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

American Composers and Musicians from A to Z: E (Part 2 – Eyck, Jacob van)

This week we’ll break with our series a bit to discuss the life of a blind musician from outside of the United States.

Had someone mentioned a composer named van Eyck to me when I was a child, I might have guessed that he was born before or during World War II. When I heard the name last week, I thought he might be a contemporary composer. So when I looked him up on the Internet, I was amazed to discover that he was born in 1589 or 1590. And he became a flutist, carillonneur, and an expert on the casting and tuning of bells.

One of five children, Jacob was born in Heusden, a town in the Dutch province of Noord-Brabant. He was born blind, and his father died when Jacob was still a child. As a young man, van Eyck became fascinated with bells and carillons. At the time, Heusden had but one carillon, located in the tower of the town hall. Jacob learned about this instrument, and in January, 1622, he was hired to change the pegs in its mechanical drum., Occasionally, he was asked to play it. The next year he traveled to Utrecht, where he repaired the carillon in the Dom’s tower, then the highest building in Holland. 1624 found him again in Utrecht, doing repair work on the chimes at City Hall.

More and more people heard van Eyck play the carillon during these years, but then, as now, it was often difficult for a blind person to get a job. Nevertheless, in 1625, after difficult negotiations, he became the carilloneur at the Dom in Utrecht. This instrument had 12 bells; soon he acquired six more, tuned them, and added them to the carillon. This was followed, in 1626, by a trip to the Hague, where he improved the City Hall carillon. And in 1628 he became Directeur van de Klockwerken, entrusted with the care of all the carillons in Utrecht. Isaac Beeckman, a scientist from this period, wrote that “van Eyck knew how to isolate five ‘partials’ in one bell, and discovered how the sound is influenced by the shape of the bell.”

He also played the recorder and was hired to play in shopping areas to keep away troublemakers. It seems that a young musician, intrigued by Jacob’s beautiful variations on popular songs of the day, began writing down these improvisations. Eventually they were published as “Fluyten Lust-hof” (The Flute’s Pleasure Garden). Containing more than 140 pieces, it is one of the largest collections of pieces for any solo instrument.

Braille music readers may sample a portion of this collection by borrowing BRM33491, transcribed by Braille Press Zurich in 1991. In addition, we have two books regarding carillon: Fugue in G Minor (BRM22967), written for carillon as well as a book called Campanology: A Handbook for the Carillonneur (BRM22911).

Nashville Sound: Hargus “Pig” Robbins

Hargus “Pig” Robbins might be the most famous piano player you’ve never heard of, though you’ve likely heard his work. The National Conference of Librarians Serving Blind and Physically Handicapped Individuals will begin in a matter of days in Nashville, Tennessee, so today I want to tell you about a musician who is blind and […]

American Composers and Musicians from A to Z: D (Part 2 – Davis, “Blind” John and Dranes, Arizona)

Blind John Davis Blind John Davis was born in Mississippi in 1913, but moved to Chicago with his family at a young age.  He lost his sight shortly thereafter at age 9. He began to learn the piano as a teen, and later became a regular session musician for famous blues record producer Lester Melrose […]

Music City 101: NLS Heads to Nashville!

Last month country music legend Dolly Parton joined Librarian of Congress Dr. Carla Hayden in a presentation to celebrate the achievements of Parton’s book-gifting organization (video of the event available here). They announced that the Library of Congress Young Readers Center is partnering with Parton’s charity to provide a special series of story time events. […]

From Nigeria to Colombia: an Homage to Braille Music

I recently read a compelling blog post about a 2015 Pulitzer-winning historical fiction novel.  The blogger, a college professor who is blind, expressed her sadness and frustration about the book’s misrepresentation of blind people described through the actions and inactions of the book’s young blind heroine. The blogger also lamented how most sighted readers accepted […]

American Composers and Musicians from A to Z: C (Part 1 – Campbell, Francis Joseph)

The NLS Music Section is part of a national network of cooperating libraries.  With that in mind, we are in touch with the network when they have patrons who are interested in the materials provided by our section, and there is a nice spirit of cooperation between the network and our offices here in the […]

Braille Music Transcriber and Renaissance Woman, Karen Gearreald, Part 2

Continued from last week. Part 2 Q. What percentage of students who enroll in the program become LOC certified braille music transcribers? What are the most common obstacles to successfully completing the program? A. After concentrated study for a length of time ranging from several months to several years, about 50% of enrollees achieve certification […]

Braille Music Transcriber and Renaissance Woman: Karen Gearreald, Part 1

Part 1 Karen Gearreald has been an NLS patron since 1951, and when the Music Section was established in 1962, she enrolled for music services. She currently serves as a braille music advisor and instructor for the Library of Congress (LOC) Braille Music Transcription Certification program. While I initially contacted Karen to interview her about her […]

American Composers and Musicians from A to Z: B (Part 2 – Bischoff, John W.)

John Bischoff was an American composer and organist who worked at the First Congregational Church in Washington, D.C. from 1874 until his death in 1909. Blind since the age of two, Bischoff attended the Wisconsin School for the Blind and later studied singing and organ before moving to Washington, D.C. His obituary from the May […]

Aiming Beyond Graduation: Creating Inclusive College Music Courses for Blind and Visually Impaired Students, Part 2

This blog is a continuation of an interview with Chi Kim, instructor and professor at the assistive music technology (AMT) lab for blind and visually impaired students at Berklee College of Music.