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21st Century Americana: Intermediate Piano Solos - Book Review

American Music Teacher , August-Sept, 2003 by Timothy Shafer

by Elisabeth L. Lomax. Mel Bay Publications, Inc. (P.O. Box 66, Pacific, MO 63069), 2002. 70 pp.,

Elisabeth L. Lomax has compiled an interesting and varied set of ten American folk songs for inclusion in her collection, 21st Century Americana. Some of the tunes are traditional favorites such as "Down in the Valley" and "All the Pretty Little Horses." Others, such as "Bold Jack Donahue" and "The Housewife`s Lament," are less familiar to us today. Each tune has been set in a particular style usually suited to its expressive content and its text. Styles include waltz variations, boogie, blues, fandango and new age, among others. Included with each folk song is a simple presentation of the unaccompanied tune with its full text, historical information about the tune, its circumstances, a brief sound recording bibliography, practice suggestions for the student, a secondo piano part and a general MIDI accompaniment in CD format. Additionally, there are interesting study questions sometimes provided to generate thought and discussion about the more provocative folk texts.

The songs Lomax selected are high-quality and enduring American folk songs, quite sing-able, each with unique expressive features. The solo piano arrangements are authentically and appealingly set in the selected style. For each arrangement and within the selected style, Lomax has provided significant textural variety for multiple verses. Melodies are cleverly designed to appear in several locations within the texture and require substantial skill on the student`s part to bring them to the fore. Accompaniments are usually free-voice--not requiring strict adherence to a particular number of voices. As a result, there is a disappointing lack of attention to contrapuntal interchange and some inconsistent stemming of chordal textures, making the arrangements more difficult to read initially and sometimes awkward pianistically. Bass lines often move around with open fifths on top, providing extended harmonic plateaus and evoking a folk style of instrumental playing. Occasional harmonic oddities are scattered throughout the arrangements.

The secondo parts are placed at the end of the book and are generally not as difficult as the solo parts. The pieces are most effective, however, when performed with the secondo part. The MIDI accompaniment CD contains the secondo part performed on a digital keyboard with the typical electronic special effects. The practice suggestions are friendly and engaging, offering sound advice and highlighting more difficult passages.

The layout and binding could perhaps be improved in a second printing. The information for each song (tune, practice suggestions, arrangement and so forth) appears in a variety of orders, making it confusing to determine whether to turn forward or backward locate things. The binding is unlikely to stay open on most piano racks.

All in all, though, Lomax has created an entertaining means of acquainting upper intermediate piano students with some of America`s finest folk music. Reviewed by Timothy Shafer, University Park, Pennsylvania.

COPYRIGHT 2003 Music Teachers National Association, Inc.

COPYRIGHT 2003 Gale Group

Grand piano design for Morgan library - Front Page - Renzo Piano

Art in America , Jan, 2003 by Marcia E. Vetrocq

Some 90 years after his death, Pierpont Morgan will have the posthumous distinction of joining John and Dominique de Menil, Ernst and Hildy Beyeler, and Gianni and Marella Agnelli on the list of patrons whose collections are displayed in buildings designed by Renzo Piano. Models and plans prepared by Renzo Piano Building Workshop for a

With roughly 350,000 objects in its care (the holdings comprise paintings and art objects, ancient Near Eastern seals and tablets, master drawings and prints from the 15th-20th centuries, medieval and Renaissance manuscripts, literary and historical manuscripts, music manuscripts and books, bindings, printed books and early children`s books) and attendance more than doubling in the last decade, the Morgan`s priorities are expanded storage, increased exhibition space and improved circulation. In recent years the library has opened a center for the study of works on paper and a conservation center endowed by Eugene V. and Clare E. Thaw, whose collection of over 350 master drawings is a promised gift.

The Morgan`s collection has grown significantly under Charles E. Pierce, Jr., director since 1987, though perhaps in no area quite so dramatically as 20th-century material, which has seen the 1997 donation of the archives of the Pierre Matisse Gallery, the 1998 bequest of the Carter Burden Collection of American Literature and the 1999 purchase of the Pads Review Archives. The year 1999 also saw the Morgan`s first exhibition devoted excusively to 20th-century drawings [see "Front Page," July `99].

Growth is a delicate issue, since two of the three buildings which currently constitute the library were among the first to receive landmark designation from the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission in the mid-1960s. Moreover, the Morgan prides itself on intimacy and access in the close viewing of rare and generally diminutive objects. For that, the library is regarded with possessive affection by many visitors, although this may also have something to do with the presence of works by Beatrix Potter and Lewis Carroll among the Gutenburg Bibles (3 of the 49 extant), Durer and Rembrandt drawings, and autograph materials by Keats, Brahms and Mahler. So far, the Morgan has displayed a deft hand in balancing tradition and progress: the library`s newly launched online catalogue, and its most visible engagement with 21st-century high-speed technology, is named Corsair for "Commodore" Pierpont Morgan`s steam yacht.

The expansion and renovation of the Morgan was formally entrusted to Piano, who maintains offices in Genoa and Pads, in 2001, following an unsatisfactory round of consultations with and "conceptual submissions" from other firms. Piano has also been selected by the New York Times company to build a 52-story tower just west of Times Square, likewise scheduled for completion in 2006 [see "Artworld," Dec. `00]. His design for the Morgan received the unanimous approval of the city`s Landmarks Preservation Commission last February. Local oversight will be provided by Beyer Blinder Belle, the design firm responsible for the restoration of Grand Central Terminal and the urban planning consultant appointed to oversee the redevelopment of the World Trade Center site.

Unlike the Times tower, the Morgan project is discreet. It calls for the insertion of three glass-and-steel pavilions into the half-block campus defined by the existing components: the handsome Italianate library built by Charles F. McKim in 1906 to house the collection, which had outgrown the family residence next door; the 19th-century townhouse at 231 Madison Ave.--today called the Morgan house--purchased by Pierpont for his son, Jack; and the 1928 Annex designed by Benjamin Wistar Morris to provide a reading room and gallery for the public institution inaugurated by Jack in 1924, 11 years after his father`s death in Rome.

The focus of the six structures--the "piazza" in Piano`s vision--will be a new glass-roofed courtyard to succeed the unloved enclosure built by Voorsanger and Mills in 1991 to link the library to the Morgan house, which had been reacquired by the library in 1988. The principal new component will be a two-story structure offering expanded exhibition space and a reading room that will double the number of seats available to researchers and offer online capabilities. This pavilion will also reorient the library`s main entrance from 36th St. to Madison Ave. and deliver visitors to the central court. South of the court a new small gallery, a 20-foot cube fronting on 36th St., will be used for highly focused exhibitions. A four-story administrative building is planned for the north side.

New construction will add 75,000 square feet to the institution, 47,000 of which will be below grade and provide a four-tiered subterranean storage vault and a 280-seat hall for music, films, lectures and readings. Above ground, glass is favored throughout to foster circulation, admit filtered natural light into the reading room and allow an unimpeded view of the McKim building and the small belt of landscaping which will encircle the entire site.

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