Archive for August, 2009

In the steps of John James Audubon

Monday, August 10th, 2009
Plate from Birds of America
In 2008, Baton Rouge author Danny Heitman published A Summer of Birds: John James Audubon at Oakley House, an account of the great ornithological artist’s visit in 1821 to the small town of St. Francisville, Louisiana, where he gathered specimens and drew at least 23 of the images later included in Birds of America.  Many of the images in Heitman’s book were reproduced from originals in the LSU Libraries’ McIlhenny Natural History Collection, one of the finest collections of bird art in the United States.

Heitman is currently collaborating with Louisiana Public Broadcasting on a TV documentary version of A Summer of Birds.  As part of this project, he recently returned to St. Francisville and walked once again in Audubon’s footsteps.  In an article published in today’s issue of The Christian Science Monitor, he reflects on this experience and on how much has changed since 1821.

To read Heitman’s article, click on the link below:

Rediscovering Early Music

Thursday, August 6th, 2009


The Triumphs of Orania (left); Lully, Idylle Sur La Paix (right)


In about 1476, the Flemish music theorist Johannes Tinctoris wrote, “there is no composition written over forty years ago which is thought by the learned to be worthy of performance.”  Tinctoris, proud of what he saw as the many improvements made to music in the fifteenth century, may have been surprised then to learn that  the music of his own time, together with that of many later generations, would eventually become just as forgotten as the music of the Middle Ages.


Fortunately the Early Music Revival, which began in earnest in the 1930s and continues in full force today, has led to the rediscovery of much of this music. Few realize, however, that even before the 1930s, interest in medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque music was beginning to renew. One of the most important milestones in the public’s rediscovery of these musical periods was Felix Mendelssohn’s 1829 performance of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion (1727).  A few publishers in the early nineteenth century also issued new editions of “ancient” music in notation that modern performers could easily read.  One example of such an edition from the LSU Libraries’ Special Collections is The Triumphs of Oriana. This anthology of madrigals by various English composers was originally compiled by Thomas Morley in 1601 and was reissued by William Hawes in about 1818. The line “Long live fair Oriana” is sung in each of the twenty-three pieces and is thought to refer to Queen Elizabeth I (who, ironically, died at about the same time the book was published).


Another score from LSU’s Rare Book Collection that relates to the nineteenth-century Early Music Revival is Idylle Sur La Paix, a short divertissement consisting of dances and arias by the great French composer Jean-Baptiste Lully. Published in Paris in 1685, this music was written to celebrate the end of a war between France and Spain and was first performed in the orangery of the Château de Sceaux for King Louis XIV.  LSU’s copy of the score was owned at one time by the French conductor, composer, violinist and harpist Joseph Hasselmans (1814-1902), who used it for a public performance in Strasbourg on May 14, 1868. Several annotations, in pencil, probably relate to this performance.  The score later passed to Hasselmans’ grandson, Louis Hasselmans (1878-1957), a professor of music at Louisiana State University. 


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