Category: Archival Collections (page 1 of 11)

“Snowflakes” by Mary Mapes Dodge (not Anonymous)

It’s the season for snow in New England and there is no better time to highlight another new acquisition – a lighthearted song about snowflakes. “Whene’er a Snowflake Leaves the Sky” was composed by Liza Lehmann (1862-1918), a soprano and composer, mostly of vocal works, including many for children. She was the first president of the Society of Women Musicians.

Sheet music cover attributing the words to anonymous.

Lehmann, Liza, and Mary Mapes Dodge. 1918. Whene’er a Snowflake Leaves the Sky: Song. London: J.B. Cramer & Co. Ltd. Merritt Room Mus 735.6.713

The piece, also known as the “Snowflakes Song”, was included in a publication Three Snow Songs in 1914, with music and lyrics credited to Lehmann as indicated in the Catalog of Copyright Entries: Musical Compositions. Part 3. The Harvard Library copy was published in 1918, with the music attributed to Liza Lehmann; however, the lyrics are attributed to Anonymous. The lyrics are not unknown as this printing suggests, and as such the rest of this post will be dedicated to recognizing the poem and its author.

Mary Mapes Dodge (1831-1905), in full Mary Elizabeth Mapes Dodge, was an American author of children’s books and first editor of the children’s publication St. Nicholas Magazine.

Cabinet photograph of Mary Mapes Dodge.

Warren, Warren. 1875. Mary Mapes Dodge. Special Collections, Fine Arts Library, Harvard College Library. Object Number 119.1976.5179

The poem features an individual snowflake as it travels bravely from the sky to its landing place until it melts away in warmer weather. For added entertainment, read the poem below while listening to a performance by soprano Gwen Catley.

Snowflakes

Whenever a snowflake leaves the sky

It turns and turns to say “good-bye;”

“Good-bye, dear cloud, so cool and gray!”

Then lightly travels on its way.

And when a snowflake finds a tree,

“Good-day,” it says —“Good-day to thee!

Thou art so bare and lonely, dear,

I’ll rest and call my comrades here.”

But when a snowflake brave and meek,

Lights on a rosy maiden’s cheek,

It starts— “How warm and soft the day!

‘Tis Summer!”— and it melts away.

 

The poem was published in the 1879 book Along the Way, a publication that included poems published for the first time and several that previously appeared in various magazines. “Snowflakes” was again printed in When Life is Young: A Collection of Verse for Boys and Girls in 1894. The poem also appeared in Mary Mapes Dodge’s final published book of poetry, Poems and Verses in 1904, which includes the following author’s note, “This book is, in the main, a republication of a former volume of verse entitled ‘Along the Way’, which is now out of print.”

The popularity of the poem is indicated by its use in other poetry compilations, including American Anthology, 1787-1899: Selections Illustrating the Editor’s Critical Review of American Poetry in the 19th Century and The World’s Best Poetry Volume 5: The Poetry of Nature.

For additional information about Mary Mapes Dodge see Gannon, Susan R., and Ruth Anne Thompson. Mary Mapes Dodge. Twayne, 1992.

Early Arabic Sound Recordings and the Public Domain

Happy Public Domain Day! Copyright has a limited duration, and it’s a moving wall – every January 1st, here in the United States, more items enter the public domain, meaning that they can be freely shared, reused, and remixed into new works by anyone. This year, books, musical compositions, and films from 1926 join the public domain.

A calendar display showing the last digit of 2021 rolling over to 2022, and the text "Public Domain Day".

Public Domain Day logo by wikipedia user Cienkamila, slightly modified by wikipedia user odder, CC BY-SA 3.0

And thanks to the Music Modernization Act (technically, one of its components, Title II, the Classic Protection and Access Act), sound recordings published prior to 1923 enter the public domain in the United States. This is a really big deal! Since pre-1972 sound recordings didn’t have federal copyright protection until the passage of the MMA, they’ve been languishing in copyright limbo for decades – in some cases, for well over a century – and there are a lot of them: by some estimates, over 400,000 early sound recordings are now part of the public domain. This change to the law dramatically expands our ability to share early 20th-century sound recordings from our collections for listening, research, and reuse.

The Arabic 78 Collection at the Loeb Music Library

The label of a record produced by Columbia Records, with a drawing of a woman in a headscarf and two solemn-faced children clutching her skirt. The woman is looking backwards, at a building being consumed by a raging fire.

Visit our new digital collection to listen to selections from the Arabic 78 Collection!

To celebrate, we’re releasing a small subset of our early 20th century Arabic 78 collection on our new Aviary site. Acquired over many years, the Arabic 78 Collection currently contains nearly 600 cataloged recordings of Arab and Arab-American music spanning the first half of the 20th century, from roughly 1903 through the 1950s, valuable not only for their musical content, but also as artifacts of the early sound recording industry. We’ve been working to digitize this collection over the past several years, and we’re excited to begin sharing it!

A blue paper record label in English and Arabic, reading "International Talking Machine Co. m.b.H. Odeon Record.

“Asl al-Gharam nazra,” recorded in 1905 on the German label Odeon. Loeb Music Library, AWM 78-101

Many of the earliest records date to the late Nahda era, a period of “renaissance” in Arab literature and culture. Among the renowned performers represented in the collection are Egyptian singers Yūsuf Al-Manyalāwī (1847-1911), Abd al-Ḥayy Ḥilmī (1857-1912), Salāmah Ḥijāzī (1852-1917), Sayyid Al- Ṣaftī (1875-1939), Munīrah Al-Mahdiyyah (1884-1965) and Sayyid Darwīsh (1892-1923), and instrumentalists such as Sāmī Al-Shawwā (violin, 1889-1965) and Naʻīm Karakand (violin, 1891-1973). Stars such as Umm Kulthūm (1904-1975), Muḥammad ʻAbd al-Wahhāb (1902-1991) and Asmahān (1912-1944) are also represented, alongside less well-known performers like Faraj Allāh Afandī Bayḍā, Aḥmad afandī Al-Mīr, and Zakiyyah Akūb, likely the first woman to record in Arabic in the US.

A record label with a drawing of a seated, mostly nude woman playing a lyre. The label reads "Opera Disc Company. Syrian Male Song."

This rendition of “Khallayānī bilawʻātī” was recorded in 1910 on a Gramophone Co. master. The pirate label Opera Disc operated in New York in the early 1920s; the original Gramophone matrix number, 11-12490, is barely visible underneath the right side of the paper label. AWM 78-232

The recordings were made by large multi-national American and European record companies such as Gramophone Company, Columbia, Victor and Odeon, but significant local companies such as Baidaphon (the first independent record label in the Arab world) and Fabrik Mechian are also included, as well as Maloof and Macksoud from the US. The collection even includes discs issued on early pirate labels like Opera Disc Company. Later Arab-American record labels such as Alamphon, Arabphon and Al-Chark are also to be found in the collection. Genres cover a wide range of Arab musical forms including al-mawwāl (vocal improvisation), qaṣīdah (sung poems), taqsīm (instrumental improvisation), film music, ṭaqṭūqah (pop songs) and Qur’anic recitations.

For more about the collection, see our 2017 post, Arabic 78 RPM Records Collection: A Newly-Catalogued Treasure by graduate student assistant Farah Zahra, who researched and catalogued many of the recordings.

How We Dated These Recordings

Resources for dating the early discs in this collection are limited. In only a few cases has data come down to us from original company records, as is true with the multinationals Victor, Columbia, and the Gramophone Company. In those cases, a wealth of metadata was painstakingly researched by early discographers and has now made its way into database form for use in determining recording dates. Two examples are the Discography of American Historical Recordings and the Kelly On-line Database (Gramophone Company). But in some cases, ethnic or foreign series are missing or incomplete in these resources, which means we rely on the work of discographers who have focused on ethnic recordings. In the case of Arab-American recordings, we have used Dick Spottswood’s Ethnic music on records: a discography of ethnic recordings produced in the United States, 1893 to 1942 (University of Illinois, 1990) and his online Columbia Records E Series, 1908-1923 discography.

It is important to note that U.S. copyright law, including the new Music Modernization Act (MMA) that has now taken effect (as of January 1, 2022), is based on publication/release date rather than recording date. Precise data about release dates is even more scarce, though we do have information about U.S. Columbia releases. In theory, we can also use dated record company catalogs and supplements to help confirm release or publication date, but these are rare for ethnic/foreign releases. Although it cannot be taken as definitive, or as universal practice for the period, it seems an average of 8 to 10 weeks passed between recording and release date for early popular artists on Columbia (according to Allan Sutton’s Columbia Record Recording and Release Dates (1896-1934), p.6). But this timeframe could be rushed or held up based on the artist or demand.

We have made our copyright assessment based on all available data and specifically for use in the U.S. with regard to the new MMA laws. When we’ve made a reasonable determination that release dates occurred before December 31, 1922, the recording will be available to the public (and downloadable). For all others, users can request permission to hear the recording for a limited period (no download).

How to Listen

To share them, we’re using Aviary, a system that gives us a user-friendly way to create themed collections and add supplemental material, like high-quality images of the disc labels and matrix numbers (important sources for discographers and other researchers). As more recordings enter the public domain and we evaluate the copyright status of the discs in our collections, we plan to continue adding 78s to the collection. Many of the recordings on the site now are available for streaming and download; some are restricted. To request temporary listening access to those recordings, you’ll be prompted to register for a free Aviary account.

We hope you’ll enjoy this peek into the collections, and we look forward to sharing more!

Explore Further

-Kerry Masteller and Peter Laurence

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