Arthur Bliss 125

Sir Arthur Edward Drummond Bliss by Mark Gertler oil on canvas, 1932 NPG 5305 © National Portrait Gallery, London

Sir Arthur Edward Drummond Bliss
by Mark Gertler
oil on canvas, 1932
NPG 5305
© National Portrait Gallery, London

August 2nd 2016 is the 125th anniversary of the birth of Sir Arthur Bliss. At the University Library, we are celebrating this with a music corridor exhibition (opening first week of August 2016) focusing on three major strands: Bliss as a composer, the Battle of the Somme and Bliss’s legacy today.

At MusiCB3, we have shared quite a few Bliss related posts that highlight various aspects of the life and work of Arthur Bliss and of the collections held at the Bliss Archive, bequeathed to Cambridge University Library by Lady Bliss.

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Digital scanning, picnics, creating displays, tours and sample lectures: Work Experience Students 2016

These past two weeks, the Pendlebury Library of Music has once again played host to some Year 10 work experience students who are studying at local schools.  Here’s a taste of what they got up to…
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Wild goose chases: musical games

Whilst classifying books for UL stock a few days ago, I came across a pile of books in French. They were originally part of the IAML library, and were all on various aspects of music librarianship. My knowledge of French is minimal non-existent, and my normal tactic would be to try and get these dealt with and off my desk as quickly as possible, without lingering to flick through them much or trying to decipher more than I needed to. This time, however, one of them seemed worth trying to decipher in a bit more detail, as this fell out of the back of it:

goose game 1

Le jeu de l’oie de l’edition musicale

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Songs of desolation II

In last week’s blog post we looked at the popular music that was being published in Britain during the first half of the First World War. By 1916, songs published in the UK were moving away from the more militaristic music that had been popular at the outbreak of war, with comic songs and musical theatre keeping people’s spirits up. Much of the music contained in the boxes in the UL’s basement, by the middle period of the war, is by Ivor Novello; whose music had swiftly gained prominence after the early success of Keep the home fires burning (M290.a.90.524 (item no. 62)) .

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Songs of desolation I

March of the Recruits from 1915. A1915.226

March of the Recruits from 1915. A1915.226

July 1st 2016 marks the centenary of the Battle of the Somme. The first day of the battle remains the most costly single day in British military history  with around 20,000 deaths, and a further 40,000 casualties. The Somme was costly too in terms of musical lives – Arthur Bliss was wounded on the 7th July, his brother, Kennard, to whom Morning Heroes would be dedicated, died in September. Gordon Jacob also lost a brother at the Somme. George Butterworth, a rising star of British music, died; while Ivor Gurney‘s physical wounds were little compared to the deep mental wounds that would lay a dark shadow over the rest of his life. There is more about the Somme and musicians here.

At the UL we’re lucky enough to receive music under the Legal Deposit Act. This means that we receive a vast amount of popular music. On the anniversary of the Somme, I was interested to discover whether the shocking events of that bloody year, altered the nature of the songs that people were singing at home and in the trenches, so I headed to the basement…

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Hans Keller the storyteller

Portrait of Hans Keller by Milein Cosman, found in a notebook from the early 1950s. © Cambridge University Library. Published with the kind permission of the Cosman Keller Art and Music Trust.

Portrait of Hans Keller by Milein Cosman, found in a notebook from the early 1950s. © Cambridge University Library. Published with the kind permission of the Cosman Keller Art and Music Trust.

Tucked away in the Hans Keller Archive here at the University Library is a cache of material from the early years of Keller’s career, much of which has, so far, not yet seen the light of day: his literary writings and aphorisms. There are about 30 short stories – many of them less than 500 words – in English and German, some of which were entries for competitions run by journals aimed at the emerging writer.

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Music and Science

Exploring the relationship between music and science is a vast area of research which has evolved significantly over the past centuries.

Pythagoras. Detail from Kircher's Musurgia Universalis. Frontispiece

Pythagoras.
Detail from Musurgia Universalis. Frontispiece

The obvious place to start is in Ancient Greece in the 6th century BC with Pythagoras, who has been credited with establishing the numerical basic of acoustics and the theory of numerical ratios. These concepts have led to a line of thought focussed on music as a mathematical science, concerned with ratios of musical intervals, the development of the monochord, and the concept of music of the spheres, where (perfect) harmonic intervals are explained as and considered to be reflections of the perfect harmonies and the order of the cosmos. Continue reading

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