This is a guest blog post by Library of Congress Junior Fellow Analisa Caso. Analisa contributed to the NLS Music Section’s projects during the 10-week-long program. Analisa currently attends Simmons University in Boston, MA, earning a master’s degree in Library and Information Science.
Hello, all! My name is Analisa Caso and I am one of the Library of Congress Junior Fellows this summer, working with metadata about blind and visually impaired musicians in the NLS Music Section’s collection. Music has been a part of me for the majority of my life, all the way back to singing in choir from third grade through my senior year of college.
Throughout my educational experiences, it has become clear to me that accessibility is necessary. Accessibility benefits not only those with disabilities, but all people. It provides an environment where all have equal ways of accessing the same wants and needs.
My research and passion for accessibility began in an undergraduate English course called “Embodied Rhetorics.” The focus of the class was to read and learn about the experience of people based on their different “lenses.” One of the units focused on disability studies: how individuals with disabilities exist in their bodies and what struggles and triumphs they go through. The main project for the unit was to analyze a space on our campus to see how accessible it was, using the principles of Universal Design. It was shocking to see that even after the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, there can be so much more improvement to spaces.
After analyzing this demographic of people and spaces, my empathy and continued studies about people with disabilities became an essential part of my research and advocacy. When the opportunity came to intern with the Law Library at the Library of Congress in the summer of 2021, I was able to choose my research topic. My supervisor Jennifer Gonzalez mentioned that the Law Library’s blog did not have a ton of materials on disabilities studies, so I immediately got in on the idea and researched the many disability laws throughout history in the U.S., including copyright laws. I also researched developments in disability law abroad, especially in the EU.
The mention of the National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled (NLS) in one email from my supervisor got me completely hooked. I used the NLS website to research The Chafee Amendment and the Marrakesh Treaty, two critical copyright laws that ensure full access to books and other text-based materials for disabled people. Those who are blind or visually impaired can freely access written works in accessible formats without needing permission from federal regulations. You can learn more about the Marrakesh Treaty from this past post from NLS Music Notes.
All of these experiences in my education and internships came full circle when I combined my interests in the Junior Fellows Program this summer. Libraries, accessibility, and music—the perfect combination!
Accessibility can go back to basic, essential tasks that are so beneficial, such as using an online library catalog. Through working on my project, I have learned that blind and visually impaired musicians are not explicitly identified as such in the NLS Music Section’s catalog records. The main focus of my project was to enhance the NLS Music Section’s catalog records to support users in finding resources about these musicians. My project will support enhancing catalog records with additional metadata that identifies creative works of blind musicians (for you catalogers out there, I used MARC fields 386 and 650 to specify creator/contributor characteristics and topical subjects).
Having the ability to analyze these catalog records not only helped with the metadata, but it also allowed my Junior Fellow colleague Margot Cuddihy and me to discover a wide variety of blind musicians. Some of the most fascinating and talented women composers that I researched were Maria Theresia von Paradis (1759-1824) and Frances McCollin (1892-1960).
Maria Theresia von Paradis was an Austrian composer, singer, and pianist—she could really do it all! She was known to be friends with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Antonio Salieri, and visited with Marie Antoinette and George III. In the case of Mozart, she was a huge inspiration to his work. According to ClassicFM, “The Times of London contemporaneously called her ‘the Blind Enchantress.”
Four pieces of her work can be found on in the NLS Music Section’s collection:
Maria Theresia von Paradis. Sicilienne. For piano. Located in Guild Repertoire: Preparatory A, Piano Music Appropriate for the Auditions of the National Guild of Piano Teachers, selected and edited by Leo Podolsky in collaboration with June Davidson [i.e. Davison] and Ardella Schaub. (LPM00441)
The Glory of Cremona. Originally broadcast as a radio program, Mankind and Music. Host Mike Whorf tells the story of 250 years of superb violin making, beginning with the Amati family and followed by Guarneri and Stradivarius. Ruggiero Ricci, violinist, and Leon Pommers, piano, play the musical selections on several instruments created by Antonio Stradivari, Joseph Guarneri del Gesu, Andrea and Nicolo Amati, Carlo Bergonzi, Gasparo da Salo. Features Paradis’ Sicilienne. Reading time 58 minutes. (DBM00914)
Maria Theresia von Paradis. An das Klavier. For voice and piano; in German. Paragraph format. (BRM25208)
Maria Theresia von Paradis. Sicilienne. For violin and piano. Section by section and bar by bar formats. (BRM26596)
The well-known Sicilienne attributed to von Paradis was actually published by Samuel Dushkin, a Polish violinist and composer in the 20th century. According to New England Public Radio, “when the work first appeared in print, Paradis got credit as its composer, Dushkin as its editor. While Dushkin never admitted it, he almost certainly wrote the piece himself, basing it on a movement of a Sonata by Carl Maria von Weber.” In addition, this piece was performed at the Royal Wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in May 2018 by cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason.
Frances McCollin, on the other hand, was an American composer and musician who was the first woman to win the Clemson Prize from the American Guild of Organists. Some of her notable pieces, especially for choruses, can be found in the NLS braille music collection:
Frances McCollin. The Nights O’Spring. For SATB chorus and piano. (BRM04561)
__Snowflakes. For SSA chorus and piano in paragraph format. (BRM03575)
__O Robin, Little Robin. For SSA chorus and piano in paragraph format. (BRM03574)
__God’s Miracle of May. For SSA chorus and piano in paragraph format. (BRM03573)
These women composers were musical legends of their times. Their contributions to different types of music have impacted the way we listen to and talk about music today. Through this experience in the Junior Fellows Program, I have worked to make blind musicians like them more discoverable in the NLS catalog. Accessibility should be the absolute norm in every way, and I hope through the tools at NLS, more people will discover the creative work of blind musicians.
If you enjoyed learning about Maria Theresia von Paradis and Frances McCollin, you can utilize and enjoy these resources from the NLS Collection from this post. You can access many of our materials any time using Braille and Audio Reading Download (BARD) and BARD Access. To borrow music-related talking books on digital cartridge or hard copies of braille scores, please contact the Music Section either by phone at 1-800-424-8567, ext. 2, or e-mail us at [email protected].