IAML Leipzig Congress Diary #7: Jan Guise

The seventh congress diary sharing an aspect of the 2018 IAML Congress in Leipzig is by Jan Guise at the University of Toronto Music Library, Canada.

Congratulations to the organizers for a wonderful IAML conference in Leipzig.  My diary outlines what I learned about Hochschules (as compared to music education institutions in Canada), space planning ideas I got from visiting Leipzig libraries, and highlights from the sessions I attended.

The IAML conference was held at the Hochschule fur Musik und Theater (HMT) Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy. I learned that there are 24 such Hochschules in Germany; these function like universities or colleges, but are really more like conservatories in that they have a focus on music performance rather than music scholarship.  They are not affiliated with a larger university.  However, students study history and theory in addition to their instrument.  If one wants to study musicology or theory at the scholarly level, then one can attend university for that.  In such cases there is no performance element.  This is very different from the Canadian context, where students attend university to study music (whether performance or scholarship).  Canada has a small number of conservatories which offer graded lessons and examinations to children and adult, but which are not degree-granting.

In touring some of Leipzig's libraries I got some ideas for space planning at my own music library.  For example, the Leipzig University library (down the street from HMT) has made huge posters of images of some of the treasures in their archive (e.g., a page from an early edition of Copernicus annotated by his student, Kepler!), and they use these posters in the foyer.  We have a non-descript corridor leading from the main lobby of the Faculty of Music toward to the Music Library; it could benefit from such beautification showcasing OUR treasures.  The HMT library is a beautiful space with blond wood floors and ceiling, and rolling ladders allowing access to tall stacks.  These ladders are modern takes on the old-school classic, and looked quite slick to me.  They fold in, out of the way of the aisles, unless someone needs to climb one in which case it simply folds out.  At the State Library in Dresden, they have little cards students can borrow to hold their spot if they must leave the library temporarily (to eat lunch, for example).  The cards have a paper clock the student can “set” with the time of their return.  The card is clearly printed with the policy for use (students may only hold a spot for a maximum of 20 minutes, for example).  This is an elegant solution to students leaving valuables at their seat!

I enjoyed all the sessions I attended, but will give a few highlights here:

I attended a presentation by an archivist from the Saxony State Archives, which has 300 meters of fonds from Breitkopft and Hartel from the early 17th C to the early 20th C.  These include things like correspondence with the composers they published, invoices, music scores (from manuscript to finished product) of all their composers, and on and on and on.  What must it be like going to THAT job every day?

Another highlight was a presentation by Elaine Gould, senior new music editor at Faber Music and author of Behind Bars: The Definitive Guide to Music Notation.  When this was published a few years ago every music library bought a copy, and it's considered a standard text for music editors and composers.  Her talk was about why music and notation skills are still so necessary for music editors in the digital age.  With composers writing music in notation software like Finale and Sibelius, many music publishing houses are de-skilling and de-professionalizing the work of music editors because they think the computer can make all the notation decisions anyway.  Gould made many compelling arguments why skilled human intervention will always produce a better published work.  What makes printed music pleasing to the user/player? Consistency, legibility, size, balance of white space, fluency, page turns, etc. 

I attended a great presentation on early British legal deposit music, and the challenges of tracking these holdings.  There were also a few presentations on digitization projects: archiving musicology Web sites at the Bavarian State Library, and archiving contemporary composers' Web sites at Columbia University in NY.  There were also not one but TWO presentations on digitizing projects for Piano Rolls (for "player piano"): one at Stanford University and the other at Cremona University of Pavia in Italy.  Both institutions have custom-built piano roll scanners that create image files AND sound files.  Stanford, in particular, is looking for more rolls to digitize and since our music library has a collection of these I can see a collaboration in our future!


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