Profile: John Hanson
Music Historian, Library of Congress
John Hanson joined the Library of Congress in 2003, when he became head of the Music Section at NLS. His music interests and activities have been varied, starting with piano and church youth choirs. Then there was trumpet, which evolved to the French horn in high school and college. But the longest and most constant musical thread has been singing, in local groups wherever he was: Madrigals at the University of Kansas, the Framingham Choral Society, and, more recently, the Cathedral Choral Society in Washington, DC and the Chamber Singers at the National Institutes of Health. He has an MLS from the University of Maryland and was director of the library at St. Mary’s Seminary and University in Baltimore. In support of other and earlier career paths, he earned his A.B. at the University of California at Berkeley (Scandinavian Languages and Literature), and his Ph.D. from Harvard University (Religionis Studia).
NoteStreams By John Hanson
Falling in love with Ravel: this is a story of how it all began with an awkward moment at a piano concert that somehow lead to a complete obsession with the classics. Ravel’s compositions go way beyond the piano; he also composed violin and vocal music, operas, ballet, and chamber music.
In 1863, the Imperial Institute for the Young Blind in Paris published a “Collection of Organ Pieces” —“for the special use of students at the Institute.” These pieces were all composed by professors of music at the Institute, all of whom had been students there also. They are Gabriel Gauthier, Marius Gueit, Victor Paul, and Julien Héry.
Someone once said that you can tune a piano, but you can’t tuna fish. While we do not dispute the wisdom of that remark, we also have a further interest in and resources for piano tuning. The topic, the practice, the history, etc., of piano tuning has a solid place in circles like ours.
There is a Frenchman that we need to know: Claude Montal (1800-1865). 2015 is the 150th anniversary of his death, which is being celebrated both here and abroad. Why? In short, because Montal wrote the first comprehensive text on tuning and repairing the piano.
Over the past 10 years, technology has grown in unimaginable ways. We can download nearly anything at the click of a mouse, we can instantaneously talk to our friends overseas through our computers, and we can carry around a whole world’s wealth of knowledge in a device the size of a deck of cards. Fortunately, this exponential growth of technology has also impacted braille production. Today, blind individuals can access braille in electronic format: a file that can be read on a refreshable braille display, something like a braille laptop, or be sent to an embosser for printing.