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Library Reflections: ALA & Daedalus Quartet

by Christian Sammartino on 2020-01-30T12:19:45-05:00 | Comments


A swarm of bees. A skulk of foxes. A troop of baboons. What is the collective noun for a group of librarians and library professionals?  

Last Saturday, a group from the University Libraries attended the American Library Association’s Midwinter Conference in Philadelphia. As we roamed the exhibit hall, we encountered many library workers and librarians alike, happily chattering away about the profession. A catalog of librarians attended sessions. A hush of library workers talked to vendors and publishers. A stack of library professionals made new connections. 

After the conference, a cacophony of employees from the Presser Music Library attended a concert at the Annenberg Center. A band of library workers, interns, and one music librarian listened to the talented Daedalus Quartet, the University of Pennsylvania’s quartet-in-residence. The quartet explored the themes of music and migration through four vastly different pieces.  

Three of the four pieces we heard (Sofia Gubaidulina - Reflections on the theme B-A-C-H, Osvaldo Golijov – Yiddishbbuk, Tan Dun - Ghost Opera) are available on Naxos Music Library. Naxos Music Library is a streaming service available through the WCU Libraries both through a web browser and the Naxos app. The app allows for temporary downloads so that users can listen on the go without using data. Visit to try it today!  

For Emily Baroni, Ghost Opera was the highlight of the program: “The use of paper, rocks, and water was so unexpected an interesting. Even before the performance began the excitement of what might happen heightened as the performers set up and positioned instruments throughout the theater. It didn’t disappoint as they patted and poured water from their hands, used a bow on a gong dipped in the water, blew onto paper like a reed, and tapped stones to their mouths changing mouth movements for differing tones.” Emily recommend the article “Reconsidering Cultural Politics in the Analysis of Contemporary Chinese Music: The Case of Ghost Opera” to learn more about the piece.

Regina Braidotti enjoyed Golijov’s Yiddishbbuk (subtitled “I.B.S.” after the Polish author Isaac Bashevis Singer) the most: “The opening section of the second movement as performed in the concert, with those teeter-totter slides between two notes, made me imagine a winter forest scene, with dead branches broken and hanging among the living ones, rocking back and forth under the weight of snow, threatening to fall but not falling. Something dangerous caught in stasis.”

Tim Sestrick was thrilled to hear the one piece on the program not available on the Naxos streaming service – because it was a world premiere. On My Journey Now: Five Spirituals, by Nansi Carroll, featured soprano Karen Slack, a Philadelphia native currently appearing with the Metropolitan Opera in Porgy and Bess. “Usually spirituals are either choral arrangements or accompanied by piano, not string quartet – but it really worked! The string parts provided rich, interweaving accompanying lines without overwhelming the amazing vocalist.” Karen Slack can be heard on this recording of 3 Poems of James Agee, by Thomas Pasatieri, available on Naxos.  

Is a group of librarians known as a group, a catalog, a hush, or a stack? Are music library workers collectively a cacophony or a band? Regardless of how we may be known, we were happy to attend the conference and concert and learn together. 

By Kelly Shea

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