Tag: songs (page 1 of 5)

Happy 200th Birthday, Pauline Viardot!

In celebration of Pauline Viardot’s 200th birthday on July 18th, we are sharing three music manuscripts held in Harvard’s collection. The music, L’hirondelle et le prisonnier (The Swallow and the Prisoner), was first published in 1841 in Paris by Bureaux de La France musicale, as advertised in the contents pages from the January 3rd issue of this publication. The text was adapted from the poem by Hector-Grégoire de Saint-Maur (first published anonymously in the Gazette de Sainte-Pélagie in 1834).

Newspaper clipping from Bureaux de La France musicale stating the publication of L’Hirondelle et le prisonnier by Pauline Viardot Garcia.

Paris: Bureaux de La France musicale, 3 January 1841.

Before jumping into the manuscript, let’s take a look at an early publication of this work digitized by Hathi Trust Digital Library.

First page of L’Hirondelle et le prisonnier

First page of L’Hirondelle et le prisonnier, published by Bureaux de La France musicale.

Our first example is a manuscript held in the Pauline Viardot-Garcia papers held at the Houghton Library, and is contained in a notebook owned by Pauline, along with 22 other songs.

Oblong manuscript of song for voice and piano from notebook. One stave of the music has been slightly extended in order to finish a phrase on the same line.

L’hirondelle et le prisonnier. Pauline Viardot-Garcia papers, MS Mus 232 (60) no. 10. Houghton Library, Harvard University.

The next example is a manuscript also in the Houghton Library as part of the Pauline Viardot-García Additional Papers. This edition is part of a Collection of Songs, Autograph Manuscripts and Manuscript Scores containing incipits of works.

Oblong music manuscript, the first page from Collection of Songs for voice and piano.

Pauline Viardot-García additional papers, MS Mus 264 (97). Houghton Library, Harvard University.

Our final manuscript is signed and dated Paris, March 18, 1842. It is part of a collection of autographs compiled by Jenny Vény, daughter of oboist Louis-Auguste Vény. The album contains 75 autographs and 120 leaves of music.

In March of 1842, Pauline was three months shy of her 21st birthday. She married Louis Viardot two years prior, and made friendships with Fredrick Chopin and author George Sands, but had not yet met her lifelong friend Ivan Turgenev.  According to The Life and Work of Pauline Viardot Garcia, in March of 1842 the Viardots were visiting family (her sister’s widow) in Brussels at Ixelles to show off their new baby, returning to Paris in April.

A page from an autograph album manuscript with two lines of music for voide and piano and the signature of Pauline Viardot.

Autograph Album: Manuscript, 1841-1880. MS Mus 103. Houghton Library, Harvard University.

For more information on this work, see page 5-6 of Sarah Christine Ballman’s 2021 doctoral dissertation, A Catalog of Mélodies Composed by Pauline Viardot.

A Trunk Full of Love Songs: Somali Songs, 1955-1991: The Maryan “Aryette” Omar Ali Collection

♥Happy Valentine’s Day!♥ An appropriate day to highlight a collection of (mostly) love songs in the Archive of World Music:

When the Somali popular music expert Maryan Omar Ali first met historian Lidwien Kapteijns in person, she brought with her a trunk full of love songs and other sung poetry. Maryan spent her life carefully curating this collection to represent the most productive Somali (and some Djiboutian) songwriters and artists from the 1950s, when Somalia was fighting to gain independence, through the 1990s, when political instability and civil war plagued the struggling nation. The tapes collected from this period now form part of the Archive of World Music, where preservation and repatriation efforts are ongoing. Let’s take a glimpse into this important collection of Somali songs.

Some of the tapes in the collection (photo courtesy AWM).

In 2017, Ahmed Samatar, a professor of International Studies at Macalester College, and Lidwien Kapteijns, a professor of history at Wellesley College, began depositing the first batches of around 500 audio cassettes recordings of popular songs recorded in Somalia between 1955 and 1991, collected from radio broadcasts and privately circulated cassettes by the life-long collector of Somali popular songs and leading expert on the subject, Maryan Omar Ali.

Maryan Omar Ali (photo courtesy of Lidwien Kapteijns).

Maryan “Aryette” Omar Ali (1977-2011) spent her life collecting and curating Somali  sung poetry—songs of love, war, despair, and patriotism.  As a child in Somalia, she was immersed in the world of singers, poets, and musicians, growing up in a community with some of Somalia’s most famous artists. She attended rehearsals, brought refreshments, and eventually became a leading advocate for Somali arts and culture, a pursuit that lasted a lifetime.

The primary genre in this collection is known as hees or heello, a modern form of sung poetry accompanied by, depending on the era, hand clapping, frame drums, and other musical instruments, such as the electric piano/synthesizer, organ, guitar, end-blown flute, clarinet, saxophone, violin, and Arab lute (kaman in Somali or ‘ud in Arabic). Other notable genres include qaraami and praise songs for the Prophet. Many of the genre names used to refer to Somali songs overlap in their usage depending on a number of factors, including time period.

Most of these recordings are songs of the nationalist period (1955-1974), a period after which the military regime (1969-1991) became increasingly oppressive. During this time, the emergence and success of the popular song had much to do with the roles the radio stations in cities like Mogadishu and Hargeisa assumed in the period leading up to and following independence, in addition to the Somali government’s investment, albeit meager, in the cultural production of poets, playwrights, singers, and musicians.

Somalia is unique among East African countries in its cultural unity through language. While the country is and has been fraught with political disunity, culture has bound them together. The songs in this collection reflect this unity and the importance of song in times of political and social struggle.

Maryan Omar Ali was born in Djibouti and grew up in neighboring Somalia.

One of the most important functions of popular music in the tumultuous decades from the 1950s to the 1990s involved the ability of artists to weave together tradition with modernity in the face of change and instability. Many artists used popular songs as a call to action against tribalism.  Some of the songs preached unity through themes of Qaranimo, or Somali nationalism, calling for allegiance to the state. Other songs spread ideas of uniting under Islam, charging individuals to look toward the ‘umma (global Islamic community) as a solution to clan rivalry and civil war.

Photo of Lidwien Kapteijns (courtesy Wellesley College)

Another important component of the songs in this collection is the presence of powerful female voices in a patriarchal society. In her book, Women’s Voices in a Man’s World: Women and the Pastoral Tradition in Northern Somali Orature, c. 1899-1980 (1999), Lidwien Kapteijns writes about the nuanced ways in which poetry, including sung poetry and the popular songs of this collection, give voice to female subversion of this patriarchy, highlighting the importance of women in Somali society.  Many of the love and lament-themed songs that form the qaraami genre were frowned upon by religious authorities and conservative society, especially in the 1950s and 1960s. Mixed gender dancing and socialization, women on stage, and themes of love and desire were viewed as irreverent. Thus, the women who made a living performing this music were particularly vulnerable to oppression. Pressing on, many singers throughout the decades, those such as Magool and Sahra Axmed–both featured in this collection–were heroic in their efforts to change conceptions of art, gender relations, and cultural unity. For more on individual artists and songs in the collection, and suggested readings and resources, here is a link to the finding aid to the Maryan “Aryette” Omar Ali Collection.

 

Written by: Joe Kinzer, Senior Curatorial Assistant, Archive of World Music

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