On Tuesday, October 24, the Library of Congress will welcome Dr. Randall E. Goldberg, Director and Associate Professor of Musicology at the Dana School of Music of Youngstown State University, to present on “The Kishineff Massacre and Domestic Musical Practice in America.” As part of the American Musicological Society/Library of Congress Lecture Series, Dr. Goldberg’s evening lecture will showcase research conducted using the Music Division’s rich music collections. As always, the lecture is open to the public (you can register on Eventbrite). Want to know more before planning a trip to Capitol Hill? I asked Dr. Goldberg a few questions about both his lecture and how the Library of Congress factored into his research – take a look!
First, give us a synopsis of your topic and thesis.
This project began when I “inherited” a collection of 78 rpm records from the Youngstown Ohio Jewish Community Center. After studying those few dozen discs, I decided to create a database of all of the Jewish related 78 rpm records produced in America for which information was available. My file has just under 6,000 entries. One record in the initial collection that really interested me is Victor 68663 Die Kishinov Pogrom (1924), recorded by Nathaniel Shilkret and the International Concert Orchestra. The disc is marketed as a Yiddish Descriptive Overture, and I wondered why 1) Jews would want to hear a musical description of a massacre of Jewish people, and 2) what kind of music would be fitting for this composition?
These questions led me to the sheet music for Herman Shapiro’s “Kishineff Massacre” (1904), a work for solo piano, for which the score is available in the Library of Congress’s online collections. Although there are other Kishineff related works, Shapiro’s piece has been very useful for understanding the music one hears on the later record. Both works contain a set of short tableaux, and the descriptive titles on the sheet music help us understand the various sections of the recording, which contains no documentation or program notes. Furthermore, the sheet music appears to be loosely connected to a general campaign to raise awareness about the massacre and inspire activism or donations. Comparing the context of the printed music and the record is also an invitation to consider how the rise of the phonograph industry played a role in how consumers engaged with music that exists in both media.
How did you come to know about the Heskes Collection at the Library of Congress?
I have not been to the Library of Congress, but my research includes hours browsing the music in the Irene Heskes Collection of Yiddish American Sheet Music and other collections of American sheet music, newspapers in the Chronicling America database, and recordings in the National Jukebox. The printed catalog of the Heskes Collection has been invaluable for tracing the publication records of individual songs and composers.
Herman Shapiro used descriptive “battle” pieces for solo piano as a model for his descriptive Kishineff Massacre. The Historic Sheet Music Collection made it easy for me to view many “battle” pieces, which helped me clarify how Shapiro was adapting an established genre of popular instrumental music to create a new and affective musical work.
Were there any interesting surprises that came up in your Heskes Collection research?
The online collection has allowed me to study many musical artifacts created in response to the Kishineff and other pogroms and other works by Herman Shapiro (which will be discussed in my upcoming talk). In addition to notated music, most pieces of sheet music contain unique artwork, advertisements for other works, and other interesting addenda. Many of the surprises are found in the pages of the sheet music. E.g., the inside cover of Shapiro’s Kishineff Massacre includes a famous poem that inspired the music. The sheet music for Shapiro’s “Dr. Herzl Elegy” includes a “testimonial” from a concert in Louisville that helps me demonstrate how the publisher is marketing the music. All of these extra items help tell the story.