Undergrad's article in music encyclopedia likely 'a first'
In what Music Professor Walter Kreyszig believes is a North American first, a U of S undergraduate student has written an entry in the German language's world-renowned music encyclopedia, Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart (MGG).
Fourth-year Musicology and Organ Major student Lyn Lamers wrote an entry on Heinrich Franz, the 19th-century composer and music compiler who Lamers says "brought music back to the Mennonites".
The article appears in the just-published Volume 7 of the planned 25-volume MGG series on composers.
Lamers explains that because of persecution in the 17th and 18th centuries, the once very musical German Mennonites in Russia came very close to losing music in their culture.
In the mid-1800s Franz, a teacher, adapted a number of previous "ziffern" music notation systems - which use numbers 0-7 on the music staff and have a moveable doh note - and taught it to Mennonite children. It is credited with restoring music to the Mennonite culture.
Lamers' route into the prestigious MGG began in November 2000 when one of the encyclopedia's editors, Andreas Jaschinski, visited campus to present some volumes to the U of S.
"I met Dr. Jaschinski then and I told him about my Mennonite research, and he was interested in Franz because he was interested in ziffern."
Yet, Lamers says, the MGG editor hadn't heard of Franz and wanted to fill that gap in his encyclopedia. He asked Lamers to write the entry on Franz, and three other entries on other composers. She signed a contract to write all four.
"It took about two years from signing the contract to publication," Lamers says.
Lamers has been a long-time researcher in Mennonite studies, and her mentor, Prof. Kreyszig, says it's a tribute to Lamers that she was hired to write for MGG.
"This is extremely competitive. You have to have years of research done already, combined with a lifelong interest in the topic. And then your article goes through a rigorous process of checking," says Kreyszig, who himself has written many entries for volumes of MGG, and has just gotten another contract to write 10 entries on Canadian composers.
Lamers says she was "very excited" when she got the contract. "I realized the importance of doing it correctly and the level of scholarship that would have to go into it - but I love research."
Kreyszig says Lamers was "very well-prepared" for the job, having taken all the Musicology courses in the U of S calendar, and also being "a natural researcher".
She travelled to Edmonton, Vancouver, Calgary, Regina, and Winnipeg to carry out research for the article.
One of the her richest sources was the Mennonite Archive in the Canadian Mennonite Bible College in Winnipeg.
"It includes a lot of examples of ziffern notations, letters, and other materials from the Russian migration of the Mennonites," Lamers says.
She says the information in her MGG entry on Franz is actually "a combination of four years of research".
Writing the piece "was very good exercise, because I had to synthesize my thoughts and write very tightly."
"It is because of Dr. Kreyszig's teaching that I learned how to do this - his example of the highest quality of writing and research standards," Lamers says.
Kreyszig notes that the fact that Lamers was able to write for MGG is "a feather in the cap" for the level of academic training being offered in the University's Music Department.