Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Elvis Is In The Building - Thursday Noon Videos in January 2014

Every Thursday in January, the celluloid Elvis Presley will make an appearance upon the projection screen in the Main Library's Koret Auditorium. For our Thursday noon Videos on Large Screen selection we are pleased to present the series "Elvis is in the Building."

On Thursday, January 2, 2014, we will show Jailhouse Rock (1957, 96 minutes). Elvis Presley’s 3rd film stars the king as a convicted felon! After serving time for manslaughter, young Vince Everett becomes a teenage rock star. Featuring the title track “Jailhouse Rock”, as well as "Don't Leave Me Now," and "(You're So Square) Baby I Don't Care."

The film for January 9 is Kissin’ Cousins (1964, rated PG, 96 minutes). The King tries his hand at a dual role as a soldier and his own hillbilly cousin. Elvis the soldier tries to convince his simple cousin to give up their land to install a new missile base. Includes songs, “Barefoot Ballad,” “Long Lonely Highway.”

The January 16 film is Viva Las Vegas (1964, rated PG, 85 minutes). Everyone comes up a winner when Elvis Presley, the racing-car driver, meets Ann-Margret, the Vegas swimming teacher with swivel hips as fast as his. The high gear stars, climactic Grand Prix and ten songs, including "The Lady Loves Me," made this Elvis’s most popular film.

On January 23 we will show Live a Little, Love a Little (1968, rated PG, 90 minutes). In his 28th film, Elvis plays frazzled Greg, scrambling to keep his work life afloat while also contending with the kooky attentions of a beach beauty (Michele Carey). Includes songs, “A Little Less Conversation”, “Edge of Reality.”

For our January finally on the 30th we will show the documentary This is Elvis (1981, 110 minutes). Though several actors portray Elvis Presley at different stages of his life, this documentary is comprised mostly of actual performance footage and interviews with Elvis, his fans and those close to him.

All films start at 12 noon in the Koret Auditorium.  These programs are sponsored by the Friends of the San Francisco Public Library.  All Library programs are free and open to the public.

Further reading:

Elvis Cinema and Popular Culture by Douglas Brode (McFarland & Co., 2006).

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Know Your SFPL Call Numbers - 792.1, 792.5, 791.43

We all love the Dewey Decimal System.  However, just as the world we live in changes, the Dewey Decimal System also changes over time.

At the time of the earliest editions of Melville Dewey's Decimal Classification and Relative Index for Libraries, Clippings, Notes, Etc the medium of motion pictures did not yet exist. Before an actual call number was assigned for this subject, the librarians the San Francisco Public Library invented their own solution, placing them within the Dewey number 792 - Theater, pantomime, opera.

source: Melville Dewey, Decimal Classification and Relativ [sic] Index for Libraries, Clippings, Notes, Etc., edition 9 revized [sic], (Lake Placid Club NY, 1915).

Dewey number 792 was a reasonable choice, especially given that the earliest films without sound had much in common with pantomime. Unfortunately, when the compilers of the Dewey Decimal Classification got around to including film they placed it within the Dewey number 791 - Public entertainment.  Thus the San Francisco Public Library became at odds with the official Dewey Decimal system.

In the days before computers and computer networking, assigning heterodox Dewey decimal numbers was not a terrible thing.  All book cataloging was done in house.  As long as San Francisco Public Library catalogers knew the library's established call numbers for film there was no problem at all.

In time, the San Francisco like nearly all other libraries joined OCLC - originally the Ohio College Library Center, later the Online Computer Library Center - a consortium that created a networked, standardized, communal library catalog.  This meant that member libraries could take advantage of the cataloging work done at other institutions, saving them the time and expense of cataloging each item themselves.  As this happened, the San Francisco Public Library found that many of its long established call numbers were at odds with the accepted standards of the Dewey classification and the Library of Congress (a major contributor of records to OCLC).  Assigning in-house numbers to these materials added to the time and expense of bringing books to the shelves.

In 1992 the Library decided to do away with almost all of our in-house practices for assigning call numbers and to follow the most recent edition of the Dewey Decimal Classification.  This has meant that for many areas, books with a similar subject matter has gotten scattered across more than one call number.

It is an interested question - is film a public performance or a stage presentation?  According to the Dewey system it is the latter. Source: Dewey Dewey Classification Summaries (OCLC website)

One of the emblematic problems we encountered after 1993 was the division of our film collection into two discrete sections. 

The bottom line is: books on motion pictures prior to 1993 used call numbers 792.1 and 792.5.  Books acquired after 1993 have been given the call number 791.43.  (This problem is exacerbated here at the Main Library where was have so many titles, and they happen to be separated by the elevator lobby between ranges 44 and 45).  This is further muddied by the fact that books related to film and video making have been assigned the Dewey number 778.5 ("Fields and Kinds of Photography) and books on the motion picture industry have been assigned the Dewey number 384.8 ("Communication, telecommunication").

The guide below gives the old 792 San Francisco numbers and their translations to current Dewey numbers.  Happy browsing!

792.1 = 791.4302
Film - actors and actresses biographies

792.5 = 791.43 / 791.4309
Film history, criticism

792.5 = 791.4305
Film magazines

792.5 = 791.4306 = 384.8309
Film finance

792.5 = 384.806-384.809
Film studios

792.501 = 791.4301
Film theory

792.502 = 791.4302
Film directors

792.503 = 791.4303
Film dictionaries and encyclopedias

792.507 = 791.4307
Film collections

792.51 = 791.4372 / 791.4375

792.52 = 791.4309
Films - historic treatment

792.53 = 778.535
Film making - editing

792.55 = 778.534
Film making - special effects

792.59 = 791.437

792.59xx - 791.4309
film - geographic presentation

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Most Requested Art, Music and Recreation Center books in December 2013

The books below are listed in order of the number of holds placed on them reflecting their current popularity at the San Francisco Public Library.

The majority of titles are about some aspect of the arts and entertainment. Some are about motion pictures and actors (A Story Lately Told, Coreyography, The Wes Anderson Collection, Moments That Made the Movies), others about are about television (Johnny Carson, Paddle Your Own Canoe, Making Masterpieces). Works by and about comedians also remain popular (Still foolin 'em, Rob Delaney, Furious Cool). There are also a couple of musician's memoirs (Wild Tales, and Simple Dreams), and a biography of Johann Sebastian Bach.  The new biography of choreographer Bob Fosse is also very popular.

There are also a few books relating to creation and creativity, like Lena Corwin's Made By Hand, Remodelista, Daily Rituals.  David Hockney's 2001 book Secret Knowledge: Rediscovering The Lost Techniques of The Old Masters is undoubtedly popular because of the current exhibit at the DeYoung Museum.  One surprising entry is a 1996 book Cool, Grey City of Love: A Celebration of San Francisco.  It's likely a very fine book, but I wonder if the people who placed holds on this title meant to request Gary Kamiya's new book Cool Gray City of Love (grey with an "e," versus gray with an "a").

Finally we can't leave out the one sports title, Wheelmen, that chronicles the long Lance Armstrong saga.

The popularity of the books may mean a wait in getting a copy to borrow.  But because we either own or are ordering multiple copies of these books, the wait should not be very long.  Happy reading.

See also:
The Most Requested Art, Music and Recreation Center books in May 2013
 Art, Music and Recreation Center Books in Demand, late December 2012

A Story Lately Told: Coming of Age in Ireland, London, and New York by Anjelica Huston (Scribner, 2013).

Johnny Carson by Henry Bushkin (An Eamon Dolan Book/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013).

Wheelmen: Lance Armstrong, the Tour de France, and the Greatest Sports Conspiracy Ever by Reed Albergotti and Vanessa O'Connell (Gotham Books, 2013).

Paddle Your Own Canoe: One Man's Fundamentals for Delicious Living by Nick Offerman. New York : Dutton, 2013.

Still foolin' 'em: where i've been, where i'm going, and where the hell are my keys? by Billy Crystal (Henry Holt and Company, 2013).

The Wes Anderson Collection by Matt Zoller Seitz (Abrams, 2013).

Moments That Made The Movies by David Thomson (Thames & Hudson, 2013).

Rob Delaney: Mother, Wife, Sister, Human, Warrior, Falcon, Yardstick, Turban, Cabbage by Rob Delaney (Spiegel & Grau, 2013).

Lena Corwin's Made By Hand / photography by Maria Alexandra Vettese and Stephanie Congdon Barnes (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2013).

Coreyography: A Memoir by Corey Feldman (St. Martin's Press, 2013).

Secret Knowledge: Rediscovering The Lost Techniques of The Old Masters by David Hockney (Viking Studio, 2001).

Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey (Alfred A. Knopf, 2013).

Remodelista: A Manual For The Considered Home by Julie Carlson (Artisan, 2013).

Wild Tales: A Rock & Roll Life by Graham Nash (Crown Archetype, 2013).

Simple Dreams: A Musical Memoir by Linda Ronstadt (Simon & Schuster, 2013).

Making Masterpiece: 25 Years Behind the Scenes at Masterpiece and Mystery! on PBS by Rebecca Eaton with Patricia Mulcahy (Viking, 2013).

Fosse by Sam Wasson (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013).

Cool, Grey City of Love: A Celebration of San Francisco; drawings by Jane Chamberlin with loving words by some of the city's most beloved poets (Tinkachew Press, 1996).

Furious Cool: Richard Pryor and The World That Made Him by David Henry and Joe Henry (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2013).

Bach: Music in the Castle of Heaven by John Eliot Gardiner (Alfred A. Knopf, 2013).

Friday, December 6, 2013

Music Online From Alexander Street Press

There are 51,888 albums and over 760,000 tracks (and growing) of streaming music in Music Online.

Music Online brings together, on a single cross-searchable platform, the entire suite of Alexander Street Press music in the SFPL subscription.  Every sound file in the collection is indexed by subjects, historical events, genres, people, cultural groups, places, time periods, ensembles, and more...

Because this resource is so rich with music and possibility we wanted to tell you all about the streaming music and bring your attention to the ability to create personal accounts in order to create and save playlists from one session to another. And you can even share them!
The quickest way to get to this resource is to click on eResources and then on eMusic.

The five individual databases that make up SFPL’s subscription are listed here and are worth exploring on their own. 

  • American Song - 7,141 albums, equaling 122,211 tracksAmerican Song is a history database that allows people to hear and feel the music from America's past.  The database includes songs by and about American Indians, miners, immigrants, slaves, children, pioneers, and cowboys. Included in the database are the songs of Civil Rights, political campaigns, Prohibition, the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, anti-war protests, and more.
  • Classical Music Library - 14,341 albums, equaling 252,928 tracks This ever growing collection includes recordings from the world's greatest labels including Hyperion, Bridge Records, Sanctuary Classics, Artemis-Vanguard, Hänssler Classic, Vox and many more. Coverage includes music written from the earliest times (e.g. Gregorian Chant) to the present, including many contemporary composers. Repertoire ranges from vocal and choral music, to chamber, orchestral, solo instrumental, and opera.

  • Contemporary World Music - 16,701 albums, equaling 209,182 tracks
    This collection delivers the sounds of all regions from every continent. The database contains important genres such as reggae, worldbeat, neo-traditional, world fusion, Balkanic jazz, African film, Bollywood, Arab swing and jazz, and other genres such as traditional music - Indian classical, fado, flamenco, klezmer, zydeco, gospel, gagaku, and more.

  • Jazz Music Library - 10,756 albums, equaling 133,668 tracks Jazz Music Library is the largest and most comprehensive collection of streaming jazz available online — with thousands of jazz artists, ensembles, albums, and genres.

  • Smithsonian Global Sound for Libraries - 2,949 albums, equaling 42,405 tracks
    A virtual encyclopedia of the world's musical and aural traditions. The collection provides educators, students, and interested listeners with an unprecedented variety of online resources that support the creation, continuity, and preservation of diverse musical forms.

The help screens are full of useful information about the specific database you are delving into as well as useful tips for searching.  It is possible to search by keyword, browse by genre, labels, people and composers and combine search terms on the "advanced search" screen such as keywords AND limiting by time period.

It is possible to start streaming music using your library card # and PIN immediately.  It is also possible to register for a personal account right in Music Online and create playlists AND share those playlists in different ways!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Icons of Men's Style

How did the Pea Coat get its name? Who designed “Chuck Taylors”? Why do surfers wear shirts designed for lumberjacks? The answers to all of these questions can be found in Icons of Men’s Style by Josh Sims.

Icons of Men’s Style examines how these and many of the other items found in a man’s closet came to be there. While women’s wardrobes tend to chase the whims of fashion, men’s clothing is likely to evolve from functional uses. Details and fabrics from clothing specifically designed for sport, work or the military have become so ubiquitous that the original uses have been long forgotten.

The pea coat’s history explains many of its distinctive features. First of all, the name has nothing to do with farming or vegetables. The original version of the pea coat was designed in 1857 by the British Royal Navy and was adopted with modifications by the United States Navy in about 1881. There are two theories about how the coat got its name. Some historians say that it’s a misspelling of P-jacket, or “pilot’s jacket”, although it was used by all ranks in the military. Alternatively, the name may come from pij “a coarse wool cloth woven in the Netherlands … and used for a typical worker’s jacket called a pijakker.”

Since the pea coat originated in the days of the schooner the details that give it such a stylish design were built into the coat for purely functional purposes. The extra thick wool, double breasted closure and the extra tall collar were made to protect sailors from icy cold winds at sea. By moving the buttons to the side, they were less likely to get caught in the rigging ropes. The length of the coat was carefully calculated. It is long enough to protect against cold and short enough to provide ease of movement. The dark indigo color, now known as navy blue, was chosen for entirely pragmatic reasons. It doesn’t show dirt, and at the time the coat was designed there were no colorfast dyes. Indigo "was the shade most resistant to being faded by sunlight and repeated drenching by rain and by seawater."

Converse Chuck Taylor All Star athletic shoes were named for the famous basketball player Charles “Chuck” Taylor, but any resemblance to Michael Jordan’s endorsement deals ends there. Chuck Taylor approached the Converse Rubber Shoe Company in 1921 looking for a job. He was hired as a salesman. He brought with him suggestions for how to improve their existing All Star basketball shoe. One suggestion was a round patch on the side of the high top to protect a player’s ankles. He sold All Stars for nearly 10 years before his name was added to the shoe. Through his efforts, his namesake shoe became the official physical training shoe for the United States Army. The forerunner of the NBA, the National Basketball League, also adopted Chuck Taylors as their official shoe. The shoes were only offered in black until 1947 when the company added white. It wasn’t until 1966 that seven new colors were added. Taylor sold shoes for Converse until his death in 1969, never receiving any commission for the shoe that bears his name.

The original lumberjack shirt was made in a heavyweight, scratchy wool in plain neutral colors. It wasn’t until 1924 when a family-owned business in Pendleton Oregon made a few key design changes that the lumberjack shirt became popular with non-lumberjacks. The Pendleton shirt was made in a lighter weight, softer virgin wool in colorful plaids. With very few changes it is the same shirt worn today. Surfers in Southern California adopted it in the early 1960s as a warm cover-up at the beach. Later in the 1960s a group called The Pendletones adopted their name in honor of this surf icon. They later changed their name to The Beach Boys.

Other fascinating and sometimes surprising information can be found in the stories of the necktie, the driving shoe, Y-fronts and many other icons of menswear that are defined in Icons of Men’s Style.

Icons of Men's Style by Josh Sims (Laurence King Pub., 2011).

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Faith Petric (1915-2013)

I was born in a log cabin on the Clearwater River near Orofino, in northern Idaho, September 13, 1915.  My father, an itinerant preacher, school teacher, farmer, carpenter, and inventor was "musical" -- he played piano organ, harmonica, a variety of wind instruments and a bit of fiddle, and sang in a fine tenor.  My first singing was in church, in one-room schools, and with my father.  About 1925 I discovered cowboy and country songs, followed by the great protest songs of the 1930s.  And I'm still addicted to all of them. (source: Art, Music and Recreation Center Musicians and Performing Artists file).
We sadly note the loss of a woman who was a San Francisco institution.  Faith Petric, who lived to be 98, passed away on October 24, 2013.  In his book, Which Side Are You On, Dick Weissman accurately described her as "a sparkplug of traditional music in the Bay Area."

We knew her as someone who used the library for her research -- she was someone who knew what she was looking for and quietly went about her business of search for folk tunes and their origins.  Over the years she also performed at the library.

Flyer for a Faith Petric performance, Thursday, January 26, 1984, Folk Music in the Lurie Room, Main Library

Since her father was a union carpenter, she became interested at a young age in the songs of the labor movement.  She was later inspired by a concert given by Carl Sandburg at Whitman College in the 1930s where she bought his seminal song collection, An American Songbag.

Faith Petric first came to San Francisco in 1938.  She recalled first arriving into the city aboard a freighter from Seattle passing beneath the recently completed Golden Gate Bridge on the 4th of July.  "Coming here seemed like a homecoming -- the place where I belonged."  She spent her first "three months walking around San Francisco and frequenting such bars as Jacopetti's #1 Columbus, the old Black Cat and the Green Lantern."  Having played music from childhood, she maintained an active interest and joined the San Francisco Folk Music Club in the 1950s.

Faith Petric, social worker, listed in the 1963 Polk's San Francisco City Directory

She earned an M.A. in rehabilitative counseling that qualified her for a stable government job.  After retiring from the California Department of Rehabilitation in 1970, she launched her career as a full-time folksinger, touring all over the United States and the world.

One of her projects was folknik, a bi-monthly newsletter of the San Francisco Folk Music Club that first appeared in 1964 and is published to this day.  In an early issue she reacted to criticism of the newsletter's name and its similarity to "beatnik":
I'll admit the name was my idea and at the time no one objected or came up with anything else. ... In the mean time, I'd like to explain that (in my innocence) I tho't Nik was NICE.  I first heard it when the R_ _ _ _ _ S put up their Sputnik and newspapers explained that this meant 'little friend who travels with us' or something like that... When I saw nik on the end of a word I still thought it meant it was something to love and take care of, like a friend.
And indeed she did love and take care of folk music and folk musicians.  Her home at 885 Clayton Street became the headquarters and meeting place for the San Francisco Folk Music Club and she became the "godmother" of the local folk music scene (as her obituary in Sing Out called her).  "I get credit for what a lot of other people in the club do now, but early on I was indeed the glue that held it together.  All of us do this out of a love for the music."

Home-made mailing information from the folknik newsletter of March / April 1972

Progressive political and social causes were central to her music.  She stated that her goal was to "nudge the world the direction I want it to go, and music is one way to do this."  She remarked at the age of 95 "When I sing a particular song, I'm in that song.  I plan to sing until I can't sing anymore."

For those who want to hear Faith Petric sing, the library has copies of her eponymous L.P. record from 1979 to borrow or to listen to in the San Francisco History Center.  For many years she wrote a column for Sing Out magazine which can be read online through our Music Index online database. (Go to the "Advanced search" page and search for "petric" in author search).

"A.G. Letter from San Francisco," by Hal Glatzer, Acoustic Guitar (October 1997), 32-34.

Aging Artfully: 12 Profiles: Visual & Performing Women Artists Aged 85-105 by Amy Gorman (PAL Pub., 2006).

The American Songbag, compiled by Carl Sandburg (Harcourt, Brace, 1927).

"Around the World in 25 Years or What I Did In My Vacation," Faith [Petric], folknik vol. 9, no. 6 (November-December 1973).

Faith Petric [vinyl LP], by Faith Petric (Bay Records, 1979).

"Faith Petric Passes at 98," by Mark D. Moss, Sing Out (October 25, 2013) [website].

"Folknik is a Bad Word?," by Faith [Petric], folknik vol. 1, no. 3 (March 1965), 3.

"S. F. Folk's Enduring Voice," by Meredith May, San Francisco Chronicle (September 28, 2010), E1; E3.

Which Side Are You On?: An Inside Story of the Folk Music Revival in America  by Dick Weissman (Continuum, 2005).

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Ayeshi Nadir Ali Sings Classical Punjabi Poetry

Pakistani singer Ayesha Nadir Ali will present a talk about the tradition of the Punjabi classical poetry and its relationship to Hindustani classical music. Ayesha is a Dhrupad singer connected to the Talwandi Gharana and has learnt khayal and dhrupad singing from Maestro Hafeez Khan Talwandi. She has traveled widely across her native state of Punjab to perform and speak about the poetry.

This program takes place on Sunday, November 10, 2013 at 1:30 PM in the Koret Auditorium at the Main Library.  All Library programs are free and open to the public.

San Francisco Public Library has many recordings of Indian and Pakistani classical and semi-classical music. Those who are interested in listening to recordings of this music should search for titles using subject searches such as:

Hindustani Music.
Music -- India.
Vocal Music -- India.
Vocal Music -- Pakistan.

Some related book and AV titles:

Filigree in Sound: Form and Content in Indian Music by Gopal Sharman (Deutsch, 1970).

Hidden Faces of Ancient Indian Song by Solveig McIntosh (Ashgate, 2005).

The Life of Music in North India: The Organization of An Artistic Tradition by Daniel M. Neuman (Wayne State University Press, 1980).

Music in North India: Experiencing Music, Expressing Culture by George E. Ruckert (Oxford University Press, 2004).

Nazir Jairazbhoy Explains the Theory of Classical Hindustani Instrumental Music (Folkways Records, 1955) [streaming audio available through the Smithsonian Global Sound for Libraries database].

Raga Unveiled: India's Voice, The History and Essence of North Indian Classical Music; writer/director, Gita Desai (Gita Desai, 2009). [DVD].

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Aurora Mandolin Orchestra

The Aurora Mandolin Orchestra returns to the Koret Auditorium on Saturday, November 9th at 2pm.

This is the sixth consective year they will be performing in the Koret. They will play from their varied repertoire, including traditional and semi-classical Italian, Spanish, Russian, specialty ethnic and contemporary orchestral compositions. Both professional and amateur musicians play mandolin, mandola, mandocello, guitar, string bass, accordion, flute and percussion to create their distinctive sound. In addition, award winning soprano Susanna Uher Jimenez will join the Orchestra for several numbers.

All Library programs are free and open to the public.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Merola Goes to the Movies: Otello

source: Wikipedia

For our second program, the Merola Opera Program and the San Francisco Public Library continue our Merola Goes to the Movies series with a screening of Otello, directed by Franco Zeffirelli.  This 1986 production features Placido Domingo as Otello, Katia Ricciarelli as Desdemona and Justino Diaz as Iago and runs 124 minutes.

In his autobiography Zeffirelli writes "the first rule of filmed opera is that the story should be universally understood."  He felt it would be a disaster to try to "put over one of those convoluted opera stories."  That is why he chose Otello as a subject since it was already well-known as Shakespeare's classic play Othello.
Otello is a stirring drama of love and jealousy, ambition and vengeance is set against the splendor of the 15th century Venetian Republic. It is the second of Verdi's three operas based on Shakespeare plays.  Arrigo Boito, composer of the opera Mefistofele recently produced by the San Francisco Opera, wrote the libretto for Verdi's opera.  Michael Rose's new book The Birth of An Opera has a chapter that traces the genesis of the opera and Boito's collaboration with Verdi.

The film is sung in Italian with English subtitles.

Otello will screen at 1:00 PM on Sunday, November 2, 2013 in the Koret Auditorium of the Main Library.  All Library programs are free and open to the public.

The Birth of an Opera: Fifteen Masterpieces from Poppea to Wozzeck by Michael Rose (W.W. Norton, 2013).

Zeffirelli: The Autobiography of Franco Zeffirelli (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1986).

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Music for Halloween

Halloween is well know as the most important night of the year in San Francisco.  While it's not a holiday necessarily associated with any particular songs or music, any musical selections with a bit of the macabre or mysterious could create a Halloween mood.

The Halloween SongBOOk includes "spooky music from movies" (examples are the Title themes from the Corpse Bride or Nightmare on Elm Street).  It also has "pop, rock , and novelty songs" (for instance "Monster Mash" and "The Purple People Eater") as well as "creepy classical music" (such as Danse Macabre and Funeral March of a Marionette - the theme to Alfred Hitchcock Presents).

Piano Pictures: Witches, Fairies and Ghosts: 28 Fantastic and Spooky Pieces for Children is a collection of simple piano compositions.  The selections tend more toward the magical and ethereal with works like "A Little Fairy Tale" by Aleksandr Grechaninov, "A Fairy Tale" by Dmitry Kabalevsky, and "A Night Voyage" by Cornelius Gurlitt.  But there is also spookier fare with little pieces like "Dancing Ghosts" by Mike Schoenmehl, and "Ogre" by Alec Rowley.

Harold Arlen and Ralph Blane's "Halloween" from the Dorothy Starr Collection is is a suave, sophisticated adult take on the holiday.  It anticipates what the holiday has become today, albeit with a mid-20th century feel:
Owls and bats, howls from cats
May scare the buttons right off your spats
Don't be afraid of a ghost
For the ghost may be your host.
C. W. Reid's "Halloween" is a self-published children's piano piece from the 1920s also from the Dorothy Starr Collection.  It includes optional words that may be sung or recited in a playful Halloween spirit.

A spooky chromatic figure in minor 6ths with the words that lands on an A major chord accompanies the sentence:
There's a ghostly figure floating down that shadowy lane.
Almost as mysterious as the music is C. W. Reid himself (or herself?).  Published in San Francisco, this is the only work by C. W. Reid in any library in the country.  There is also no such name in the 1926 City Directory.  Who was C. W. Reid?

The Halloween SongBOOk: 27 Frightfully Fun Songs to Play and Sing (Alfred Music Pub. Co., 2010).

"Halloween," by C. W. Reid (San Francisco, CA: C. W. Reid, 1926). [from the Dorothy Starr Collection]

"Halloween," words and music by Harold Arlen (Harwin Music Corporation, 1950). [from the Dorothy Starr Collection]

Piano pictures. 1, Witches, Fairies and Ghosts: 28 Fantastic and Spooky Piano Pieces for Children, edited by Monika Twelsiek (Schott, 2008).

Monday, October 21, 2013

We'll Meet Again - Musical Design the the Films of Stanley Kubrick

We'll Meet Again

Tuesday afternoon, October 22, 2013 from 2-4 p.m., the Art, Music & Recreation Center will present the program Stanley Kubrick: Secret Musician.  Kate McQuiston, author of the new book We'll Meet Again: Musical Design in the Films of Stanley Kubrick, argues that, for Kubrick, music is neither post-production afterthought nor background nor incidental, but instead is core to films' effects and meanings. Kubrick gave careful attention to musical works he used in his films, most famously in 2001: A Space Odyssey with Richard Strauss's tone poem Also Sprach Zarathustra and in A Clockwork Orange with Beethoven's Symphony No. 9.  She highlights the building blocks in Kubrick's sonic world and illuminates the ways in which Kubrick uses them to support his characters and to define character relationships

Stanley Kubrick: Secret Musician will be presented at the Koret Auditorium in the Lower Level of the Main Library.  All library programs are free and open to the public.

Kate McQuiston's book is on order at the Library and can be placed on hold.

We'll Meet Again: Musical Design in the Films of Stanley Kubrick by Kate McQuiston (Oxford University Press, 2013).

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Animals on Screen and Radio

In an age when many believe that all human knowledge is becoming available online there remain two problems.  What about the information that gets overlooked?  And within this glut of information, how does one get to the heart of the information that one seeks?

Reference books are the answer.  A well-indexed reference book can bring together information on a topic in helpful and sometimes unexpected ways.

Animals on Screen and Radio is just such a reference book.  It is an annotated listing of  1373 theatrical and television films, 114 television series, 26 radio series.  While not all of these films have animals as their principal theme, the annotations look into the role of an animal or animals within the film.

The most useful feature of this reference are the two indexes - a subject index and name index.  The name index is a listing of an animal character's or an animal actor's name.  Who knew that the name Freddie could refer to a lion (in the Daktari TV series), a seal (in the Galloping Fish), or an animated frog (in Freddie as F.R.O. 7)?

It is the subject index that is most helpful.  It is both an index by animal species and by theme or subject.  In addition to the standard menagerie of the domestic and wild kingdoms, there are unexpected categories like Bacteria and Viruses, broader categories (Talking Animals, Show Animals), and supernatural categories (Aliens, Ghosts).

The themes and subjects included in the index provide a unique approach to this topic.  A very wide range of subjects are covered.  Just touching the surface there are listings for Adoptions, Advertising, Aging, Animal Rights, Children, Courtships, Cruelty, Devotion, Friendship, Gangs, etc...

Under the heading of "Reincarnation" we find Tale of Ligeia - a Roger Corman directed film of an Edgar Allan Poe short story, starring Vincent Price.  In this film a cat is possessed by a dead woman's vengeful spirit.

tomb of ligeia black cat poster spotlight
image source: Arizona Public Media website

In the category of "Tramps" we find the movie Down and Out In Beverly Hills where Nick Nolte's character befriends a dog.

DOWN AND OUT IN BEVERLY HILLS, Nick Nolte, Mike the dog, 1986, on all fours
image source: Cineplex.com

Animals and Screen and Radio promotes a broad understanding of the depiction of animals in films from the early silent days up through the 1980s.  This book is useful both for the film buff and for the animal lover, introducing them to new themes and situations highlighting our animal companions and the natural world.  Nowadays through recordings, television, and the internet, a vast range of film is available to us all.  A serendipitous browse through the index and listings of this work could introduce the reader to entertaining and maybe previously unknown or forgotten films.

Animals on Screen and Radio: An Annotated Sourcebook by Ann C. Paietta and Jean L. Kauppila (Scarecrow Press, 1994).

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Weiferd Watts: a Dancer’s Form. Tribute to a beloved photographer

Weiferd Watts in his studio.  photo credit: Marvin Collins

Weiferd Watts passed away in 2010. Since then the library has been collaborating with the local dance community to exhibit a small collection of the photographs that tied Weiferd and the dancers together.

Three years ago I picked up In Dance magazine and read an obituary for Weiferd Watts written by a local dancer, Greta Schoenberg.  I got in touch with Greta hoping to curate an exhibit of Weiferd Watts’ work at the library.  This was easier said than done as Weiferd’s largest body of work was not readily available.  A group of dancer’s, including Greta, Selena Chau and Laura Serghiou put out a call to the local dance community for photographs that Weiferd had given to the dancers over the years. These photographs were gathered together and the Art, Music and Recreation Center, with invaluable assistance from the Exhibitions Department, curated the exhibit that is now on view on the 4th floor of the main library in the Music Center.
For over twenty-five years photographer Weiferd Watts captured an incredible array of dancers and athletes from around the US and abroad. He became a well-known fixture in the Bay Area dance community and counted among his subjects dancers from America’s top companies. Removed from the traditional setting of the stage, the intimate portraits he created required the eye of a choreographer. Without any dance training, he would contort his body in an attempt to demonstrate his visions for movement, which were then interpreted by his subjects, yielding extraordinary results. His vast body of work represents several generations of artists captured in magical, elusive moments created through collaborative experiments and pure serendipity.
Weiferd’s work captured the fleeting presence of a generation of dancers from our community and documented a unique collaborative process between two disciplines. Dance and photography were his passions and both fields will mourn his early loss for years to come. Let us enjoy what he left behind.
The exhibit will run from September 21st, 2013 through January 2nd, 2014

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Richard Diebenkorn and Ingleside

Source: 1938 Aerial view of San Francisco, from the David Rumsey Map Collection

An earlier blog entry, "Richard Diebenkorn's San Francisco Childhood," noted that Richard Diebenkorn lived at two addresses in the Ingleside Terraces neighborhood of San Francisco.  First from around the ages of 9 to 11 he and his family lived on Cedro Way (the red X) and later from around the ages of 12 to 15 they lived on Moncada Way (the green X).

By the time that Diebenkorn embarked on a career as an artist in his twenties, he and his family had moved out of San Francisco.  During the late 1940s he continued living in Northern California in Sausalito and Oakland.  He returned to the Bay Area during the years 1953-1966 -- the time period of the current exhibit at the DeYoung Museum documenting Diebenkorn's Berkeley Years.

While he painted many California landscapes and many of his abstract works evoke the California landscape, he did very little San Francisco-themed work.  Hilton Kramer writes of Diebenkorn's style, calling it a "style that evoked, without explicitly depicting, an imagery drawn from the broad, sunny, open, uncluttered landscape of Northern California as it was ... in the late forties and early fifties."  Much of the San Francisco landscape might have been too crowded and cluttered for that aesthetic, with one exception it turns out, Diebenkorn's Ingleside (properly speaking Ingleside Terraces).

Richard Diebenkorn, Ingleside (source: Wikipaintings)

Diebenkorn painted Ingleside in 1963 while living in Berkeley.  In choosing a location to paint, Diebenkorn once said that "clarity of light, space, spareness, expansiveness, contrast" mattered to him the most.  And he certainly found those qualities in his Ingleside landscape. 

Gerald Nordland writes that this painting is:
... a skillful projection of that residential subdivision in deep space, following a suburban street across three intersections and up a hill, with rows of houses on either side, reflecting strong mid-day light.  There are surprising incidents of color and telling touches of impasto white in the buildings which are set off by acres of steel-gray macadam.
Roads and sidewalks meander in unexpected ways forming both curves and straight lines.  Sidewalks frame blacktop, hills in the background contrast the flat land of the foreground.  Grass and trees trim the edges.  There are individual homes in toward the front and rows of less distinct houses on the distant hillside.
Image Number: SFP22-0110
The 200 block of Moncada Way ca. 1920, from the Willard E. Worden Glass Plate Negative Collection, in the San Francisco Historical Photograph Collection

This historic photograph shows Moncada Way about 15 years before the Diebenkorns moved there (their house was later built in the open space at the lower-middle left side of the image).  This photo shows the potential space, spareness and contrast of an earlier time.

The sfog.us website speculates that the scene shown in the Ingleside painting above would be from "Mercedes Way looking south from Paloma Avenue, with Merced Heights in the background."

It's not really possible to pinpoint a location that Diebenkorn was trying to depict, and in actuality it may have not been a distinct location at all.  In the book A Sense of Place: The Artist and The American Land Diebenkorn told about revisiting his old neighborhood to work on this artwork:
Visiting there thirty years later provided me with a peculiarly concentrated subject matter, one which represented much that I had rejected in intervening years but which at the same time referred largely to what I am. A sense of place was built into my use of this material. I made on-the-spot sketches that were very brief, finding that when I painted from them in my Berkeley studio the relevant detail filled in easily. The pictures that came out of this don't refer to specific streets and houses but I believe are very much about the place, Ingleside. 
Diebenkorn sought an ideal landscape from a setting familiar to him from his youth.  It is also worth noting what he chose to take from that landscape.  As the 1920s photograph shows, most of the houses in the neighborhood, particular in the vicinity of the Diebenkorn residences were in an ornate, wooden, craftsman style.  The foregrounded house in his painting are much sparer, white with orange-red adobe roofs.

The view of the neighborhood below from the corner of Corona Street and Urbano Drive includes some houses that are a little closer in style to those of the painting.  (Specifically, look at the houses on the left side of Corona Street - the street heading into the distance from left to right). 

Corner of Corona Street and Urbano Drive from Google Streetview

The view of Merced Heights in the distance is also clear here.  This ridge features a small dip similar to that of the painting between the Lakeview and Ashton Mini-Park at the left and Brooks Park at the right (behind the pole).  The houses in the background, lined up in a row going up the hillside only began to be constructed in the mid-1940s.  There could still have been bare, grassy spots into the 1960s.

Diebenkorn painted a second landscape in the neighborhood entitled Ingleside II.

Ingleside II (source: Christie's - the painting sold at auction on May 15, 2013)

Hilton Kramer has described this work as one of Diebenkorn's "most successful attempts at designing in deep, illusionistic space.  The pictorial reconstitution of the scene on the flat surface of the canvas is given priority over the painterly inflection of the surface itself."  This painting, like Ingleside, also features streets, sidewalks, lawns and a relative sparsity of dwellings.  The scene itself is reminiscent of the portion of the Ingleside Terraces neighborhood near Holloway Avenue shown below.

 Corner of Monticello Street and Holloway Avenue from Google Streetview

Diebenkorn discussed how the environment he worked from affected him approach to art:
My sense of place is involved with particular pictures and subjects whereas my present environment has to do in a more general way with light, coloring, and configuration.  I painted the Ingleside series in a very different environment (although it was at most fifteen miles distant) from Berkeley's.  Could I have painted Ingleside while working in Albuquerque or Los Angeles?  We can probably agree that the sources for painting are incredibly tangled and we had better hope they stay that way.
The Ingleside paintings reflect this "tangled" perspective on a place that would have been familiar and likely endowed with unique meaning to Diebenkorn.  The streets, houses and terrain of Ingleside Terraces under his brush retain recognizable features of the neighborhood, however he presents a sparer, purer vision than a fully developed and populated space would allow.  The Ingleside of his eye and his mind's eye provides a rich painterly space, and for those of us who know the neighborhood and gain a new outlook on this place.


Alan Gusow, A Sense of Place: The Artist and The American Land (Friends of the Earth, 1972).

Hilton Kramer, "Pure and Impure Diebenkorn," Arts Magazine (December 1963), 46-53.
RichardDiebenkorn: Paintings and Drawings, 1943-1976, with essays by Robert T. Buck, Jr., Gerald Nordland ... (Albright-Knox Art Gallery, 1976).

Friday, September 13, 2013

Merola Goes to the Movies: La Traviata (1982)

Please join us this Sunday in the Koret Auditorium for the 1 p.m. screening of Franco Zeffirelli’s La Traviata (1982).  Hosted by the Merola Opera Program and the Art, Music and Recreation Department, this film is the first of a five-part series, Merola Goes to the Movies, which aims to bring opera's finest adaptations to celluloid into our library screening room.  Each film will be introduced by a knowledgeable Merola representative.

For those unfamiliar with the Merola Opera Program, for 56 years it has been regarded as the world's foremost opera training program for aspiring singers, coaches and stage directors. As the cornerstone of San Francisco Opera's training and performance programs for promising young artists, Merola has served as a proving ground for hundreds of artists, including Ruth Ann Swenson , Deborah Voigt , Anna Netrebko, Patricia Racette, Sylvia McNair, Thomas Hampson, Carol Vaness, Joyce DiDonato, Susan Graham, and Dolora Zajick among many others.

Our Merola Goes to the Movies series begins with Zeffirelli’s La Traviata (1982) a film many critics deem the height of opera’s cinematic expression.  Before skyrocketing to directorial fame for Taming of the Shrew (1967) starring Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor and Romeo and Juliet (1968) starring Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey, Zeffirelli began his career in the 1950s as a designer and director for opera working, most notably, for Luchino Visonti.  According to Richard Fawkes in Opera on Film, Zeffirelli “was longing to combine his love of opera with his love of film, but it took him more than twenty years to achieve his ambition.”
Before aiming his intentions on Canadian-born soprano Teresa Stratas who stars as La Traviata’s mesmerizing Violetta, Zeffirelli devoted at least a decade and a half to conceiving, pursuing and negotiating for cinematic adaptations for Maria Callas.  Beginning in 1958, well before he had any film directorial experience, he had proposed to Callas that she star in a filmed La Traviata.  Nervous of film and Zeffirelli’s lack of experience with the medium, she declined.  He later proposed a filmed Tosca, which he had directed her in for stage, but due to the inability to secure the film rights and Callas’ (or possibly Aristotle Onassis’) continued reticence, the closest remnants of her legendary 1964 Tosca performance survive in a 1964 TV special, Maria Callas at Covent Garden.  Despite her increasing retreat from public view and her rebuff of his plans, Zeffirelli had also envisioned Callas for an Aida to be filmed on location in Egypt, but the Six Day War of 1967 brought his planning to a halt.

Over the years Zeffirelli continued to envision filmed operas, even holding a 1979 location scout in Egypt for Aida and storyboarding exercises with Leonard Bernstein (whom he had invited to conduct), but it was not until 1981 that he would achieve his dream of directing an operatic film. That year the Italian state television service, RAI, invited Zeffirelli to film the opening night broadcast of Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci at La Scala.  Zeffirelli agreed, on the condition that he could make a film--using a closed house, the La Scala sets, orchestra and performers--not just shoot the live operatic performance.  RAI agreed and the director proceeded to film both operas in two days, managing to finish in time for the normal live evening performance to take place as scheduled.  Both were well-received but Pagliacci, starring Placido Domingo and Teresa Stratas, also later won an Emmy.  Their success created the opportunity for Zeffirelli to bring his stars to Rome for filming on sets of his own design to create an award-winning La Traviata, the operatic film he had first imagined over twenty years prior.

Sources consulted:
Opera on Film by Richard Fawkes.
London : Duckworth, 2000.
782 ZF2872o 

Encyclopedia of Opera on Screen : a Guide to More Than 100 Years of Opera Films, Videos, and DVDs by Ken Wlaschin.
New Haven : Yale University Press, c2004.
Ref 782 ZW796o 2004 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Richard Diebenkorn's San Francisco Childhood

Richard Diebenkorn was born April 22, 1922 in Portland, Oregon. He is considered a California painter having lived and painting in Sausalito, Berkeley, and Santa Monica. While he never painted here, all of his biographies note that he grew up in San Francisco living here throughout his grade school years.

In fact, San Francisco was only a very limited source of direct inspiration to Diebenkorn. The neighborhoods that he did live in were more suburban than most of the City, and more in tune with the rustic or suburban atmosphere of most of his landscapes. What role did San Francisco play in his creative life?

We will review Diebenkorn’s life in San Francisco drawing upon books, and articles from our Richard Diebenkorn Artists Clipping File, the Newspaper morgue of the San Francisco History Center and our subscription databases. We will also draw upon a very fine oral history of Diebenkorn recalling his childhood days conducted by Susan Larsen and available through the Smithsonian Institute. This information will be supplemented by information from Google Books and the genealogy database Ancestry.com.

Diebenkorn stated that he came to San Francisco when he was very young -- he estimated in 1924 or 1925. Diebenkorn’s parents first appear in a San Francisco City Directory in 1928, meaning that his family’s actual year of arrival was either 1927 or 1928.

His father, Richard C. Diebenkorn, worked for more than 50 years for the Dohrman Hotel Supply Company as Vice-President and General Sales Manager. He gave his full name, Richard Clifford Diebenkorn, to his son. He also sometimes went by R. C. Diebenkorn, and early on his son went by R. C. Diebenkorn, Jr. That’s actually how he was identified in the betrothal announcement to his future wife, Phyllis Gilman Diebenkorn, printed in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Richard Diebenkorn was the only child in what he described as a “super bourgeois” household. The family probably lived very comfortably. His father worked hard to instill in him a sense of success that would involve taking up a profession. Diebenkorn once recalled: "I remember my father's deathless words. 'Painting is just a fine thing . . . as a hobby. Why don't you do something serious like business?'"

Their first residence in San Francisco listed in the Polk’s Directories of 1928-1930 was on San Rafael Way in the Balboa Terrace neighborhood. They later moved to the Ingleside Terraces neighborhood - in the Directories of 1931-1933 their address is on Cedro Way; in 1934-1936 they resided on Moncado Way. The Diebenkorns moved back to Balboa Terrace for their final San Francisco address, on San Aleso Street between 1937-1940, before moving down to the Peninsula. All of these addresses were within a half mile of each other, and within easy walking distances of Commodore Sloat Elementary School and Aptos Junior High School where he began his education.
The Diebenkorn's 1928-1930 home on San Rafael Way

The 1930 Census gives us a glimpse of the Diebenkorn household. Living with 7 year old Richard Diebenkorn were his parents, Richard and Dorothy, his 62 year old maternal grandmother Florence L. Stevens (actually Stephens - Florence Louise Stephens, née McCarthy), and a 30 year old servant, Effie H. E. Anderson.

It was the latter two who did the most to sustain young Richard’s artistic proclivities in the midst of what seems to have been parental indifference. In an interview for the New Yorker, Diebenkorn recalled that “It was our cook who gave me art materials--and my parents liked that, in the early years, because it kept me out of their hair.” He drew on the white surfaces of shirt cardboards that came with his father’s suits back from the laundry, at first engrossed with sketching hundreds of panels of trains and locomotives. With the supplies from the family cook he moved on to illustrate his own adventure stories, with, as he recalled, “lots of arrows flying, and mayhem.”

His grandmother, Florence Stevens, encouraged his creative side, giving him well-illustrated romance and adventure novels that stoked his imagination. He later spent summers with her at her house in rural Woodside, California where he was let loose in the forest. He reminisced: “I guess I had a pretty good fantasy life during those summers, because I remember I carved--a couple of summers; I must have been eleven and twelve--and carved swords and made shields, and emblazoned them with insignia.”

Florence Stevens was a very educated and accomplished woman. She worked for women’s rights and was a pacifist. As a lawyer she defended German nationals from deportation during World War I and the right of Japanese immigrants to own land. Diebenkorn also recalled that she was a poet, short-story author, watercolorist, and had a radio program where she reviewed books. She devoted herself to nurturing her grandson’s talent and intellect.

In an interview he recounted being taken by his grandmother to an exhibit of work by Vincent Van Gogh. He remembered the year as 1934, but the Van Gogh Exhibition was displayed at the California Palace of the Legion of Honor in April and May 1936. Diebenkorn remembered:
What occurs to me in regard to that … as a child going to that show with my grandmother, it was fun. Paintings--I don't know if I really got with it, but it was a memorable day. And the thing that interested me, that is very fresh in my recollection, were the groups of people being taken through that exhibition. Groups of--with a guide, who would be speaking--twenty to thirty people, as we see today, and. . . . the people were laughing--in most of the groups--laughing at the pictures! And I remember one--and I remember this rather clearly too--I listened to one of the men, one of the guides talking to the group, and he was contributing to the fun and games about this crazy painting that was on the wall!
In contrast, he emphasized that his grandmother wasn’t laughing. Her reason for being there was to view that something “to stimulate the both of us.”

Another art-related memory of Diebenkorn’s school age years involved a trip to a “large library” - very possibly the old Main Library. He had read W. Somerset Maugham’s novel The Moon and Sixpence which had a main character based in part upon Paul Gauguin, but whose works were compared in the text to Cezanne, then unknown to young Diebenkorn. He described feeling shock and fascination when viewing the black and white illustrations of Cezanne’s paintings in the library book.
The crazy sort of ... spareness, and the distortions just hit me very hard. There were tabletops where I felt apples should roll . . . . And buildings with skewed verticals and horizontals and backgrounds … A horizon-line or floor-line which came in from one side at this level and popped out at a different level … Very disquieting.
Richard Diebenkorn's senior photo, The Red and White, January 1940 (courtesy of the San Francisco History Center)

While he had an active, inner creative and artistic life, Diebenkorn never pursued art in grade school or made anyone outside of his family aware of his passion. He attended Lowell High School, the City’s college preparatory school, then at the corner of Hayes and Masonic. He was aware of art classes that were given, but wanted no part of them. In an interview in Art Journal he noted although he "didn't want to be different”--he was different. "I drew at home, not at school--and I was not about to become an artiste." As documented in his senior high school yearbook, he “went out for two sports, track and football.” In the 1940 Census, Richard, Jr. was also recorded to have worked as a part-time mail clerk while finishing school.

from The Red and White, January 1940 (courtesy of the San Francisco History Center)

This background prepared him to fulfill his family’s wishes and attend Stanford University. There he intended to follow his father’s plans to become a “doctor, lawyer or something.” And he actually did so for two years, which he recalled having been the longest time he had gone without creating any art. However, the events of World War II compelled him to enlist in the Marines, which he would enter after graduating from University. During his remaining years at Stanford he described his father as becoming “permissive” and he started his formal art education, to the neglect of more "serious" subjects.

As a 1977 San Francisco Chronicle article noted, Diebenkorn was a “solitary and introspective” child. Throughout his youth he had a strong drive to draw and create. As a teenager, he remembered trying to tell his father, "I have this gift of drawing, shouldn't it be taken seriously?"  Out of concern for his only child’s future, his strongly father discouraged him. But world events and his own perseverance permitted Diebenkorn to follow his own inclinations and turn his love into his vocation. As he is quoted in Art News in 1977:
I've never considered painting work. I consider being a painter a luxury in that I'm lucky to be able to make a living by doing what I love the most.
San Francisco was the time of chrysalis before the artist Richard Diebenborn emerged to fly.

 Related blog entry:

Richard Diebenkorn and Ingleside [September 19, 2013]


Oral history interview with Richard Diebenkorn, 1985 May 1-1987 Dec. 15,” interview with Susan Larsen at the Smithsonian Archives for American Art.

Jane Livingston, The Art of Richard Diebenkorn (University of California Press, 1997).

The Red and White (Lowell High School Students Association, Spring 1940).

Maurice Tuchman, "The Early Years," Art Journal 36/3 (March 1, 1977), 206-220. [available through JStor]

“Phyllis Gilman Will Pledge Troth With R. C. Diebenkorn, Jr.” San Francisco Chronicle June 12, 1943.

The following articles may be found in the "Diebenkorn, Richard" file of our Artists File:

Dan Levy, "Abstract Artist Richard Diebenkorn Dies," San Francisco Chronicle March 31, 1993, A1; A13.

Liz Lufkin, "Portrait of an Artist's Return," San Francisco Chronicle June 20, 1989, B3; B5.

Gordon J. Hazlitt, "Problem Solving in Solitude," Art News (January 1977), 76-79.

Dan Hofstadter, "Almost Free of the Mirror," New Yorker September 7, 1987, 54-73.

"Diebenkorn Magic Returns to the Oakland Museum," San Francisco (October 1977), 108-110.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Artists and People

"Mustard in a Vineyard," by Lucien Labaudt, Plate 1 from Artists and People

There is an easily-overlooked title in our collection called, humbly enough, Artists and People. Because the work documents the local art scene, and is not sufficiently indexed in our catalog, we would like to highlight it here.

Yvonne Greer Thiel’s 1959 publication discusses the life and works of approximately thirty local artists and was (as she summarizes on her book jacket) “written for the general public in the hope that people everywhere would better understand artists and their problems. It tells the true-life stories of numerous artists of many nationalities and different backgrounds who came eventually to the San Francisco Bay area to work and make their homes. Some achieved wide fame, others became known locally. The author is a native of the area, who gathered all of her data first-hand.”

The book title itself, Artists and People, is indicative of the author’s desire to present artists as normal, hard-working people and to dispel the myth of the Artist as eccentric or ‘nut.’ In both her writing and in leadership of the Art Lovers Club of Metropolitan Oakland (1930-1982), an organization that promoted local art events, schools and museums, and provided no-interest loans for the purchase of artwork, Thiel aimed to bring together artists and the general public for their mutual benefit.

Today, the book’s lengthy introduction is primarily useful as a snapshot of midcentury thinking about artists and as documentation of the author’s now-antiquated opinions. Within it she passionately explains the artists’ plight, suggests ways to improve their lot (such as taking part-time work making jewelry, Christmas cards and store displays) and informs the artists of what the general public wants to see in their artistic purchases, for example: “If we buy a picture for our walls we want something that our entire families and friends can enjoy. If we buy a portrait we do not wish the eyes to look like two knot-holes in a white-washed fence. It must look like a human…” Clearly both artists and people have a lot to learn about one another and Thiel's goal is to facilitate that happening.

The true value of the book, however, is in the short biographies of Bay Area artists, many offering local details not widely-documented elsewhere. For example, the entry for Sargent Johnson mentions his attendance at the A.W. Best School on California Street, his teaching at a Hunter’s Point housing project called Junior City, and his artworks at the California School for the Blind (the latter has its own interesting story), as well as better-known information such as his enrollment at the California School of Fine Arts and his sculptural works in Aquatic Park.

Artists and People by Yvonne Greer Thiel (Philosophical Library, 1959). - also available online through the Hathi Trust.

Below is a listing of the artists covered by this book. The Art, Music and Recreation Department maintains an Artists Vertical File containing ephemera and local news articles on the artists listed in bold.

Antonio Sotomayor
George Post
Jose Moya del Pino
Theodore Polos
Peter Blos
Sargent Johnson

Tom E. Lewis
Lucien Labaudt
Dong Kingman
Otis Oldfield

Emilie Sievert Weinberg
Raymond Puccinelli (listed as Raimondo Puccinelli)
Zygmund Sazevich
Charles Surendorf
Brents Carlton
Victor Arnautoff
Jacques Schnier
Ruth Cravath
Dorothy Puccinelli Cravath
Alexander Nepote
Hamilton Wolf
Mine’ Okubo

Eugene Ivanoff
John Mottram
Ray Boynton
Two Young Artists
Robert Watson
Misha Dolnikoff
Ray Strong

Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Sting At 40: A Sure Bet That Paid 29 to One - Presented by David Reffkin

What is the hidden truth about the best-seller status of “The Entertainer?” What was Marvin Hamlisch’s astonishing response to David Reffkin’s request for an interview? Is it really possible to quantify the time it took to alter history? You will be stunned by the revelation presented at the very opening of this talk. Yet the tension, surprise, horror and enlightenment will only intensify as the story unfolds toward the dramatic, shocking conclusion!

The Sting accomplished what no other picture ever did: It thoroughly revitalized and re-popularized an entire genre of music. This is the definitive account of how an original American creation - ragtime - became a pop music phenomenon, as it had been some 70 years earlier. It was also recognized as a classical art form, a goal that Scott Joplin had tried to achieve before his death in 1917.

The Library will present The Sting At 40: A Sure Bet That Paid 29 to One, a lecture by David Reffkin, on Thursday night, September 5, 2013 at 6:30 PM in the Latino/Hispanic Meeting Room in the Library's Lower Level.

Reffkin traces the actual (not mythical) history that led to the extensive use of ragtime in the movie score, the overnight rise of Scott Joplin's music on the record charts, the extent of its influence on our culture, and the rebirth of ragtime as a compositional form. Along the way he clarifies the process of choosing ragtime for the score by director George Roy Hill and composer Marvin Hamlisch. He’ll detail some of the contemporaneous reviews, awards, misperceptions, and long-lasting effects - intended and otherwise - of The Sting and its unsuccessful sequel (did you know there was a sequel?).

David was personally involved with some of the background events that led to the scoring of the music. Through careful documentation and direct quotes from the principle players, he shows the evolution of The Sting from a tale of con artists and self-employment to a film that became known as much for its score as for its stars, Paul Newman and Robert Redford. And he illustrates the 40-year migration of “The Entertainer” from main title theme to ring-tone.

• Background quotations about the genesis from the writer, director, two stars, Marvin Hamlisch, and others
• Precedent events, especially the Joshua Rifkin ragtime recordings, NY Public Library Collected Works of Joplin, and the “Red Back Book” recording of the New England Conservatory Ragtime Ensemble
• Comparison of the film score with the soundtrack recording
• Published reviews –favorable and not - of the score
• Two-year arc of the popularity of ragtime, including chart tracking and awards
• The difference between “The Sting” by Marvin Hamlisch and “The Entertainer” by Scott Joplin
• Effect of the film on the genre of ragtime and the careers of ragtime musicians and composers; secondary influences on classical and popular music
• The Sting II, especially in terms of adaptation and marketing
• Financial picture of the film production versus the ragtime composition and performance “industry”

DAVID REFFKIN is the director of The American Ragtime Ensemble, founded in 1973, with expertise in the history of orchestration and performance of music from the early 1900s. His interests in ragtime began during study at the New England Conservatory as a recording engineer on the Grammy-winning Red Back Book album of the NEC Ragtime Ensemble, a group he later joined as lead violinist. For 30 years he produced and hosted The Ragtime Machine, a radio program broadcast every week without interruption. These shows are now preserved at the Stanford University Archive of Recorded Sound. Many of his interviews and reviews appeared in The Mississippi Rag, for which he was a contributing editor and won the readers’ poll for Best Ragtime Journalist. His seminars are a popular feature at ragtime festivals around the country.

As a professional violinist, David appears as a soloist and member of various ensembles, performing many styles of music. He is also a conductor, arranger and music contractor, and he is frequently called upon to work as a music curator, archivist, speaker, consultant and teacher. Acknowledged for his editorial work, he wrote the Foreword for the discography Cakewalks, Rags and Novelties (2003). David was one of the musicians who helped create the Scott Joplin Ragtime Festival in 1974, organizing and directing the festival All-Star Orchestra, and in 2006 he received the Scott Joplin Award “for outstanding achievement in research, performance, and advancement of ragtime.” In 2011, the city of San Francisco presented him with the Mayor’s Certificate of Honor.

This program is supported by the Friends of the San Francisco Public Library.  All library programs are free and open to the public.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

In Memory of Ruth Asawa (1926-2013)

Come Celebrate Ruth Asawa Day, San Francisco Examiner Feb. 11, 1982

Both as an artist and as an activist, Ruth Asawa played a powerful and lasting role in San Francisco's cultural life.  Her artwork is a familiar part of the our city's landscape and expresses a very San Franciscan sensibility.  Both through creative work and advocacy she contributed to how we as a City think about art within our community.

While she worked in several media, she became known as the "fountain lady" because of the beloved public fountains she created in our City - the Fox Plaza Fountain (removed in 2008), Andrea at Ghirardelli Square, the San Francisco Fountain at the Union Square Hyatt, Aurora at the Embarcadero, and the Origami Fountains in Japantown.

A detail of the mermaid of the Andrea Fountain on the San Francisco Fountain

Learning about the creative process during her education at the Black Mountain College she came to view that artistic work is a form of self-cultivation.  Her teacher, Josef Albers stressed that the "lessons of art were also the lessons of life" and encouraged artist to work on solving practical problems.  She carried that ideal with her through life. A prime example being that when as an established artist she created her mermaid sculpture (Andrea) for Ghirardelli Square she had never done representational sculpture or cast in bronze before.

This ideal also showed through artistic engagement with her community.  Many of her public art works involved members of the community, artists and non-artists alike, in their creation.  Her San Francisco Fountain is a prime example of this -- the fountain took more than two years to finish and involved 250 people including children from the public schools who she had worked with.

She held a strong "belief in having professional artists work with students" so that they could learn by learn by doing
You don't have to be an artist to do artistic work.  I believe it is the artist's duty to make it possible for many people to participate and to become involved in community art projects.
From being an active volunteer in her childrens' school she continued as an advocate for the arts in the school and became the driving force behind the creation of the School of the Arts (SOTA) today rightfully named the Ruth Asawa School of the Arts.

A Powell Mason cable car on its way to SOTA / McAteer (detail from San Francisco Yesterday and Today)

As the president of the School for the Arts Foundation she worried about the growing emphasis of technology over creativity:
When I see children sitting down in those cubicles staring at computer screen terminals, I sense we are teaching these youngsters to be farther and farther away from people ... I think the greatest computer around is the human computer whereby one learns how to solve problems, create ideas and develop independent critical thinking skills.  Art exercises more mental skills than any other activity I can think of.
 Andrea Jepsen, her friend and the model for the mermaid in her, in an appreciation of the artist wrote of her incredible ability to cut through red tape.

Today the School of the Arts continues to thrive and San Francisco Public Schools continue to engage their students with art and artists.

Above is a detail from San Francisco Yesterday and Today of her husband, architect Albert Lanier, whistling as he approaches a BART train, carrying a School of the Arts Foundation (SOTAF) briefcase in his left hand.  Note the detail work of the faces looking out from the train.

On a Library related note - both Asawa and Albert Lanier, played a major role in getting the Gottardo Piazzoni murals moved to and displayed in the new DeYoung museum after they were displaced from the old Main Library by the Asian Art Museum.

A humorous entry from the Ruth Asawa file in the Art, Music and Recreation Center's Newspaper Clipping Files:

from the San Francisco Chronicle Feb. 26, 1973

"However, if he ever takes a magnifying glass to Ruth Asawa's fascinating fountain at the Union Square Hyatt, he may not be amused to find a lot of anti-war slogans, including one reading 'Pull Out Dick.'"

Detail from San Francisco Fountain - "Give Peace a Chance"


(all newspaper entries are found in the Ruth Asawa Newspaper Clipping Files) 

Ruth Asawa, Art, Competence, and Citywide Cooperation: An Interview Conducted by Harriet Nathan in 1974 and 1976 (Regional Oral History Office, University of California, The Bancroft Library, 1980).

Dan Borsuk, "Sculptor sees too much computer education, not enough arts," San Francisco Progress (October 10, 1984), A3.

Daniell Cornell, The Sculpture of Ruth Asawa: Contours In The Air (University of California Press, 2006).

Stephen Dobbs, "Community and Commitment: An Interview with Ruth Asawa," Art Education 34/5 (September, 1981), 14-17 [available through the JStor database]

Mildred Hamilton, "Posterity's Little Hands," San Francisco Examiner (September 19, 1972), 21.

Alison Isenberg, "'Culture-a-go-go': The Ghirardelli Square Controversy and the Liberation of Civic Design in the 1960s," Journal of Social History 44/2 (Winter 2010), 379-412. [available through the Academic OneFile database].

Bernard S. Katz, The Fountains of San Francisco (Don't Call It Frisco Press, 1989).

Andrea Jepsen, "In Praise of Ruth Asawa," California Living Magazine May 11, 1975.

Warren and Georgia Radford, Outdoor Sculpture in San Francisco (Helsham Press, 2002).

Merla Zellerbach, "The Asawa Legacy," Nob Hill Gazette April 1993, 6