Stefano Flavoni: Specialized Libraries

April 19, 2013 § Leave a comment

I have two libraries that I’d like to report on.  The one I am presenting on in class will be the Physics and Astronomy library on the third floor of New LeConte Hall, which I used extensively as a physics major, and the Jean Gray Hargrove Music Library, which I use weekly, if not daily, in my study of music.

The Physics-Astronomy library is an amazing campus resource.  The librarian, Susan Koskinen, is very helpful and offers tours several times a week to assist the budding scientists with electronic resources as well as the varied collections within the library proper.  What is very interesting is that the library is very low-key compared to most campus resources.  There is a lounge area with a glass chess set located next to the most recently published issues of the world’s best physics journals (yes, the world’s – I’ve read journals in Italian here and regularly see ones in Chinese, Russian, French, and German).

Heading up a claustrophobia-inducing metal staircase, we head to the book area.  They are separated by subtopic in physics and feature resources in several different languages.  A good portion of the books are first editions and, in several notable cases (such as those of Albert Einstein), were donated by the family of the authors themselves.  It’s a very awe-inspiring feeling to know that the book you’re holding may have once been in the hands of Einstein, Feynman, or Poincare.

The library is only available on weekdays from 9-7 M-Th, and 9-5 on Fridays, with Sunday access available only to those with building access (i.e. faculty).

The music library is a different animal entirely.  I know it’s already being covered, so I’ll keep this relatively brief.  It is extremely well-organized and offers a microcosm of the entirety of the Berkeley library system, featuring every single resource covered in class except that it only focuses on music.  It is an excellent study location and I suggest checking out their vast collection of recordings when you get a chance.


Stefano Flavoni: Film Resources

April 12, 2013 § Leave a comment

While I missed the class film resources due to illness, I was still able to find an interesting DVD at the Media Resource Center.  Unbeknownst to me, Dmitri Shostakovich apparently wrote a lot of film scoring for Russian movies.  This one was an adaptation of William Shakespeare’s King Lear, one of my favorite plays.  While it is interesting to see the role portrayed by a giant Russian man (as opposed to my all-time favorite, James Earl Jones), the music is definitely the highlight of this DVD.  Shostakovich’s scoring incorporated motivic influence from several well-known Russian folksongs.  While this isn’t very useful in a research sense, it was still very interesting to witness.  Shostakovich, not even the director, was able to turn what can be considered the quintessential English play and somehow give it a newfound Russian identity.  The included booklet’s english translation shows there was historical influence by Ivan IV, which would explain Shostakovich’s reliance on older Russian tunes to give his score momentum.  This is very similar to the work of Prokofiev, and while they often had differing views on how to approach a Soviet Russia, it shows that for both men, their cultural roots are more important than anything.

Stefano Flavoni: Oral History

March 19, 2013 § Leave a comment

I was very intrigued by the oral history topic we discussed in class.  However, accessing relevant oral histories for my topic was a bit of a challenge.  While I originally went through Oskicat hopeful we’d have a dedicated volume involving the music of Shostakovich, when I switched to searching through the music library, instead, I found a book that actually contained within it an oral history-style memoir of Shostakovich, himself.  Inside was a very helpful interview that went over topic such as his experience with censorship and the Soviet government, his affinity for atonality at the heels of a widely impressionist movement outside of Russia, his relationship with other Soviet composers, and his political influence in countries such as the United States in various bilateral attempts to end the Cold War well before the fall of the Berlin Wall.  What is also interesting about this resource was that it referenced several musical works of Shostakovich I hadn’t heard that helped me improve my knowledge of his artistic portfolio.

A side note: when I found this book, I had been going through a sort of existential crisis with my own major in terms of determining the true utility of essentially devoting my life to producing art.  However, if artists can be proactive political figures as Shostakovich was, perhaps there is a future for me in music yet.


Shostakovich, Dmitri. “Testimony: the memoirs of Dmitri Shostakovich (Свидетельство:

мемуары Дмитрий Шостакович).” New York: Harper & Row, 1979.

Stefano Flavoni: Microfilm/Microfiche

March 8, 2013 § Leave a comment

Two classes ago, we ventured into the microfilm section of Doe.  As someone who collected copies of the Wall Street Journal growing up, I had a huge appreciation for the ease in apprehension of research materials.  That being said, the only articles I was able to find relating to my topic were concert reviews and Shostakovich’s obituary.  To improve my yield, I went to the Jean Gray Hargrove Music Library, where they also have a collection of Microfilm/Microfiche for use.  I struck gold with Microfilm  “MICROFILM AA3953“, a thesis titled “The reception in America of Dmitri Shostakovich, 1928-1946″. 

While this is obviously a very long and well-researched source (considering it is a PhD thesis with a full bibliography), this was more helpful to me in that I now know that there are plenty of alternatives to the typical research locations for musical topics hidden in the upper floor of the music library.  However, the difficulty in getting through such an extensive resource without an index or searching mechanism designed into microfilm makes it prohibitive to use without an extensive amount of time to go through the whole paper.

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.


Stefano Flavoni

Stefano Flavoni: Electronic Resources

February 22, 2013 § Leave a comment

I have to say: thank goodness for electronic library resources.  There is a wealth of discussion of Shostakovich’s works, which, as a research-oriented resource, is not as helpful as the historical books found in Main Stacks and the Music Library, but they offer keen insight into performance intention and background of composition, which is nearly just as helpful.  The article I took a look at was entitled ” The case of the Three Russians: Stravinsky, Prokofiev, and Shostakovich” which did the comparative analysis that inspired me to choose this topic in the first place.

However, one thing that interested me most in this selection was how the author did his contrast of the composers by comparing them to other Russian composers.  He said that Prokofiev’s style was similar to Tchaikovsky while Shostakovich’s more resembled Mussorgsky.  This is interesting to me because while I very much enjoy Mussorgsky’s music, I find Shostakovich’s to sound a lot more modern to have a true comparison.

Stefano Flavoni: A Trip to Main Stacks

February 15, 2013 § Leave a comment

I have begun to narrow down my research question.  Because Shostakovich’s effects on tonality is a very broad topic.  I would like to narrow it down to researching his government’s effect on his works after around Opus 36, which is when Stalin’s regime first began to see issues with his disestablishmentarian views.

To gain more insight, I went to Main Stacks in an attempt to find some resources, but it was very difficult.  The best I could do was find some history texts that referenced Shostakovich as an example of Stalinist Russia’s impact on the everyday cultural lives of its citizens.  However, all of the musical resources (M in the Library of Congress indexing) are located off-site in the Jean Gray Hargrove Music Library.  While there, I began my research with an excellent book,

Ivashkin, Alexander, and Andrew Kirkman. Contemplating Shostakovich: life, music, and film.

Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2012.

It analyzes all of Shostakovich’s works in a very clear, thought-out manner with lots of visual examples.  I think this is an excellent start to my research journey.