Category Archives: Area Studies

Going the Extra Mile

Student posing in photoboothWhen we started planning for our HornRaiser (crowd-funding) project for the Fine Arts Library Recording Studio everyone said to make sure and have a stretch-goal.

A stretch-goal? That would imply that we would cross the finish line before our campaign was over!

Thankfully, we took their advice because this week we surged past our original goal of $10,000!

Since we about two weeks left, we have announced our stretch-goal: $15,000. That’s just $4,445 in the next 14 days. The extra funds will enable us to build an even better Fine Arts Library Recording Studio with better sound-proofing, software, and hopefully new carpet and furniture.

We’ve come so far, so please help us go even further by broadcasting our message through Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, E-mail, or word of mouth, and consider making a contribution if you haven’t already.*

We’ve started planning an end-of-campaign show at Tom’s Tabooley on the last day of our campaign, Friday, May 1, so save the date! More details to come!

If you haven’t already, make sure and check out our most recent video featuring some images of what the Fine Arts Library Recording Studio might look like.


 

* If you or your company are interested in contributing a matching gift during the campaign, don’t worry, there is still time! Please contact Gregory Perrin for more information.

Help Build a Recording Studio at Fine Arts

Donate Button for the FAL Recording Studio As you may recall from my last post, UT Libraries has launched our very first HornRaiser (crowd-funding) campaign to raise $10,000 for the Fine Arts Library Recording Studio. The campaign has been active for just over a week now and 29 donors have helps us raise $2,400! That is 24% of our goal! Special thanks to Tom + Regina Nichols for generously matching $500 during the campaign. * Every dollar counts as we make our way closer and closer toward our goal. Are you a social media ninja? Help us spread the word through Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Keep an eye out! We will have special contests throughout the campaign! Reactions from current UT students who can’t wait to start using the Fine Arts Library Recording Studio:

Justin Lavergne
Justin Lavergne

Justin LaVergne Theatre, fourth year student with two more years to go

Recording studio would benefit me by being able to create voice overs for theatrical productions. As well as record songs to send out as demos to help me pay for school.

Ian Price
Ian Price

Ian Price Theatre and Dance and Radio & Television, and Film, junior

As an aspiring Voice-Over Actor, I myself have my own Mic that I use for recording lines for audio-dramas, audiobooks, online-cartoons, ect. However, I also live with 3 other roommates, in an apartment that, well, isn’t soundproof. Whenever someone is simply watching TV in the living room, I cannot record. And don’t even get me started about recording lines that require yelling. Basically, a recording studio, open and free to students would not only clear up those types of problems, but could also give good startups for the next ‘Welcome to Night Vale’, or Beyonce. There are many here who have talent but just don’t have the money, or the space to record in their home or in a private recording studio. As a college who prides itself on changing the world, its only right for us to have the resources to get started.


*If you or your company are interested in contributing a matching gift during the campaign, please contact Gregory Perrin To learn more or to support this effort visit https://hornraiser.utexas.edu/createut

A Hidden Musicians’ History of the UT Libraries

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Being that we have a few music aficionados (and some practitioners, at that) on staff at the Libraries, we note that we’re once again amid the academic calendar timeout when the students take a (mostly) well-deserved break from classes and the city becomes a mobility nightmare as vectors from the tech, film and music industries converge on Austin to engage in a gathering of equal parts profile building and navel gazing.

South by Southwest is the place where The Next Big Thing is likely to happen, be it the social media juggernaut of the future (Twitter, SX2007), an Academy Award winner (The Hurt Locker, SX2009) or a game-changing musical act (White Stripes, SX2001).

It’s no easy task to break through, though — be it at an annual conference like SXSW, or just as a matter of standing out in a world where technology has been significantly democratized creating a flood of entertainment options. And refining your craft is somewhat easier when your passion is also your job; the tech sector tends to breed its own winners, and industry experience is almost a prerequisite for succeeding in Hollywood. That fact makes being a pure artist an almost Sisyphean undertaking in the modern world.

More often than not, people with creative dispositions need to find jobs among the ranks of the blue and pink collar working set in order to provide income to support themselves through early (or even permanent) periods of anonymity. In New York, fledgling thespians eye Broadway from behind the mirrored windows of cafes as baristas or bartenders. The young and attractive who trek west with eyes on Hollywood make ends meet working as waitstaff in LA’s swankiest hotspots, hoping to cross paths with an industry bigshot. And many visual artists bide their time in production jobs on Grand Avenue in Chicago waiting for their first big gallery show or positive review to launch their career.

So how do musicians who live in the “Live Music Capital of the World” sustain themselves while they hone their art and build an audience? At least one place you might find a featured act in a new music showcase or subject of a glowing Pitchfork review are among the staff in the libraries on the UT campus.

The Libraries have harbored a substantial lineage of musically-inclined talent among the ranks of its past and present staff, mostly in support positions that provide the heavy lifting — both literally and figuratively — of library work. Beloved Austin singer Marcia Ball worked as a clerk at the Collections Deposit Library on the edge of campus in the early 70s. Before he was placing his stamp on the scene with fellow True Believer Jon Dee Graham, Alejandro Escovedo was checking out books at the Perry-Castañeda Library circulation desk. And there’s a virtual catalog of other personalities from Austin’s music scene — both known and supposed — that have some connection to the libraries on the Forty Acres.

Photo provided by Katherine Strickland.
Photo provided by Katherine Strickland.

How an academic library became a magnet for creatives in Austin makes sense. As the city has grown in fits and starts, much of the wage-earning job opportunities have been in the retail and food service spaces that serve the university community and cater to the student demographic. Likewise, many of the low cost residential rentals have historically been clustered in north and west campus neighborhoods where it provided easy access to campus denizens who didn’t have access to vehicles, or artists who needed to be close to the arts and entertainment venues that afford the best opportunities for exposure. A university community tends to feed the intellectual curiosity of its host city’s population, and those with natural tendencies toward cerebral pursuits, in turn, gravitate to the campus.

Add in an ever-escalating cost of living — especially those costs associated with healthcare — and a university job with its relative security and benefits becomes a much more attractive prospect for an artist who needs income to support their creative habits than most of the other wage-based options available.

Then again, some folks just wind up here because they love the books, or the people, or the place.

Several past and current staffers who also happen to be musicians have offered perspectives on why they landed work at the library, and how that connection impacted their music. Continue reading A Hidden Musicians’ History of the UT Libraries

Save the Date!

In radio studio

Hi. I’m Natalie Moore, the development specialist for the Libraries.

Over the past few months, I’ve had the opportunity to participate in a grassroots effort to crowd-fundraise for the Fine Arts Library Recording Studio here at UT. At first mention, this seemed like a really great idea for a really unorthodox place. Don’t get me wrong, I love working in the Libraries, but it seemed like an unlikely place for a recording studio. As I started to identify students, faculty, and other staff members to help with this cause, it became apparent that the Fine Arts Library is the most appropriate place for a recording studio on UT’s campus. While this technology exists on campus, it is locked up, and saved for individuals in certain departments and colleges. Students, faculty, and even my fellow staff members’ eyes lit up as they learned that, “yes, the FAL Recording studio will be open to all current faculty, students, and staff,” and, “no, this isn’t just for musicians.”

I am excited about the Fine Arts Library hosting this incubator for creativity. I can only imagine what types of work will surface as a product of this great initiative.

UT Libraries HornRaiser site will become live Wednesday, March 18. Interested in getting involved? Email me at nmoore@austin.utexas.edu

As we gear up for our HornRaiser campaign, I want to share some reactions from current UT students. Here is the first one:

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Alex Smith

Music Production, Sophomore

“Well, I work in my shoddy home studio everyday. It’s very low key with the ultimate level of ‘just the essentials.’ Having a place to have access to more equipment, like 2 mics, different kind of mics, instruments, workstations, really awesome sound monitors, would make the biggest difference in the world. Having a professional area adds a level beyond hanging up egg cartons and stuffed animals to help reduce room noise. The possibilities are endless.”


UT Libraries is about to embark on a HornRaiser (crowd-funding) campaign to equip a recording studio in the Fine Arts Library.  You can check out our funding page here: https://hornraiser.utexas.edu/createut

Home is Where the Art Is

The Tiger’s Eye

There’s a certain honorable quality of humility that is seemingly characteristic to bibliophiles.

The book, being inherently sacred as some see it, belongs to the world — especially those that are part of a library’s collections and meant to be shared across time. So when a former UT teaching fellow recently rediscovered a borrowed volume that he had inadvertently packed away during a move some 60 years ago, he did what any guilt-ridden lover of books would do: he returned it along with a confessional (see below).

Thus a partner volume to the bound collection of an abstract art journal came home again — be it on a slightly lengthened extension of the normal lending period.

The Tiger’s Eye — its title a clever reference to Blake’s masterwork — was an important abstract expressionist journal published for a two-year run from October 1947-October 1949. The format of the journal emphasized the artistic process with poetry, fiction, drawings and reproductions of works being directly accompanied by the artist’s writings, criticism and essays. Internationally distributed, the quarterly journal was printed in editions of 3,000-5,000, with full-color covers and quality heavyweight stock that featured the occasional color plate, making it one of the more urbane publications of the era.

The journal was published by painter John Stephan and his wife, poet Ruth Stephan, in whose name the Libraries also maintains the large collection of poetry volumes that compose the bulk of the University of Texas Poetry Center.

The publication was seen as important enough to the abstract expressionist movement that it warranted an entire book dedicated to its history, The Tiger’s Eye: The Art of a Magazine (Yale University Press, 2002) of by Pamela Franks the Yale University Art Gallery.

To the great benefit of present and future users of the Libraries, The Tiger’s Eye, Volume 1, Numbers 1-4 (1947-8) has now rejoined its companion Volume 1, Numbers 5-9 (1947-8) after over a half-century apart thanks to an unexpected act by devoted patron of the written word.

Breaking the Silence: Excessive Noise

iIt’s a challenge to combat long-held stereotypes — especially those that have gained a foothold in cultural consciousness — but libraries are increasingly finding ways to overcome an accepted caricature as spaces where quiet contemplation is guarded by strict disciplinarians with fingers firmly pressed to pursed lips.

More and more, programs developed to redouble the idea of library as a community third place have cut through the silence and opened the space to utilization in unexpected ways. As gateways to information, libraries have always served as cultural hubs; the advent of the internet offers opportunities to reimagine how they can fit within a social framework where the written word has largely ceded prominence to ones and zeroes.

One such example of rethinking space is evident at the Fine Arts Library (FAL), thanks to its close ties with emerging artists at the Butler School of Music.

In 2011, Music Librarian David Hunter approached graduate research assistant and doctoral candidate Russell Podgorsek — also the evening and weekend desk manager for the library at the time — about launching a music series to take place in the Roberts Reading Room at the FAL.

Podgorsek ran with the idea, imagining an eclectic program that had its roots in classical techniques, but would be creatively free-form in substance. He began pitching the concept to his colleagues and contemporaries in the university and broader Austin music communities and recruiting artists for the series premiere that took place in early 2012 and featured three original compositions by students of the Butler School — including Podgorsek, who is himself an accomplished composer, violist and guitarist.

To date, concerts have featured an array of composers, artists and performers from both the School of Music and the Austin community, including the Cordova Quartet; university Middle Eastern Music Ensemble, Bereket; Duo Brucoco; alumna Pamela Wilkinson; and dancer Reema Bounajem.

“Excessive Noise” will resume its run with the seventh concert in the series on January 31, and Podgorsek continues his curatorial duties under the appellation of the recently-formed Pale Blue. collaborative.

The concert, “winter winds… by Pale Blue. part 1,” features chamber music for winds including “Jabberwock” by current Butler School of Music (BSOM) DMA student Chris Prosser; “Poco Adagio” by BSOM alumnus Russell Podgorsek; and performances by the Butler School of Music Graduate Saxophone Quartet, the Aero Quintet, and current DMA students Charlotte Daniel (flute) and Chad Ibison (guitar).

Russell Podgorsek.

Podgorsek took time recently to answer some questions about his experiences in developing “Excessive Noise.”

What spawned the idea for “Excessive Noise”?

Russell Podgorsek: Back in 2011 Dr. David Hunter asked me if I’d be interested in resurrecting a music series at the Fine Arts Library since one had been done years earlier but not in recent memory.

At the time “Excessive Noise” started I was a Graduate Research Assistant at the Fine Arts Library. (Fine Arts Head Librarian) Laura Schwartz, (Theater and Dance Librarian) Beth Kerr and David Hunter were kind enough to fold it into my responsibilities along with supervising and stacks maintenance. Once I graduated I stayed on as an hourly employee so it was easy to continue the series.

How do you come up with the programs?

RP: The programs are largely centered around players’ availability and interest in performing what they’re working on. Being a composer myself it also seemed natural to have several new works on each concert. UT and Austin in general are musically so rich that it’s almost too easy to fill up a program sometimes. Recently I’ve asked others at UT to collaborate with us in an effort to engage other libraries and collections as well as other departments. Last spring we did a joint event with the PCL Map Collection’s event series, “You Are Here,” that showcased works with ties to specific locales and the corresponding items in the Map Collection and at FAL. Later this semester we’re joining up with the Asian Studies department to present a concert exploring the intersection of Eastern and Western cultures. On smaller scales, we’ve had students from both Architecture and Theater and Dance perform or present on these concerts as well.

What sort of benefit does it provide for the performers/artists?

RP: Performing itself is an enjoyable activity but the audiences that these events draw are of a different composition than those at a “regular” recital or concert and connecting with a new part of the community is what it’s about. That being said, all of the performers are young professionals (the Butler School of Music is a great place), they know what they’re doing, and always present a high quality artistic product.

Laura Schwartz is really open to programs like “Excessive Noise” that make use of library space in an unexpected way. What’s it like holding the event in a library? Continue reading Breaking the Silence: Excessive Noise

A Poet in the Science Library

“Backmasking” by Harold Whit Williams.

One wouldn’t necessarily expect to find a poet in the stacks of a science library, but then again, creativity often occurs in the least anticipated of places.

The Life Science Library boasts among its staff a prize-winning poet, as Library Specialist Harold Whit Williams has garnered praise for his work, which is both a catalog of his experience as a musician, and reflective of his southern heritage. His most recent collection of poems, Backmasking, earned Williams the 2013 Robert Phillips Chapman Poetry Chapbook Prize from Texas Review Press, and his poem “Blues Dreams,” received the 2014 Mississippi Review Poetry Prize.

In some ways, it would seem to make perfect sense that Williams would understand the finer points of cadence and pentameter  — he’s also the guitarist for notable Austin pop band Cotton Mather.

Williams’ first collection of poetry, Waiting For The Fire To Go Out, was published by Finishing Line Press, and his work has appeared in numerous literary journals.

Whit kindly indulged a line of questioning about his poetry, his music and his life at the Libraries. 

When did you start writing poetry? Was it an outcropping of your music?

Harold Whit Williams: I’ve been writing poetry off and on since college days, but started giving serious attention to it, and publishing, now for about seven years.

Strange, but poetry is a totally separate thing to me from songwriting. As a guitarist first, my songs, or the guitar parts I play in Cotton Mather, happen musically first. Then lyrics come later. But with poetry, it’s all wordplay from the get-go, and the musicality in the words themselves tend to direct where I go in a poem.

Does the inspiration for poetry and music come from the same place, even though the jumping off point is different? Or are they driven by different urges? 

HWW: Good question. What makes me plug in an electric guitar and make loud horrendous noise has to come from a much different urge than the one making me get to a quiet place, alone, to jot down a poem. Continue reading A Poet in the Science Library