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Libraries Receive GRAMMY Foundation Grant to Preserve Rare Classical Music

The Columbia University Libraries received a $40,000 grant from the GRAMMY Foundation Grants Program to preserve rare American classical music recordings collected in the University Ditson Fund Recording Archive.

The project focuses on endangered master recordings of early works by significant figures in American classical music made from 1942 to 1951 and includes compositions by Samuel Barber, Gian Carlo Menotti, Douglas Moore and Virgil Thomson. Recordings in the Ditson Archive represent a pivotal moment in the history of American classical music, encompassing the "Americanist" style of Copland and Thomson and the more experimental work of figures such as Barber and William Schuman.

"This unique collection enjoys a special relationship with Columbia University, as much of the material contained in it was made possible by the Alice M. Ditson Fund and under the aegis of the music department," said Elizabeth Davis, department head of the Gabe M. Wiener Music & Arts Library. "With the help of the GRAMMY Foundation and through the Libraries' stewardship and preservation activities, an important body of 20th-century American music is being cared for and made accessible to scholars and performers."

The project will clean, re-house and create digital copies of deteriorating tapes and discs, many of which were recorded between 1945 and 1952 at an annual weeklong festival of American music sponsored by the Ditson Fund. A list of the digitized recordings will be made available on the Columbia Libraries Web site, where it will be accessible to anyone searching the Internet. Students, faculty and researchers will be able to listen to the recordings in Columbia's Music & Arts Library.

The Ditson Fund at Columbia University was established in 1940 to support performances, publications and recordings of works by younger or relatively unknown contemporary American composers. The fund was set up through a bequest from Alice Ditson, wife of noted Boston music publisher Oliver Ditson, and honored Columbia's distinguished and influential Department of Music.

Columbia University Libraries is one of the top 10 academic library systems in the nation, with 9.2 million volumes and more than 65,650 serials, as well as extensive collections of electronic resources, manuscripts, rare books, microforms and other non-print formats. The collections and services are organized into 22 libraries, supporting specific academic or professional disciplines. Columbia Libraries employs more than 400 professional and support staff to assist faculty, students and researchers in their academic endeavors.

The GRAMMY Foundation was established in 1989 to cultivate the understanding, appreciation and advancement of the contribution of recorded music to American culture-from the artistic and technical legends of the past to the still unimagined musical breakthroughs of future generations of music professionals. The Foundation accomplishes this mission through programs and activities that engage the music industry and cultural community as well as the general public. The Foundation works in partnership year-round with The Recording Academy to bring national attention to important issues such as the value and impact of music and arts education and the urgency of preserving our rich cultural heritage.

Published: May 22, 2006
Last modified: May 22, 2006