A couple of weeks ago, I was fortunate to be able to attend the joint international conference of IAML/IMS (International Association of Music Libraries, Archives and Documentation Centres/International Musicological Society) which was held at the Juilliard School at the Lincoln Center, New York.
“Music Research in the Digital Age,” was the theme of the joint New York conference, which not only focused attention on the past, present, and future of digital musicology, but also evokes a long tradition of cooperation between the International Musicological Society and the International Association of Music Libraries, Archives, and Documentation Centres. The conference included a celebration of RILM’s 50th anniversary.
Situated mainly in the Juilliard School, with a few other nearby locations, such as the New York Public Library, the conference offered a full programme of talks, exhibitor demonstrations and plenty of time to network. Participants came from around the world – as it was my first time of attending, I was given a mentor from an American university who was very helpful in making sure I knew where I was going and suggesting talk themes.
It was hard to choose between concurrent sessions sometimes, but I did get to attend some very interesting ones:
The Library of Congress’ digital archive “Songs of America” is a fascinating collection exploring American history through song, using maps, recordings, videos, sheet music, essays, biographies, curator talks and a timeline. It is proving immensely popular with teachers – for example a history project on the building of the railroads can link to songs sung by the workers.
A session on how a music librarian and a conductor prepare ballet music looked at the interaction between them, and the fact that the music is constantly changing after every rehearsal. The librarian must ensure that the parts reflect each adjustment in a very short timescale! Matthew Naughtin, Music Librarian of the San Francisco Ballet was in conversation with Charles Barker and David LaMarche, conductors of the American Ballet Theatre.
Many more presentations focused on digitisation projects – mostly with bigger budgets than we will ever have, but all with the aim of making their collections available to a wider audience. Other sessions looked at ways to encourage students to make full use of such digital resources, with music librarians taking the lead in offering teaching sessions often built into the curriculum. Librarians spoke about making full use of their cataloguing skills to describe their projects – in the case the Glinka Museum‘s collection of original Tchaikovsky manuscripts, which detail the type of paper used, widths of staves, medium (eg. ink or pencil), since Tchaikovsky wrote the notes only in black ink, with all other marks, slurs, tempo and dynamic indications written in graphite pencil.
On the social side, a highlight was a Circle Line sightseeing cruise around Manhattan Island, (sponsored by RILM, RIPM, RISM, and RIdIM) in honour of RILM’s 50th Anniversary. This cruise offered a great view of many of New York’s best sights from the water, including the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.
An optional tour to the 9/11 Memorial Museum was an outstanding memory – this memorial has been constructed sympathetically to honour the memory of those who lost their lives. The “footprints” of the North and South towers of the World Trade Center have been reconstructed as memorial fountains with the names of all those who lost their lives commemorated in the brass surrounds.
Finally, the conference dinner would not have been complete without the Music Library Association Big Band – so many librarians with musical talent, enjoying themselves playing “New York, New York”!