Stefano Flavoni: Breakfast at the Bancroft
March 1, 2013 § Leave a comment
Visiting the Bancroft for the first time on Monday was an amazing experience. Seeing the ease with which our student body is able to acquire primary sources dating literally hundreds of generations ago is an amazing sight; it definitely makes one proud to be a Berkeley student! That being said, any archive is bound to have its limitations, and I definitely hit some road blocks this week at the Bancroft.
My topic, censorship in Russian classical music composition between the 1940s to 1970s, is clearly one in need of a European-minded collection. Unfortunately, this is a quality with which our campus archive, the Bancroft, was not intended. Even searching items relating to music in general was difficult: most items relating to music are from time periods well before the forming of the Soviet Union (more focused, instead, on medieval chants, among other forms of pre-Enlightenment music).
Furthermore, searching for specific composers often yielded a dearth of results. However, later in the week (after attempts at changing my focus away from Shostakovich to Russian composers in general), I was able to find a collection of accounts of Prokofiev’s premiere of “The Love for Three Oranges”, which provides a valid base-case, considering the work was premiered first in 1921, well before the establishment of the Soviet bloc.
If our experiences within the Bancroft’s walls have shown me anything, above all it taught that there’s always useful information hiding in plain sight and that it is our job as historical researchers to uncover it.