Rediscovering a long-forgotten composer at ASU music library

A collection of Reynaldo Hahn compositions are on display for a new audience to experience

The ASU Herberger Institute School of Music aims to introduce something new to students by taking a look at obscure music from the past.  

Several books from the 19th-and-20th century French composer's music are on display at ASU's music library in order to expose students to new music, said Robert Mills, an associate professor in the Herberger school who owns the Reynaldo Hahn collection.

“Very few people know who Reynaldo Hahn is, and the few that do know who he is, know him because of his songs,” Mills said. “He wrote many songs for voice and piano, but his operas are very rare. Few people listen to them, including classical musicians.”

Mills said he also wanted to show that while the books contained beautiful music, they also had detailed artwork on their covers. 

“The other reason why I have these scores on display is that it shows the viewer the way books were printed back in the early 1800’s and 1900’s.” he said. “I mean, they are almost pieces of art.”

Linda Elsasser, a learning services manager and music librarian, said she was the one to ask Robert Mills to bring his Hahn collection. She said it’s nice to see the faculty pitch in their ideas for new exhibits.

“It’s kind of a communal thing,” she said. "But it was nice that Robert did this himself.”

Elsasser said past exhibits at the library have featured a trombone collection and political wordplay with sheet music. She said she hopes more people can come see the what the library has to display.

“It would be kind of cool if we could tie (the displays) in with the events here,” she said. "(The attention) is very positive because we don't usually get any interest."

Christopher Mehrens, the music librarian at Tempe, said he likes the fact that music students and the public get access to unique items such as Hahn's sheet music.

“The wonderful thing it does is that it exposes our students, even faculty members, to materials that they might not be otherwise familiar with, and have an opportunity to see something which is rare and special,” he said.

Mehrens said the library has collections from several genres of music.

“We had one scholar here who was an expert on hip-hop, so we have an extensive hip-hop collection,” he said. “We also have another person who deals with music of the early rock era.”

Mehrens said he feels that it his responsibility to share with the community different aspects of music, from Hahn's time to the present. 

“(The exhibit) is right here,” he said. “Maybe it will stimulate their interest in collecting or looking into special things related to their field.”

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