Category: Isham Memorial Library (page 1 of 13)

Last Chance To See (But You Can Listen Anytime): Indigenous Siberian Fieldwork at the Loeb Music Library

The Eda Kuhn Loeb Music Library’s Fall 2019 exhibition, Tree of Life: Cosmology and Environment in Yakutian Epic, features highlights from the Eduard Alekseyev Fieldwork Collection of the Musical Culture of Yakutia, 1957-1990. On display until Friday, January 24th are photographs and personal effects that document fieldwork in Yakutia (also known as the Sakha Republic) in the second half of the twentieth century by the ethnomusicologist Eduard Alekseyev, who was born there in 1937.

Dressed in a grey suit and holding a microphone on an extension stick, Eduard Alekseyev sits in a crowded auditorium. The date and location of this photograph are unknown.

Undated photograph of Eduard Alekseyev performing fieldwork. Image courtesy National Library of Sakha

Yakutia is located in the circumpolar region of Russia, straddling the Arctic Circle. Its capital of Yakutsk has the reputation for being the coldest city on earth. Dr. Alekseyev’s recordings of musical life in the region capture religious and cultural expressions of Sakha identity/nationhood that have survived Soviet repression, urbanization, and climate change. Also on display are musical instruments crafted in Yakutia and other locally made birchbark and metal handcrafts.

The Eduard Alekseyev Fieldwork Collection has been fully digitized and is available to stream. Among the different musical genres represented in the collection is olonkho, sacred epics sung by a narrator who differentiates between characters by alternating song and recitative. The texts traditionally describe a cosmography of lower, middle, and upper worlds, with the sacred tree, or tree of life, characteristically a larch, bridging across the layers. In the recordings, you will hear the khomus (also known as a mouth harp, jawharp, or Jew’s harp), the diungiur (shaman’s drum), and the bayan (button accordion). The collection also features musical traditions of Crimean Tatars recorded in Kiev, Ukraine. Listen here to Yegor Trofimovich Leveriev sing Siine tuhunan Toiuk (Song about the Siine River) in 1979, one of 689 freely available audio tracks in the collection.

Co-curated by Harvard graduate student Diane Oliva and Music Library staff member Christina Linklater, this exhibition marks the United Nations International Year of Indigenous Languages, bringing special attention to indigenous language collections housed at Harvard Library.

The exhibition also details the process of preserving and digitizing sound recordings. Nineteen-sixties recording technologies relied on acetate and polyester audio tape reels and VHS PAL videocassettes: highly vulnerable for decay and breakage, these magnetic media are typically prioritized for preservation and reformatting. The original cases have been retained, which contain Alekseyev’s own annotations.

This reel case features handwritten notes by Eduard Alekseyev.

Loeb Music Library, AWM RL 16254

 

The Music Library holds several other audio and audiovisual fieldwork collections that capture musical expression around the world:

Lowell H. Lybarger Collection of Pakistani Music Materials

Stephen Blum Collection of Music from Iranian Khorāsān

Lara Boulton Collection of Byzantine and Orthodox Musics

James A. Rubin Collection of South Indian Classical Music

Marie-Thérèse, Baroness Ullens de Schooten Collection (Iran)

Kay Shelemay, Collection of Ethiopian Music

Richard Kent Wolf Collection of Fieldwork (India)

Virginia Danielson Collection of Field Recordings of Muslim Calls to Prayer

This post was contributed by Diane Oliva, a candidate for the PhD in historical musicology at Harvard University. Diane Oliva is the May-Crane Fellow of the Loeb Music Library for 2019-2020. 

Happy Birthday, Clara!

September 13th was Clara Schumann’s 200th birthday. To pay homage to the composer and pianist we are highlighting a photograph we have in our collection. This photo is a carte-de-visite, a thin paper portrait mounted on a thicker paper board.

Carte-de-visite of Clara Schumann

Carte-de-visite of Clara Schumann, taken by Fritz Luckhardt.

 

The photographer was Fritz Luckhardt, an Austrian whose studio was at the Hotel National in Vienna, as indicated on the back of the photograph. His studio is discussed in detail in the book The Photographic Studios of Europe. Famous authors and musicians were his specialty, as demonstrated by the large number of cartes-de-visite from his studio found in libraries and archives. In 1870 he was awarded the Imperial Title of K.K. Photographer (K.K. stands for kaiserlich-königlich meaning imperial-royal), therefore this photograph was produced after that title was awarded.

Verso of the cartes-de-visite.

Verso of the carte-de-visite of Clara Schumann.

The name of the Munich photographer Ferd. Finsterlin is impressed on the lower left of the photograph. The relationship between the two photographers is unknown to us. It’s possible this carte-de-visite was collected by Ferdinand Finsterlin in a similar fashion to a calling card and he stamped his ownership on the item.

Thanks to Joanne Bloom, Photographic Resources Librarian at the Fine Arts Library, Harvard University, for assistance in researching this photograph.

Pritchard, H. Baden. The Photographic Studios of Europe. The Literature of Photography. New York: Arno Press, 1973.

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