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Three Objects, Three Composers

Steve Swayne’s lecture, titled “Three Objects, Three Composers,” is now available on the Library’s YouTube Channel. In a public event hosted on June 9, Swayne, the 2022 Kluge Chair in Modern Culture, discussed the lives of three composers he has studied at the Library, both currently and during his visits over the last twenty years: Stephen Sondheim, William Schuman, and David Diamond.

Steve Swayne with one of the Library artifacts he presented at his event, “Three Objects, Three Composers”

Among the artifacts he discussed, Swayne highlighted a lacquered disk (pictured above) from the Library’s Collections. As is evident from the photograph, the disk is “exuding,” a process of degradation of the lacquer due to the passage of time and high temperatures, which can eventually make the information stored on a disk unrecoverable.

Using the card catalog of Sondheim’s recordings, a Schuman manuscript showing his work on a 12-tone composition, and the degrading lacquered disk, Swayne wove together stories from the three composers with anecdotes from his own life and archival work.

Historians of music are often engaged in a race against time, attempting to glean information from artifacts before they degrade.

This race against time is a challenge the Library addresses daily. In 2012, the Library released its “National Recording Preservation Plan” which documents recommendations and guidelines for the preservation of audio. Using this plan, the Library has sought to preserve the world’s audial heritage and to prevent the degradation of current holdings, such as those in the Recorded Sound Research Center. To access some of the digitized recordings available to the public, have a listen to the National Jukebox.

Swayne’s meticulous archival work highlights the treasures that can be found in the Library’s collections and the profound ways they have influenced our shared cultural history.


Announcing the 2020 Jon B. Lovelace Fellow

The John W. Kluge Center is pleased to announce that Camille Moreddu has been selected as the newest Jon B. Lovelace Fellow for the Study of the Alan Lomax Collection at the Library of Congress. Camille Moreddu is a French cultural historian from Paris-Nanterre University. She has researched the emergence of the concept of “American […]

The Pillars of Democracy

The major institutions in American society are in a moment of crisis. From the branches of government to religious and civic organizations, the media, and political parties, these key foundations of American life are less respected, less trusted, and less involved in forming the character of individuals than at any point in our history. The […]

Rishad Choudhury on Studying the Breakdown of Muslim Empires Through the Hajj

Rishad Choudhury is a Kluge Fellow as well as Assistant Professor of History at Oberlin College. He is currently working on a book-length project, ‘‘Hajj between Empires: Indo-Muslim Pilgrimage and Political Culture, 1739–1820.’’ Mike Stratmoen: Could you describe your project for us? Rishad Choudhury: My book on the hajj pilgrimage is set in an age […]

Patrick Andelic Answers Six Questions About His Scholarship and Experience as a Residential Scholar at the Kluge Center.

Patrick Andelic is a lecturer in American History in the Humanities Department at Northumbria University, Newcastle upon Tyne, as well as a 2020 Kluge Fellow, slated to begin his residency at the John W. Kluge Center in May of 2021. He was also an Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Fellow at the Kluge Center […]