Monday, March 30, 2009

Flamenco! Carlos Saura and Friends

Antonio Gades (source:

In celebration of National Dance Week, the Audiovisual Center and the Art, Music & Recreation Center of the Library presents Flamenco! Carlos Saura and Friends, a series of five large screen videos. These will be shown on each Thursday at 12:00 noon in the Koret Auditorium in the lower level of the Main Library.

April 2, 2009

Gypsy Heart (2006, 50 min.) – A tribute to flamenco dancer Omayra Amaya’s struggle to keep a fiery dance form burning in the chilly city of Boston. Amaya states, “I am a Gypsy from Andalusia,” explaining that Flamenco emerged from Spain’s persecution of its Roma people as a “scream of liberation.”

April 9, 2009

Blood Wedding ( 1981, 101 min.) – Carlos Saura’s first collaboration with choreographer Antonio Gades is a dazzlingly shot and edited dress rehearsal for Gades’ ballet of the classic Federico Garcia Lorca tragedy.

April 16, 2009

Carmen (1983, 101 min.) – Saura’s Oscar-nominated take on the original Carmen story, by Prosper Merimee, casts Gades as a choreographer who falls for the gorgeous mystery woman he has discovered for his new production.

April 23, 2009

El Amor Brujo (1986, 103 min.) – Manuel de Falla’s beloved Roma ballet explodes onto the screen with blazing colors in Saura’s final work with Antonio Gades, a love quadrangle, and a ghost story featuring ravishing dancing and daring camera work.

April 30, 2009

Gypsy Caravan (2007, 111 min.) – An audience favorite at film festivals worldwide, Gypsy Caravan takes the viewer along on a six week fire-in-the belly Roma music tour that encompasses flamenco, violin, Indian folk-to-raga and jazz music.

All programs at the Library are free. This program is supported by the Friends of the San
Francisco Public Library.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Archie Green (1917-2009)

Archie Green photographed by Hazen Robert Walker
(image from the Wikimedia Commons)

On March 22, 2009 the Bay Area lost one of its most important public scholars in Archie Green. Folklore was his area of research, primarily what he called laborlore--the creative expression of
working people. He was a prolific writer and a dedicated user of the San Francisco Public Library where many of us knew him and assisted him in his meticulous and wide ranging research.

The library owns several of Archie Green's books and subscribes to databases that contain his shorter articles. While he would have hesitated to call himself a musicologist, several of his most significant works were studies of music. His major work Only A Miner: Studies in Recorded Coal-Mining Songs is a tour de force that examines of the problems in researching industrial folklore, particularly mining lore. Part of Green's approach is a consideration of the importance of commercial recordings in studying this lore. His book closes with a discussion of several of these songs looking at their relation to oral traditions.

The Big Red Songbook: 250-plus IWW Songs was a work that he help shepherd into existence in 2007. Subtitled "Songs To Fan The Flames Of Discontent! A Collection Of Rebel Workers' Songs And Poems," this book collects the lyrics to songs of the International Workers of The World.

He also assembled a collection of essays by a number of authors entitled Songs About Work: Essays in Occupational Culture for Richard A. Reuss. This book includes his essay "Woody's Oil Songs" about some of Woody Guthrie's music.

JSTOR, a full text database available to San Francisco Public Library card holders, includes several of Archie Green's articles including:

"Vernacular Music: A Naming Compass," The Musical Quarterly Vol. 77, No. 1 (Spring, 1993), pp. 35-46.

"Hear These Beautiful Sacred Selections," Yearbook of the International Folk Music Council Vol. 2, (1970), pp. 28-50.

"Hillbilly Music: Source and Symbol Hillbilly Music: Source and Symbol," The Journal of American Folklore Vol. 78, No. 309, (Jul.-Sep., 1965), pp. 204-228.

"Labor Song: An Ambiguous Legacy," Journal of Folklore Research Vol. 28, No. 2/3 (May 1991), pp. 93-102.

While he wrote prolifically about music, he also wrote about visual culture. Tin Men, published in 2002, is a exploration of men of tin created and depicted in various two and three dimensional forms. Green wrote that the "tin man serves as does any other artistic piece--as an outlet for creative energy, a mark of defiance, an affirmation of community, a summation of a worker's experience."

His anthology of essays entitled Torching The Fink Books, And Other Essays On Vernacular Culture includes a chapter entitled "Austin's Cosmic Cowboys" that details various psychedelic and counter-cultural illustrations of the cowboy in 1960s-1980s. "Tom Benton's Folk Depictions" is a discussion of Thomas Hart Benton's folk-influenced art. Torching the Fink Books also includes a bibliography of Archie Green's writings from 1959-2000.

Listen to a National Public Radio tribute to Archie Green on Morning Edition, March 25, 2009.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Singing for Pleasure or Profit

"Anyone can sing" is a popular saying. And it's true to the extent that anyone endowed with a set of vocal cords can create some sort of musical utterance.

Singing is something that people can do naturally and spontaneously. But it is also a skill that can be learned and cultivated, in many styles and at all levels.

We provide instructional, vocational, and recreational books for vocalists ranging from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Singing to Advanced Vocal Technique.

A work like The Handbook for Working Singers provides practical information for the professional vocalist. There are chapters on live, choral, and studio singing. There are others on performing, touring and vocal fatique and even on overcoming stage fright.

Books like Find Your Voice, The Singer's Companion, and The Performer's Voice take a holistic approach looking at "vocal mechanics"--how the vocalist's or speaker's entire body can be used to produce a full and beautiful tone. These titles look at how the bone and muscular structure, larynx, chest and vocal cavities all interact to produce the vocal tone. The latter two titles also look at vocal health--issues like sleep, nutrition, exercise, and how to cope with illness and hoarseness.

Singing and Communicating in English is a meticulous explanation of precise vocal diction. This work looks at the interaction of the larynx, vocal cavity, tongue and lips and provides charts and drawings that explicate proper pronunciation. It also provides exercises to help the vocalist or speaker perfect their pronunciation.

If these titles are too difficult and technical there's always Hit Me With Your Best Shot: The Ultimate Guide to Karaoke Domination. This book says very little into vocal technique, but instead focuses on many extra-musical aspects of performance working the set-up of equipment, the room, dancing to the music, etc... It also includes repertoires of songs to help singers to
express themselves.

Reading List:

Advanced Vocal Technique: Middle Voice, Placement & Style by Dena Murray and Tita Hutchison. (Milwaukee, WI: Hal Leonard, 2008).

The Complete Idiot's Guide To Singing by Phyllis Fulford and Michael Miller. Indianapolis, IN: Alpha, 2003.

Find Your Voice by Jo Thompson & Nigel Nelson. Iver Heath, UK: Artemis, 2004.

The Handbook For Working Singers by Roma Waterman. (London : Schirmer Trade Books, 2008).

Hit Me With Your Best Shot!: The Ultimate Guide to Karaoke Domination by Raina Lee. (San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2008).

The Performer's Voice: Realizing Your Vocal Potential by Meribeth Bunch Dayme. (New York: W.W. Norton, 2005).

The Singer's Companion: A Guide to Improving Your Voice and Performance by Brent Jeffrey Monahan. (New York: Limelight Editions, 2006).

Singing and Communicating in English: A Singer's Guide to English Diction by Kathryn LaBouff. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008).

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Color and Music

'The Harmony of the Birth of the World' (Harmonia Nascentis Mundi), represented by a cosmic organ with six registers corresponding to the days of creation (from the Glasgow University Library, Special Collections Department).

According to the Oxford English Dictionary synæsthesia (often spelled synesthesia) is the “production, from a sense-impression of one kind, of an associated mental image of a sense-impression of another kind.” Put more simply it is a response of one sense by a different sense organ. One of the most discussed forms of synesthesia is the perception of music as color.

The ability of color and music to move the emotions has been recognized for millennia. Ancient Greek philosophers drew parallels between color, music and the planets which were not replaced until the 18th century. Many terms in music can also be used to describe color and art: composition, tone, chromatic, harmony, key and texture. Artists have been fascinated with the direct emotional appeal of music.

As far back as the 1870s musicians and artists have tried to fuse color and music through the use of “color organs,” a crude version of “Laserium.” In his work Prometheus: a Poem of Fire, Aleksandr Scriabin created a color “score” to be played simultaneously with his music score.

(from Poem Of Ecstasy and Prometheus: Poem of Fire by Alexander Scriabin (Dover Edition))

American artists Stanton Macdonald-Wright and Morgan Russell created the Synchromist Movement based on treating colors like notes in an overall composition. They believed that in order to represent a color scale, the colors could not be blended since the mixed color no longer exists, but should be set next to each other like a musical chord – these notes are still present.

Synchromy in Green and Orange, 1916 Stanton Macdonald-Wright (image source: Walker Art Center)

For some people with synesthesia the connection between color and music seems to be buried deep in the psyche. Those who have this condition experience a neurologically based phenomenon in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway. Duke Ellington, Amy Beach, and Jean Sibelius experienced the sound-color version of synesthesia where, as the listener heard a sound he or she would also see a color.

The Colour Amour exhibit will be continuing on the 4th floor of the Main Library through March 26, 2009.

A Reading List for Color and Music

“Artistic and Psychological Experiments with Synesthesia” by Cretien van Campen. Leonardo Vol. 32, No. 1 (1999): pp 9-14.

Color, Myth, and Music: Stanton Macdonald-Wright and Synchromism by Will South. (North Carolina Museum of Art, 2001).

A Great Russian Tone-Poet: Scriabin by A. Eaglefield Hull. (K. Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co., Ltd., 1916).

“Instruments to Perform Color-Music: Two Centuries of Technological Experimentation”
by Kenneth Peacock. Leonardo Vol. 21, No. 4 (1988), 397-406.

Kandinsky: Compositions by Magdalena Dabrowski. (Museum of Modern Art, 1995).
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Morgan Russell by Marilyn S. Kushner. (Hudson Hills Press, 1990).

Musicophilia: Tales of Music and The Brain by Oliver Sacks. (Knopf, 2007).

Paul Klee: Painting Music by Hajo Duchting. (Prestel, 2004).

Sweet Man, The Real Duke Ellington by Don George. (Putnam, 1981).

Synchromism and American Color Abstraction by Gail Levin. (G. Braziller, 1978).

Synchromism and Color Principles in American Painting, 1910-1930 by William Agee. (M. Knoedler & Co., 1965).

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Red and Orange


The most emotionally charged of all colors. The range of emotions evoked by red can range from passion, love, and lust to anger, rage and murder. Red is associated with blood and life. This bond between red and life has made it a significant color in every culture on Earth. Since blood held the secret of life, the color was credited with special powers. On the darker side, red can stand for blood violently spilt. The expression “to be caught red-handed” originated from the offender still being stained with the victim’s blood.

As if to Celebrate, I Discovered a Mountain Blooming with Red Flowers, by Anish Kapoor (1981) (image: Tate Collection).

Red is significant in Indian wedding traditions. A bride will usually wear red on her wedding day and on the eve of her wedding, she will have her hands and feet painted with henna.


As a color, it is a bridge between red and yellow, but lacks the emotional impact of either. It is considered a bright color, like yellow, thus infusing it with some of yellow’s traits: cheerful, uplifting, extroverted and expansive. It is the color of fall, fire, spices and homey baked goods, thus associating it with shelter, warmth and comfort. The French custom of adorning brides with blossoms from the orange tree symbolized the hope of fruitfulness.

The Harrison Violin by Antonio Stradivari (source: National Music Museum, University of North Dakota, Vermillion).

See Color: A Natural History of the Palette for a description of the mysterious orange varnish on Antonio Stradivari's violins.

The Colour Amour exhibit will continue on the 4th floor through March 26, 2008.


A Perfect Red by Amy Butler Greenfield. (New York: HarperCollins, 2005).

The Root of Wild Madder by Brian Murphy. (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2005).

Anish Kapoor: My Red Homeland. (Köln: Kunsthaus Bregenz, 2003.

Anish Kapoor by Germano Celant. (Milano: Edizioni Charta: Fondazione Prada, 1996).

Colour After Klein: Re-thinking Colour in Modern and Contemporary Art. (London: Barbican Art Gallery: Black Dog Pub., 2005).

Visit the Art Museum Image Gallery (available to San Francisco Public Library card holders) to view digital images of other works by Anish Kapoor.

There are two streaming audio playlists available at Smithsonian Global Sound (also found on the Library's Articles and Databases page and available to library card holders). Following the tab for Playlist Folders and go to the bottom of the page. Under "Course Folders" there are two playlists:

"Songs of Red" (26 tracks, 56 minutes in length)

"Songs of Orange" (8 tracks, 18 minutes in length)