Remembering Dave Brubeck

By Adam F. RSS Thu, December 6, 2012

Can a great urban library such as the Free Library of Philadelphia "remember" a musician?  With yesterday's passing of Dave Brubeck (B. Concord, CA, Dec 6 1920; d. Norwalk, CT, Dec 5 2012), we couldn't help but reflect upon the role that the library has as a kind of memory machine.  The Music Department librarians at the Parkway Central Library in particular command a wide range of resources capturing the long life and prolific career of this influential "intellectual" jazz musician.  From the comfort of your own home, you too can explore some of these resources from a computer if you have your library card and PIN in hand.

Let your tour of the life of Dave Brubeck begin where any research project might: with a good authoritative encyclopedia.  The Free Library subscribes to many electronic databases including the comprehensive Biography in Context.  You'll find it under "Biographical Resources" on the database page.  Searching "Brubeck, Dave" yields entries from several encyclopedias.  The most extensive article comes from the Encyclopedia of World Biography and includes a thorough overview of his career, its context within Pop Culture, as well as a decent bibliography of books and magazines on Brubeck. Which by the way are also available via the Free Library.    Although Biography in Context's strength lies in its collection of high quality electronic encyclopedias, the database often supplements older entries with more recent magazine and newspaper articles, radio excerpts, and even scholarly journal articles

While doing your research, you may want to listen to Brubeck's music.  We subscribe to an excellent streaming music service from Alexander Street Press called Music Online.  We've compiled two playlists of Brubeck's work.  The Dave Brubeck Chronology is the longest and presents albums in date order.  Provocatively, it begins with the musical background of his mother, Elizabeth Brubeck, who studied under Dame Myra Hess.  Hess's piano arrangement of Bach's "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring" seems like a fitting beginning track for a Brubeck chronology. As a young adult, Brubeck's own focused musical studies under Darius Milhaud leads us to include a short work for Saxophone by Milhaud which suggests some interesting questions about the musical paths artists may take across generations. It's after Milhaud's "Vif" that we enter the meat of an historical journey through the Brubeck repertoire. Significant works from 1954-1976 are not yet available from the Music Online database (though the actual recordings are available at the Library). Nevertheless, there is much of interest to listen to from the earliest days of his recorded career as well as works from his mature later phases.

The second playlist is a bit of a potpourri of interesting odds and ends from Music Online.  Dave Brubeck et cetera begins with Eastern Kentucky University Faculty Brass Quintet's recording of "Blue Rondo alla Turk", continues with a fascinating radio interview with musical interludes by Dave Brubeck and Marian McPartland, and it ends in the holiday spirit with Brubeck's stimulating take on "We Three Kings". 

These digital resources only make up a portion of what's available from the Library on Brubeck.  A search of our catalog reveals that we offer at least 48 audio recordings/CDs/LPs/, 23 Scores, 8 books, and 2 DVDs with at least some content on Dave Brubeck.  At right, you can see a small sampling of some of these treasures.  The Music Department at the Free Library of Philadelphia has such an extensive collection of materials that it hasn't even been humanly possible to digitize all of our catalog of records.  As you can see in one of the images to the right, a card catalog is necessary to get a full picture of our holdings.  Unfortunately, our unique and precious vinyl collection must stay in the building.  Fortunately though, we have turntables for music scholars and lovers to listen to a broad range of 20th Century recordings.  Please pay us a visit, and we can teach you how to navigate this colossal memory machine that is the Free Library of Philadelphia. 




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