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.
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.
It’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).
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.
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→