Tag Archive for Spencer Sheet Music

(Digital Collections) And Then There Were 9,601: A Big Update on the Spencer Sheet Music Collection

It’s a collection that’s been at Baylor University since the middle of last century, with items spanning back to the 1700s. There are more than 28,000 items in that collection including a first edition of The Battle Hymn of the Republic and Jingle Bells. And as of this week, it’s reached a milestone: more than 9,600 digitized items from the Frances G. Spencer Collection of American Popular Sheet Music are available online for free.

We’re closing in on 10,000 items, which will mean 30% of the total physical collection digitized. We thought we’d celebrate this milestone by putting some of the most interesting recent additions in this blog post. Feel free to click into the collection and explore each piece further, including looking at the lyrics for each.

 

There’s a lot more to this latest batch (422, to be exact) and we encourage you to take a look at them all. We’ll continue to update you as we add new content to this collection, and if the previous 9,000+ items are any indication, we’re in for quite a ride before this collection is completely online!


Learn more about the Frances G. Spencer Collection of American Popular Sheet Music at the collection’s homepage.

 

(Digital Collections) Caps, Gowns and College Towns: Collegiate Life in The Spencer Collection

It’s cap and gown season here on the campus of ol’ BU, and the class of 2015 has a lot to celebrate. Years of study, focus and passion come together in a 20-second walk across the stage to acquire their sheepskins and cross the threshold into alumni-hood.

Themes related to college life find unique expression in a collection of early 1900s sheet music found in the Frances G. Spencer Collection. We thought it’d be fun to look at a few – including their lyrics! – as we say “adios” to the men and women of ’15.

Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 10.16.03 AMCover, The Co-Ed Waltzes, by Clara Douglas, 1909

We think the young lady on the cover bears a striking resemblance to one of Baylor’s own 1909 graduates: Mary Elizabeth Walker.

Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 11.22.53 AMAbout Walker, this was written in the 1909 Roundup:

Mary is a studious Senior, though at times one might question her dignity. She ran for Baylor’s old maid in ’08 and, much to her sorrow, was defeated. She has made a splendid record in Baylor and has won the confidence and respect of her classmates. She hopes to have a red automobile by the time school is out, like the one she saw in England.”

It’s worth noting that the tone of the early yearbooks is often quite comedic, so there’s no reason to think Ms. Walker would actually have her dignity questioned. But we do suspect she saw a red automobile in England; that seems too specific to be contrived.

Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 10.34.07 AMCover of Lincoln’s College Flag by Heelan and Helf, 1912

The lyrics to this piece indicate that, while other young people pledge their commitment to the flags of their alma maters, young Abraham Lincoln pledged his life to the service of the United States.

Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 10.12.39 AMCover for And They Say He Went To College, by Moran and Furth, 1907

Lest you think the folks of 1907 gave too much deference to college educated men, check out just the first verse and the chorus of this song from the musical comedy The Orchid.

VERSE
In a Restaurant the other night, the best one in New York
I saw a man who vainly tried to eat soup with a fork
My heart went out in pity, every time his fork would plunge
He didn’t know the right way to eat soup is with a sponge

CHORUS
And they say he went to College,
Where he gained a lot of knowledge
He acted like a lobster with an amputated claw
When a bowl near him the waiter laid
Why he wash’d his hands in lemonade
And they say, they say he went to college
Rah, rah, rah!

Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 10.32.02 AMCover, Her Eyes Are Blue For Yale, by Hough, Adams and Howard, 1909

Women don’t make out especially well in the comedic college-related songs of the era, either, as this tune about a girl who’s pledged her love to collegiate beaus of varying hues.

VERSE
Never give your heart just to one
No man’s worth it under the sun
Keep them guessing and they’ll adore you
It’s lots of fun

College days are full of joy
Play the same game with ev’ry boy
The College flirt wears her favorite colors
Combined in one

CHORUS

Her eyes are blue for good old Yale,
Her lips are Harvard’s hue
And her golden hair with a bow of black
Are Princeton’s colors too
She wears Chicago’s old maroon
Ann Arbor’s maize and blue
Because to fifty college men
She’s trying to be true

You may say her heart is untrue
Still what can a pretty girl do?
Why on earth should she save all her charms for
Just one or two

College days are fleeting as Spring
Youth and joy and love may take wing
Still in memory’s tender dreams
Come back to you

Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 10.26.21 AMCover, Here Comes A College Boy, by Horwitz and Bowers, 1909

Lastly, here’s a piece about the chaos that attends a college boy’s return to his hometown. Waiters and theater owners beware!

VERSE
Who’s that walking down the street
Rah, rah, rah, rah, rah, rah
Rather young and rather neat
Hip-a Hip-oo-ray!
Walks as if he owns the town
Will he turn it upside down
Spreading news about the town
Here comes a college boy

CHORUS
Oh joy, oh joy! A noisy college boy!
Here comes a college boy
He is his daddy’s joy
Full of knowledge learn’d at college
Boxing, rowing, football knowledge
Now give the college cry
Um-pa, um-pa, ump, oh my
Close the theaters, tell the waiters
Here comes a college boy

VERSE
Who’s that spending money there
Rah, rah, rah, rah, rah, rah
On a lady young and fair
Hip-a Hip-oo-ray!
Who’s that fellow opening wine
Asking ev’ry one to dine
Treating everybody fine
Why, that’s a college boy.


To all our graduating Baylor Bears, we say best of luck in the great, wide world, and watch out for tricky bowls of soup!

(Digital Collections) Unheard for 100 Years No Longer: A Graduate Student Adds Audio to Selections from the Spencer Collection

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For the past two semesters, the DPG has been working with Baylor University Museum Studies graduate student Hannah Haney Lovell on her graduate project, which involved adding a batch of new items to the Frances G. Spencer Collection of American Popular Sheet Music and enhancing them with recorded audio versions of those pieces. Last Friday, Hannah successfully defended her project in front of a group of her peers and the Museum Studies faculty, so we wanted to give a brief recap of her work here on our blog to celebrate!

Getting Started

Hannah came to me in the summer of 2013 after speaking with graduate adviser Dr. Julie Holcomb about what form Hannah’s final project for her master’s degree should take. After discussing several options, we settled on her working with the Spencer Collection in some capacity; given Hannah’s love of and background in music, it seemed like a natural fit. I agreed to serve as her project adviser, and she quickly set to work identifying materials to digitize as part of our ongoing work to digitize and catalog the sheet music from the Spencer Collection.

Hannah chose the subject area of Silent Movies as her starting point. Mrs. Spencer had assigned a large number of titles to this homegrown category, and the pieces included songs from actual movies as well as pieces inspired by movie stars, the social aspects of going to the movies and more. Hannah chose 155 items from the Silent Movies category and set about digitizing them on our newly-acquired CopiBook HD scanner. In fact, she was the first person to thoroughly utilize its scanning capabilities, as hers was the first project to get started up after it arrived in the RDC. (Thanks to Hannah for being a good sport/guinea pig for us!)

The Trouble With Scheduling

Digitizing the materials went smoothly, and Hannah generated a series of scans to be sent to our off-site music cataloging contractor, Flourish. Flourish takes the materials we send them and creates rich metadata files for us to add to the digital object once it’s ready for upload. Hannah incorporated Flourish’s metadata with her scans and added the 155 pieces to the Spencer Collection during the Fall 2013 semester.

All along, Hannah and I had planned on adding an audio component to her pieces that would enhance the user experience by giving them a tangible sample of what these pieces sounded like when performed by musicians and vocalists. Hannah spent many hours working to schedule performers from several student music performance groups who had volunteered to add their piano performances and/or vocal performances to the project, and we scheduled a recording session for a Monday night in late February.

The drawback to relying on undergraduate students – who are, by nature, a harried and … well, sometimes flaky bunch – is that they tend to need lots of corralling and getting them to stick to a plan is difficult. Unfortunately, through no fault of Hannah’s, the various performers who had committed to help with the recording process had to back out at the last minute; a rescheduled date for the following week met a similar untimely end.

Rather than get discouraged, Hannah came up with an alternative: using a music generation software called Finale, she would utilize the scans of the sheet music to create high-quality MIDI files of a subset of the collection. This would give users an example of the piano part and a computer-generated vocal line of the main melody, resulting in a very representative example of what the pieces sounded like without relying on human performers (and their tendencies to have busy lives, scheduling conflicts, etc.).

Ultimately, Hannah generated MIDI files for five pieces from her curated collection of scores, a remarkable turnaround in the last few days running up to her schedule defense date. The resulting pieces are listed below; the audio files are presented as MP3s within the structure of each score’s digital compound object.

Hannah’s project taught us a lot about enhancing our digital collections, including alternatives to live performances, selecting materials from a larger sample, and insights into how to utilize student labor to its best effect.

We extend our congratulations to Hannah on her successful completion of her project, and we’re thankful for the work she’s done for us over the past year. Click on the links below to hear the results of her labor, and let us know what you think of this new feature for our Spencer Collection!

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At the 10 Cent Movie Show (1913)

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Let’s Go Into a Picture Show (1909)

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At the Moving Picture Ball (1920)

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Take Me to the Movie Show (1919)

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Take Your Girlie to the Movies (If You Can’t Make Love at Home) (1919)

 

(Digital Collections) “Confuse Me, I’m Irish”: Evaluating Unusual Irish-Centric Sheet Music From The Early 1900s

Pictured: cognitive dissonance. From "The Irish Were Egyptians Long Ago." 1920.

Pictured: cognitive dissonance. From “The Irish Were Egyptians Long Ago.” 1920.

 

As anyone with a pulse will recall, this past week saw the annual celebration of all things Irish: St. Patrick’s Day. And like any culturally specific holiday, it was a rousing blend of traditional folklore, modern contrivance (everyone should drink green beer, just like the Real Irish People Do!) and a smattering of stereotyping. And while modern society has, for the most part, toned down its outright offensive tendencies on days like St. Paddy’s (or Patty’s – there’s actually an ongoing argument online about that one), it wasn’t that far back in our history that the very real plight of Irish Americans was portrayed in popular culture in a starkly different way.

While browsing our Frances G. Spencer Collection of American Popular Sheet Music earlier this week in pursuit of some new material for our Tumblr, Digitized and Randomized, I went straight to a set of results based on Mrs. Spencer’s category, “Ethnic-Irish.” I got more than 300 results, and they ran the gamut from patently offensive to heartbreaking and everything in between. And so I thought it would be fun to examine some of the more unusual pieces of music from the Irish category, especially those that feature Irish protagonists in strange situations.

How Did We Get Here?

Before we jump into our results, it’s worth a quick peek into the history of Irish Americans prior to the mid-1900s (the time when the pieces we’ll examine were all created). In the late 1800s, Irish immigration to America had seen hundreds of thousands of men, women and children arriving in the U.S. and swelling the ranks of established Irish neighborhoods in East Coast cities as well as strongholds in the South. As the poorest of all immigrant groups to arrive in the U.S. in the 19th century, they often took dangerous, low-paying jobs. Add to this fact a tendency for urban neighborhoods to be crowded, unsafe and unsanitary, and you began to see a rise in alcohol abuse and crime – two stereotypical traits assigned to Irish Americans in the popular culture of the day (as we’ll see below).

Other sources of “inspiration” for the pieces we’ll explore today include the long-standing (and often violent) split between Irish Catholics and Irish Protestants; the alleged belligerence and/or violent tendencies of Irish men; the supposed moral and intellectual inferiority of the Irish; and the pervasive myth that the Irish are perpetually inebriated. As composers of the early 20th century set pen to paper in the pursuit of filling the American public’s insatiable appetite for musical entertainment, they kept these “facts” and half-truths about Irish Americans in mind, spawning pieces that drew on Irish Americans’ fond remembrances of their native culture (example) to anti-Irish sentiment (example).

An Irish Pharoah?

But understanding pro- and anti-Irish sentiment is a relatively easy task compared to puzzling out the meanings behind our featured pieces for this week’s post. They are loosely gathered around a pair of themes: the Irish protagonist in an unfamiliar setting and/or the presence of Irish where audiences wouldn’t expect to find it, like our first piece: The Irish Were Egyptians Long Ago.

"The Irish Were Egyptians Long Ago" by Chris Smith. 1920.

“The Irish Were Egyptians Long Ago” by Chris Smith. 1920.

 

The visuals on this piece are particularly striking, with a typical desert scene set before the pyramids mixed with the cognitive dissonance of a repeated shamrock motif on the throne of an Egyptian queen. The central conceit for this piece is that the narrator has deciphered a startling fact from the “weird and cryptic” writings found “upon the tombs that dot Sahara’s sands”: the Irish were Egyptians long ago – “Just read between the lines and you will know.”

The “proof” of their ancient Egyptian heritage is given as the fact that the pyramids were built by manual labor (“It must have been the Irish who build the Pyramids / For no one else could carry up the bricks”); the Nile was dug by a tough, brave man (“For no one but an Irishman would fight a crocodile”); and the drovers of desert caravans had to have been named Houlihan, Mac or O.

This piece achieves a strange blend of whimsy (adding shamrocks to a typical Egyptian scene) and humor with negative stereotyping of not one but two cultures. This two-front offensive is also evident in our next piece, Since Arrah Wanna Married Barney Carney.

"Since Arrah Wanna Married Barney Carney," by Theodore Morse and Jack Drislane. 1907.

“Since Arrah Wanna Married Barney Carney,” by Theodore Morse and Jack Drislane. 1907.

 

Another “humorous” piece that trades on the unexpected mashup of two traditionally oppressed and/or caricatured cultures, this piece details the chaos that naturally followed when an Indian princess (Arrah Wanna) marries an Irishman named Barney Carney. It seems all it took to completely disrupt Native American culture (at least as the stereotypes would have it) was for one woman to marry a man from Erin, as evidenced by such strange occurrences as:

– “[n]o more do the Indians put paint upon their face”

– “The tom-toms play the ‘Wearing of the Green'”

– “The wigwams are full of Irish Blarney”

– “The Pipe of Peace is made of Irish clay”

There are more, but you get the picture. The introduction of an outsider of Irish origin upsetting the local culture (or attempting to assimilate into it in unexpected, humorous ways) will be repeated in our remaining pieces, each with the theme of romantic interest as a primary motivator. Up next is our final example of an Irishman falling under the guile of a “foreign” culture: O’Brien is Tryin’ To Learn To Talk Hawaiian.

"O'Brien Is Tryin' To Learn To Talk Hawaiian" by J. Rennie Cormack. 1916.

“O’Brien Is Tryin’ To Learn To Talk Hawaiian” by J. Rennie Cormack. 1916.

 

Here, a hapless tourist from Ireland arrives in the Sandwich Isles (the name given to the Hawaiian Islands by Capt. Cook in the 1700s) and discovers the native women to be of such beauty that he instantly forgets his wife at home in the presence of a “lovely Hula dancer down beside Hawaii Bay.” Pat O’Brien, our protagonist, is revealed to be a skilled performer in his own right (“He won Bridget, Kate and Mary by singing ‘Tipperary’ / And he’ll win his Lulu too”) who is so moved by the girls’ beauty that he attempts to learn her native tongue, to hilarious results. In addition to being a standard “man falls in love with beguiling, exotic beauty” tale, there’s also the opportunity for lyricist Al Dubin to mock the languages of both Ireland and Hawaii, as in this tongue-twisting passage:

He’s sighin’ and cryin’ and all the time he’s tryin’
Just to say “I love you true”
With his “Arrah Yaka Hula Begorra Hick Dula”
And his Irish “Jiji Boo”

We never learn if this would-be suitor succeeds in his philandering pursuits, but we’ll leave him at his studies (“Hawaiian’s hard to get with an Irish alphabet”) and shift our attention to two pieces where the object of the narrator’s affection is a woman of Irish heritage. The first is set in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas and bears the title Santiago Flynn.

"Santiago Flynn: A Spanish-Irish Episode" by Theodore F. Morse and Edward Madden. 1908.

“Santiago Flynn: A Spanish-Irish Episode” by Theodore F. Morse and Edward Madden. 1908.

 

This piece relates a tale of two would-be lovers: Santiago Flynn (“He dressed like a Spanish grandee / He rode on a pony thin”) and an Irish Rose who lived on a nearby plantation. Though Rose liked the cut of Santiago’s jib (“She cried, ‘You’re a hot tamale'”), she regrets that she can only marry a man from Ireland. And then, to our surprise (SPOILER ALERT!), Santiago reveals his secret:

“He jumped in a wild fandango
He cried with an Irish grin
‘Tho born underneath the Mano
My father was Paddy Flynn’

And so was Santiago able to gain access to his lover’s abode (“She cried ‘Come in, Mister Flynn / I’ll never say again'”) and all ends well for our protagonist. It should be noted that this piece uses a particularly unpleasant slur used in reference to Santiago’s outward appearance, so be ready if you click over to read the lyrics in full.

Our last piece combines the exotic (an Egyptian setting) with the romantic, the stereotypical and the allure of an Irish woman’s beauty, all under a ridiculous title: Cleopatricola.

"Cleopatricola (Cleo-patrick-ola" by Jean Schwartz and Alfred Bryan. 1920.

“Cleopatricola (Cleo-patrick-ola” by Jean Schwartz and Alfred Bryan. 1920.

 

This piece comes closest to embodying all of the elements we’ve discussed so far into one semi-coherent package. Rather than post excerpts of the lyrics, I’m choosing to reproduce them in full:

VERSE
Once I took a camel ride
Far across the desert wide
Met a maiden way down by the Nile
As I sat down by her side
Her entrancing form I spied

Then she gave me a sweet Irish smile
She told me that she was born in Erin
Cleopatricola was her name
Mighty soon my love I was declarin’
I spoke these words and set her heart aflame

CHORUS
Cleopatricola Cleopatricola
tell me what to do
By my heart and soul O Cleopatricola
I’m in love with you

There I found my Shamrock in Sahara
By the River Nile so fresh and green
Cleopatricola Patricola,
My Egyptian Colleen

VERSE
As the sun was going down
We went down to Cairo town
Met King Pharaoh and all of his crew
First we read the Rubaiyat
Then we had a little chat
Played Casino with Pharoah till two

She told me that she was “jipt” in Egypt
And that King Rameses was the blame
He told her she’d be a queen of Sheba
And spoke those very words before I came
(Repeat CHORUS)

This one’s got it all: a fish-out-of-water, a besotted suitor, a jilted lover, Irish motifs (the shamrock), local flair (Casino and the Rubaiyat) and Irish slang (referring to Irish women as Colleens). Add that to what I consider the best example of cover art of the pieces we’ve examined today – she looks like an Egyptian princess by way of Zelda Fitzgerald – and you have a winner in the category of Wait, Did I Seriously Just Read A Song About An Irish Person Doing WHAT?

I hope you’ve enjoyed this lighthearted look at some of the stranger pieces from our Irish subcategory in the Spencer Collection. There are no end of interesting pieces in the Spencer Collection, and we’ll be taking a look at them again from time to time. ‘Til then, if you find any fun examples of cross-cultural curiosity, send us a tip at digitalcollectionsinfo@baylor.edu. See you next week!


For more examples of Irish-themed sheet music in the Spencer Collection, click here. Special thanks to our friends at the Crouch Fine Arts Library for the partnership that brings the Spencer Collection to you via the Baylor University Libraries Digital Collections!