The Labs program launched in 2012 with a focus on a teen audience and while teens are still the focus of The Labs we’ve been looking for opportunities to engage other age groups across the Library. While Tara’s project is not a Labs project it is certainly in keeping with the experiential and experimental nature of The Labs. I hope you’ll enjoy reading about Tara’s great work with synthesizers at Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s Main Library in the Music, Film & Audio Department.

Enjoy.

~Corey Wittig, Digital Learning Lead Librarian, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.

Leon Theremin circa 1927 with a Theremin amplified by one of his speaker systems. Image is from the book The Synthesizer by Mark Vail.

by Tara Goe

This past January I introduced the Carnegie Library Music Department’s new gadget lending pilot project on this here website, and as promised I’m back with an update. The good news is that the program was a massive success. Not only was the collection of electronic instruments and gear almost continuously checked out (and returned!) but the handful of instruments that were available for in-house use were played by hundreds of curious music adventurers.

The level of enthusiasm and engagement that our users (many of them new to the department) have shown for the lending program exceeded our expectations. We have chosen to continue the program and are working towards expanding the collection offerings. While it’s tempting to move forward full steam ahead, we have chosen instead to regroup and come up with a more comprehensive plan for summer and fall. I’d like to share with you a few things we’re currently working on.

Theremania Day!

Theremin virtuoso Pamelia Stickney, courtesy of http://pamelia.weebly.com/

By far the instrument that has generated the most interest is the Moog Theremini, which lives at the entrance to our department. In honor of this most mysterious musical instrument we have chosen to declare May 18th Theremania Day.

Theremin virtuoso Pamelia Stickney will be stopping by the CLP – Main Library for a lunchtime lecture and performance. She will also be giving a concert in the evening at the local Glitter Box Theater, and before her performance folks can stop by the Documentary Salon at Pittsburgh Filmmakers for a free screening of a fascinating and charming documentary about the life and times of Leon Theremin — inventor, unwilling KGB spy and prisoner.

Expanded Music Programming

Intro to Synthesizers & Electronic Sound Making with Pittsburgh Modular

The two music programs we offered during our pilot (Intro to Synthesizers with Pittsburgh Modular and a Sound Recording Skillshare with Madeleine Campbell) were well-attended, packed house affairs and so we’re working toward offering more music programming in the future using what has been successful for The Labs as a model.

Learning about making sounds and recording them with engineer Madeleine Campbell

We’re especially excited about developing an electronics meetup group — sort of like a knitting circle, but for electronics! For this program users can BYOP (bring their own project, such as guitar pedals and the like) or try their hand at putting a kit together that will be added to the library’s circulating gadgets collection. This program is a natural extension of the connected learning model that has worked so well for our Teen Labs. More program ideas we’re exploring – Beatmaking with the Roland TR-8, Open Source Synthesizers, and an Ableton Live Learning Circle among others.

Musical Incubation

Our Pittsburgh Modular Lifeforms SV-1 Blackbox, available in-house or for checkout

As mentioned on this site in January, the Music Department doesn’t (yet) have a dedicated programming space but the instruments we have had on offer in-house (a Korg MS-20 Mini Synthesizer, a Pittsburgh Modular SV-1, and our Moog Theremini) have gotten quite a bit of use. Since we can’t offer a dedicated space for musical exploration in the near future, we’re doing the next best thing and inviting a handful of local musicians to use our musical instruments collection to create unique sound pieces to be performed in the library later this year.

A piece from the Pittsburgh Sheet Music Collection

We’ll offer pieces from our Historic Pittsburgh Sheet Music collection as inspiration, which contains hundreds of songs about the people, places, and things that make Pittsburgh uniquely Pittsburgh. We’ll be encouraging our invited musicians to create some new (electrified!) songs or pieces that celebrate our fair city. Here’s hoping that we’ll have something fun to share with all of you later this fall!

Want More?

 

Tara Goe is the Film Specialist in the Music, Film & Audio Department of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh – Main. Her burgeoning curiosity about electronics and programming inspired her to build her first musical instrument — a miniature synthesizer that fits in an Altoids can. She is now starting to explore the sonic possibilities of the Arduino.

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