All posts by Travis Willmann

Robotics campers.

What Summer Break?

Summer on the Forty Acres is in contrast with the rest of the academic calendar in some pretty noticeable ways: herds of parentless campers crisscrossing campus in a clockwork dance; roving bands of noisy Boys State gangs meandering about on a break from their future leadership training opportunity at the Capitol; summer school denizens either rushing to finish out their college careers or putting in the extra work to secure enrollment for the fall semester; facilities workers renewing spaces around campus to extend the life of buildings after another semester of age and wear by an active community; and there’s way less traffic.

We’ve mentioned it before and this year is no different — the summer is when the Libraries work hard through three months of relative calm to push through projects and initiatives that are too disrupting for the long semester, or need to be ready when the full body returns to campus.

A robust semester of discussion about the Fine Arts Library generated approval in late spring for a renovation project to improve the fifth floor of the library to support the needs of students, faculty and researchers in the College of Fine Arts. The project is in its early stages, but will result in, among other things, enhanced and expanded shelving, improved technology support and updated furnishings and carpet. The refresh should be completed by the beginning of the fall semester. Keep up with the changes throughout the project at the Future of the Fine Arts Library page on our website.

Moving from the newest of the library locations to one of the most historic, we received some exciting news about the Life Science Library, too. The Hall of Texas — the west side twin to the east side Hall of Noble Words reading room — has been returned to the care of the Libraries, and work has begun to return it to its former glory. Empty shelves that were partitioned off to provide a home for the Herbarium will soon be repopulated, and the room will provide a companion reflective space for student study and community in one of UT’s most iconic buildings.

The habitants of PCL’s fifth floor will be happy to return in the fall to a development of the Collaborative Commons that exists on the north end of that level. A pilot refresh occurred several years ago to upgrade the aging furniture carpets and technology support, and additional improvements will expand the enhancement of the study and collaborative space into a section on the opposite side of the area.

More information on these projects to come throughout the summer.

 

Graduates

Graduated? Don’t Forget Your Libraries

You did it! (Or your graduate did.) Congratulations. After four years (more or less) of hard work and long nights in PCL, you’ve earned your degree and are looking toward the next phase of life as you head out into the world.

And though your time at UT has officially come to a close, you’ll still have some access to library resources on which you’ve come to rely through the summer.

Spring Graduates

Hold on to your student ID card, as you’ll retain privileges through the following summer. These privileges include:

  • regular student check-out privileges
  • access to interlibrary loan services
  • access to most UT Libraries electronic resources
  • use of study rooms, carrels. or lockers under the same guidelines that apply to enrolled students
  • online renewal

Your privileges will remain active until the 12th day of classes in the fall semester.

Courtesy Borrower Privileges

There are several options for getting a Courtesy Borrower card:

Join the Texas Exes

There are several alumni membership levels available–sign up quick, recent grads get special deals! After you’ve joined, bring a photo ID to Courtesy Borrower Services to apply for your card. You’ll also get remote access to three article databases, Academic Search Alumni Edition, Business Source Alumni Edition, and JSTOR Alumni Edition.

Get a TexShare card

The TexShare Library Card Program is a reciprocal borrowing program, coordinated by the Texas State Library, which provides access to materials from many Texas libraries. If you’re a patron in good standing at a participating public library, you can get a TexShare card from that library and bring it to Courtesy Borrower Services to apply for your UT Libraries courtesy card. While the card is free, each participating library has its own qualifications for eligibility. For example, Austin Public Library requires their patrons to be in good standing for a period of six months before qualifying for a TexShare card. Check with your local library for details.

Are you a Texas resident?

If you are a Texas resident, but you don’t qualify for a TexShare card, just bring proof of address, a photo ID, and $100 to Courtesy Borrower Services to apply for borrowing privileges at UT Libraries.

Courtesy borrowers can:

  • check out print and media materials from all UT library branches
  • access most electronic databases from onsite library workstations
  • access online renewal and recall services

Courtesy borrowers cannot:

  • access databases remotely
  • check out equipment
  • use interlibrary loan services
  • access Jamail Center for Legal Research, the Harry Ransom Research Center, or the Center for American History

For additional resources, bookmark the “Access the Library After Graduation” LibGuide.

 

 

Student in the 5th floor stacks at the Fine Arts Library.

The Fine Arts Library Lives On

Over the past several months, our Fine Arts Library has been the subject of debate as the College of Fine Arts considered space to serve as a home to the new School for Design and Creative Technologies (SDCT).

Interested faculty and students joined together last fall to protest any further changes to the library after the opening of the Foundry and the conversion of the 4th floor into classrooms for the SDCT, and in response the dean of the college, Douglas Dempster, called for the formation of two working groups to explore and address the future of spaces in the Fine Arts Library in Doty Fine Arts Building (DFA).

The first, under the leadership of the UT Libraries — the Fine Arts Library Task Force — was asked to explore and evaluate the alternatives to having the Fine Arts collection on the fifth floor of DFA — in part or whole — and explore the drawbacks and advantages of those alternatives.

The second — the School of Design and Creative Technologies Space Planning Task Force — considered a) what facilities our new programs need and b) what spaces in the College of Fine Arts, throughout all our buildings and facilities in every department and school, could accommodate these expanding programs.

The Fine Arts Library Task Force completed its work at the beginning of April and submitted its findings outlining a range of feasible scenarios for ensuring continued, ready access to the collections at the library to Dean Dempster and Vice Provost Lorraine Haricombe. Dempster and Haricombe reviewed the documents and formed a set of recommendations which were conveyed to UT Provost Maurie McInnis for consideration. On April 6, McInnis accepted the recommendations to maintain and enhance the 5th floor of the Fine Arts Library to serve the stakeholders in the College of Fine Arts and the larger university community.

“The decision by the provost to accept the recommendations for the future of the Fine Arts Library will provide the best possible outcomes for all concerned members of the UT community,” says Haricombe. “The positive conclusions are the result of many months of productive, collaborative dialogue with stakeholders and a discovery process that examined the multiplicity of considerations for how best the library can serve its users. We look forward to continuing our work serving the needs of the College of Fine Arts and the entire campus at The University of Texas at Austin.”

All relevant documents related to the decision-making process for the Fine Arts Library can be found at the Future of the Fine Arts Library webpage.

For a thorough overview of the FAL matter, check out the following articles which appeared in the Austin Chronicle:

Changes at UT’s Fine Arts Library Cause a Rift in the College of Fine Arts

Update: Fate of UT’s Fine Arts Library

 

 

 

Book preservationist Joey Marez repairing a volume.

To Protect and Preserve

As we’re wrapping up Preservation Week 2018, it’s instructive to remember that at the core of the library mission, the act of preserving the vast collections of the University of Texas Libraries is one of the most important things we do. A lot of times this reality gets lost in issues of actual collection management or access issues, but this annual recognition established by the American Library Association provides an opportunity to highlight the exhausting and often overlooked work of preservation staff at libraries.

You may have seen an earlier story about the efforts of our intrepid staff’s foray into a storm disaster zone to recover items from the heavily damaged Marine Science Institute’s Marine Science Library at Port Arthur. It’s a great example of a dramatic response in service of emergency protection and preservation of important library resources. Almost every year, though, there are examples of less sensational acts of professional heroism that test the buoyancy of our incredible preservation staff. One such example occurred in the fall of 2017 — a short time after the Harvey rescue effort — when a  shortcoming in a renovation project at the Jackson School of Geology resulted in a construction failure that would’ve represented a loss of hundreds of volumes were it not for the expertise and dexterity of our preservationists and onsite staff.

Flood abatement at the Geology Library.

Over the summer of 2017, a lab renovation on the 5th floor of the Jackson Geology Building above the library took place. After hours on a Monday evening the following fall, a water line in the lab failed and water began to enter the ceiling over the stacks of the library, eventually leading to a collapse of ceiling tiles and what was described as water “gushing and pouring” onto the volumes below. Library staff followed protocols to involve emergency response staff and managed to get the water shut off, but by the time this had happened, almost 400 books had been directly damaged by the flow.

For many libraries across the country, this would represent a loss of resources, but the university is fortunate to have a library system that features a robust capacity for ensuring the long-term protection of the knowledge resources that have been built over its 130-plus year history.

Books drying.

Staff response included immediate assessment of the materials and fanning out the most heavily-affected items on tables and staging industrial dehumidifiers and air circulators to address the water damage as quickly as possible, and some of these needed to be interleaved with additional blotter paper to absorb the appreciable moisture. Of the 394 items that were directly impacted by the flood, 35 required additional preservation attention, including repair and rehousing, and an additional 1200 items were removed from the shelves as a precaution, a not insignificant number that would need sorting, ordering and re-shelving after the cleanup.

Staff treating materials in the preservation lab.

In the course of the emergency, staff spent 24 hours on the initial response, 40 hours on recovery efforts (including transport and triage), and 10 hours of additional effort on coping with the additional preservation work needed to save the most heavily damaged books. And this doesn’t even take into account the work needed to return the library and its collections to the previous state that was undertaken by the onsite staff and facilities crew.

Preservation Week was established by ALA to highlight the need to think about supporting a function of the library that often goes unnoticed or underappreciated. Some 630 million items in collecting institutions across the United States require immediate attention and care. 80% of these institutions have no paid staff assigned responsibility for collections care, and 22% have no collections care personnel at all, leaving some 2.6 billion items unprotected by an emergency plan.

We’re lucky to have a university that provides for the expertise necessary to protect an investment in knowledge built over its long history, that can, as a result, serve this generation and many to come.

The staff that protect and preserve library collections.
Some of the staff that protect and preserve library collections.

 

 

Collections Highlight: Gravitation

"Gravitation" by Charles W. Misner, Kip S. Thorne, and John Archibald Wheeler. San Francisco: W.H. Freeman, 1973.

Gravitation is a seminal work familiar to all advanced physics students, but the Kuehne Physics Mathematics Astronomy Library (PMA) has an uncommon copy of the book.

Co-author John Wheeler presented this copy with his inscription to a former engineering professor at UT, who donated the book to the PMA Library.

A time later, co-author Kip Thorne  gave a lecture at UT and a Physics undergrad asked if he would add his inscription. Finally, co-author Charles Misner visited campus for a lecture and he, too, added his inscription to the volume, completing the trio.

Inscriptions by the authors on the frontispiece of "Gravitation."

Student using Benson collections.

The Benson Needs YOU

The Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection, cited by many as the collection of record for Latin America in this hemisphere, is home to some of the most unique and rare collections on the Forty Acres and beyond.

Make no mistake, the Benson is more than just a special collection.

The groundbreaking LLILAS Benson partnership—a collaboration with the world-renowned Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies—is emblematic of the future of libraries. It embeds librarians in the research cycle and curriculum and produces access to unique digital resources that are available globally, further cementing UT Austin as a research destination physically and digitally.

Over the last century, librarians and archivists associated with the Benson have pushed the boundaries of collecting, preserving, and providing access to information. Most notable among these are Carlos Castañeda, Nettie Lee Benson herself, Laura Gutiérrez-Witt, Ann Hartness, David Block, Julianne Gilland and most recently, Melissa Guy.

The legacies of these great leaders lives on today as this generation of librarians continues to travel to places like Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, Nicaragua, Cuba, and more, returning to Austin with resources of all types: books, magazines, and journals discovered in tiny, hidden bookshops, cluttered train station bookstalls, or through miraculous acts of exploration at international book festivals. Many materials, like maps, political pamphlets, and children’s books, would never find their way to the Benson otherwise. These gems provide researchers with unique snapshots of Latin America.

The year 2021 marks the Benson’s centennial, yet the future is anything but certain. With the rising cost of resources, endowments supply much-needed annual support for the Benson. We need your help to take the Benson into the next century. Former head librarian Laura Gutiérrez-Witt has graciously pledged to match the first $20,000 donated to the endowment she generously created, The Robert Charles Witt and Laura Gutiérrez-Witt Library Fund for Latin America.

Become part of our story. Consider making a gift today.

 

 

Student in the stacks at the Benson Latin American Collection.

Libraries Launch Castañeda Diversity Residency

The University of Texas Libraries is pleased to announce the creation of a new pilot residency program to encourage participation in library professions by historically underrepresented populations.

The Consuelo Artaza and Dr. Carlos Castañeda Diversity Alliance Residency Program will align with efforts of the Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL) Diversity Alliance to increase the hiring pipeline of qualified and talented individuals from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups. By working together and thinking more broadly, ACRL Diversity Alliance institutions will help diversify and enrich the profession.

A recent membership survey of ACRL members revealed that 83 percent of respondents identified as white. The ACRL Diversity Alliance was established to collaborate with institutions in the creation of programs that could combat the diversity disparity in library professions.

The Diversity Residency Program will be designed to help tackle this challenge. University of Texas at Austin alumnus and Libraries Advisory Council Member Gustavo Artaza has generously contributed the $100,000 toward the establishment of the program in honor of his mother, Consuelo Artaza, and his grandfather, Dr. Carlos Castañeda, who was the original librarian of the university’s Latin American Collection and namesake of the Perry-Castañeda Library.

Artaza’s contribution will go toward the overall challenge to raise $133,000 in order to obtain a matching grant from the university. The Libraries will focus on raising the remaining $33,000 this year’s 40 Hours for the Forty Acres fundraising campaign, taking place April 4-5.

If you would like to contribute to the Consuelo Artaza and Dr. Carlos Castañeda Diversity Alliance Residency Program, please visit the Libraries’ 40 Hours for the Forty Acres giving page.

 

 

 

Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship by J.W. von Goethe, 1795-96

The First Book Ever Borrowed

“Art is long, life short, judgment difficult, opportunity transient. To act is easy, to think is hard; to act according to our thought is troublesome. Every beginning is cheerful: the threshold is the place of expectation.”

from Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship by J.W. von Goethe, 1795-96

Goethe’s sentiment borrowed from Hippocrates and distilled in his novel of personal discovery as a charge to the protagonist Wilhelm Meister could equally represent a characterization of the experience of visiting a library — equal parts joy and labor, with the promise of new knowledge as a provocation to learn.

It’s also appropriate, then, that the passage comes from the first ever volume borrowed from a library at The University of Texas at Austin, which occurred just over 134 years ago on March 7, 1884 — a small act of history committed by a person who created a notable history of his own.

District Convention, Juneau, Alaska, Oct. 9, 1899. Delegates to District Convention pose with their hats on. Juneau-People-17 [detail] Alaska State Library Photo Collection. Courtesy of the Alaska State Library.
District Convention, Juneau, Alaska, Oct. 9, 1899. Delegates to District Convention pose with their hats on. Juneau-People-17 [detail] Alaska State Library Photo Collection. Courtesy of the Alaska State Library.
John H. Cobb. Juneau-People-17 [detail] Alaska State Library Photo Collection.
John H. Cobb. Juneau-People-17 [detail] Alaska State Library Photo Collection.

A response from Cobb to an inquiry about his attendance at an upcoming reunion that was published in "The Alcalde," vol. 2, no. 7, May 1914.
A response from Cobb to an inquiry about his attendance at an upcoming reunion that was published in “The Alcalde,” vol. 2, no. 7, May 1914.

John H. Cobb was a member of the inaugural class at this university back in 1883, when the Forty Acres was composed of the original Main Building in its Victorian Gothic splendor and more open land than is imaginable by a modern-day visitor to campus. He studied law, but even beyond the serendipity of being the first library borrower, seems to have had some predisposition toward pioneering. Cobb used his legal training to help draft the constitution for the Ex-Students’ Association, placing him as one of the co-founders to the Texas Exes.

Much like Goethe’s Meister, Cobb wasn’t content, either, to remain comfortably in the confines of his home state of Texas after earning his degree. He traveled to the relative wilds of what was then the District of Alaska in 1897 and by 1899 he had formed a law partnership with John F. Malony in Juneau.

The Cobb House in the Chicken Ridge Historic District, Juneau, Alaska. Built ca. 1912.
The Cobb House in the Chicken Ridge Historic District, Juneau, Alaska. Built ca. 1912.

He was active in the formative political and governmental structures in the fledgling District, and when the region was reorganized and renamed the Territory of Alaska in 1912, Cobb was appointed the first Territorial Counsel by the Governor John Franklin Alexander Strong in 1913. He served in that role until 1915 when the 2nd Alaska Territorial Legislature created the Office of the Attorney General, and a successor was appointed.

Detail of page 753 from "The Federal Reporter," volume 267.
Detail of page 753 from “The Federal Reporter,” volume 267.

Cobb argued and won one of his most high-profile cases, Tuppela v. Chichagoff Mining Co., before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in 1920, reversing a fraudulent land grab by the mining company and returning several valuable gold mines to private citizen and rightful owner John Tuppela.

Shortly after settlement of the suit, Cobb and his family resettled in Santa Barbara, California, where he died on December 23, 1925.

The details of that tome first borrowed by Cobb is in question, though it could be a volume flagged as “missing” in 2013 and now superseded by a digital version in the Libraries’ catalog. The title’s long history on the Forty Acres, however — both in the hands of the first borrower, and with subsequent generations of Longhorns — attests to the idea that the Libraries, too, play an integral part in the belief that “What starts here changes the world.”

 

 

 

Porcia Vaughn teaching a workshop.

Meet the Talents: Porcia Vaughn

Meet the Talents is an occasional series dedicated to introducing experts from around the UT Libraries. This month’s focus is Porcia Vaughn, Liaison Librarian for Biosciences, who joined the Libraries in late 2016. Porcia earned her MS at the University of North Texas and previously worked at the University of Houston Libraries and the Fondren at SMU.

How did you get here, and what do you do?

Porcia Vaughn.
Porcia Vaughn.

Porcia Vaugh: I’ve wanted to be a librarian since middle school and have always had a love of science. It was in 9th grade that I found out that I could blend my love of libraries with my science passion to become a science librarian. So, I made the plan to get a degree in biological sciences with a minor in health studies to then proceed to graduate school to obtain a MS in Information Sciences focusing on Health Informatics.  And here I am today with the ability to connect faculty, students and staff at a major R01 research institution to library services… I’m definitely living my dream!

I’ve made my way to UT to support the biological sciences programs, including Integrative Biology, Molecular Biosciences, Neurology, Biomedical Engineering and other bioscience related programs.  I provide research, publication, curriculum and instruction support to the biosciences programs and disciplines here on the UT Austin campus.

Services I provide for UT researchers include, but are not limited to, locating grants, assisting with formal literature review searches, identifying data sets, identifying best practices for publishing and making one’s work discoverable, and assistance with data management principles and practices for compliance in the biological and life science disciplines. The success to UT’s research enterprise is important to me and the role of the library to be involved with identifying specialized needs and seeking innovative solutions to those needs is always a priority of mine when serving our researchers.

In addition to researcher support, I offer strategic library services to the biosciences undergraduate curriculum by providing hands-on training for students regarding Information Literacy — the proper ways to find and use biological and life science information tools and resources appropriately to be successful as a student and future biological researcher. I assist instructor or teaching assistants with instructional design around course assignments and program learning outcomes using library resources or other open educational resources.

Where do you think the love of science comes from? Genetic, organic or other?

PV: My love of science has always been focused on biological and life sciences. Growing up in an area with a culture, Hispanic & Native American in New Mexico, I grew to love and respect the environment and the living organisms within the environment. The love was then fostered by fantastic middle school science teachers and librarians who supplied the great natural sciences books to feed my interest.

I do really love every aspect of trying to understand living organisms — physical structure, chemical composition, function, and development of living organisms.  My undergraduate research focused on parasitology and I loved studying those little and sometimes gross organisms but they are so important to how we evolve in our environment.

I know from talk around the watercooler that you have a bit of a competitive streak (esp. sports). Where do you think that comes from, and do you see those aspects of yourself in your work?

PV: Yeah, I do have a little bit of a competitive streak. I’ve played sports all my life, my dad is an athletic coach who coached my varsity soccer team and my entire family plays sports. I still am very active in sports playing softball and tennis a couple nights a week. I feel that my competitiveness drives me in my daily work, knowing that I can always do better and provide more adaptive services to build others up.

Is there some aspect of UT’s particular research in the sciences that drew you here? Or have you discovered some interesting research that you weren’t aware of?

PV: I was drawn to UT because it is a Tier 1 research institution and the library is in the top 15 on the ARL Library Index Ranking. There are many exciting research opportunities that are occurring here and I can name a few:

But, there are so many more research opportunities to call attention to that excite me!

 What sort of impact do you think librarians should have on research — what role do you want to play in the research life cycle?

PV: I think librarians have a huge role to play in research and any part of the campus enterprise, including teaching and learning the practices of the research life cycle. I assist and am always looking to collaborate with researchers at any stage of the research life cycle. I find it an important part of the biosciences services and tools for researchers for the librarian to participate in project scoping, identifying and tracking grant and funding opportunities, assist with building research data management practices, following through to disseminating, archiving and preserving researchers scholarship and communicating their research to the general public.

And how do you see your role in collection development and management? How does that aspect of your work differ from a librarian in a discipline like the humanities?

PV: I see collection development and management in two categories, course and curriculum needs and the gathering of faculty and graduate research and instructional resources. I identify materials that will enhance instruction and give students fundamental knowledge to enhance their own research priorities as they move forward in their education; this includes identifying Open Educational Resources for faculty and teaching assistants to use in course instruction. Bioscience collections can include textbooks or traditional print books, but also include a wide variety of software (i.e. Mapping and GIS) or electronic resources (i.e. lab protocols and journals) to improve understanding of research methodologies. It is important to work closely with faculty and students to make sure that we are providing resources that make them successful while they are here at UT Austin.

The Digital Humanities questions is a different story unrelated to collection development in my subject areas. DH is the adoption of computational methodologies and digital technologies for humanities research; whereas, in the STEM disciplines have been using data-driven approaches and technology for centuries.  Differences between approaches include the types and quantity of data that is collected along with differing approaches to dissemination and preservation of research and scholarship.

You seem to have a pretty full plate in the present. What do you think your job will look like in ten years, and where would you like to be professionally?

PV: Looking toward the future, librarians will likely be further embedded in a role that supports and enhances research across the university and globally. Libraries will continue to look for ways to benchmark library successes within the research enterprise while strengthening our connections to curriculum and instruction. Academic libraries will also play a large role in community engagement and translation of scholarly research to those beyond the university bubble.

Professionally, I’m aiming to be in a management role that will advance the philosophy and methodologies of library programing and services that directly connect to the academic mission and success stories.

What gives you the greatest sense of accomplishment in life?

PV: Doing what I love gives me a sense of accomplishment. Every morning I get to wake up and have the privilege of working with amazing people and if I can help anyone of them advance their personal or professional goals by providing support makes me happy.

 

 

 

_MG_9846

Excessive Noise Turns Six with “Green Paw”

Excessive Noise is an occasional concert series hosted by the Fine Arts Library.  Organized by Russell Podgorsek — who earned his doctorate at the Butler School of Music and is an employee of the Fine Arts Library — the series provides students with an opportunity to perform chamber and solo works beyond those required by their degree programs.  It also provides an opportunity for the premier of original works beyond the classroom.  While generally in the classical vein, Excessive Noise features work from a variety of traditions and perspectives.

The newest installment of “Excessive Noise: Not Just the Notes” takes place this Friday, March 8 in the Fine Arts Library, just in time to warm up for SXSW. The show is free and starts at 6 p.m.

Podgorsek and his co-curator for the concert, Jessy Eubanks, took a moment to answer a few questions about the series and Not Just the Notes.

So, how did you come up with the concept for Excessive Noise, and what were your goals for the program?

Russell Podgorsek.
Russell Podgorsek.

Russell Podgorsek: I started Excessive Noise back when I was a doctoral student in music and a GRA at the Fine Arts Library (FAL). Recently retired music librarian David Hunter mentioned that they’d previously had a concert series there and strongly suggested I start it up again. At first, it was just a nice vehicle to have some other performance opportunities for student performers and composers, and capitalize on the surprisingly good acoustic in the FAL, but as the semesters went on we had more alumni, Austin music community members, and even a few guests from out of town perform. We’ve had programs with speakers from Asian Studies, a feature with the Maps Collection, and more recently featured ensembles like invoke and Hear No Evil, allowing them to program the entire event. In other words, I think it’s come to be more a celebration of the library as a community hub, as a place where you come to share and explore ideas. I should add that UT Libraries has been consistently supportive of the series and not only do we appreciate it, but patrons also tell me after every concert what a nice tradition it’s become for them.

Musicians from NationalAcademy of PerformingArts, Karachi.
Musicians from National Academy of Performing Arts, Karachi.

You’ve really engaged the community with the series by presenting programming that might otherwise be familiar almost exclusively to people associated with the Butler School or the College of Fine Arts. Can you explain how you settle on themes for the individual events? Is that your own conceptualization, or are you co-curating with the performers?

RP: At first there were no themes really; I was just asking whoever was around and interested in playing to play, and of course I programmed one of my own pieces on each concert. But once the series was had been around for a year or two and the old reference stacks were replaced with shorter, newer ones, the place attracted more interested performers. In some cases, like with the collaboration with the Maps Collection back in 2014, the materials we wanted to showcase dictated the “theme”. For that concert we even had five pieces newly written based on maps of Chicago from the collection. The Orient-Occident performance was a more generalized “East meets West” theme that came out of my own interaction with Japanese culture. We had a DMA composer at that point from China and several grad students from Pakistan at BSOM so the pieces just fell into place. More recently, I’ve had ensembles provide their own programs, although the last concert was a joint programming venture with Hear No Evil (we did two of my pieces with them and they supplied the rest). So, I guess the short answer is we’ve done it almost every way one could. This time around I’ve handed the programming off to the not just the notes collective. The director is one of my students and the co-directors former students of mine, so I’m more of an advisor for the time being.

 

What’s the story with Not Just the Notes? This seems like an extension of the ensemble programming, but perhaps in a new way.

Jessy Eubanks.
Jessy Eubanks.

Jessy Eubanks: Not Just The Notes is more of a concert series than an ensemble. We program new music written by UT composers, and focus on non-musical themes and collaboration. For example, this concert program consists of pieces about how humans interact with the environment, and current environmental issues. We needed a venue for our first concert, and Russell was very kind in letting us use the Excessive Noise series as a host.

 

One of the great things about the Excessive Noise series is that it gives campus composers the chance to share new material and to experiment in a performance space. Not Just the Notes seems to be a great fit for the series because of that. Can you talk a little about the nature of collaboration in the program, and maybe offer a peak into what folks can expect from the performances? 

JE: Our first collaboration will include the Campus Environmental Center. We’ve worked with by inviting them to our event, and they’ll have a table set up at the concert to answer questions and share some about the work they do around UT. It’s been really cool to make that connection. As for the performances themselves, each piece deals with a different aspect of how people are interacting with nature and the environment, things like that, and some send very strong messages about current issues such as deforestation or over-consumption.

Shih-Wen Fan.
Shih-Wen Fan.

The program is titled “Green Paw.” Can you talk about that and who will be performing?

JE: All of the performers are UT students, but a number of pieces have no performers at all- they are solely electronic or fixed media. Other pieces are a combination and feature live players with electronics.

The title Green Paw is a reference to the environmental theme of the concert, we thought it sounded cool and wanted a way to differentiate between this concert and (hopefully) future concerts.

ChadIbison.
Chad Ibison.

What are you planning for the future programming of Not Just the Notes? And what can we expect in the future from the Excessive Noise series?

JE: For Not Just the Notes, one area we’re hoping to explore is working with other students in the arts, such as dance or visual arts. There’s already so much potential in the College of Fine Arts alone, but we don’t want to limit ourselves. For example, there are also many music students involved in computer science, and it’d be very interesting to work creatively with them. There’s tons of options, and we’re also open to anyone coming to us with ideas for collaboration!

RP: I’ve got a couple of potential programs in mind for the future of Excessive Noise: a revival of a really successful project called “Sehr Flash” that we mounted back in 2016 at BSOM and the Texas Book Festival in conjunction with lit-mag NANOFiction, and a “new common practice” concert for which we’ll have several new pieces written all with the same stylistic constraints (the OULIPO groups does this kind of thing in the world of literature). Also, depending on how things shape up in terms of scheduling soloists, we may have a steel drum feature sometime soon.

Event Poster