May 2008


Today’s New York Times features a story on how Sony BMG Music Entertainment is generating revenue by marketing high quality reproductions of publicity (and other) photographs held in its archives (particularly material from Columbia Records). Other record labels are likely to follow suit as sales of CDs continue to fall.

If I were to try to compose a blog post in response to every obituary I read relating to someone involved in the performing arts, I might have something to blog about every day. However, today, after reading the New York Times obit, (although the one in the Los Angeles Times is probably better) I was moved to write something about the passing of composer Earle Hagen. In addition to writing the jazz standard, Harlem Nocturne, Hagen was responsible for the theme songs for many, many classic television shows (including some of your favorites, no doubt). As is my wont after reading an obituary, I often do a quick check of OCLC to see if any repository owns or has processed papers relating to the deceased. In this case, it is the American Heritage Center that holds a large collection, which appears to consist primarily of Hagen’s scores.

For more immediacy though, the Archive of American Television blog contains links that provide free online access to the invaluable series of video oral history interviews with television industry professionals that it commissions and sponsors. A five hour 1997 Earle Hagen interview conducted by author Jon Burlingame can be downloaded on YouTube in its entirety.

In response to community pressure, NYU has slightly revised its plans regarding the demolition of the historic theater. For those of you wishing to express your opinions about the revised plan, the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation urges you to attend the public hearing scheduled for this Wednesday, May 28th at 6:30 PM at NYU Law School, Vanderbilt Hall, 40 Washington Square South.

\Yesterday the Library of Congress officially received personal papers from musical theater composer, Charles Strouse, and the man himself also was interviewed and honored at a special performance at the Kennedy Center during the evening. Strouse, who will be turning eighty on June 7, will publish his memoirs, Put on a Happy Face, on the first of June. The LC acquisition complements another collection held by the Music Division, New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.

Many happy returns!

Image credit: All American / Fay Gage; Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Online Catalog #2007683580

Yuan Shih-kai is flanked by 2 soldiers with guns and 4 other men

Well, if we have received ours in the mail, it seems pretty likely that by now most everyone will have gotten their hands on the preliminary program for the 2008 Society of American Archivists Annual Meeting. Of course, you also can read it online, but its annual arrival in our mailboxes serves as a handy reminder to all who are planning to attend to register, or, certainly, to at least secure a hotel room at the conference rate as soon as possible.

Happily, this year’s conference will offer quite a few sessions of interest to performing arts archivists, including one sponsored by the SAA Performing Arts Roundtable, “Getting to the Heart of Performance: Archivists as Creative Collaborators” (406) on Friday, 29 August, as well as the PAR meeting itself, which will help kick things off on Wednesday, 27 August (we hope many of you will be in town that early). More about those events and other programs of interest to come soon (maybe we can even get some of the participants to contribute a few blog posts).

Disappointingly, the preliminary program itself gives surprisingly short shrift to San Francisco’s fabulous performing arts history (and those individuals, institutions and organizations that have helped to preserve and provide access to it). We hope to rectify that situation a little bit, by occasionally bringing to you some images of material from these collections. The original photograph above (of a 1920s stage production) is from the Collection of Chinese Theater Images in California, held by the Museum of Performance & Design (formerly SF PALM).

Image credit: A bomb throwing revolutionary confronts warlord Yuan Shih-kai, staged at the Great Star Theatre / [ID# ark:/13030/kt0g5014tw; Digital Archive of Chinese Theater in California, Online Archive of California]