RML Behind the Scenes: Cleveland Orchestra Program Notes

IMG_6291Keeping a library like RML running and thriving takes a lot of dedicated librarians, staff, and student workers plugging away on a variety of projects every day. Even with all these people pitching in, things can get kind of crazy with all the fun projects we are cooking up—but hopefully we do a good job of hiding that with you guys and the general public (and thank goodness for coffee for keeping us going). It’s fun every now and again, though, to give you a look at some of the behind the scenes work you might not see or even know is going on in the library.

There are, of course, tons of these projects going on, but I’d like to highlight one with which I have been personally involved this semester. Our library’s web page has a cool database on it that I’m not sure too many people have seen yet called the Cleveland Orchestra Program Notes (COPN) database (http://cim.edu/library/locate/programnotes). What this database is is a complete index of all of the works performed by the Cleveland Orchestra throughout their entire history! This means that we have gone piece-by-piece through every program they have performed and entered important information about it.

You can search the database in a number of ways: find results just by the title, to all of the works by one composer, performances by a particular soloist or solo instrument type, or even just works in a particular season. Your results will come in the form of a list showing you all of the performances fitting your criteria and the pertinent program information to accompany it (conductor, date, soloists, etc.). Each piece gets entered separately into the database (including all Blossom summer performances) and this whole process takes quite a bit of thought and effort. That’s A LOT of pieces when you consider that the database ranges all the way back to 1918!

The database isn’t perfect. We’re working on that of course, but with such a huge and vast amount of information, there are bound to be gaps and imperfections. That’s something that we are starting the process on now (I’ll keep you updated of course!)… BUT the database is still really robust as it is and is getting better every day. This is a good place for a special shout-out to one of our intrepid student workers who has been entering and editing a ton of information this semester: Sara Aratake! This is just one of the many projects she has been on and we couldn’t be more thankful to have her on our team.

Now, you may be wondering why such a thing is useful… That is a totally fair question, but hear me out. First, the database gets a ton of use by the Cleveland Orchestra Archives when they need to research programming information throughout the year. Next, and more important for us here at CIM, this is a great research tool that students, faculty, and staff can use when conducting research. In addition to the database itself, the library has bound copies of all of the Cleveland Orchestra programs throughout their history. While the full program notes are not reproduced online in their entirety, the booklets do contain these notes which can be really valuable for your research. Just as liner notes to a recording focus more specifically on the history, reception, and analysis of the works contained within, so are these program notes scholarly and highly focused on the works performed. In terms of a historical analysis, these programs also contain a great deal of additional information about performers, conductors, premieres, etc. In addition to all of these scholarly pursuits, sometimes exploring the ads and special anecdotes throughout the history of this great organization can really be a blast.

One of my favorite things about library websites is that they often have curious databases and unique gems hiding among them. Hopefully this database inspires some folks to go on a little treasure hunt of their own!

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