It was 10 years ago today…

Music on the GatewayWhat were you doing on the morning of Thursday 22 November, 2001?

Most of you will have been working, some of you will have been on holiday (rather excitingly, I was in San Francisco), some of you will have been having a lie in, while others may have been out jogging, walking the dogs or heading down to the supermarket. Or indulging in a spot of daytime telly.

But for the more geeky or indeed the music-lovers among you, there would have been only one place to be – the MacWorld Expo. There you could have queued up to spend £349 on the latest wonder from Apple – the iPod, with its 5GB hard drive and its rather peculiar spinning wheel navigation device.  OK, I suspect few of us were that early an adopter but I’m sure many of us have indulged in a shiny new music player since then (I wouldn’t be without mine, though it’s used more for listening to Radio 4 than the latest Young People’s music). Anyway, this auspicious anniversary seems a good opportunity to see what the Westminster Libraries Gateway has to offer the music lover.

First port of call, obviously, is the Music section of the Gateway. Here you will find the fabulous Naxos Music Library. This is a service that streams music from a range of what I still think of as record producers – Naxos, Virgin Classics, EMI Classics and so on. At the time of writing it holds 62,563 CDs with 893,692 tracks among them. These cover composers from  A (there really are a couple of Chinese composers called A) to Zyriek. It’s not just classical (though it would be hard to find a piece of classical music it doesn’t include). There’s musicals, jazz, folk, blues, world music, children’s music and much, much more. You can listen from any computer, though for obvious rights reasons, you can’t actually download material to your iPod (other portable music devices are available). Have a look – there’s bound to be something you like.

While listening to some music, why not find out a bit more about the composer or genre. First port of call should be Oxford Music Online. Some of you may have used Grove’s Dictionary of Music and Musicians, an encyclopaedia so splendid that it has its own Wikipedia entry. Well, its 29 volumes are the centrepiece of Oxford Music Online, a fantastic resource from our friends at the Oxford University Press. Whether your taste is for Sondheim, Saint-Saens or Slade, you’ll find biographical, bibliographical and discographical (yes, it’s a word!) information from a reliable source.

For further research into celebrated musicians, why not head over to the Biography section of the Gateway and have a look at the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, where you can read about the lives of British musicians from Caedmon (the George Harrison of the seventh century) to George Harrison (the Caedmon of the twentieth century).

Or for a bit of gossip about popular beat combos, there’s the Newspapers and Magazines section and UKPressOnline (among others), where you’re bound to find a bit of scandal in the archives of the Daily Mail and Daily Express.

Maybe you don’t just want to listen to music or read about it – you want to play an instrument or sing. So you’ll be wanting some musical scores. If you can’t get to our top class Music Library, you’ll need to head back to the Music section and Music Reference Online. This is a collection of resources from Alexander Street press, including encyclopaedias of world music and African-American music and also the Classical Scores Library which currently includes 24,367 scores, mostly strictly classical though there’s a few other genres thrown in, searchable by instrument as well as genre and composer.

If your tastes incline to the folkie, why not have a look at the fabulous Contemplator which has both the lyrics, and midi files, to 100s of folksongs from the British Isles, and America, arranged by both county and theme. So if you have a sudden urge to sing along to The Outlandish Knight or O Gin I Were Where Gadie Rins, this is the site for you. For musicals fans, Musicals 101 is a positive treasure trove of articles about everything on stage – biographies of showbiz greats, histories of Broadway and the West End,  and articles on subjects as varied as minstrel shows, burlesque and  gay musicals. Or for pop fans, why not pamper your inner geek with a browse through Everyhit where you can check the title of every hit single since the charts were born in 1952 and read an amazing amount of trivia (Oldest person to appear on a Number One Single while still alive – that would be Kenneth Wolstenholme whose 1966 world cup commentary was used in Englandneworder’s World in Motion from 1990 when Ken was a sprightly 69)

Whether your tastes in music are highbrow or lowbrow (and we incline to the latter at Treasure Hunt Towers) there should be something to interest you on the Gateway – the above is just a selection.

[Nicky]

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