Music Library Association / Northern California Chapter
Vol. 12, no. 1 (Fall 1997)

Chapter Website Up And Running

Michael Colby

The Northern California Chapter of MLA now has a functioning web site. Those with web access needn't waste their time reading this article -- simply take a look at it at:

For those lacking web access (or those with slow connections and lacking the patience to wait for the damn thing to load) however, here is a description of the chapter web site. It contains the following:

Michael Colby (UC Davis) is currently serving as the webmaster for this site. He will be happy to add any appropriate items brought to his attention.

Sheet Music: A Window on 19th-Century California

LSCA (Federal Library Services and Construction Act) Title III-4,85, Fiscal Year Oct. 1, 1996 to Sept. 30, 1997


Professor Mary Kay Duggan of the University of California, Berkeley, was awarded a federal LSCA grant (Oct. 1996-Sept. 1997) through the California State Library that will place digital images of sheet music published in 19th-century California on the World Wide Web.

Sheet music publishing began in the news state of California in 1852 and was from its beginnings a pictorial, textual, and musical record of the multi-cultural, multi-lingual world community that poured into the state and its principal city, San Francisco.

The sheet music, together with ancillary material (photographs, programs, publisher's catalog, broadsheets, etc.), are being cataloged by Steve Repasky in MARC for RLIN. Each record create a union catalogue of holdings of participating institutions, with copy-specific information in tag 852 and URL in tag 856. Access to sheet music cover images is provided through terms of the Library of Congress Thesaurus of Graphic Materials. The MARC records are translated to markup language for the World Wide Web through a program of Prof. Ray Larson (School of Information Management and Systems, Univ. of Calif., Berkeley) and are searchable through Larson's state-of-the-art search engine, Cheshire II at the project Web site


The material for the Project is being digitized by Joan O'Connor and Brian Pierini at the following participating institutions: Music Library and Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley; California State Library; San Francisco Public Library; San Francisco Performing Arts Library & Museum; California Historical Society; Oakland Public Library; Oakland Museum; Music Library and Special Collections, University of California, Los Angeles; New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.

Sheet music speaks a language distinct from hardback books or newspaper text, a language that maintains dialects, partisanship, ethnic culture and bigotry, sensationalism, and humor. In an era of a piano in every parlor, editions ran to tens of thousands. The factors that make California a different culture and society can be traced in the musical record of life in the instant city of the West. The project's impact can bring an understanding of that culture, as important to America as the better-known history of eastern cities such as Boston and New York.

By August, 1997, the project had digitized 1300 items or about 8,000 images, at 400 dots per inch, color where called for, grey scale for black and white. All images are available on the Web on the UC Berkeley campus. Cataloged items with links to images are available on the project web site (see above), Melvyl on the Web ( and Eureka on the Web (by subscription). Telnet versions of Melvyl and Eureka include URLs for images.

Funding to allow access to sound was not awarded, but proposals for further development are in process.

Fall Meeting - October 16, 1997

The Northern California Chapter and the Southern California Chapter of MLA will hold a joint meeting on Friday October 17 at San Francisco State University from 9:00 A.M. to 3:00 P.M. in the de Bellis Collection on the 6th floor of the Library.

The meeting will include a tour of the de Bellis Collection and brief concert / lecture by John Khouri on the recently restored Clementi forte-piano.

See the back page of the newsletter for the schedule and registration form.

Two Tantalizing Tenors MLA/NCC Co-Sponsors ALA Program in San Francisco

Judy Clarence
Attendees at the American Library Association's Annual Conference in San Francisco in June had a unique opportunity to hear Andrew Farkas, Library Director of the University of North Florida's Thomas G. Carpenter Library and a noted music biographer, talk about his work.

The room was packed as Mr. Farkas, hosted and introduced by Opritsa Popa of UC Davis in this program co-sponsored by MLA/NCC and by the ALA International Relations Round Table, intriguingly and entertainingly described the processes by which he co-created biographies of Jussi Bjorling (with Bjorling's daughter Anna-Lisa) and of Enrico Caruso (with Enrico Caruso, Jr.). Farkas interspersed his lively narrative with recorded examples of Caruso and Bjorling in opera and recital.

Biography, said Farkas, has taken over the publishing field. Readers are eager to find out what the subject of a biography was really like, what the person contributed to the field and how he or she advanced through their career. The biographer must sort through the data, separate fact from fiction and rumor, and "leave no tombstone unturned." Facts must be checked and re-checked. (Playbills and programs, for example, which would appear to be reliable sources of information may in fact contain inaccuracies. A singer scheduled to perform on a particular evening may actually have canceled due to illness or other circumstances.) Even birthdates may be in question. Caruso's father reported his son's date of birth to the local authorities as several days later than it actually was. He was slow in reporting, and wanted to avoid the inevitable fine!

Research- - even for a librarian- - can be frustrating. Farkas described a query he sent to a library in Paris asking if they had information on Bjorling. Yes, they did. Farkas went all the way to Paris, only to discover that the "information" they held was a file whose sole contents consisted of a letter from another researcher requesting materials about Jussi Bjorling!

Farkas interviewed family, friends, and colleagues of his subjects. Often their stories differed, or conflicted. Farkas, as the biographer, had to resolve or explain these conflicts, or opt to omit the controversy altogether. Less than savory aspects of his subjects' lives (Bjorling drank heavily; Caruso enjoyed many extra-marital affairs) had to be handled delicately but honestly. And, again, misinterpretation of facts can lead to gossip. A prominent opera expert stated on a Metropolitan Opera intermission feature a few years ago that Bjorling once appeared at an opera performance so drunk he could barely stand up. Upon checking the facts, Farkas found that Bjorling in this instance was suffering from the flu and a high fever, but was not inebriated. The task is to present material in a "scholarly but readable fashion" (the two, says Farkas, are not mutually exclusive), and to document and cite everything. Throughout his talk, Farkas' deeply-rooted sense of integrity concerning the accuracy of his accounts was evident.

Asked how he was able to hold down a demanding full-time job as a library director while producing two scholarly and readable biographies, Farkas answered that he spent all his evenings and weekends writing and doing research. Each book took five years. There will be no more biographies, Farkas stated emphatically. Now it's time to relax and enjoy life.

Enrico Caruso: my father and my family / by Enrico Caruso, Jr. & Andrew Farkas; chronologies by Thomas G. Kaufman; discographies by William R. Moran and Richard Koprowski ; bibliography by Opritsa Popa. Portland, Oregon: Amadeus Press, c1990.

[Note: This book is now out of print, but a slightly abridged version will be reissued soon.]

Bjorling, Anna-Lisa Jussi / by Anna-Lisa Bjorling and Andrew Farkas; chronology by Harald Henrysson. Portland, Oregon.: Amadeus Press, c1996.

Minutes of the Business Meeting, April 4, 1997

Prepared by Patricia Elliott
Chair Judy Clarence opened the business meeting by asking for announcements and approval of the minutes of the Fall 1996 meeting. Secretary-Treasurer Patricia Elliott stated that the Chapter's account balance stood at $1,149.

MLA National Board Report:

Mimi Tashiro reported on the meeting of the Board which took place in New Orleans. Mimi is in her second year as a member-at-large, and Michael Colby was elected in 1997 to the same position. Other Chapter members who are appointed to MLA Committees include Mary Kay Duggan (Library School Liaison Subcommittee to the Education Committee), Phil Schreuer (MLA Web Site Subcommittee to the Publications Committee, also editor of the Music Cataloging Bulletin), and Judy Tsou (Ad Hoc Chapter Committee). Membership is now a full-fledged committee of the MLA, which will be concentrating on individual memberships due to a steady decrease over several years. Mimi also mentioned potential programs for the 1998 meeting in Boston, including plenary sessions on Boston music collections and "techno-stress," and possible tours of the Northeast Document Conservation Center, WGBH studios, or music instrument makers' shops.

Freeman Travel Fund:

The first three Freeman Travel Fund awards were granted to students attending the New Orleans meeting. Judy Tsou is chair of the Freeman Fund committee, which is now accepting applications for the 1998 meeting [the deadline was July 15, 1997].

Joint meeting with SCC:

Plans for the joint meeting with the Southern California Chapter for Fall 1997 were briefly discussed. Possible venues included return trips to the San Francisco Public Library or the De Bellis Collection at San Francisco State, or a tour of the newly-renovated San Francisco Opera House.

Chapter Web Page:

Michael Colby was thanked in absentia for his work on the Chapter web page. Some suggestions for enhancement of the homepage included links to and from the MLA clearinghouse and an internal link back to the main NCC page from all linked pages; links to other home pages of MLA/NCC member institutions; a list of officers; a page on membership; information on the Freeman Travel Grant; local job listings; and music graphics.

Election of officers:

Newly-elected officers are Deborah Smith, San Francisco Conservatory of Music (Vice-Chair/Chair-Elect) and Susan Bogas, St. Mary's College (Secretary- Treasurer).

The meeting concluded with the usual Round Robin and thanks to Vice-Chair Sally Berlowitz for hosting the meeting at the De Bellis Collection, San Francisco State University.

1998 Music Library Association Meeting

The Musical Library Association's annual meeting will be held February 9 - February 15, 1998 at the Park Plaza Hotel.

Plenary sessions include: "Boston Music Collections," "The Future of Co-operative Cataloging," and "Technostress and Music Librarians" - the latter featuring a psycho-therapist and an industrial hygeinest.

A draft of the complete meeting schedule can be found on the internet at:

Music Library Association
Joint Meeting
Northern California Chapter / Southern California Chapter
Fall 1997

The Northern California Chapter and the Southern California Chapter of MLA will hold a joint meeting on Friday, October 17 at San Francisco State University in the de Bellis Collection on the 6th floor of the Library (see the accompanying map).

Schedule for the day:

9-9:30 -- Coffee, Juice, Bagels, etc.
9:30-10 -- Introductions
10:10-11:30 -- Brief lecture and concert: John Khouri on the recently restored Clementi forte-piano
11:30-1 -- Lunch
1-3 -- Tour of the de Bellis Collection and Business Meeting
Please call the de Bellis Collection at 415-338-1649 or e-mail by the end of September if you need a parking permit. Parking without a permit at San Francisco State is nearly impossible. Hope to see you in October.
_________________________________ To register, please clip and mail or mail this form, or else phone or e-mail:
Sally Berlowitz
deBellis Collection
J.Paul Leonard Library
San Francisco State University
1630 Holloway Ave.
San Francisco CA 94132
(415) 338-1649
FAX: (415) 338-6199
Phone No.__________________________________
E-mail address_______________________________