Snell Classicism

     Because I’ve had the tune of Ravel’s “Bolero” trapped in my head all day, and because my interest in classical music has been growing steadily over the past two or so years, with the past few months constituting an outburst, I think it’s high time for me to write about Snell Library’s relationship with classical music.     I blogged about our resource Naxos at the end of June; that online library is a classical music fan’s dream come true. But it is just one of the numerous classical music resources in the library, and I am including digital resources and hard-copy resources. What are they called in this case? That’s right. CDs. Except there’s more than just CDs.    Just as an example, let’s take one of the most famous composers of all time, Mozart. In our collections, we have books on Mozart, including Mozart on the Stage, by John A. Rice. This book is a standard historical study of Mozart and his compositions. We also have a book with the bizarre title, Mozart and the Whale: an Asperger’s Love Story, by Jerry and Mary Newport. This is a memoir of two people with Asperger’s syndrome who fell in love, seemingly not having much to do with Mozart at all. But it shows how embedded his name is in our consciousness that his music is now mentioned alongside developmental disorders (and I’ve heard his music is actually believed to improve cognitive functioning).       Moving beyond books, we have movies; In Search of Mozart is one of those documentaries with a rather cliched title that simply narrates the life of Mozart, through interviews with various important people. Another movie called Destination Mozart: A Night at the Opera with Peter Sellars is a documentary about American theater director Peter Sellars’ controversial staging of several Mozart operas. But if you don’t care for non-fiction, if you don’t care for facts, and if you just want to listen to the damn music, then there are the CDs. The alliteratively titled Mozart for Morning Meditation: a Serene Serenade for the Soul sounds like it could be kitschy, but what music written by Mozart could be anything other than highly catchy and polished-sounding? He was the Brian Wilson of classical music. (Or I suppose I should say, Brian Wilson was the Mozart of pop music.)    If you don’t want Mozart, then we have numerous other composers available: there is one CD by the Klinger Quartet in which they play music by Bach, Mendelssohn, Beethoven, Schumann and Mozart, amongst others. We’ve got Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, Vivaldi, Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story, plus more movies and books on classical music and musicians like Shine and Why Classical Music Still Matters by Lawrence Kramer.         Classical music does still matter. It set the template for (virtually) all western music that followed. And although ‘Classical’ is technically a term that only refers to one period of art history, it all seems classical, traditional, rule-abiding to us these days–but if you check out enough of these resources, you’ll realize it doesn’t always sound that way. Even Frank Zappa, when he played “Bolero” on guitar in concert, knew that classical music still did have verve and purpose. And “Bolero” is still stuck in my head.

Interested in listening to music?

While the Library has a number of different academic resources, some can be enjoyed for non-academic reasons too.  I think the Naxos Music Library is a good example of this.  Even out side of music, history and art classes, you can take pleasure in listening to over 85,000 tracks while studying.  As a bonus, it is a resource also available to our alumni users.  You can search by genres such as Classical, Jazz, Pop and Rock, World, and even Relaxation Music.  I think one of my favorites is Ravel’s Bolero.  Try searching and see what you find!