Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Lost Music

Library Link of the Day features an article on musician Michael Feinstein from the LA Times. He is on a mission to find and preserve music from America's songbook.

But Feinstein is more than an entertainer. He is also a musical detective — a man on the prowl for original scores, recordings and sheet music at garage sales and auctions, in secondhand stores and the libraries of film and record studios.

His mission isn't simply to collect, but to preserve. And it sometimes feels like a race against time. He and like-minded preservationists on both coasts worry that hundreds of songs by some of America's most famous composers have disappeared.

He has an amazing personal collection.

Feinstein has uncovered a treasure trove during 30 years of collecting, including more than 30,000 recordings, plus posters, photos, sheet music and 16-inch lacquer radio discs from the 1930s. Stacks of boxes hold composer Henry Mancini's record collection and orchestrations by entertainer Peter Allen. He has hours of rare, taped radio performances by Bing Crosby.

These items fill the walls, halls, bookshelves, basement and garage of his three-story gated home in the Los Feliz hills. Feinstein delights in showing off the collection: "Look at this — this is genius," he tells a visitor with barely concealed excitement, thumbing through a faded, autographed copy of the score for Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue."

Every paragraph has something interesting...read the whole thing.

Although college libraries and other archives house the personal papers of many well-known composers, preservationists are still on the hunt for missing pieces of musical history. And they find them in the most unlikely places.

Tony Bennett's new album, for example, features "Time to Smile," a tune missing lyrics until recently, when the words by Johnny Mercer were found scrawled on the back of an envelope in his Georgia archives. Ken Bloom, a music historian, found an unknown Cole Porter song in the back of a filing cabinet at Paramount Studios.

Earlier this year, Feinstein bought a 1928 notebook of Gershwin's musical jottings at a Los Angeles auction. The 50-page manuscript, now stored in the Library of Congress, contains drafts of melodies and snippets of songs no one has ever heard.

"If I can get the permission of the composer's estate, I'd weave this music into something magical," said Feinstein, who wants to perform it in an all-Gershwin show.

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