My name is Jim Cowen and I am the new Music Reference Librarian at the University Libraries. Since I started in the middle of Fall 2014, I thought I would take the start of this new semester as a chance to introduce myself. As a University of the Arts School of Music Class of 2001 alumnus, and a previous University Libraries employee from about 2001-2006, I am thrilled to be back here at UArts in my new capacity.
I will be working out of the Music Library, which is located on the third floor of the Merriam Theater building. I welcome visitors at any time to help with reference queries, give a tour, or just to say hello. Appointments are always welcome too, but certainly not needed. My office may be in a dark corner of the library, but my door is always open! I am developing expertise in our streaming audio and video databases and would love to show those to you.
In addition to providing reference in the Music Library, I’ll bring the show to you: if you ever need in-class instruction in Library services, just let me know. This is especially true for the School of Music and the Ira Brind School of Theater Arts, since I am your new library liaison. Any time you have questions about library services and resources, or wish to arrange research instruction sessions, please drop me a line. I truly look forward to working with you.
Random fun facts…
I still have pretty much every action figure I have ever owned since childhood, and I am still buying more. Recent acquisitions:
I have two awesome cats, Butters and Tuxedo. Can you guess which one is Tux?
I used to wear make-up and play in an eighties hair metal cover band.
Related fun facts…
Finishing up my MLIS from Drexel University
Libraries at which I have worked:
Rowan University Music Library
Ocean County College Library
Collingswood Public Library (intern)
Ocean County Library
You made it to the end! Awesome.
Enjoy the rest of your day,
Music Reference Librarian
The University of the Arts, University Libraries
320 S Broad St ~ Philadelphia PA 19102
email@example.com ~ 215.717.6293 ~ Fax: 215-717-6287
We are pleased to announce a new series of free limited edition pins for the UArts community. Philly Jazz Masters will focus on famous jazz musicians who were born, lived in, or made their careers in our great city of Philadelphia. Each pin comes with a QR code linking to library resources.
The first pin in this series is of Billie Holiday, from her Giants of Jazz album cover. There are only 25 pins available of this type. Visit either of the UArts Libraries and get yours!
To listen to Billie Holiday’s recordings or learn about her life, visit the UArts Music Library on the third floor of the Merriam Building!
A new arrival at the Music Library, We Want Miles: Miles Davis vs. Jazz is a comprehensive and engrossing look at the life and times of Davis and the enormous contributions he made to the world of jazz. Further, it’s a fascinating look into the era that Davis’ music sprang from, telling an important story not only in musical history but in social history as well.
The books spans the story of Davis’ career, telling the tale of his early life in St. Louis, his nights in New York clubs, and his long recording career, in which he played with many greats of his era, always exploring new styles and pushing boundaries. We’re given a tour of how Davis helped define bebop, and went on to pioneer cool jazz, hard bop and modal jazz. Later he embraced new styles like rock and jazz fusion. Interesting, unsavory, sweet, and often gritty, Davis’ story is a window on the experience and trials of life as both a black man and a jazz musician in this period.
We Want Miles is a beautiful book in and of itself, using numerous devices to capture the reader. Large vibrant photos accompany the text on almost every page, immersing the reader in the visual and historical context of the story (the book was originally published in French to accompany an exhibition by the Musée de la Musique, Paris, and The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in 2009-2010). Anecdotes by people who worked with or knew Davis often supplement the central narrative, which refresh the reader and give the story personal depth. The narrative is a chronology of Davis’ life told as an almost intimate story, written with all of its deserving ingredients, heat, and spice. This style whets the reader’s palate for more rather than drying it with an overly clinical style of academic writing.
In short, We Want Miles feels part biography and part ethnomusicology, a book for studying but also one for storytelling, a look at an important life in music history – jazzed up.
The hammered dulcimer is a musical instrument which is an object of fascination here at UArts Libraries, as we now have two new staff members who are players, myself being one of them! This instrument has been used for centuries in various forms and has ancient roots, and yet its enchanting sound can still hold modern audiences in awe. Questions often abound when people come within earshot of the dulcimer. Many feel beguiled by its sounds but are unfamiliar with the outlandish contraption producing them. Here, then, is a quick history and guide to this remarkable instrument, written in hopes that the UArts community will be just as fascinated by the dulcimer as we are!
So what is this thing, and where is the hammer? The instrument itself is a trapezoidal box with two main bridges (though some contain several smaller bridges), with strings strung lengthways over one of the bridges while diving under the other. The highest pitches are located on the narrower upper part of the instrument, and the lower pitches toward the wider bottom. Dulcimers come in many sizes and ranges, with some being diatonic and others fully chromatic. No matter the size, they all have a plethora of strings, with each note being double-stringed. My own personal dulcimer has 64 strings. Knowing that, you can probably imagine that tuning can take a while, as each string terminates at a tunable peg. These instruments are played with mallets, referred to as hammers. This feature gives this instrument its distinction in nomenclature from another dulcimer – the Appalachian dulcimer, which, though beautiful in of itself, is unrelated to the hammered dulcimer in terms of development.
The North American hammered dulcimer’s roots are a subject of debate. Some claim that the instrument derives from an older European native, while others contend that the instrument’s ancient origins stem from the Middle-East. Most agree, however, that the dulcimer began as a plucked instrument and gradually transformed into one which is now hit by mallets. The English word for the instrument, “dulcimer”, comes from “dulce melos”, Latin for “sweet sounds” (the same word “dulce” as in the drink “dulce de leche”). As previously mentioned, the “hammered” in dulcimer comes from calling the mallets it’s played with “hammers”, and is not, as some suspect, a reference to the player’s state of intoxication. The dulcimer crossed the Atlantic with the very first English colonizers of North America. Here, it became a common instrument in dance and string band music, acting as primarily a chording instrument. As its development continued, it became the basis for the harpsichord and later, the piano. When affordable pianos came into the mainstream during the late 19th century, both Europe and the US saw a decline of interest in dulcimers. However, since the folk revival of the 1960s, dulcimers are now back on the scene… albeit in an abbreviated niche role.
Today, many dulcimerists specialize in traditional British and Celtic music, fairly similar to what early Euro-Americans would play. Many players can be seen at events such as Renaissance faires, historical reenactments, folk festivals, and even an Irish music session or two. Some of today’s dulcimer players have also expanded from the realm of tradition to experiment with limits of this powerful and evocative instrument, engaging more modern genres like jazz, blues, new age, and even rock and roll. I have done this in my own dulcimer playing, as many of my original pieces contain elements of Celtic stylings mixed with more modern chord progressions. I even amp up the hammered dulcimer for use in a rock band! This beautiful and compelling instrument is certainly full of possibility, and is waiting to be rediscovered by ears hungry for something different.
If you are compelled to give this instrument a listen or learn more about it, the UArts Music Library offers a smattering of resources on the subject. These include several books and CDs. Here are some good starters.