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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).

Bernstein at 100

When I was in grade school, our chorus teacher let us hear a record called What Is Jazz (DBM00704), where tone color, blue notes, syncopation, and other aspects of jazz were described by a man named Leonard Bernstein (I assumed that he was a jazz piano player). By sixth grade I was listening to classical music […]

Veterans Day and Armistice Day – Composers in World War I

This blog takes a look at composers who were affected by World War I and the music that they composed.

Celebrating that “Parisienne Gaiety”

When I was a teenager, I began learning about classical music by listening to radio programs in the evening. Often the shows would begin with an overture or “light classic”, such as the Light Cavalry Overture (which our school band played), or the William Tell Overture (the “Lone Ranger” to me). There was also a […]

Back to School: Method Books Edition (Part 2)

Last week, we detailed method books in the collection for wind instruments. This week, we are highlighting method books in our collection for string instruments and percussion, with some jazz method books thrown in for good measure! If there is anything here that could be useful to you or your student, please don’t hesitate to […]

Back to School: Method Books Edition (Part 1)

Although for most of us it still feels like the middle of summer outside, it is time for many folks to begin thinking about back-to-school, and the new books and supplies for the year. That, of course, includes books for music classes, band, and orchestra. In the past, we’ve discussed books for college students, and […]

BARD (Braille and Audio Reading Download)

Recently, I’ve been dismayed to hear some patrons say, “I know you don’t have such and such in your collection because I already checked on BARD.” After receiving a few of these comments, I realized that some of our patrons mistakenly believe that our entire collection is available on BARD.  I would like to use […]

Our Newest Books on (and off) BARD

Since it’s back-to-school time, many folks find themselves looking for new projects, new topics of interest, and new hobbies. I sincerely hope that many of you reading this are hoping to learn how to play music or your favorite song, improving your already extant musical skill, or maybe teaching yourself about some topic in music […]

A Trip Around the World with the NLS Music Section

Do you want to learn how to play piano? We have a book for you! Do you want the libretto for your favorite opera? We have that as well! Do you want to learn about folk music from around the world? Well, we also have books about that. Many patrons get to know us through […]