New Acquisitions Reflect the Diverse Interests of Our Students
At first glance, the daily routine of a library assistant can admittedly be a little dry: new score arrives, stamp the score, add a barcode, print the bookplate, bag it, add to shelf. Repeat. Thankfully, the interests of our students and staff make for some fascinating reads along the way – it is not uncommon to find one of us flipping through the pages of a brand new score or book, momentarily grinding our makeshift assembly line to a halt while we pause to appreciate the intricacies of a particularly inventive graphic score (lines and dots printed on acetate? Mind = blown) or a beautiful facsimile of an ancient masterpiece (why are there only 3 lines? They used colours back then?).
This morning a particularly rich batch of scores arrived, prompting me to write this blog post – what better way of understanding the activities of our community than by offering a cross-section of the music that we play, study and enjoy? So here goes, a sampling of our most recent arrivals:
1. Alfred Schnittke, Hommage à Igor Stravinsky, Sergei Prokoviev and Dmitri Shostakovich, for piano six-hands
The German / Soviet composer Alfred Schnittke (1934 – 1998) is perhaps best known for his deeply personal form of ‘polystylism’ (perhaps more apt is the label of ‘post-everythingist’, as described in one media outlet), in which the composer freely borrows idioms from music of different times and places in Western culture. The results are often disorientating and wonderfully chaotic; Hommage certainly embodies these characteristics – as one might expect from most pieces involving one piano, six intertwined arms and thirty contorted fingers – although a certain unity is achieved as Schnittke skilfully highlights the stylistic intersections between these three giants of the Russian canon.
2. Björk, 34 Scores for Piano, Organ, Harpsichord and Celeste
At the more docile end of the musical spectrum, these solo keyboard arrangements of Björk’s songs emphasise the wonderful intimacy of her lyrics, in stark contrast to the often expansive and high-tech textures that populate the Icelandic superstar’s albums. Stylishly bound and visually seducing (the custom engraving, with its red and blue barlines and naively curled quavers, is quite touching), the collection offers the chance for anyone with some degree of keyboard skills to bash out these tunes in the privacy of their homes while singing along (vocal melodies and lyrics are included as well). To me, the main strength of the collection lies in its invitation to become an active participant in the re-creation of Björk’s music, offering a different perspective for Björk enthusiasts more accustomed to experiencing the music purely as a listener. It’s a Victorian living room revival for the modern era.
3. Cyril Scott, Selected Piano Works
Continuing the theme of Victorian living rooms (or Edwardian in this case), the piano works of Cyril Scott (1879 – 1970) paint a charming portrait of middle-class salons in the first decades of the 20th Century. Colourful, camp and a little bit saccharine, these pieces will delight anyone with a taste for the lighter side of Impressionism, coupled with nostalgia and some seriously singsong-y melodies (the Sonata op.66 strikes a more modernist tone). If I could think of an aural equivalent to the ITV period drama, this would surely be it!
Hopefully this small snapshot accurately reveals the wide range of interests of both students and staff at the College. It goes without saying that the Library is proud to respond to these diverse interests, by building a collection that reflects the needs of the RNCM community!
Most importantly, if there is some music, book or recording that you think would be useful to have in the library, do let us know, we’re always happy to order in new resources!