Treasures to have and to hold at the Loeb Music Library

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Students who attended “Treasures of the Loeb Music Library,” a Wintersession event hosted by Library Assistant Peter Laurence, Reference and Digital Program Librarian Kerry Masteller, and Music Reference and Research Librarian Liza Vick, arrived at the Merritt Room to a cross-section of the library’s rare recordings, medieval manuscripts, annotated scores and early edition songbooks.

“The best part of a special collections open house is telling students they can turn the pages,” said Masteller.

At her encouragement, a participant flipped through the heart-shaped “Chansonnier De Jean De Montchenu,” a facsimile of a 15th-century collection of French and Italian secular music bound in red velvet.

Another paused at a set of three 1930s albums from the Timely Recording Company. The rare albums feature labor songs and artwork connected to the Communist Party, including compositions by Hanns Eisler and words by Berthold Brecht. Not long after the records were produced, growing concerns about the label’s leftist ties led its founder to deny he created the materials.

“They’re really unique,” Laurence described. “These were the first three ever published on the label.”

Other items on display hinted at the scope of the library’s collection. A 1609 score written for qin, a Chinese musical instrument, is one of 19 in existence, and underwent conservation during the Qing Dynasty.

Also showcased was a more recent transcript of Bulgarian music as collected by Martha Forsyth in the early 1980s.

“It’s interesting to look at even if you don’t understand all the words,” said Vick.

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