The Library now has a permanent West Coast presence in the new Library of Congress/Ira Gershwin Gallery, which displayed 53 items from the Library's collections for the Oct. 23 grand opening of the gallery's home, the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles.
Representing the Library at the opening celebration were Deanna Marcum, associate librarian for Library Services, and Samuel Brylawski, head of the Recorded Sound Section of the Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division (MBRS). Brylawski served as the curator for the gallery's inaugural exhibition.
The gallery is situated prominently in the foyer of the concert hall designed by Frank Gehry. Critics have hailed his 21st century building of glass and wings and waves of architectural stainless steel as a world-class cultural landmark, as well as a bright star of Los Angeles urban renewal.
The new home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, the Walt Disney Concert Hall is part of the Los Angeles Music Center, which first opened in 1964 and is now one of the largest performing arts centers in the nation.
For the gallery's inaugural, Brylawski chose prints, photographs, architectural drawings, music manuscripts and rare recordings to show off the depth and breadth of the Library's collections.
"My working title for the whole gallery was LA@LC. I wanted the gallery to highlight the diversity and breadth of Los Angeles-related collections at the Library," Brylawski said. "I also wanted to see if we could surprise Angelenos with items they wouldn't expect to find at LC. I figured that they'd expect our view of them to be Hollywood-related. However, our collections and their history have more to offer than that, and our film-related holdings are also rather predictable—posters, books, films. Of course, we have good film scores as well, and some of them will be featured in later mountings."
One section of the exhibition traces the history of Los Angeles' Bunker Hill, where the new concert hall was built, from an upper-class suburban development in the late 19th century through a major economic depression, to revival at the end of the 20th century. The Prints and Photographs Division supplied two panoramic views from Bunker Hill—one a lithograph (1888) and the other a photograph (1908).
"The Hill was revived with the sound of music," said Brylawski.
Another section of the gallery features Southern California architecture. "L.A. is renowned for 20th century domestic architecture," Brylawski observed. Ford Peatross, curator of architectural design collections in the Prints and Photographs Division, contributed original drawings of four Los Angeles homes designed by James Osborne Craig, Frank Lloyd Wright, Bart Prince, and Charles and Ray Eames, as well as a reproduction of a Historic American Buildings Survey drawing. Best known for their furniture designs, Charles and Ray Eames designed their own house, a landmark of 20th century architecture. Constructed of interchangeable industrial components to create two pavilions, a house and a studio, their design was bold and modern.
The opening display of Music Division manuscripts and MBRS recordings demonstrates the influence that music made in Los Angeles had on American music—jazz, rhythm and blues, gospel, Latin rhythms, and rock and roll. George and Ira Gershwin, Ritchie Valens, Jascha Heifetz and André Crouch are among the composers and musicians represented.
One gem is the manuscript for the last film song George Gershwin wrote before he died, "Love Is Here to Stay."
"We also own this very rare recording of the very first jazz recording by an African American group. It was made in L.A., and that's the type of story I wanted to highlight in the inaugural exhibition," Brylawski said.
Another gallery component relates to current programming at the Los Angeles Music Center. Works by Haydn and Mahler are part of the Los Angeles Philharmonic's repertoire this season, and the gallery is displaying, from the Music Division, a first-edition score of Haydn's "Creation" and a holographic manuscript of a song by Mahler.
Brylawski praised the contributions of Kim Curry and Irene Chambers of the Interpretive Programs Office; Ford Peatross of Prints and Photographs; Ray White of the Music Division; and Tom Wiener, a researcher, and Elizabeth Auman, Music Division, who served as the Library's liaisons with Mike Strunsky, trustee of the Ira and Leonore Gershwin Trust, which provided funding for the gallery.
"We will continue with music and architecture themes in the next change of displays," said Brylawski. Library items being considered for future installations, which will be refreshed every six months, are maps of Los Angeles, Los Angeles architecture as documented by the Historic American Buildings Survey, film scores held by the Music Division, and "Linear Los Angeles," an examination of the history of Los Angeles as seen from a moving automobile.
Brylawski reported that the highlight of the grand opening was the music, which was selected and performed to demonstrate the acoustical range of the new concert hall, which features arena-style seating. The test succeeded; critics said the concert was "jubilantly received."
"One of the best things about the opening was that there were no speeches," said Brylawski. "They let the music and the hall speak for themselves."
Dianne Reeves opened the Los Angeles Philharmonic program with an a cappella solo of "The Star-Spangled Banner." The program gathered force with a Bach prelude for violin solo, a chamber work by Charles Ives, an antiphonal brass piece by Gabrieli that rang out from balconies, a choral work by Ligeti, a symphony by Mozart, and then rose to a full crescendo with Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring," a signature piece for the full orchestra. The finale "blew everyone away," said Brylawski. "It was very daring of the hall's creators to show everything it could do."
Deborah Durham-Vichr, a freelance writer in the Washington area, contributed to this report.