#Quarantunes: a ROAAr staff selection

The merry cobler and his musical alphabet. James Lumsden and Son (Publisher). [between 1815 and 1820]. Rare Books and Special Collections – Sheila R. Bourke Collection – PN970 L86 M47 1815.

Many, many (like a thousand) years ago, when I was a very anxious university student, I got the idea to make mix-CDs for people. It seemed like it would make for a nice distraction. I posted an anonymous ad online, received a ton of responses, and got to work on making different mixes for dozens of strangers. I figured out how to record songs off my record player, an antiquated gizmo, and didn’t care that it sounded horrible. I mailed the mixes out, learning that envelopes and postage cost more than anticipated. Still, I was excited. And I heard back from people, constantly. They were excited, too. I used a dummy email address when I posted the ad, and it collected responses for years. It was the most wholesome thing I’ve ever done. It truly made me feel better.

Then I gave up on the project because that’s life. But now, in April, 2020… there is a playlist overload. Something about this pandemic is causing people to share music. It’s probably the isolation and desperate need for human contact. But you know what? It’s kind of amazing. I’m discovering artists that I might otherwise never search for. I’m finding my summer bops and apocalypse anthems.

15th century Italian antiphonal: manuscript. Rare Books and Special Collections – Manuscript Collection – MS Medieval 0073.

So I thought of opening the idea up to my ROAAr colleagues. What do people who work in Rare Books & Special Collections, the Osler Library of the History of Medicine, the McGill University Archives, and the Visual Arts Collection listen to? I asked everyone to simply share one song they like. Any song, any genre. The results are surprising! It is really interesting to see how eclectic our tastes are. The song selection speaks to our different (very, very different) personalities. Play it on shuffle for a wild, slightly jarring, ride.

I didn’t want to necessarily restrict the playlist to a social distancing theme because I can only listen to The Police – Don’t Stand So Close To Me so many times. But, of course, some choices reflect our current inescapable situation, like Bette Midler’s From A Distance. One librarian mentioned that she chose her particular song, Namiko by Tayc, because what she misses most while in quarantine is dancing kizomba. Another purposely included Mumford & Sons’ After The Storm because of the hopeful message it offers.

To the ROAAr team, our wonderful library colleagues, and our reading room regulars: can you guess who chose what song?

Melissa is Head Clerk, Rare Books and Special Collections.

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