{ subscribe_url:'/share/sites/library-of-congress-blogs/nls-music-notes.php' }

American Composers and Musicians from A to Z: A (Part 1)

The following is a guest blog post from the new section head of the NLS Music Section, Juliette Appold.

Have you ever thought about listing classical and contemporary composers by their last names from A to Z? How about identifying American composers from A to Z? And how about filling the alphabet with names of American composers and musicians who are visually impaired or blind? Let’s focus on the latter two challenges.

I would like to start this blog by talking about American composer John Adams who was born in Worcester, Massachusetts on February 15, 1947. He has been shaping American music and music history since the late 1970s. Adams was influenced by composers Philip Glass and Steve Reich, and adapted minimalist composition techniques including the use of consonant harmonies, repetition of musical motifs, gradual transformations, and steady beat. Adams’ own musical style is mostly post-minimalist.

John Adams at the Library of Congress in 2010 reading from his autobiography "Hallelujah Junction." Photo by Abby Brack Lewis, 2010.

John Adams at the Library of Congress in 2010 reading from his autobiography “Hallelujah Junction.” Photo by Abby Brack Lewis, 2010.

Among his most famous compositions are the piano pieces Phrygian Gates (1978) and Hallelujah Junction (for two pianos, 1996). His operas include Nixon in China (1987), Doctor Atomic and The Death of Klinghoffer (1991). He won the Pulitzer Prize for Music in 2003 and several Grammy Awards in 2005 for his work written in memory of 9/11: On the Transmigration of Souls, for orchestra, chorus and children’s choir. One of his more recent works is his dramatic symphony Scheherazade.2 for solo violin and orchestra (2015). John Adams was in residence at the Library of Congress in 2013.

To learn more about John Adams’ operas, check out:

Nixon in China (Opera)

The Death of Klinghoffer (Opera)

Doctor Atomic (Opera)

To learn more about John Adams’ life, check out his

Autobiography

From Loose Change to Reconciliation in Beethoven Quartets

Often the blogs we write have something to do with the calendar: a historic event, date of birth or death, etc. but this blog concerns a favorite topic of mine. Going through all the Robert Greenberg courses that the Music Section offers, I found one called “The String Quartets of Beethoven.” So I got the […]

Connections: Participating in Pride Month

Recently on June 9th-10th, I had the pleasure to present some treasures at the recent “Pride in the Library: LGBTQ+ Voices in the Library of Congress Collections” exhibit. This was in the Jefferson Building and there was great interest in what was on display.  The attendance record (2,365 visitors over three days) illustrates the level of […]

An American Classic: Irving Berlin

We’ve discussed show-tunes, Broadway, and the Great American Songbook on the blog before, but we have yet to talk about perhaps one of the most influential composers of American standards: Irving Berlin, who happens to celebrate his 129th birthday today. Along with penning a few Broadway scores, including the score for Annie Get Your Gun, […]

Ganne, Alford, Holst, and Others: Music of World War I

This April marks the 100th anniversary of the United States’ entry into World War I. The Library of Congress is commemorating that significant anniversary with exhibits, publications, and other various activities. As part of this commemoration, the NLS Music Section was asked to provide braille music for blind visitors. While going through the collection, we […]

Liessens Music Writer, Part 1

A few weeks ago, I read a discussion on a listserv about different ways for blind musicians to notate and print music. There were many helpful suggestions, mostly on music notational software.  As the discussion participants noted, these software can be costly and require tech savvy to use. This post is about a music notation […]

Celebrating Black Composers

In honor of Black History Month, this blog post will highlight materials in the music section that are written by or about African American composers. These composers wrote in many styles, including popular, Western classical, jazz, gospel, and more. Here is some music by three Black composers that we have available in our collection. Harry […]

A Miniaturist and More

For many music lovers, the end of January brings to mind two birthdays: Mozart’s on the 27th, and Schubert’s on the 31st. Could a composer born between these two giants, end up being overlooked? Perhaps. It was while preparing my blog about the Viking Opera Guide (BRM29585) that I learned that the 29th of January […]

A Four Hour Concert in an Unheated Hall

On this day, over two hundred years ago, a historic concert took place. It was in Vienna, in the middle of the Advent season, and Beethoven needed some money. “But, Beethoven,” you would say, “surely he was doing fine! He is Beethoven! Everyone loves him!” However, in Vienna in 1808, just because everyone loved you […]

Never Too Late!

Forty-three years ago patron Dianne Phelps earned her Music Education degree at Eastern New Mexico University. She faced difficult challenges with her partial vision at the time and struggled with some of the faculty, reluctant to award her a degree. Thankfully, she prevailed. Afterwards, she had a keyboard and was frustrated as she was not […]