“Women, Music, Power: A Celebration of Suzanne G. Cusick’s Work”

WomenMusicPower-FullPoster This Spring, the Music & Arts Library has been pleased to host an exhibition curated by graduate students Jane Forner and Velia Ivanova, designed around the very successful Dec. 2015 symposium “Women, Music, Power: A Celebration of Suzanne G. Cusick’s Work” (http://www.womenmusicpower.com/), organized by Music Dept. professor Ellie Hisama, and co-sponsored by several diverse departments, and the Libraries.

The exhibition features writings and ephemera, which echo and supplement the themes of the symposium and highlight aspects of Cusick’s work and achievements.  In addition to the library exhibition, the symposium website details the program and the concert held as part of the event.

A description of Cusick’s work is excerpted here, from the symposium website:

Suzanne G. Cusick is an influential figure in modern musicology. Her early work proved foundational to the fields of feminist and queer musicology, and her full body of scholarship remains among the most sophisticated, engaging, and provocative work in music studies. Her recent writings on the use of music in the so-called “War on Terror” have helped to launch a new generation of scholarship on music and violence and have re-configured the ways in which politics and music are understood as mutually constitutive. Whether focused on new styles of music making in early modern Italian courts, or on the soundscape of CIA blacksites, Cusick’s work is concerned with questions of how music functions as a material practice, with palpable consequences for both listeners and performers. Her work repeatedly pushes beyond the resting places of traditional scholarship, redefining the ways in which we can think about music, about gender, and about music scholarship. Women Music Power, seeks to highlight the central themes of Cusick’s work and to explore their continued relevance to musical scholarship writ large.

The exhibition will remain on view in the Music & Arts Library, through Monday, February 29th, 2016.



Storm-related closure – Jan 23-24, 2016


Due to the snowstorm, the Music & Arts Library was closed on Sat, 1/23/16. The CU Libraries have decided that a limited number of libraries will open on Sun, 1/24/16, but several others, including the Music & Arts Library, will remain closed on Sunday.

Check the “Hours” page of the Libraries for updates on which libraries will be open for what hours:  http://hours.library.columbia.edu/

Please note that (as of Saturday evening) not all hours listed there may be fully accurate. It’s highly advisable to call ahead, to confirm the hours before you visit.

Stay safe and warm!


You’re Invited! “Sound Art in the Library”, exhibition & reception, Fri 10/9/15, 6-8pm

Flyer_Image_PNGYou are cordially invited to a reception celebrating the opening of the exhibition “Sound Art in the Library”, on Friday Oct 9, 6-8pm, in the Music & Arts Library, 701 Dodge.

New works by Sound Arts MFA students Alice Baird, Dani Dobkin, Cameron Fraser, Ashley Grier, Geronimo Mercado, Chatori Shimizu, and Frank Springer will be featured, and will include interactive installations, screenings, and sound experiments. Click here for the full event flyer in PDF format: FLYER_Library_Sound. Light refreshments will be served.

This event is co-sponsored by the Music Dept., School of the Arts, and Columbia University Libraries.




New Sound Arts MFA students exhibit their work


Carla Cisno, with the generative part of her installation


Nolan Lem, in front of his work








The first two students in the newly-established Sound Arts MFA program, Carla Cisno and Nolan Lem, presented their work in the First Year Show, at Prentis Hall, from May 4-12, 2014. The works presented were What is all (2014) by Cisno, and Dice Roll (2014) by Lem.


Cisno, “What is all” – still image from projection

Video clip at this link (please note that the audio is ambient room sound, and not part of the piece).

Cisno’s piece What is all was presented in two spaces: in a smaller room, an aluminum tray of water was activated by a low-frequency analog oscillator, connected to the tray via tactile transducers. The low-frequency oscillator, nominally set to a steady state at 50 Hz (but as the artist pointed out, being vintage analog equipment, drifting somewhat around that frequency) transmitted vibrations into the pan of water, causing wave-like ripples throughout the liquid. A cool-colored beam of light was positioned above the tray, illuminating both tray and liquid (the image above shows the artist near this installation). Video of the tray and water were captured, and projected in two places: on the wall of the small dark room containing the tray, and, transmitted live via HDMI, to a larger separate room, in a floor-to-ceiling display. One interesting feature of her piece was that the sound is not heard directly (but can be felt when touching the table holding the tray), but rather, is seen in its effect on the liquid and light.


Lem, “Dice Roll”

Video clip of Dice Roll at this link.

Lem’s Dice Roll was installed in a single rectangular room, with the piece lit from below, casting shadows on the walls of the semi-darkened space (see artist in front of work in image at top of page). Lem’s piece featured 3 large rectangular frames, with rows of mounted motors,  activating thin lines supporting dice. The dice, when at rest, sat on a bed of pieces of wood, of varying lengths, arranged for their sonic properties. When activated, the dice rolled and bounced against the pieces of wood, producing a variety of organic-sounding effects. Different textures were in evidence over time, without forming any large discernible structural patterns.


Panel discussion; Cisno, Lem, Cullen, Repetto (L to R)

The artists both spoke in a panel at the closing reception, discussing their work with Douglas Repetto, Director of the Sound Arts program, and Deborah Cullen, Director and Chief Curator of the Wallach Art Gallery. There was a lively discussion, which touched on issues including ideas about the definition of sound art, ideas about form, approaches to the sense of time in their work, the creative process, and documentation and preservation issues for sound art pieces.

The Music & Arts Library actively supports the work of the Sound Arts program, by acquisitions of books, journals, and recordings, as well as the resources of the Digital Music Lab. We eagerly look forward to seeing the next exhibition of work by this group and the new incoming cohort (an additional 4 artists) in Fall 2014!




Exhibition: Rudolf Kurz Recordings Collection

Exhibition PanoramaAn exhibition in the Gabe M. Wiener Music & Arts Library highlights recordings from the private collection of Rudolf Kurz, which have been given to Columbia University and the Center for Jazz Studies.  Comprising  36 recordings drawn from the 16,000 held in the collection, the show presents a selection of various types of discs, including uncommon formats such as Transcription Discs and V-Discs.

Transcription discs were produced from roughly 1930 to 1960 for radio broadcast or re-broadcast, and were typically 16 inches in diameter and recorded at 33 1/3 rpm. One interesting feature of these discs is that they sometimes would play from the center of the disc outwards (the reverse of the usual trajectory). Here are a few examples from the exhibition:

Transcription Discs ex.1


V-Discs were produced and distributed between 1942 and 1949 through the cooperation of the U.S. Government, American recording companies, and the American Federation of Musicians. Many were distributed to the U.S. armed forces, and some ended up in private collections after production had ceased. Here’s an example of a label image, and a few discs, from the current exhibition:

5-V-DiscLabelListen here to a digitized audio file of the recording above (from the Internet Archive.)

V-discs selectionThere’s an audio collection of many digitized V-disc recordings available on the Internet Archive, at this link.

Another significant component of the Rudolf Kurz collection is jazz recordings, here including Verve label recordings with slipcases illustrated by David Stone Martin (who was influenced by the social realist art of the New Deal) as well as Blue Note and Prestige recordings whose cover designs reflected the increased recognition of jazz as a serious, influential art form. An entertaining online viewer and timeline of some further Blue Note covers is available on the Blue Note web site, and some additional images of Prestige recordings cover art are available at this link.

Here are some of the Blue Note covers from the exhibition:

4-Case-InsideRightand some of the covers from Prestige recordings:

6-CaseInsideLeftWe invite you to stop by the Music & Arts Library (701 Dodge) to see the exhibition of these interesting recordings and covers. The transcription recordings and v-disc recordings are too fragile for public circulation, but the 12-inch jazz recordings featured are available at the circulation desk, for in-library listening in conjunction with this exhibition (ask for them by title and mention that they are in the exhibition).


Rigoletto! and more…

The recent, Las Vegas-themed production of Verdi’s “Rigoletto” is included on Met Opera on Demand, available through the Libraries under “Databases“. (I’m looking at you, Music Humanities students !) … but, any opera lover will find plenty of interest on the site, including several other productions of Rigoletto, and over 450 Met opera productions, in streaming video. Check it out!

Research Help is Available!

Got questions? Need help finding resources for your final projects and papers? We’re here to help!

Here are some ways to get in touch with questions:

– ask for a librarian at the circulation desk in the Music & Arts Library, 701 Dodge;

– schedule a time with us to sit down for an in-depth review of any resources, tools, or topics;

– email us at musiclibrary@columbia.edu with questions, or to schedule a consultation with us;

– use the online reference chat service, available under “Ask a Librarian”, at this link;

A guide to some basic resources for music research and our library services is also available (as a PDF) at this link (http://bit.ly/MusicRefGuide).

We’re happy to help you move forward with your end-of-semester work. Don’t hesitate to contact us!

Jazz Dreams II: Free Film Screening, Mon. Nov. 11, 2013, at 8pm

Jazz Dreams II: A Film Screening
A Conversation with filmmaker Geoffrey Poister and musician Courtney Bryan

Columbia composer Courtney Bryan (above, center) is among 3 young musicians from New Orleans who are featured in a new documentary film, presented by Columbia’s Center for Jazz Studies. The film

“follows three young jazz musicians from New Orleans as they embark on difficult careers. Beginning with their high school years, it follows them through the death and destruction of Hurricane Katrina, to their becoming parents and entrepreneurs. The film features Jason Marsalis, the youngest Marsalis; Irvin Mayfield, a Grammy Award winning trumpet player/composer, and pianist and composer Courtney Bryan. These committed young black Americans show their determination to keep America’s most original art form alive and vibrant. Wynton Marsalis, Ellis Marsalis, and Gordon Parks all appear.”

Monday November 11, 2013, 8 p.m. 101 Prentis Hall, 632 West 125th Street (Between Broadway and Riverside Drive)

Event Cost:
Free and open to the public but rsvp is required by emailing ym189@columbia.edu or calling 212-851-9270

Directions to Prentis Hall can be seen at this link.


India Music Week exhibition


In conjunction with India Music Week, the Music & Arts Library has mounted an exhibition of materials from our collections representing the music of India, including books and recordings in several formats, and covering musical styles from the ancient art music traditions through Bollywood film music.  As is the case in several other areas of the world, audio cassettes were (and may remain) an important format for distribution, and our collections include over 800 audio cassettes of Indian music in many styles. The exhibition will remain up for several weeks; stop by and have a look, and perhaps enjoy listening to some of the many selections which are available in our collections for check-out. And, if you’re in the mood to enjoy some music of India remotely, check out the streaming audio content available on the Contemporary World Music and Smithsonian Global databases. Enjoy!


EVENT: NY Philharmonic Digital Archives, Mon 10/28/13, 1-2:30pm

The New York Philharmonic Digital Archives: Fair Use online and New Sources for Digital Humanities
Monday, October 28, 1-2:30pm
203 Butler Library, Columbia University

(example: 1st violin part from Mahler’s Symphony no. 4; score marked up by Leonard Bernstein)

Since 1842, the New York Philharmonic has preserved nearly every document or scrap of paper relevant to its concert
and business activities creating one of the world’s largest collections of a single, continuously operating
performing arts institution. The material includes conductor and artist correspondence, marked scores and parts,
meeting minutes, contracts, subscriber lists, musician attendance sheets, press clippings, personnel and donor
records, printed programs, etc. In 2009, with a generous grant from the Leon Levy Foundation, the Archives began
digitizing all paper (1.3 million pages) between 1943 and 1970 making it freely available on the internet.

Two goals of the digitization were that new connections would be made within the collections and new forms of
research would result.  Legal obligations and ways to meet these requirements which had not been relevant to a
reading-room research had to be worked out. Subscriber records, a record type that had never been used by scholars,
became the focus for a new study on New York elites.

Barbara Haws is the Philharmonic’s Archivist and Historian leading the digital project.  Jane Ginsburg, the Morton
L. Janklow Professor of Literary and Artistic Property Law at the Columbia Law School advises the Philharmonic
Digital Archives on intellectual property issues including fair use. Shamus Khan, Associate Professor of Sociology
at Columbia leads a team of sociologists in a digital humanities project funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
to study New York elites using the New York Philharmonic’s subscriber and concert hall seating records.

Directions to Butler Library are here: