New York! New York!

Colin Coleman reflects on his first visit to a IAML conference. For the full article and a range of fascinating links, read the latest IAML UK/IRL newsletter, out at the end of October….

IAML and IMS’s joint conference for 2015, Music Research in the Digital Age, was set in the bright lights of one of the most bustling places in the world, New York and the Juilliard School.  The frenetic pace of the city was mirrored by the events internally at the School – a faster-paced conference I can’t remember and it seemed that the week literally flew past.

The opening session focused on the geographically home-grown materials that are a substantial representation of the New York music scene: presentations on the Brooklyn Academy, the New York Philharmonic, and an exhilarating account of the Carnegie Hall archives from Gino Francesconi.  Gino narrated the history of the Hall, from concept to structure, and entertained with his first experience there as a boy and how he has seemingly not left.  His presentation essentially described how to find an archive when there isn’t one already in place – his search for materials (every sort including programmes, souvenirs, papers, recordings…) started an entire documentary history, from thousands of different sources (accumulated through replies to his newspaper and journal advertisements for archival materials), which had hitherto been lost but is now placed in the institution it represents.

Following on from Gino’s talk on starting up a collection, Kent Underwood spoke about continuing to collect in the modern era in order to represent contemporary composers in library collections.   Composers who work with publishers often have another job (such as teaching) to make their composition life possible; many composers cannot afford to lose the percentage of the sales/performance fees to the publisher so they tend to do their own publishing.  Kent had discovered through the analysis of a large number of self-published modern composers that their scores tended to be present in only a few libraries, and that those libraries had noticed the music through the advertisement of mainstream dealers; also that libraries were more likely to have CD recordings possibly as they have a quicker commercial power and the process of acquisition through these outlets is more fluent.  Kent’s list of composers showed an astonishing number who were underwhelmingly represented in library collections for the future, as well as highlighting the significant majority who had not deposited anything anywhere; Kent alluded to new mechanisms for the storage of contemporary composer’s scores, such as the depositing of PDF files of scores which were being received electronically.  Some institutions print the PDFs to preserve for the future – the current thinking being that paper has stood the test of time, whereas digital is very young…

Katharine Hogg spoke about the Gerald Coke Handel Collection and how that small private library collaborates with other institutions in order to gain access to many of the online resources which are pertinent to a large institutional academic setup but unaffordable via smaller institutions.  The Coke collection endeavours to raise its profile through its catalogue and through the sale of images through other online platforms (other than direct from the institution).  The physical resources in the collection are brought to life in seminars for students from various institutions via teaching of Handel, the eighteenth-century, book history, conservation and binding, and these liaisons with institutions such as Goldsmith’s, University of London, bring access to online resources such as Jstor, otherwise unaffordable to the small library.  The Coke collection, like the Bayerisches Staatsbibliothek, digitises materials on request, charging the user and then being able to make such results available to others; set-up costs for digitisation are otherwise prohibitive to small (and larger) institutions…

The Conference Committee organised many social and genial meetings, with opportunities to visit the Juilliard’s library and its manuscript collection, represented in a performance of a variety of those works by some of their fantastic students.  This included the most splendid performance of Stravinsky’s Mouvements de Petrouchka by Conrad Tao, who manipulated the piano as if he were a crazed dancing lobster (see his Wikipedia entry for the new digital era biography).  There were trips to the Morgan Library and Museum with a guided tour from the Music Curator, a superb evening viewing manuscripts of American composers and the Prokofiev archive at Columbia University, as well as the opening and closing receptions, and the final dinner including a performance by the MLA’s Big Band.  Aside from such highlights is always the opportunity to network and meet colleagues from around the globe, known by correspondence but not in person –the conference excels in providing the backdrop for delegates to meet, converse and make new friends.