by Ben Bonadies
Photography by Stephen Vocaturo
Within Mugar Memorial Library lives a trove of CDs, vinyl and tapes seemingly unknown to the general public of BU. The Mugar Music Library is home to shelves upon shelves stocked with records, but do not confuse it for a typical record store. The selection here remains staunchly academic, catering almost exclusively to the classical genre with composers like Beethoven and Bach, as well as legendary opera singers like Pavarotti.
“The majority of our stuff—probably 60-70 percent—is classical,” said Brett Kostrzewski, the Music Library’s Instructional and Reserves coordinator. The reason, he says, is the Music Library’s connection with BU’s School of Music. “They drive a lot of our acquisitions and they have for a long time.”
The average patrons of the library, according to Kostrzewski, are music students relying on the library’s resources for assignments and papers that task students with listening to and analyzing a piece of classical or folk music available at Mugar. The Music Library is not limited to only recordings, however, but music-related literature as well.
Michael Balange, a master of music education at BU, utilizes the library’s material on music education for his research. A fan of bands like Red House Painters and Explosions in the Sky, Balange has yet to check out music from the library, preferring to stream from Google Play instead.
In the age of music streaming, physical music—especially vinyl—is still a vital mode of musical consumption. The library’s vinyl traffic has picked up due to vinyl’s limited availability. Rarity is only one of the reasons why the music library maintains such a large collection of records.
“Vinyl, especially for a library, is a much more preferable medium to CDs because it doesn’t decay,” Kostrzewski said. “All of these CDs actually have a shelf life and the vinyl will not decay on the shelf so those will last forever.”
The durability of vinyl and the scarcity of some of the library’s materials is what makes this collection an invaluable resource for students of music, and will remain so long into the future.
The future looks bright for the music library. A new hire from Berklee College of Music specializing in music industry and popular music hopes to bring the library up-to-date on contemporary music. Beyond this, the library is always looking for students to request records or CDs to add to their collection. If there’s an album you’ve been dying to hear, it’s worth asking the music library to get it for you, on vinyl or otherwise.
With the recent resurgence in the popularity of vinyl, every self-respecting music fan now seems to own a turntable. A classical record from the Mugar’s Music Library could be a great way to give it some use and fill your dorm with the soothing sounds of Bach or Beethoven.
“People prefer the sound quality and there’s just something nice and tactile about using a record,” Kostrzewski said.
If you don’t own a record player and are curious to try one out, fret not—the library has several available for student-use to listen to one of the library’s hundreds of vinyl records. Renting an item is as simple as taking a book out from the library using your ID—you can even take vinyl out of the building if you have a turntable of your own.
While it currently remains a very academic collection, Mugar’s Music Library, like any vintage record store, has gems to be found. While there researching for this story, I came across Gil Scott-Heron’s 1971 classic Pieces of a Man right next to Wu-Tang Clan’s seminal debut from 1993, Enter the Wu-Tang: The 36 Chambers. If you’re willing to dig, there are bound to be diamonds hidden in the rough just waiting to be heard.