The Beinecke Library’s ‘wonderful past and glorious future’ to be fêted in a weekend of events

The Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library’s 50th anniversary celebration will come to a close next week with a talk by renowned Italian author Umberto Eco and three musical events that will pay tribute to the rich resources in the library’s collections and archives.

The musical events — a musical setting of a 100-year-old poem, a sound installation featuring music and audio sources found in the library, and a gala concert — “will showcase the wide range of talents at the university,” says Timothy Young, curator for modern books and manuscripts at the Beinecke Library.

All of the events are free and open to the public.

“The Beinecke Library’s celebration of its 50th anniversary culminates in a series of events that demonstrates the breadth of its collections and how the library supports teaching and scholarship at Yale University and the broader scholarly community. I’m thrilled that the library can share its celebration with the Yale community in such exciting and diverse ways,” says E.C. Schroeder, director of the Beinecke Library.

Umberto Eco

On Friday, Oct. 18 at 5 p.m. Umberto Eco, an Italian semiotician, essayist, philosopher, literary critic, and novelist, will give a talk titled “The Library as a Model for Culture: Preserving, Filtering, Deleting, and Recovering.” The lecture will take place at the Yale University Art Gallery, 1111 Chapel St.

Eco is best known for his groundbreaking 1980 novel “Il nome della rosa (The Name of the Rose),” an intellectual mystery that combines semiotics in fiction, biblical analysis, medieval studies, and literary theory. His most recent novel, “Il cimitero di Praga (The Prague Cemetery), released in 2010, was a best-seller.

La Prose du Transsibérien

The first musical event, to be held on Saturday, Oct. 19 at 1 p.m., is a musical setting of “La Prose du Transsibérien,” a 1913 poem written by Blaise Cendrars. Yale School of Drama faculty member Matthew Suttor composed the setting with a new English translation provided by Young. The piece debuted in Taos, New Mexico, this past January, which paved the way for it to be mounted for the Beinecke’s celebration. The production “shows the ways that teaching a piece of literature can evolve to the level where a new work is generated that broadens the reach of the original,” notes Young.

Liz Diamond, chair of the Directing department at Yale School of Drama and resident director at Yale Repertory Theatre, will direct the production. The Jasper String Quartet and Yale School of Music student Ashley Smith will perform the piece. Max Gordon Moore, a recent graduate of the Yale School of Drama, is the narrator.

The production design for the show features Yale School of Drama alumni Hannah Wasileski, projection designer; Yi Zhao, lighting designer; and Liz Atkinson, sound designer.


The second musical event, “HxWxL,” is a sound installation curated from music and audio sources in the Beinecke Library, including original sound recordings (such as readings by poets and interviews by researchers) and recorded performances of music held by the library (including Civil War songs and readings of Shakespeare’s sonnets).

The sound files were then collaged by Suttor to make a soundscape that combines spoken words and music. Suttor is using the planning and installing of the soundscape as a teaching tool for his School of Drama students.

“This work was planned as a counterpoint to the gala concert to give an alternative sense of how sound and music live in archives,” says Young.

HxWxL will be performed on the Beinecke Library’s mezzanine on Saturday, Oct. 19 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Gala concert

The final musical event of the Beinecke Library’s 50th anniversary celebration is a gala concert “that celebrates the sweet sounds that help define the library’s wonderful past and its glorious future,” says Young.

The two principal works that will be performed — Camille Saint-Saëns’ Piano Trio no. 1 and Francis Poulenc’s “Les Biches” — are based on musical manuscripts given to Yale by School of Drama alumnus Frederick R. Koch ’61 MFA as part of his collection of musical, literary, and historical materials now housed in the Beinecke Library.

Completing the bill is a suite of art songs. The art songs are a selection of settings of poems by authors who are prominent in the Beinecke’s collections. They include John Hollander’s “An Old-Fashioned Song,” with music by Ricky Ian Gordon, Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Windy Nights,” with music by Alec Wilder, and Gertrude Stein’s “I Am Rose,” with music by Ned Rorem. The finale will be James Weldon Johnson’s “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”

“The Beinecke Library’s 50th anniversary is an opportunity to celebrate ourselves and to commemorate everyone who has been a contributor to our success, including the Beinecke family; generous donors who support the collections; the community on campus and in New Haven; researchers, faculty and students; writers, performers, and musicians – all of whom inspire and create,” says Young.

For more information, visit the Beinecke Library’s website.

Share this with Facebook Share this with Twitter Share this with LinkedIn Share this with Email Print this

Media Contact

Bess Connolly:, 203-432-1324