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On September 2nd, 2015, I had the great privilege of conducting an oral history interview with John Chowning, Professor Emeritus at Stanford’s Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA). Chowning, a pioneer in the world of computer music, is perhaps best known as the inventor of Frequency Modulation (FM) synthesis. His discovery was eventually licensed to Yamaha who integrated it into a number of instruments, most importantly, the DX7, the world’s first mass-produced digital synthesizer, released in 1983. The DX7 is generally regarded as one of the most important musical instrument inventions of the past 50 years, and was widely adopted by artists across multiple genres in the 1980s. My interview with Chowning is now available via the Stanford Digital Repository (SDR). Chowning and I principally sat down to discuss Leon Theremin’s visit to Stanford in 1991, which Chowning organized and oversaw. Stanford University Libraries recently digitize video footage of this visit which included a day long symposium at CCRMA and an evening concert in Frost Amphiteatre at which Theremin, Max Mathews, and many other notable figures from the world of electronic and computer music at the time performed. However, Professor Chowning and I also discussed additional topics including Chowning's background in computer music, his history at Stanford and the inception of CCRMA, and his close personal and professional relationship with Max Mathews. 

The most visually striking part of a Welte-Mignon purple seal roll is its colorful leader. Seen below, it proudly displays the various awards that the company received from fairs and exhibitions around the world.

This includes the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition (PPIE), held in San Francisco to celebrate the completion of the Panama Canal and demonstrate San Francisco’s recovery from its 1906 earthquake. Held from February 20 - December 4, 1915, the fair welcomed over 18 million visitors in the current Marina District of San Francisco. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the PPIE, which the Bay Area celebrated with events and exhibits throughout 2015.

What was the role of Welte-Mignon at the PPIE? Did the company have its own exhibit? Could visitors watch the perforation of new rolls, learn about the recording process, or just enjoy a musical demonstration? 

Work on the Player Piano Project (PPP) continues at an impressive pace. Recent achievements include the completed cataloging, by Project cataloger Alyssa Hislop, of the Welte Mignon rolls in the Denis Condon Collection of Reproducing Pianos and Rolls, which can now be viewed in Searchworks; a full house at the project’s listening party last Friday; and most recently the launch of a subproject entitled the Piano Roll Scanner Project (PRSP). The PRSP formally marks the start of the digitization phase of the PPP. 

Music librarians from across California descended on the stately Brand Library & Art Center in Glendale at the end of October for our annual chapter meeting.  Presentations were given on a variety of current topics over two full meeting days. Topics included: a survey of student attitudes, behaviors, and knowledge of copyright as it affects music performance and study; how to develop a chamber music collection with strategic purchases; an introduction to the Center for New Music in San Francisco; creating a thematic catalog using Filemaker Pro; an introduction to the Women’s Song collection at UC Davis; progress on a longitudinal study of first-year music major information literacy skills; and a presentation on the nuts and bolts of the music appraisal business.

WILPF Exhibit Logo

Copies of numerous items from the Archive of Recorded Sound's Women's International League for Peace and Freedom Collection (ARS.0056) will shortly be on display at Rinconada Library in Palo Alto, CA as part of an exhibition entitled Women's Power to Stop War: Celebrating 100 years of Peacemaking. The exhibition with run November 12th - December 24th 2015 and is free to the public. 

There will also be a Exhibit Opening Event on Thursday this week (November 12, 2015) from 6:30-8:30pm in the Embarcadero Room at the Rinconada Library. At this event, WILPF members will speak about past and current local activities including inspiring oral histories by members. The infamous Raging Grannies will also lead attendees in song.

The Stanford University Archive of Recorded Sound has acquired the Richard J. Howe Mechanical Musical Instrument Literature Collection consisting of over 225 linear feet of publications and documents comprising more than 14,000 items. With this significant acquisition, Stanford Libraries will make available important primary source documents for research to support the newly launched Player Piano Project. The collection will be housed at the Stanford Archive of Recorded Sound, a leading music archive with over 400,000 items in its permanent collection. 

“Paling’s Reproducing Records” is not a publisher. Even though that company meticulously adhered their label over the original one (see below) on the container, Peter Phillips graciously let us know that Paling’s was actually a music store in Australia, not a publisher. It was one of several stores in Sydney and Melbourne where one could borrow a piano roll from a lending library for a few cents. This put some of the other stamps and labels seen on rolls into a different context.

“So, it’s the original karaoke machine?”

A recent visitor on a tour to the Archive of Recorded Sound made this comment to me as I showed off the roll I was cataloging. On plain beige paper, at first it looked like a regular piano roll. A label at the beginning. Expression and performance data perforations appeared as I unrolled the roll. Then, at the side: words! You can imagine gathering around the piano to sing along with a group of friends at a party, just as Stanford undergrads may have done at the Stanford Student Union in 1915 or Encina Commons in 1926.

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