The Largest Collection of Cello-Related Materials in the World
This first article in the Cello Museum’s library series features the Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections and University Archives at the University of North Carolina – Greensboro (UNCG). It is the largest collection of cello-related materials at any university in the world, including not only published music but also papers, autograph scores, textiles, and artifacts (recordings). Here, you can find several items from luminary cellists, including Janos Starker, Bernard Greenhouse, Lev Aronson, Margaret Rowell, Maurice Eisenberg, and Lynn Harrell. For the full list of cellists represented in the collections, click here.
Founded in 1963, the collection was the brainchild of Dr. Elizabeth Cowling, who was on cello faculty at UNCG at the time. It began with the acquisition of Luigi Silva’s collection, which alone represents over 1,700 musical scores. Stacey Krim serves as the curator. I recently sat down with her to learn about the collection and the best ways to access it.
The Scope of the Collection
Since its beginning, the collection has only grown. The collection contains no instruments, as museums are better suited to preserving them than libraries. Researchers can access nearly all items represented in the collection, though recently acquired items may not be cataloged yet. People who frequent the collection in Greensboro range from amateur cellists to professional scholars.
When possible, Stacey Krim recommends visiting the collection in person since some things do not (yet) translate well to digital formats. For example, comparing multiple annotated copies of the same piece is best done on site. As Krim notes, there is:
Some subtlety in sheet music that does not translate necessarily to digital well. You can see someone’s corrections when they have erased over and over again – almost erased holes in their paper, things like that.
A lot of cellists these days aren’t aware of how cellists lived with their material in the past – how they made their edits, and how they modified the scores for their own use. So that can be a bit of a shock for students when they visit….
We’re about to enter an essentially creative dark age because there will be no way to track a performer or a composer’s annotation. We are set up for more digital records, so I do have arrangers who are entering the collection, and their material is more digital. So long as that comes in pdfs, that is fine. When it’s a proprietary software, like Finale or that kind of thing, the minute that company goes out of business, those files are no longer accessible. When you’re composing or arranging, you’re saving over each file. In the past when you were composing, you would have like 8 different drafts to see the process. You’re not going to be able to see the process anymore, and that’s a real tragedy.
Krim recommends making an appointment to visit the collection so that materials can be prepared in advance. Appointments also help avoid long waits for access since the number of researchers allowed in the special collections is limited due to COVID-19. Other visit protocols related to COVID-19 include required face coverings and available hand sanitizer and gloves.
For those interested in viewing the collection who cannot visit in person, a large amount is digitized and accessible on the UNCG library website. It is important to note that online listings are limited to those in the public domain, so only a portion of the full holdings are included. As more works enter the public domain, the collection is being digitized regularly. A guide for utilizing the collection online appears at the end of this article.
Who Can Benefit from the Collection?
This is very much a performer based collection, for performers who are going to want to use it. Performers can range from amateur to professional, so the collection can be historically beneficial across the board. For an amateur, just knowing where to put your fingers – actually for anyone, just knowing where to put your fingers, and seeing how some very established cellists handled that can be useful for figuring out how to handle difficult parts.
Contact Stacey Krim if you cannot find your favorite cellists’ fingering online. She often gets requests such as “can you send over this person’s fingering?”
Musicologists and Music Historians
Students at UNCG have a first-hand look at the collection as a top-notch source of primary material. Cellists, music students, and even non-musicians can benefit from the collection. As Krim stated:
What we’re teaching is information literacy – for students to understand what they are seeing, and how to extrapolate their own ideas from primary sources…. A lot of students don’t realize that music can be a primary source. And there is a lot of information in a piece of music beyond the notes, which is something that I try to convey to music students because we’re so performance based, they never even thought of that!
So I am in part dealing with students who do not have a music background, demonstrating how music can be used as a primary source. Then going over to music students and showing them how music can be almost like an artifact that they are examining. And hopefully by the end, they find the ideas to go through process, for them to understand the skill set and process so that they can apply it in the future. I usually do see a few music studies classes each semester. But sometimes I see that it is only when a student is starting their PhD that they are stepping into the archives for the first time.
The collection represents more than individual pieces; it includes the legacy of the performers and pedagogues. Krim points out that for each collection:
…it’s not about the individual pieces, as such, although that’s how many people are accessing the collection. For us, being an archival collection, it’s about the performer for which the collection represents, with the entire collection being a biographic work of the performer. So you can reasonably walk in and write the history of a particular performer from the material in our collection.
Many performers in the collection are connected in meaningful ways. For example, Rudolph Matz collaborated with Lev Aronson on his seminal work, The Complete Cellist, and both Matz’s and Aronson’s collections are available in the Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections. Student and teacher connections can also be found in the collection. According to Krim:
We are in an interesting position now…where some of the younger collections are students of some of the older collections. So we will have pieces of the younger collections that are photocopies of what are in the older collections, with their annotations over their teacher’s annotations, which is really interesting to see.
Even non-cellists (and non-musicians) of any age can find something exciting. High school music camps and retirement communities are just some of the groups that have interacted with the archive. Some of Stacey Krim’s favorites to show non-musicians are three letters from Janos Scholz when he agreed to take on the then eight-year-old Yo-Yo Ma as a student and pieces composed by Lev Aronson. As she put it:
They were produced in the American militarized zone of Berlin after he escaped the concentration camps, prison camps, after WWII, and he signed them with his concentration camp number, his prisoner number. No part of it has his name. And as objects of cultural patrimony, I find [that] if I pull this out for someone who does not know music, they understand what music as a primary source is.
Using Materials in Research
Public domain works from the UNCG special collections can be reused and published, so long as they are properly cited. For any items that are currently under copyright, researchers must contact the original copyright holder for permission to use the work and to determine any fees for using them.
Donating to the Collection
If you have items that may fit the collection, contact Stacey Krim. She emphasizes:
We don’t accept everything, which not everyone is aware of. That goes two ways. If someone has a lot of stuff that is represented in our collection, we would recommend donating it to a music library. There are also people who think cellists’ collections are automatically donated here, and that is not the case. What we do is we try to get enough outreach and enough word of mouth that publicity for people to understand what we are doing, and if they are interested to reach out to us.
Beyond collections that feature the works of a specific performer or teacher, specialized collections of specific genres of music are also useful to the collection. Krim observes that UNCG received
a recent collection that had a tremendous amount of Bulgarian composers, and a lot of those pieces are not available in the United States. So it’s not always that this is the music of a really famous person. People just have a really targeted area of collecting or performance that is going to be very, very valuable to people down the road.
Researching the Collection Online
There are three ways to start researching the collection: by contacting Stacey Krim, by using the Research Guide, and by utilizing the Finding Aids.
Contact Stacey Krim
First, contact Stacey Krim. Unprocessed material may not yet be available online or show up in the catalog. Her contact information can be found at the bottom right of the Cello Music Collection page.
Items in the collection are “crawlable,” meaning you can find them through a Google search. However, the research guide explaining the search codes to use when searching through the Worldcat catalog of the collection can be found at this link at the bottom of the page and in the photo below.
The search parameters are very granular with contents of the collection described at the item level. For additional help searching, see the Cello Research Guide. Highlights of the digitized portion of each cellist’s collection are also available here.
Organized by performer, the link to the finding aids appears near the top of the homepage of the cello music collection. The finding aids can also be reached by clicking on the names of the individual cellists on this page.
Because the finding aids are organized by performer, the first step in research is to narrow down the performer whose collection you wish to search. As an example, click here for the results for Lev Aronson. Both the complete collection and individual works appear in the results.
Once you select the desired collection, the details will be available, with “collection overview” selected as default at the top of the page. In addition, the page lists options to view the “collection organization” and “container inventory.” When looking at the collection overview, items are listed on the right side. The order of the items begins with manuscripts in the creator’s hand, manuscripts in other people’s hand, concertos, sonatas, etc. For example, in the Aronson collection, one of the manuscripts listed is the Jewish Pictures pictured above. Both box and folder number are listed with each item for reference, and item information can be displayed by the box.
*note: All information in this article is current as of its publication date, though organizations do change their website layout on occasion. We strongly encourage researchers to contact the Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections and University Archives at UNCG with any questions.
About Stacey Krim
Stacey Krim has been in her current role with the collection since 2010, having worked in libraries since 1999. Surprisingly, she is not a cellist, but her knowledge of the cello repertoire and the collection is extensive. She has worked with many of the great cellists getting to know them, in addition to their music collections. She remarked:
I’m very happy to be with the cellists. We’re here to support the community. My goal is to get people what they need. If they think I might have something they need, or might be able to help them in some other way, I would encourage them to contact me.
Thank you, Stacey Krim, for taking the time to give us this extremely helpful information.
What resources would you like us to cover in this series? Please let us know in the comments.