Shelve Under: Podcast

Shelve Under: Distancing (Part Four)

Episode Summary

A mini-sode for everyone who's practicing physical distancing. Ted and Christina recommend ebooks and music available online.

Episode Notes

Books and music discussed:

Tabula Rasa (Fratres - version for cello ensemble) by Arvo Pärt

From Sleep by Max Richter

M Train by Patti Smith

Just Kids by Patti Smith

Deep Field by Eric Whitacre

The Flyer Vault: 150 Years of Toronto Concert History by Daniel Tate and Rob Bowman

The Magic Flute by W.A. Mozart


Library services discussed:

Naxos Music Library

Naxos Music Library (Jazz) (Getting Started with Naxos Music Library Jass Guide)

Overdrive (Getting Started with Overdrive Guides) (Getting Started with Guide)

Episode Transcription

Christina: Welcome to Shelve Under: Podcast, the Toronto Public Library podcast for readers, writers and everyone practicing physical distancing. That's right, today we're bringing you a special mini-sode to give some recommendations for library resources you can access from home while library branches are closed due to the COVID-19 virus pandemic. My name's Christina and today I'll be joined by my colleague Ted to talk about a couple of books and music available online from the library. We realise this is a difficult time and hope that our recommendations can help those seeking a distraction. Our thoughts are with everyone in the city, especially those keeping essential services running.

Christina: So, Ted, it's so nice to have you on the show. We rarely get to have you talk.

Ted: Yes. I'm on the other side of the microphone today.

Christina: Yay! How are things?

Ted: Not too bad, all considered, I guess. Yeah. How about you?

Christina: Okay. Actually, I read this article a couple weeks ago about listening to music during stressful times and it was really interesting because I find that that's pretty much what I do. And I find I either listen to my favourite albums or I find that I gravitate towards playing the piano. And I don't know, I just feel very comforted by that fact of listening to the things that are familiar or things that can distress me. I don't know. Does that make sense?

Ted: Yeah, absolutely. I've been doing the same sort of thing. I've got a couple favourites that I always turn to when I need to relax or soothe my mind. And they've come in handy for me personally in the in the recent times. So, yeah, I totally understand where you're coming from.

Christina: Do you find that you're listening to more like ambient music or like, uplifting?

Ted: There's a bit of a mix. But yeah, definitely I'm leaning more towards the ambient, electronic or minimalist-classical type music lately. I find it's both helpful in reducing my own sort of anxieties, but also if I'm working, it's something that's nice to have on in the background to help focus.

Christina: Mm hmm. What would you recommend?

Ted: I've got two recommendations I'll bundle into one because they fall into that category of introspective music where you can sit and either listen to it, almost like a meditative experience, I'd say. These are both living composers. The first one is Arvo Part and he's an Estonian composer. He's 84 years old now. And an interesting fact I did not know, but he is the most performed living composer between 2011 and 2018. So I don't know how many people are aware of his music, but he obviously it's being performed all over the world quite a lot. And I didn't realise that. So I'm recommending these from the Naxos Music Library, which is available on the Toronto Public Library website. And we will, of course, link to that. But if you search for Naxos Music Library, you'll find that. Log in with your library card and then you can create a personal account once you're inside. I found the fastest way to do that is, once you're logged in through your library card, is to click on favourites or playlist, one of those links, and that will take you to a page where you can create your personal account to save those things. The first recommendation from Arvo Part is a C.D. called Tabula Rasa, and there is a work called Fratres, which translates to Brothers. He's made up, apparently, several different versions of it for different arrangements, for different instruments, and there's two on this particular album, one is for violin and piano, which is great, but my absolute favourite is an arrangement for twelve celli and it is just lovely to have on in the background. It's very ethereal or spacy sort of sounding.

(Brief musical interlude.)

Ted: It's yeah, one of my absolute favourites, and I always go back to this and it's one of those ones that I like to listen to at the end of the day with the lights low just to sit there and listen and let it wash over.

Christina: That's very dramatic.

Ted: Yeah. The other one is from a composer named Max Richter. He created an album called Sleep, which is actually an eight hour work. So it's almost like a living art piece as well. And it's based on sleeping, so the neuroscience of sleep and how music interacts with the brain and it's meant to be slept through, actually, he said. So it's sort of like a sleep aid in a way. But seeing as some people might not want to commit eight hours, he created two versions at the same time that he released. The one that is in Naxos is called From Sleep and it's a one hour version of this eight hour total. So this might be the nap version. And I like to listen to this one, as I said, like when I'm working or before I go to sleep, I find it does calm things down.

(Brief musical interlude.)

Ted: Richter himself described this work as a personal lullaby for a frenetic world. The manifesto for a slower pace of existence, which I think is just perfect.

Christina: Yeah. It's very apt.

Ted: Agreed.

Christina: That's really interesting cause I've never been on Naxos, but I had a quick look before this and it's got quite the collection in there.

Ted: Yeah, it's great. And we also do have Naxos Jazz, which is the same thing, but obviously their collection is focussed on jazz. So if you're into jazz, you can look for Naxos Jazz as well.

Christina: Awesome. On that note, I thought I'd recommend a audiobook, or an e-audiobook, M Train by Patti Smith, and this is my first encounter with Patti Smith, which might sound crazy to some listeners, but I'm actually not that familiar with any of her work. A colleague had recommended Just Kids to me years ago and I've been meaning to read it and I haven't had a chance and I've kind of steered away from audiobooks for some reason. And a friend had said, just give it a try. And I thought I might as well try a music one. And I came across M Train and it is fantastic. And it's Patti Smith herself reading it. And it's pretty much about, I guess, kind of about her life in the period that she wasn't, apparently, doing any performances. She had just experienced quite a few losses - a good friend of hers and her husband and her brother. So it's kind of going through her life and how she is still persistent in her own art. Yeah, it's a really powerful audiobook, but I would also recommend the book.

Ted: So you mentioned this is your first experience with Patti Smith, but also with an audio book.

Christina: Yeah. I don't know why I've been dismissive of audiobooks. I think it's because I'm such an avid book reader. I need to read something or have something in my hand. So I wasn't used to this idea of, I guess, listening to discs for hours. But it was easy to listen in the background as I was just cleaning, so like podcasts and music in general, like you just kind of put it on and then you're still doing... You're multi-tasking. But there was something about this particular audio book, and I'm sure all audiobooks do this, is that it really... I don't know, I had to pause a few times from what I was doing and really listen, because she's such a powerful storyteller as well and her voice is just so enticing. And you just want to... I feel like she was in the room telling me the story.

Ted: Yeah, that's what... I've listened to a few audiobooks and it's awesome when the author... Well, not always, but often it's awesome when the author is reading. It depends I guess if they're a great reader. But she is a performer so it probably comes natural to her. But I can imagine that was that was a fun listen.

Christina: It was. Yeah, very, very nice. And I actually want to read like all her books now and like, listen to her music. Should I read an excerpt or no?

Ted: Sure.

Christina: "I believe in movement. I believe in that light hearted balloon. The world. I believe in midnight in the hour of noon. But what else do I believe in? Sometimes everything, sometimes nothing. It fluctuates like light flitting over a pond. I believe in life which one day each of us shall lose. When we are young, we think we won't, that we are different. As a child, I thought I would never grow up. That I could will it so. And then I realised quite recently that I had crossed some line, unconsciously cloaked in the truth of my chronology. How did we get so damn old? I say to my joints, my iron coloured hair. Now I'm older than my love, my departed friends. Perhaps I will live so long that the New York Public Library will be obliged to hand over the walking stick of Virginia Woolf. I would cherish for her and the stones in her pocket. But I would also keep on living, refusing to surrender my pen."

Christina: I find her writing like very lyrical, I guess. Well, I guess she writes, too, her music. Or actually does she? I don't actually know.

Ted: Yeah, I think she is a singer songwriter so I think she's doing... I mean that's what I've heard her described as, so I would assume she's actually doing some of the writing.

Christina: And she describes this book as a roadmap to her life. And it really is. So it's nice insight into her years after her original book, her first book, with released. So what's your next recommendation?

Ted: I have another one from Naxos. And this is a composer named Eric Whitacre. He's actually known more for his choral works. This is more of a symphonic, although there is a choir in it. I want to recommend this for a couple of reasons. One of them, there's a tie into space and I'm into space. And it's called Deep Field. And it's referring to the deep field image created by the Hubble Space Telescope. So this was created, this image, over a 10 day period in 1995. And it shows nearly 3000 distinct galaxies from a very, very small section of the sky. So it illustrates how vast the universe is. So the music kind of is grand and reflects this. So that's one reason it's kind of cool. The other thing I thought was relevant to today is the choir that he does use and Eric Whitacre sort of pioneered and did this. This is the fifth iteration of his virtual choir. So this virtual choir includes over 8000 voices from 120 different countries. So the way this works is he puts out a call, everybody submits a video, YouTube type recording, and then they actually blend all of those together to create this this choir.

Christina: I can't imagine how he coordinated all that.

Ted: I've seen interviews with him talking about this. And, you know, the process, the first time they did it was much different, compared to today, cause the technology has changed and improved and it's just gotten bigger and bigger from the sounds of it. So there's also a film that goes along with this and you can see it for free on the on the Internet. I think it's on YouTube, but you can also go to deep field film dot com, I believe, and you can watch it there. So that takes images from the Hubble and, as well, I think a studio created some moving virtual space images and it shows you the vastness and the hugeness of space and brings you back to Earth. And that's when this virtual choirs sort of comes up and you start seeing some of these faces from the people in this virtual choir superimposed. It sort of brings us back to being connected in this giant universe that we're in.

Christina: Wow. That sounds really cool.

Ted: It's really neat to watch. It's only about twenty three minutes, twenty five, something like that.

Christina: OK. And speaking of that connectedness, the other book that I actually wanted to recommend is called The Flyer Vault: 150 Years of Toronto Concert History by Daniel Tate and Rob Bowman. And I came across this... Actually, I don't know how I came across this book, but I originally, I think, came across his Instagram account of the same name, theflyervault. And this person was just posting flyers of old concerts from the city. I think he might have used the Toronto Public Library archives. Not archives. Yeah, digital archives to go through like different, I guess, I don't know, would you call them ads in newspapers for this?

Ted: Yeah.

Christina: I'm not really sure what he did, but it was such a beautiful cross-section of seeing all the very important musical events that's happened in the city and what venues we used to have and what venues we've lost, I have to say, unfortunately. And it's really nice and some of the flyers I don't even remember like there being a venue there and it was so interesting to see that history of the city. And I'm sure everyone is missing, you know, going to a concert.

Ted: Absolutely.

Christina: Yeah. And this is such a nice way of like delving into that history of music in the city.

Ted: Cool. Yeah. On that note, I wanted to ask if there was a particular venue in the city that you're really looking forward to going back to once we're through this pandemic.

Christina: I think my all time favourite venue has to be the Horseshoe. I don't know, there's something about that place. There's just so much history in there, and, I don't know, it's got, I don't know. I can't describe it. It's just being there with, you know, with all these people and seeing a band you love and everyone's so into it. It's like, I can't imagine what that will look like after this is over. Like, do people want to be near people anymore?

Ted: Right.

Christina: And that actually kind of makes me, I don't know, sad, I guess, because I feel like that, I don't know, that closeness is... We feed off that energy, and I'm sure bands and musicians feed off that energy, too, and all of us feed off this energy. And not having that intimacy anymore is, I don't know, it'll be...

Ted: Yeah, I think that's a good reason why I think it will come back because with music, I think people won't be able to help themselves.

Christina: Mm hmm. What venue would you want to go back to first thing this is over?

Ted: My favourite is probably the Danforth Music Hall. There's not as much history there, I guess, as the Horseshoe, but I just really like that venue just because I've not been to a bad concert and I've been to some live podcasts there and it's just been great.

Christina: It is a great venue. So you had a third, no? Another recommendation?

Ted: I did want to also share, just because we're sharing some of the music resources and this is a newer one for us called Medici Dot TV. And it's a collection of classical music, concerts, operas, ballets. There's documentaries. They also have these master classes with top level professional musicians and conductors and the library has access to this. And there's so many to recommend, but I would say, just to give opera a shout out, to explore The Magic Flute by Mozart. I find that's a really good entry level if you're not familiar with a lot of opera, it's a nice, soft entry point and it's entertaining. They've got a couple different performances on there and I watched one of them which was conducted by Simon Rattle and it was great.

Christina: I think the first opera I ever saw, and we had to see it for class, was Don Giovanni.

Ted: OK. Yeah. Did you like it or no?

Christina: I don't think opera is my thing.

Ted: Yeah, it's certainly not for everyone.

Christina: It's different.

Ted: Yeah, it's not my first choice either, but I do actually enjoy that Mozart opera.

Christina: So what are you going to listen to now?

Ted: Good question. I don't know, I think I might just go into Naxos and see what they... They also have on their front, on the landing page, they have, you know, recent releases and some recommendations, I might just jump into something, something brand new. How about you?

Christina: I don't know, actually.

Ted: I would suggest, since you're new to Naxos to go in and explore a little bit.

Christina: Yeah, explore a little bit. Yeah. I was saying earlier how you went on to it really quickly and I discovered there's pop rock and Chinese music on there.

Ted: Yeah, it's quite vast. And, I didn't mention it, but they do also have other resources on there. There's like a tab for a musicology and there's essays and opinion pieces and editorials and things like that too. So there's more content, more than just to listen to.

Christina: Nice. Well, thank you so much for your recommendations, Ted. It was nice having you on the show.

Ted: Yes. Thank you.

Christina: Stay safe, everyone.