by Esther Burgos Bordonau, Ph.D.
Aims of the Project
- 1. Initial hypothesis
- 2. Previous background
- 3. Specific goals
3.1. Project viability
3.3. First results
3.4. Project benefits
1. Initial hypothesis
There is already a long history of the study of piano roll collections, but not for Spanish rolls or Spanish collections. The collection held by the Spanish National Library is the largest, best in the country, and is perfectly described and cataloged almost in its entirety (around 7,000 items). However, there is still a long way to go with regard to the themes of the collections deposited there. The genres, musical styles, and even different publishers are subjects still pending study and investigation. There are an important number of Spanish piano rolls, but there are also foreign rolls, particularly from the rest of Europe, which make this important collection very interesting. Therefore, the study and knowledge of these pieces will help create a deeper and more reliable understanding of the kind of repertoire that was heard and listened to during the first third of the twentieth century in Spain.
2. Previous background
During 2014 and 2015, a group of researchers from the Universidad Complutense de Madrid (UCM) was working with an important collection of around 7,000 piano rolls at the National Library of Spain. The research focused on rolls in the zarzuela style by filtering the bibliographic records to around 600 items. The results of this research were presented in the Communication of the IX Congress of the Spanish Musicological Society and in four publications about the collection of the Fernández-Shaw family. The experience with the study of the zarzuela piano rolls of the National Library of Spain and the exhaustive study of the private collection of the Fernández-Shaw family prepared us for the challenge of studying the García-Sampedro roll collection.
3. Specific goals
The concrete objectives for the project were:
- a) Documentary reconstruction of the history of the collection.
- b) Correction and enhancement of the inventory of the collection by Stanford University.
- c) Catalog the rolls in accordance with accepted standards and regulations.
- d) Identify and describe all unknown pieces whenever possible.
- e) Check available catalogs to complete names and/or pseudonyms of the authors and retrieve other data of interest, such as the prices of the rolls.
- f) Take pictures of all the rolls in the collection for reference and for inclusion in the final catalog.
- g) Record the rolls that are in good condition on a player piano.
- h) Scan the entire collection.
- i) Convert all the scanned items into MIDI format so that they can be inserted into the online edition and be heard.
Some of the goals were the responsibility of the Archive: scanning, conversion into MIDI files, and final publication on the website.
3.1. Project Viability
A research grant was obtained for September-October 2018 to work in any of the ten campuses of the University of California. The Berkeley campus was chosen for its proximity to Stanford University because of its Archive of Recorded Sound, which contains collections of piano rolls. The Berkeley Music Library no longer collects historic sound recordings.
The Spanish donors were contacted to learn the complete story of the family, the collection, and the materials. Stanford’s Head Music Librarian contacted them on our behalf. After this first contact, they were aware of our interest in their donation and wrote to me giving their support.
The work took several forms.
- a)We asked several questions. When and how was the collection acquired; who was the main owner (María Jesús Casado or any other member of her family); why did the collection consist of piano rolls; did they have a pianola or any other player piano at home; where and when did they buy the instrument?
- b)Some music composers in the collection were very popular but others not. Some composers were completely unknown to us. Reference tools, such as dictionaries, encyclopedias, and other music materials (books, articles, brochures, concert programs), were used to research these composers and the styles of composition for which they were well known.
- c) Compiling and/or assembling all of the documents which were the property of the family to build the whole story of this collection.
A timeline organized the work, and the time was split into different tasks.
- a) Data acquisition and collection (Sept. 1, 2018 – Oct. 30)
- b) Creating a database to introduce all the information collected (Sept. 1, 2018 – Oct. 30)
- c) Establishing the social and personal context of the collection (work to be done back in Spain) (Nov. – Dec. 2018 and spring 2019)
- d) Final completion of the catalog, including all missing data concerning authors’ names, complete titles, uniform titles, and the notes area. (Spring 2019)
- e) Final drafting and sending of material to the Stanford ARS (Summer 2019)
- f) Scanning of the rolls and transcription to MIDI files (work done by Stanford Library) (end of summer 2019, Sept. 2019)
- g) Final assembly and launch of the online exhibit on Stanford’s Library website. (Oct.-Dec. 2019)
The chapters were completed according to schedule, the donor was contacted, and all the reference tools and other bibliographic works were checked.
The collection was kept in three acid-free boxes containing eighteen rolls each. The rolls were numbered one by one so that they could be quickly found and organized by writing all the numbers (from one to fifty-four) with pencil on the acid-free paper covering the roll. The first box contains the first eighteen, the second one numbers nineteen to thirty-six and the third one thirty-seven to fifty-four.
We went through the entire collection three times and examined all the rolls in detail using a roll repair table and taking many pictures of the rolls and boxes, resulting in 368 jpg images that were donated to Stanford to illustrate the final catalog.
The initial inventory, an Excel document, was the start for creating a database of the collection. Here is an example of the first inventory by the ARS.
Other fields, such as box numbers, roll numbers, notes, musical style, and genre were added to the inventory. Names and dates of the composers and the names of the pieces were completed.
The condition field was retained but the notes field was enhanced by further describing the condition of the roll and other information.
Finally, we played and made “live recordings” of some of the rolls. Never before, in previous research work, did we have the possibility of playing the rolls on which we were working. (With the National Library’s collection, we listened to rolls that had been cataloged and digitized through the Biblioteca Digital Hispánica.) Inserting one of the rolls into the Ampico player piano and hearing it play was simply fantastic and completely unexpected for us. A selection of four or five rolls proved that they could be played on the Ampico. Then, we chose the best ones to make the live reference recordings.
3.3. First results
The complete catalog was completed on schedule for all 54 rolls, although the complete catalogue has 56 because two rolls have two authors or more as in the case of “El barbero de Sevilla” by Manuel Nieto and Gerónimo Giménez (no. 23/NIE) and “Porque era negro” by Tragan (no. 17/TRA). Tragan was the pseudonym for Ramon Vidal. This piece was also composed by Juan Viladomat, who worked with Vidal on other important compositions.
“El huésped del sevillano” by Jacinto Guerrero is also repeated. These are two rolls that superficially appear to be the same even though they are not identical. Due to condition, only one could be recorded and each has its own bibliographic record (nos. 24/GUE El Huésped and 25/GUE El Huésped).
The National Library of Spain has copies of some of the rolls and the details of their records were used for the description of the García-Sampedro rolls. Some of these rolls were also digitized by the National Library.
3.4. Project Benefits
This project helps us to understand the common repertoire listened to and played in Spain during the first thirty years of the twentieth century. The goals of this study and the description and details offered will serve future scholars and researchers to study these collections and the most common composers, genres and styles at this particular time in the history of music in Spain.
 Esther Burgos-Bordonau (2018). “La colección de rollos de pianola de zarzuela en la Biblioteca Nacional de España: descripción y análisis preliminar,” ed. Begoña Lolo Herranz and Adela Presasin Musicología en el siglo XXI: nuevos retos, nuevos enfoques. Madrid, Sociedad Española de Musicología, 1175-1196. CD-ROM.
 Burgos, E; Carpallo, A. and Clausó, A. (2017). Catálogo de la exposición de rollos de pianola de la Familia Fernández-Shaw. Madrid, Facultad de Ciencias de la Documentación. 63 p. ISBN: 978-84-697-6767-2.; Communication to the XIV Seminario Hispano Mexicano “Conocimientos sin Fronteras: colaboración científica e institucional en Información y Documentación.” Identificación, estudio y catalogación de la colección de rollos de pianola de la familia Fernández-Shaw. ISBN: 978-84-09-02184-0.; later published as Burgos, E.; Carpallo, A. (2018) “La colección de rollos de pianola de la familia Fernández-Shaw: un estudio preliminar” Anuario Musical, 73: 245-252. doi: https://doi.org/10.3989/anuariomusical.2018.73.16; and Burgos, E.; Carpallo, A.; Clausó, A. (2018). Los Fernández Shaw y su aportación al Teatro Lírico. Estudio de su colección de rollos de pianola. Madrid, SEDEM. 282 p. ISBN: 978-84-86878-46-7.