Contact: Craig D'Ooge (202) 707-9189

June 30, 1997

American Musical Traditions Featured in American Treasures Exhibition at the Library of Congress

A wide selection of original scores, photographs, and recordings drawn from the performing arts are included in the new permanent exhibition, "American Treasures of the Library of Congress" that opened May 1 in Washington at the Library of Congress.

For example, Francis Scott Key's lyrics to "The Star Spangled Banner" in his own hand are in the exhibition. Also in the exhibition are the original scores from George Gershwin's Porgy and Bess, Igor Stravinsky's Agon, Aaron Copland's Appalachian Spring, Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Some Enchanted Evening" from South Pacific, Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim's "Something's Coming" from West Side Story, and Jelly Roll Morton's "Frog-I-more Rag."

One of the oldest musical items in the exhibition is a 1746 illuminated manuscript hymnal from Pennsylvania's Ephrata Community of German Seventh-Day Baptists. The hymnal, once in the possession of Benjamin Franklin, is exemplary of the earliest original music composed in the British colonies.

Visitors may listen, on a personal digital audio device, to recordings of selections from Grof's Grand Canyon Suite and Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue, which comprised Andre Kostelanetz's 1938 time capsule given to the Library with his manuscripts and published recordings.

The listening device is a wand that enables visitors to hear as little or as much as they want of historic audio clips of music and voices related to selected portions of the exhibition. The 2-1/2-hour Soundtrack Tour by Thwaite Productions allows the user random access to audio presentations at various points in the exhibition through the use of a numeric keypad. Visitors may rent the wand for $2.50, a reduced rate that will stay in effect for one year.

Other musical selections in the exhibition available through the audio wand illustrate the broad range of American culture and the Library's incomparable collections. Among them are:

  • the first recording of John Philip Sousa's "Stars and Stripes Forever" recorded more than 100 years ago,
  • Beverly Sills, age 10, auditioning on the Major Bowes' Amateur Hour with an aria by Mozart,
  • a 1910 recording made by ethnologist Frances Densmore of a song by Joe Kobe, a Chippewa man from the Lac du Flambeau Reservation, Wisconsin,
  • Jelly Roll Morton playing "Tiger Rag" recorded at the Library of Congress in a now-legendary 1938 interview with Alan Lomax,
  • Duke Ellington's first recording as a band leader with the group "The Washingtonians,"
  • a 1941 unpublished symphony written about the Brooklyn Dodgers by Robert Russell Bennett with the final movement narrated by Red Barber,
  • a rehearsal tape made for Martha Graham by Aaron Copland of Appalachian Spring.

These musical treasures are among the more than 200 items that are on display in "American Treasures," the first permanent exhibition of the rarest and most significant items in the history of the world's largest library. Highlights include Native American courting flutes, the earliest surviving book printed in North America, early baseball cards, the contents of Lincoln's pockets on the night of his assassination and Susan B. Anthony's personal copy of the transcript of the trial resulting from her arrest in 1872 for voting.

The exhibition, made possible by a grant of $1.1 million from the Xerox Foundation, is the centerpiece of a yearlong celebration marking the official reopening during its 100th anniversary of the Library's Thomas Jefferson Building, after a 12-year, $81.5 million restoration.

Harry N. Abrams Inc. has published a companion volume with an introduction by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Garry Wills and a foreword by Librarian of Congress James H. Billington. American Treasures in the Library of Congress: Memory/Reason/Imagination ($39.95) is available in the Library sales shops and wherever books are sold. Select items from the exhibition are also available on-line at http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/.

Exhibition hours are Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Same-day, timed-entry tickets are available free of charge from 10 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. at the Visitors' Information Desk in the Jefferson Building at 10 First St. S.E. For a recorded announcement about the exhibition, call (202) 707-3834.

Advance tickets are available only from Ticketmaster for $2.75 plus a $1.25 handling fee per order by calling (202) 432-SEAT in Washington, (410) 481-SEAT in Baltimore and (703) 573-SEAT in Virginia. Out-of-state callers may dial (800) 551-SEAT toll-free. A selection of items from the exhibition is also available on the Internet at http://www.loc.gov/exhibits.

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PR 97-102
7/8/97
ISSN 0731-3527

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