Category Archives: music

My two favorite albums of 2018

My list of favorite albums of 2018 is much shorter than those in recent years. This is not so much because of a lack of good music being released, but because I spent most of my free time in the past 12 months listening to audiobooks instead (a post about this will hopefully follow soon). Whenever I decided to put on some music, however, there were mostly two albums that have been on repeat on my phone. As purely instrumental and videogame related soundtracks they might fly under your radar, so here is a little introduction to both of them that will hopefully get you interested.

Celeste Original Soundtrack (Lena Raine)

This portrait of Lena Raine provides a good characterization of the soundtrack to the videogame Celeste: “Raine’s music is brilliant and sweeping, with memorable melodies and diverse instrumentation that reflect its author’s far-flung musical influences—from house to vintage RPG soundtracks and classical music.” The album works totally well by itself, at the same time the music whets the appetite to play the game. I had similar experiences before with other videogame soundtracks such as Transistor, Shovel Knight or FTL that made me play the games (each of them highly recommended!). In return, playing through the games and their storylines usually added even more layers to the experience of listening to the music, so I am already looking forward to exploring Celeste soon. As a sample from the album I recommend “Resurrection” which perfectly shows the above mentioned variety of musical styles used by Lena Raine.

Zelda & Chill (Mikel & GameChops)

Even if you only have the slightest interest in videogames, you will most likely be familiar with the Zelda franchise and some of its iconic music. Combining those well-known melodies with laid-back lofi hip hop beats, as done by Mikel & GameChops on their album Zelda & Chill, turns out to be a perfect fit. My favorite track on the album is “Oath to Order” that originates from The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask.

Grand piano delivery at Qatar National Library

Last week was a big moment for me as a music librarian (and pianist): Qatar National Library received its own grand piano! The Yamaha C7X is located on the stage of the Special Event Area and will be exclusively used for performances in the library.

Apart from the excitement about the arrival of this beautiful instrument, the delivery was fascinating to follow. A special piano lift was used to move the heavy instrument out of the car, through narrow corridors, and onto the stage where it even turned the grand piano into its final standing position:

Now the piano needs to undergo several rounds of tuning, before it will reach its optimal condition to be played. In the meantime, you can find it on the right side of the stage in parking position awaiting many recitals to come at QNL!

Spotlights from the IAML Congress 2018

From July 22-27, me and more than 400 music librarians and specialists from around the world attended the 2018 Annual Congress of IAML, the International Association of Music Libraries, Archives and Documentation Centres. We met in Leipzig, rich in music history as the domain of Bach, Schumann, Mendelssohn and so many other important figures, which would set the tone of the whole congress week. Overall, I really enjoyed the conference. It had been three years since my last IAML Congress. At the same time, many members of the German IAML branch gathered in Leipzig, so this was an excellent opportunity to catch up with colleagues, both on a national and international level, and make most of the conference program. Here are some spotlights from the congress week.

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One of my main reasons to attend the conference was to participate in the activities of the IAML Advocacy Committee as a member of the group and to present a work related project during the poster session. For the past two years, the Advocacy Committee has been laying the groundwork for its future activities, among others by formulating the terms of reference and goals of the group, by gathering basic feedback from the IAML community, by documenting good practice related to (music) library advocacy and by building a network of advocacy liaison contacts around the world for local outreach and feedback. During the working meeting in Leipzig, we mainly revisited the ongoing efforts of the group and agreed on further points of action for the upcoming year. One major project will be to create supporting documents built upon the examples of good practice that can be used by music librarians around the world in different scenarios.

During the first poster session of the conference week, I presented my poster “Curated Naxos playlists for philharmonic concerts – A unique collaboration between Qatar National Library and the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra”. Since 2017, Qatar National Library (QNL) is providing playlists on Naxos Music Library (NML) that are tailored to the concerts of the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra (QPO). Residents of the country have free access to the library’s resources (including NML). While the playlists mean added value for the concert audience who can preview and revisit the music of the performances, QNL benefits from reaching out to a new user group. More information about the project can be found on the QPO website. During the poster presentation, it was interesting to talk with many colleagues about their experience with Naxos Music Library and to learn from a few other libraries who provide a similar service – usually within one particular city rather than nation-wide. Visiting the conference exhibition or one of the vendor lunch talks was a perfect follow-up to this, since you could get the latest updates on music streaming services and platforms for digital sheet music.

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The evening program was rich in music, too, and included a total of three concerts that varied in style and location. My favorite performance by far was the concert of amarcord who presented a huge spectrum of vocal music spanning from chorales from the Thomas-Graduale to vocal compositions by Leipzig Conservatory teachers. Location-wise, the concert “Catholic Church Music from the Dresden Court” was most impressive, as we could listen to the pieces in the newly openened breathtaking building of the Paulinum (see photos below). But the musical performances didn’t stop here. There was plenty more to discover during the week just by walking through the streets of Leipzig which included everything from string quartets, flute duets, pianists and guitarists to singer-songwriters, pop bands, Russian folk songs and even tango dancers.

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Despite the ongoing heat wave in Germany, walking was a constant during the congress week, mainly because Leipzig is a very walkable place and the sessions and meetings took place in different locations covering the area of the University of Music and Theatre »Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy«, the Lepzig University Library (Bibliotheca Albertina) and the Leipzig Public Library. Adding to this, the conference program included a large number of tours which featured a variety of libraries, but also paid tribute to the rich music history of the city. I was able to see the German National Library (including the German Music Archive), the Leipzig Public Library, the Bach-Archiv as well as the Schumann-Haus and the Mendelssohn-Haus. While the libraries on this list were already fascinating, for me and many other attendees visiting the homes and places of creative work of Bach, Schumann and Mendelssohn was undoubtably the highlight of the tours. Below are some impressions from the Mendelssohn-Haus showing rooms of the apartment (first three photos: salon, study and bedroom), parts of the recently opened exhibition about Fanny Hensel (next two photos) and the “Effektorium” which lets you conduct a virtual orchestra.

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Following their motto “It’s all in the mix.“, the organizing committee of this congress managed to come up with a great mixture of conference sessions, musical performances and tours that showcased the best of what music history and libraries in Leipzig have to offer. All those great memories make me look forward even more to the upcoming IAML Congresses in Krakow, Prague and Stellenbosch. See you next year in Poland!

My 20 favorite albums of 2017

2017 was a great year for listening to new album releases. I found an abundance of compelling music from artists across many different genres. To continue a tradition I started in 2014, here are my favorite albums of the year in alphabetical order (this time increased to 20 instead of the usual 10):

What are your favorite albums of the year? I am curious to know!

A taste of traditional Arabic music at Souq Waqif

Last weekend, I got to see Souq Waqif, one of the main attractions of Doha. The historic market area has been restored recently which means you will find lots of picturesque alleys and buildings. On the other hand, with its many souvenir shops, restaurants and modern relics such as wood paneled ATMs, the souq also seemed quite touristy and artificial to me. But being aware of the restauration, you can still enjoy the area. Certainly, one big plus is that this is one of the rare places in Doha that lets you take longer walks outside without many cars around.

By far the best part of my visit happened in the evening when I could listen to some live Arabic music. I had only heard some short bits of traditional music on the radio so far, so this was my first time at a live concert. I am still at the very beginning of learning about traditional Arabic music, its tone system, the maqam andparticular music instruments. But even without much background knowledge, it was very interesting for me to listen to the concert and to study the musicians, their instruments and the audience.

Besides the arrangement of the stage and musicians, the most fascinating part for me was the effect of the music on me as an unexperienced listener. I am a frequent concertgoer and have a direct approach to various styles of Western music from classical music to minimal techno. But in this very case, the music had no immediate emotional or physical effect on me. This does not mean I did not appreciate what I heard. I think it rather shows that I was yet unable to deal with the different tone scales and rhythmic patterns which, as a result, didn’t let me get into a certain flow while listening to the music. It will be very interesting to see how this will change over time (I am pretty sure it will!). Thinking about other experiences I have made so far, I am wondering if it will be a similar process as with getting used to free and more complex forms of jazz which also took me some time. I am definitely looking forward to listening to more Arabic music and also to learning more about its theoretical background and tradtion! So maybe, at some future point, I will even start dancing when I listen to it like some of the locals in the audience did on that evening at Souq Waqif.