  It is a kind of slow, melancholy music with semi-classical overtones.  His recording career might have been shortened by the Great Depression that started with the Stock Market crash in October 1929.  It's also possible that his style of music was no longer as commercially viable as more rhythmic styles of music grew in popularity.

Although his star definitely waned by the 1940s, Maurice Gunsky had achieved a measure of fame throughout the English language world.  While he was rooted in San Francisco, his voice was broadcast all across the American West and his recordings were enjoyed through the United States and Great Britain.  He was a member of ASCAP and their registry of works continues to list 11 of his songs.  The ASCAP Biographical Dictionary supplies this brief biography - "Active in radio, WCoast, 25. Appeared in vaudeville, 26-29."

It's apparent that he had enough ability as singer and as a lyricist to allow him to live well and become well-known.  Given his late and inauspicious entry into the performing arts, his success is remarkable.  He arrived on the scene at the same time that a new medium was taking shape that had need of his talents. While Maurice J. Gunsky is all but forgotten, we still have a record of his work.

Maurice Gunsky's works in the San Francisco Public Library catalog.

Maurice Gunsky's works in the Dorothy Starr Collection catalog.


"At the Sound of the Chimes," San Francisco Examiner (October 31, 1936).

"B'rith Abraham Has a Reunion," San Francisco Chronicle (January 14, 1909), p. 12

Caen, Herb, "From Monday On," San Francisco Chronicle (March 26, 1979), 26.

Caen, Herb, "Out of My Mind," San Francisco Chronicle (December 4, 1988), Sunday Punch p. 1.

California and Californians, edited by Rockwell D. Hunt (The Lewis Publishing Company, 1930).

Catalog of Victor Records 1930 (Victor Talking Machine Division, Radio-Victor Corporation of America, 1930).

Catalog of Victor records (RCA Victor Division of RCA Manufacturing Co., 1938).

Daggett, John S., "Radio to Bring London Voices," Los Angeles Times (May 26, 1931), A17.

Falkenstein, G. & W. Madison, "Lay My Head Beneath a Rose" (Villa Moret Inc., 1926).

Flamm, Jerry, Good Life in Hard Times: San Francisco in the '20s & '30s (Chronicle Books, 1999).

"Goal of KPO is diversity," Radio Digest Illustrated, vol. 23, no. 5 (March 1929), 69.

Goldstein, Nat & M.J. Gunsky, "My 'Kewpie' doll" (Nat Goldstein Music Pub. Co., 1914).

Goldstein, Nat & Maurice J. Gunsky, "That haunting waltz" (Nat Goldstein Music Publishing Company, 1921).

"Gunsky Again on Monday" San Francisco Chronicle (February 19, 1928), 12.

"Gunsky to be Heard Again," Oakland Tribune (February 20, 1938), 4-B.

"Gunsky to Make Phonograph Records," Oakland Tribune (October 7, 1928), 2-B

"Gunsky to Perform at U.C. All Week," Berkeley Daily Gazette (August 30, 1927).

"Gunsky's Rise to Fame Like Fiction Tale," Berkeley Daily Gazette (September 6, 1927), 3.

"More Features on KPO List," San Francisco Chronicle November 13, 1925, p. 6.

"Maurice Gunsky Singing for Victrola Company," Ukiah Dispatch-Democrat (September 24, 1926), 8.

Nicolson, William J., "Victor In The West: The Oakland Pressing Plant," Tim's Phonographs and Old Records [online, n.d.]

"Pioneer Singer Passes," San Francisco Examiner (March 5, 1945).

"Programs of Stations Local Radio Fans Can Receive," Billings Gazette (November 29, 1925), 7.

"Radio Programs," Albuquerque Morning Journal (December 4, 1925), 4.

Schneider, John F., "History of KPO, San Francisco" Bay Area Radio Museum (1997).

Weeks, Anson & Maurice J. Gunsky, "Linger longer" (Villa Moret Inc., 1931).

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Ten Years of The San Francisco Public Library, Art, Music and Recreation Center blog

"Two Decorative Figures" by Leo Lentelli at the Mission Branch Library, 24th Street and Bartlett
The San Francisco Public Library, Art, Music and Recreation Center blog began on March 7, 2007.  During that time we have had more than 50,000 readers visit our 436 blog entries.  This blog has given us an opportunity to highlight programs and exhibitions, and to share reference and reading resources.

Here are the most read entries from our blog year by year.

Leo Lentelli: Sculptor of the City Beautiful (June 18, 2007)

Leo Lentelli was a sculptor who was heavily involved with the 1915 Panama Pacific International Exposition.  He also created works of public art visible to all who visit San Francisco.  Our blog entry has become well read because it is cited in the Wikipedia article about Lentelli.

The Dewey Decimal System and Music Scores (December 10, 2008)

The San Francisco Public Library uses the Dewey Decimal System to classify much of its nonfiction material.  The score collection uses an earlier version of this classification system. This entry explains some of the idiosyncrasies of our use of the system.

Color and Music (Marcy 17, 2009)

In early 2009, our Department and the Business, Science and Technology Department presented an exhibit called Color Amour that celebrated the history, art and science of color.  This entry focused on one aspect of the exhibition.

Jim Marshall (1936-2010) (November 8, 2010)

The passing of famed San Francisco photographer was the occasion for a small display of his work in our department.

Art in America Annual Guide, Museums, Galleries, Artists (June 22, 2011)

This entry highlights an important reference source that is available to San Francisco Public Library card holders as a special magazine issue in a magazine database.

Jews and the Brill Building - by Richie Unterberger (January 29, 2012)

Richie Unterberger is a local expert on popular music who frequently presents programs at the Library. This is one of the few blog entries written by a non-San Francisco Public Library librarian.

Richard Diebenkorn and Ingleside (September 19, 2013)

At this time, the DeYoung Museum presented the exhibit Richard Diebenkorn: The Berkeley Years, 1953–1966.  This was one of a pair of blog entries that looked at Diebenkorn's connection to San Francisco.  This entry focuses on the Ingleside neighborhood where he grew up.

Bobby Womack's I Left My Heart in San Francisco (July 1, 2014)

This entry was a tribute to the rhythm'n'blues musician Bobby Womack that examined his performance of an iconic San Francisco song.

"John McLaren" by M. Earl Cummings

M. Earl Cummings, pt. 2 - Sculpture in Golden Gate Park (August 9, 2015)

This was one of a pair entries discussing a San Francisco artist who played an important role in the City's cultural life during the first half of the 20th century.  This essay looks at his many works of public sculpture in Golden Gate Park.

Dorothy Starr Interviewed (November 17, 2016)

The Dorothy Starr Collection is a unique and important resource in our department.  This entry features an interview with Dorothy Starr herself where she talks about her life and vocation.

Please keep checking in to our blog to learn about our activities, our collections and about San Francisco's artistic, musical, and recreational activities.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Couperin record label art

 Les nations - Editions de l'oiseau-lyre SOL.60014 [1960]
 Les nations - Telefunken AWT 9476-A [1968]
Chamber music of François Couperin, Titanic Ti-39 [1978]

One of the vicarious pleasures of enjoying phono discs is appreciating the record label design. Throughout the history of recorded sound, the companies that release records have created trademarked identities for their products.  Unfortunately, there does not appear to be reference book that thoroughly documents this practice.  The Encyclopedia of Recorded Sound does include several black and white examples.

We still maintain a collection of several thousand long playing records.  Recordings of music by François Couperin, a French baroque composer and keyboard player, show us some striking examples of this artwork.  Baroque classical music is regarded as a refined art form and it has been released by some of the finer classical record labels.

The L'oiseau lyre logo features the distinctive lyre birds in profile as bookends.  The word Telefunken is of German coinage and is made up of the prefix "tele" (far-off) and "funken" meaning sparks.  Their logo features multiply symmetrical electrical bolts surrounding the brand name broken into three syllables inside a diamond.  Titanic is an American label that has specialized in baroque music.  The feature the eponymous ocean liner on their label art.

Our collection of long playing records is available to borrow from the Library.

Chamber Music of François Couperin (Titanic Records, p1978).

Encyclopedia of Recorded Sound by Frank Hoffmann, editor (Routledge, 2005).

Les nations / François Couperin (Oiseau-Lyre, 1960)

Les Nations: 1726 / François Couperin (Telefunken, 1969).

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Mecca for Musicians - One Hundred Years ago at the Main Library

Upstairs there is a happy hunting-ground for the musicians in the form of a well-stocked music-room. Should any poverty stricken member of the long-haired gentry feel the lure of Beethoven, Brahms, Bach or Bizet, he needs but drift in, select the favored work and give it a tryout in the sound-proof room attached.  Here may the Terpsichorean muse be wooed in every guise but a ragged one. For rag of every sort is taboo, and the vigilant ear of the music librarian is ever cocked for the forbidden strains from the music-room.  In other words, "Nix on the rag in the library."

source: "San Francisco Now Has Library To Be Proud Of," San Francisco Chronicle (February 25, 1917), 34.

San Francisco Public Library Monthly Bulletin vol. 23, no. 1 (January-April 1917), 2

"May this structure throned on imperishable books, be maintained and cherished from generation to generation for the improvement and delight of mankind" source: Public Library Building: Erected Nineteen Hundred and Sixteen; Description of building / George W. Kelham ([San Francisco: s.n., 1917?]).

February 15 was the 100th birthday of the 1917 opening of the San Francisco Public Library Main Library building.

One of the highlights of the newly opened building was a Music Department on the 3rd floor (later the home of the San Francisco History Room). This was one of the only specialized departments in the new building.  The new service was housed in a beautiful room with wood paneling. This new service merited attention in the San Francisco Chronicle article quoted above.

The patron-base of this "mecca for musicians" was thought to be "long-haired gentry."  Starting around the 1910s, classical music began to be semi-pejoratively known in America as "long hair music." In this article, classically trained musicians are further ridiculed as both "poverty-stricken" and "gentry."  The author is also mistaken when invoking Terpsichore, the Greek muse of dance, when discussing music making.

At the building's opening, the department could support the luxury of providing a piano in a sound-proof for musicians wanting to try out a score from the collection.  While this article makes a big deal of the prohibition of ragtime, the music librarians of the San Francisco Public Library have always been very catholic in their selection of musical genres and at no time did they neglect ragtime in their collection building.

The back wall in the photograph below features covered bins for the so-called "x-class sheet music."  In this method of shelving, chamber music was laid flat in bins organized by ensemble type.

The San Francisco Public Library became an innovator when it provided specialized service to the musicians of the community.  Our efforts at collecting music and documenting our City's musical history predate almost all most universities.  The collection was built to a very high level by the first music librarian, the exceptionally capable and energetic Jessica Fredricks, who worked at the library from 1916 to 1951.

A photograph of the Music Department [no date] 

Music Department (source: San Francisco Historical Photograph collection)

Interior of Main Library - music room, looking toward technical room (source: San Francisco Historical Photograph collection)
The x-class sheet music after the collection moved to the 1st floor (source: San Francisco Historical Photograph collection)