THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Sound and vision blog

Sound and moving images from the British Library

Introduction

Discover more about the British Library's 6 million sound recordings and the access we provide to thousands of moving images. Comments and feedback are welcomed. Read more

02 December 2016

Yehudi Menuhin Centenary

This year of 2016 will be remembered for many reasons, but as it draws to a close it is worth recalling that it was the centenary year of the birth of the great violinist Yehudi Menuhin.

Hepsyba_en_Yehudi_Menuhin_(1963)

Hephzibah and Yehudi Menuhin in 1963 (Photo: Joop van Bilsen / Anefo)

Although he was the star of the family, his two sisters were also very talented – Hephzibah often acting as his accompanist in recordings and performances.  Much has been written about internal family relationships.  His mother, described as being cold, taught the young Yehudi never to show his feelings.  Producing three prodigies was certainly something unusual to cope with, but it seems that the parents exercised a considerable amount of control over their children’s lives.

Menuhin made his first recordings as a boy in 1928 accompanied by his teacher Louis Persinger (1887-1966).  These were made in California where the family was living at the time.  His fame led to touring and further recordings were made in Paris and London.  It was at the newly opened Abbey Road Studios in London in 1932 that Menuhin made his famous recording of Elgar’s Violin Concerto with the composer conducting.  A few years later he returned to record some solos on 28th November 1934 with his father Moshe (1893-1983) and sister Hephzibah.  Someone had the idea to record a sound letter for their mother but all are embarrassed and lark around – Hephzibah sings ‘cuckoo’ and Yehudi plucks his violin, but most notably the father Moshe takes the limelight singing the opening of Sarasate’s Romanza Andalusa Op. 22 No. 1, a work Menuhin recorded that day.

Menuhin Family at Abbey Road

Most interesting is the inclusion of the speaking voice of producer/engineer Fred Gaisberg who had joined the Gramophone Company in 1898.  Apart from the father, none of them want to get near the microphone but, ever the experienced recording engineer, Gaisberg says to the children ‘You’re absolutely stymied, frozen…..it’s amazing how you get paralysed when that red light goes on…..what you could do is give your experience of something, I don’t know what…your experience of making gramophone records’.  Yehudi says, ‘couple it with this last one we did’.  Unfortunately, a lot of the recording is distant and it ends at this point.

Celebrity Concert 151154

Exactly twenty years later in November 1954 Menuhin recorded a thirty minute television recital with Gerald Moore as accompanist.  The sound from discs is not good but probably better than the TV film soundtrack, if it survives. Here is the Prelude from the E major Partita by Bach.

Menuhin Bach Gavotte 1954

Follow @BL_Classical for all the latest Classical news.

30 November 2016

International Folk Music on Film

 

Copyright © Tareque Masud Memorial Trust
Muktir Gaan (Song of Freedom) - winner  - International Folk Music Film festival 2016

This year marks the 6th successive year that the International Folk Music Film Festival in Nepal has gathered together a collection of filmmakers from across the globe whose films of musical traditions reveal the true vitality of the medium in the documentation of music and performance. Despite the impact of natural disasters and political embargoes, Ram Prasad (the Director of the festival) has been determined to continue to keep the festival going. With the support of his dedicated collaborators and an international field of inspiring filmmakers, the festival has continued and his determination has paid off.  Copies of selected films from the festival are held in the British Library (with the collection reference C1516) which has now developed into a very interesting archive of films that record ‘traditional’ or folk music and the role of music in traditional cultures around the world.

In the six years since its inception the festival has screened over 180 films submitted by a wide range of filmmakers from a variety of disciplines. The advisory board for the film festival includes ethnomusicologists, anthropologists, musicians and filmmakers whose diverse perspectives on the role of music in culture ensure the content remains multi-faceted and wide in focus. Like music itself, the films cannot be defined through words alone and they continue to expand the concept of what a folk music film really is.

Copyright © Tareque Masud Memorial Trust
Muktir Gaan

There are several categories of awards including: short film; Best Nepali film; Best instructional film; Music therapy award; Intangible Heritage documentation award and a Lifetime achievement award. The winner of the long film category in 2016 was Muktir Gaan (Song of Freedom), a film by Tareque Masud and Catherine Masud. The film follows a music troupe, singing to inspire the freedom fighters, during the Liberation War of Bangladesh in 1971. 

The Folk Music film festival differs from many of the more well-known ethnographic film festivals by the breadth of film styles included in the programme. The film committee selects record footage and films from very low budget productions to screen alongside big budget and crowd funded productions and archive films. Alongside the competition films there are a number of invited films which allow the viewer to reflect on the work of a filmmaker whose work demonstrates the power of  documenting music through film; an international filmmaker or ethnomusicologist who has created significant documents of Nepali culture; an artist or significant figure from within the Nepalese musical community who has contributed to Nepalese musical heritage.

Maruni dance
Prev Dem discussing Arnold Bake film

The inclusion of archive footage of Nepalese traditions sourced from international filmmakers and archives and locally made films about Nepalese culture is not an accident. Rather it is one of the stimuli for the founders of the film festival, Ram Prasad and Norma Blackstock, who are both on the board of the Music Museum of Nepal.

The museum is home not only to a large collection of traditional instruments but also to a growing archive of audio and film recordings of Nepali musical traditions made by the museums founders and local filmmakers. Norma and Ram have been slowly bringing together digital copies of archive footage of Nepali music and culture found in archives and personal collections around the world to add to the collection including copies of ethnomusicologist, Arnold Bake's, material from British Library collection C52 (see music blog 2012).

Film festival crowd
Film festival audience

The film festival therefore serves as a vehicle for reconnecting communities with their cultural heritage through screening historic footage of these traditions. The invitations to attend the festival are extended throughout the Nepalese community across generations. The success of the festival in extending the legacy of documenting music on film is exemplary.

The festival is also a key part of the Music Museum of Nepal's cultural engagement programme.  This year they hosted filmmaker Karen Boswall as they extended their training opportunities to local filmmakers interested in documenting their own traditions.  Encouraging and developing local filmmakers and students to engage with documentation of their own cultural traditions in film adds to the ever growing collection of contemporary footage of the wide range of musical traditions found throughout the many culture groups of Nepal.

The documentation of cultural traditions and the communication of knowledge about these traditions is one of the main aims of the festival. The results from this workshop will be included in the final batch of films to be received from the festival. Many of these films have now been added to the videoserver which is available in the reading rooms at the British Library.

 

Videoserver
Videoserver

For anyone wanting to access videoserver in the British Library Reading rooms please contact the Listening and Viewing Service  for more information. 

Find out more about the work of the British Library's Sound Archive and the new Save our Sounds programme online.

Follow the British Library Sound Archive @soundarchive and the British Library's World and Traditional Music activities @BL_WorldTrad on Twitter.

 

 

 

Beneath the calm exterior: A glimpse into the world of the Crown Court clerk

MichaelMcKenzie10
 Michael McKenzie QC, Clerk of the Central Criminal Court 1979-84.

Crown Court clerks are pivotal to administering trials of the most serious criminal offences such as burglary, rape, murder and terrorism. In-depth life history interviews with former Crown Court clerks have revealed how they dealt with listening to harrowing stories day after day. Interviewees spoke about the effort involved in trying to appear expressionless and impartial, as their job demanded, particularly when they may have been feeling incensed by what they were hearing in court, or holding back tears, or trying not to laugh and to keep a straight face. They described taking a verdict in a murder trial, their hearts pounding, palms sweating, absorbing the tension in the courtroom, and feeling nervous about taking the verdict correctly under pressure. Interviewees discussed the emotive moment the foreman of the jury has just announced the defendant has been found, “Guilty”, and then the court clerk waits until the shouts and wails from the public gallery have abated before they carry on, seemingly unphased and unflappable, in their measured and controlled ‘court voice’. They spoke about seeing photographs of murders and injuries that were so disturbing that they made the conscious decision that they would never look at court photos again; the horror of dealing with child abuse cases especially; having nightmares when they first began clerking; and recounting in vivid detail the cases that they said came back to haunt them. In the following clip, clerk of the Central Criminal Court between 1979-84, Michael McKenzie QC reflected on putting the charges to the notorious serial killer, Peter Sutcliffe, known as the Yorkshre Ripper.

Michael McKenzie reflects on putting the charges to the Yorkshire Ripper

The Crown Court clerk interviews were conducted by PhD student Dvora Liberman and will be publicly accessible towards the end of 2017. This collection was created as part of a collaborative research project between National Life Stories and the Legal Biography Project at the London School of Economics.

By Dvora Liberman