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Summer Interns: Stepping In to Help Out

This summer the NLS Music Section was fortunate in having the pleasure of hosting not only one Junior Fellow, but two! Junior Fellows provide valuable services to Library of Congress staff by allowing a focus on a particular project for the benefit of the section and in turn providing experience for students in a professional setting.  This summer was especially challenging as the internships were functioning in a totally virtual environment. Lily Smith has researched and formatted liner notes for a variety of titles in the NLS Music Section. She provides insights into some of her new discoveries. Vivian Tompkins took on the challenge of converting digital braille music scores and highlights the results with an excellent example of a standard in the classical music repertoire. Below are summaries of their work with these projects.

Lily Smith

Lately, I’ve worked with the liner notes from the Smithsonian Folkways collection. While most of the notes I work with concern American folk music, I’ve also worked on some liner notes about music from other countries, such as The Music of St. Lucia (DBM04109.)

St. Lucian culture has rather frequent grand celebrations, with feasts, fireworks, and dancing for every holiday, milestone, and anniversary. A unique, uniform folk culture, formed from the combination of West Africa, France, and Catholicism, it infused secular daily life with religion. Such a high degree of cultural homogeneity on a small island (a bit smaller than New York City) meant that during these celebrations, the majority of the country’s population would take off work to participate. Music also deeply permeated daily life. Work groups called “ku dmã” sang work songs; singing clubs held “seances” or song meetings in the evenings; during November, improvised topical songs called “Kònt” (also called story-dances) were performed. I was charmed by these celebrations, fascinated by the distinctive, specific practices.

I found one such fete, called “A Bwẽ” (To Drink,) rather interesting. Aux Lyon, a village atop a steep mountain famed as a hideaway for practitioners of white rum distilling and witchcraft (an intriguing duo), hosted villagers to sing songs in “Frenchy-patois,” a hybridized language that adds French words and idioms to St. Lucian Creole. The songs were sung only once or twice throughout the year and, as a result, were imperfectly remembered and imperfectly sung.

Another village-specific fete is the Kutumba, a dance held at night in Vieux Fort. Only the Nèg Jiné (those who claim to be descended from the “Awandu” and “Angol” tribes in Africa) were allowed to participate. Kutumba songs are sung in a mixture of patois and African languages, the meanings unclear to even the Nèg Jiné themselves.

Vivian Tompkins

As an intern in the NLS Music Section, I am working with a set of digital braille music scores from the National Braille Association (NBA). My project involves converting these scores to an updated file format and creating catalog records for them so that they can be added to the NLS Online Catalog and to the Braille and Audio Reading Download (BARD) service. The selection of NBA scores features works by a wide range of composers, including Scott Joplin, Robert Schumann, Taffy Nivert, Johann Sebastian Bach, Paule Maurice, and Phil Collins, among many others. One composer represented in the selection who has a special anniversary this year is Ludwig van Beethoven. As many of the musicians and music lovers reading this blog may already know, 2020 marks the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth. It therefore seems especially fitting that I was able to convert the files for a full braille score of his Ninth Symphony. In working with this score, I gained a deeper understanding of some of the different formats in which braille music can be written. The braille transcription of the Ninth Symphony includes three formats: open score, line by line, and bar over bar. The orchestral score is in open score format, which shows the lines of braille music for each instrument in score order. For the solo vocal and chorus parts, line by line format provides a way to pair each line of braille music with its corresponding line of braille text. The choral score features bar over bar format, in which the text and the music for the choral parts are vertically aligned in distinct groups. Braille transcriber June Gow made use of all of these formats in her transcription of the Ninth Symphony, which is now available in the NLS Online Catalog and in BARD.

Beethoven, Ludwig van, Symphony No. 9 in D Minor, Op. 125. (BRM36858).

Full orchestral score of Symphony no. 9 in D Minor, op. 125 by Ludwig van Beethoven in open score format. Includes solo and chorus parts in line by line format, and choral score in bar over bar format.

If you would like to download the materials from BARDand need some guidance, or if you would like to explore more materials of the NLS Music Collection and learn about our service, please email us at [email protected], or give us a phone call at 1-800-424-8567, extension 2. We are happy to help and look forward to hearing from you.

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