Beinecke’s 50th Anniversary Celebration Closes with a Flourish
The finale of the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library’s yearlong 50th anniversary celebration kicked off, appropriately enough, with a philosophical treatise on the cultural significance of libraries by renowned Italian writer and bibliophile Umberto Eco.
Eco’s lecture at the Yale Art Gallery on Friday, Oct. 18, attended by more than 500 people, was a fitting prologue to Saturday’s trio of musical events that drew on the library’s collections. Each event showed how the Library inspires creativity and enhances Yale University’s cultural life.
The celebration closed with a dinner on Saturday evening attended by members of the Beinecke family.
“The weekend provided a fitting end to our 50th anniversary celebration,” Library Director E.C. Schroeder said. “It was a wonderful opportunity to reflect on our success and to thank everyone who has contributed to it, including the Beinecke family; generous donors who support the collections; the community on campus and in New Haven; and researchers, faculty and students who study the materials in our collections.”
Seated on a chair at center stage, Eco discoursed on collected human knowledge; his talk highlighted by a dazzling riff that touched on subjects as disparate as the Bible and the blockbuster movie “Jurassic Park.”
The first of the musical events, “HxWxL,” was a sound installation curated from music and audio sources in the Beinecke Library, including original sound recordings (such as readings by poets) and recorded musical performances held by the Library. Yale School of Drama faculty member Matthew Suttor arranged the audio files into a soundscape, which played in the Library’s mezzanine on Saturday afternoon.
At 1 p.m. on Saturday, an audience at the Off Broadway Theater enjoyed a musical setting composed by Suttor of “La Prose du Transsibérien,” a 1913 poem written by Blaise Cendrars. Suttor based the music on an English translation of the poem by Timothy Young, curator for modern books and manuscripts at the Library.
Elizabeth Diamond, adjunct professor and chair of the Yale School of Drama directing department and resident director of the Yale Repertory Theatre, directed the production. The Jasper String Quartet and Yale School of Music student Ashley Smith performed the music. Max Gordon Moore, a recent graduate of the Yale School of Drama, provided a powerful narration.
The celebration concluded on Saturday evening with a gala concert at Sprague Hall featuring Yale musicians, faculty, and alumni. The two principal works performed at the gala — 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 housed in the Library. A suite of art songs completed the bill.
The gala was a lovely capstone to a year of special exhibitions and events marking the 50th anniversary. To learn more about the library’s 50-year history, be sure to watch an oral history of the library on our website.