Performing Arts in the Coronavirus Web Archive: Part 4

This post was originally written by , a Music Reference Specialist at the Library of Congress, for In the Muse: Performing Arts Blog.


In Part 1 of this series, I walked readers through Coronavirus Web Archive items within the theme of financial relief efforts in the performing arts. Part 2 of this series highlighted collection items related to medical and public health initiatives specific to performing arts communities. Part 3 of the series featured archived performance directories, calendars, and listings from the pandemic. This final post of the four-part series explores web archives that correspond to works in the Music Division’s Performing Arts COVID-19 Response Collection.

On July 12, 2022, Music Division Archivist Janet McKinney announced the release of a new finding aid for a hybrid collection in her blog post “Performing Arts COVID-19 Response Collection.” Hybrid collections are becoming the norm in archives and include both paper documents – like music sketches – and born-digital ones – such as PDF files. Janet leads our division’s ongoing working group to steward and review nominations to the Performing Arts COVID-19 Response Collection, which includes myself, Stephanie Akau, Vin Novara, and Morgen Stevens-Garmon.

The finding aid for this collection is the Music Division’s second finding aid to include web archives in the Related Materials section of the front matter (the first was the 10 Hairy Legs Dance Company Archive). Read this introductory section of the finding aid, and you’ll discover that records of many pandemic projects donated to the collection also have corresponding content in the Library’s Coronavirus Web Archive. In fact, archiving of this content predates the proposals to acquire the projects’ documentation by the Music Division! Let’s explore some of these web archives to learn how they can enhance your research experience with the Performing Arts COVID-19 Response Collection as well as serve as additional evidence in the historical record.

One of the most extensive acquisitions in the collection both in scope and variety of documentation is Broadcast from Home by Lisa Bielawa. Janet described the project and the composer’s process in her blog post. It was such a privilege for me to work with Lisa to acquire this project’s documentation for the Music Division and record her oral history video interview. But, our relationship actually began in 2020 when I obtained her permission to archive the page of her website related to the project.

Crawls began for Lisa’s Broadcast from Home page in May 2020 and ended in December 2021; you can currently view captures online for May 2020-2021. This means that as you go through captures within the Coronavirus Web Archive, you’ll see chapters of the composition get released to the public as if you’re watching the project grow in real time. For example, the first capture from May 19, 2020 only has Chapters 1-6 posted, versus the May 30, 2021 capture that contains all 15 chapters. What other changes in content do you notice? Note that the embedded SoundCloud files will not play in the Library’s Wayback interface; but, you can view all of the PDF files uploaded to the website for chapters through the links “TEXT / CREDITS.” You can also listen to the files Lisa donated to the Performing Arts COVID-19 Response Collection. Between the website captures and the documentation Lisa donated to the Music Division, we have a much more complete picture of how public this collaborative music composition really was in 2020.

Screen shot from the Coronavirus Web Archive of the May 19, 2020 capture of Lisa Bielawa’s Broadcast from Home project page.

Screen shot from the Coronavirus Web Archive of the May 19, 2020 capture of Lisa Bielawa’s Broadcast from Home project page.

The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and Cincinnati Pops Fanfare Project is a significant example of a group initiative preserved in the Music Division’s Performing Arts COVID-19 Response Collection with corresponding web captures in the Coronavirus Web Archive. Inspired by the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra’s 1943 premiere of Fanfare for the Common Man by Aaron Copland (for which manuscripts and sketches are here in the Aaron Copland Collection), the ensembles commissioned short solo works that featured their musicians. Videos recorded at home of the commissions premiered online. Commissioned composers with PDF scores, music notation files, and oral histories in the Performing Arts COVID-19 Response Collection are Michael Abels, Samuel Adams, Peter Boyer, Bryce Dessner, Jeffrey Mumford, Caroline Shaw, and Tyshawn Sorey. Crawls began after permission was granted in April 2021; currently, captures from May 5-July 7, 2021 are publicly available online. Not only can researchers have a more complete picture of the timeline for online premieres through the web captures, but they can also view scores and program notes which were not part of the donations to the Music Division. For example, the July 12, 2021 capture contains a PDF score for Fanfare for Moments of Courage for solo clarinet by Courtney Bryan. Just allow a bit of patience to let the page load in the Wayback! Like Broadcast from Home, there is currently a technical challenge with these captures – the embedded YouTube videos may not play back at this time.

Screen shot from the Coronavirus Web Archive of the first capture of the Creative Repertoire Initiative website from December 1, 2020.

Screen shot from the Coronavirus Web Archive of the first capture of the Creative Repertoire Initiative website from December 1, 2020.

Captures of the Creative Repertoire Initiative website especially provide greater context to the adaptable instrumentation compositions in the Performing Arts COVID-19 Response Collection by its co-founders Frank Ticheli and Julie Giroux, including a PDF of Ticheli’s “Steps for making an adaptable band arrangement of an existing score” from a March 4, 2021 capture.

Broadcast from Home, the Fanfare Project, and the Creative Repertoire Initiative aren’t the only new pandemic initiatives represented in both the Coronavirus Web Archive and Performing Arts COVID-19 Response Collection. Make sure you also explore the web archives that relate to the ARCO Collaborative’s Alone Together projectGratias Tibi by José Luis Domínguez for the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra and the Montclair University Singers, Full Pink Moon: Opera Povera in Quarantine, and Play at Home.

As a postscript, you can also find related web archives to Performing Arts COVID-19 Response Collection items other collections. Information about the Silkroad Artist Response Project is in archived captures of the Silkroad Ensemble website, which is part of the Performing Arts Web Archive. The LC Commissioned Composers Web Archive includes archived websites of several composers represented in the collection, such as Jeffrey MumfordTania LeónAnthony Cheung, and Dave Douglas. These websites were being crawled between one and three years prior to the pandemic, so see if you can build a larger context of creation by researching archived captures and seeing when evidence of pandemic projects appears in news announcements or works lists.

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