The following is a guest post from Senior Music Specialist Mark Horowitz who will be presenting a High Noon Lecture in the Whittall Pavilion on Tuesday, October 21. The talk is free and open to the public – click on the flyer below for more details.
Over the years I’ve done several talks at the Library, but always focused on a particular topic. When I was asked if I’d do another talk this year, it occurred to me that what I really wanted to do was share some favorite items that wouldn’t fit into a particular subject, but might work together as a table full of various desserts.
In twenty-three-plus years at the Library, I’ve had the opportunity to process and work with dozens of collections. In many cases, this means handling every item in a collection and, while handling, often one can’t help but scan and, when something catches your eye, read them. Now most researchers come here with their topics pre-selected, so it’s rare that a researcher will look through an entire collection, especially the larger ones. As a result, there are many wonderful things that are never even consulted. This is particularly the case where an item doesn’t relate to music. This is my chance to bring some of these things to light and, at the very least, entertain people.
The majority of these fun things are found in correspondence. When I first started at the Library my focus had been entirely on music and it hadn’t even occurred to me that archival collections might include significant amounts of other things. Well, they do. In some cases, there is much more non-music material in a collection than there is music – in fact, sometimes there is no music at all. Among those non-music items, correspondence is often the most delicious, as well as more likely to include non-music-related content.
Because there’s so much to choose from, as I write this, I still haven’t narrowed down exactly which items I’ll be sharing, but here are some of the possibilities:
Excerpts from letters by Martha Gellhorn – the extraordinary war correspondent and (much as she’d hate to be so categorized) one of Hemingway’s wives – to Leonard Bernstein. They have nothing to do with music, but are wise, funny, and often shocking.
- In our Vernon Duke Collection – the composer of such standards as “April in Paris” and “Autumn in New York” – there’s his account of a bizarre encounter with Salvador Dali, and the copy of a letter he wrote to his ex-fiancée that can only be described as eviscerating.
- There’s a letter from George Bernard Shaw to a nineteen-year-old Jascha Heifetz warning him about the risk he’s taking to his immortal soul.
- And for a change of pace, there are recordings of Barbra Streisand rehearsing with her musical director/arranger, Peter Matz, as they work on her Broadway Album.
I’m a lucky fellow, and there are few things more pleasurable than being able to share wonderful items that one was lucky enough to discover. So, if you can, come to the talk, “Things I Bet You Didn’t Know We Had…,” Tuesday, October 21st, at noon in the Whittall Pavilion. I think I can promise you a good time.
One of the few reasons I wished I lived in D.C. Based on what you have shared thus far I am sure the presentation will be interesting.