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Beach Reads: Music Book Edition

June 30, 2015 | Beau | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

Summer's finally here, and summer always means beach reading season! It's always a busy time for music fans, but here's a list of some recent (and recent-ish) books you'll want to check out between concerts and outdoor festivals.


Kim Gordon Girl In A Band                Viv Albertine Clothes Music Boys

We'll kick things off with a couple of memoirs by women who rock. Girl In A Band, by Kim Gordon, is the Sonic Youth's bassist's candid recounting of her life (and failed marriage to bandmate Thurston Moore), from her suburban California childhood to the New York City art and music scene of the 1980s (with a brief detour to Toronto's York University!) to her experiences as the founding member of a seminal band that would help pave the way for the alternative music explosion of the 1990s.

As a founding member of The Slits, Viv Albertine was at ground zero for the early days of the English punk rock scene. Her rollicking memoir Clothes, clothes, clothes, music, music, music, boys, boys boys is a vivid chronicle of her life in music, film and fashion that connects the dots between the pioneering women of punk and the Riot Grrrls who followed in their footsteps.

Girl In A Band:

Clothes, clothes, clothes, music, music, music, boys, boys, boys:


Hip Hop Family Tree Volume One by Ed Piskor       Hip Hop Family Tree Volume Two by Ed Piskor

Self-proclaimed hip-hop nerd Ed Piskor's Hip hop family tree series started off as a webcomic, but these two gorgeous volumes collect the first several installments in print form. Volume 1 covers the 1970s until 1981, when a group of trailblazing DJs, breakdancers, graffiti artists and MCs formed hip-hop culture in the South Bronx, while Volume 2 tells the story of 1981 to 1983, as the scene moved from rec rooms to downtown clubs and record stores. These two books are an affectionate homage to both hip-hop and comic books and almost as much fun as listening to all those old-school rap hits.


I'll Take You There by Greg Kot


A musical generation before hip-hop hit the streets, many American soul, r&b and gospel musicians were important participants in the civil rights movements of the 1960s. Greg Kot's I'll take you there: Mavis Staples, the Staple Singers, and the march up freedom's highway tells the story of Mavis Staples, the lead singer of family gospel stars The Staple Singers, whose music battled racism and oppression during one of the most turbulent periods in American history.


Mad World, by Lori Majewski and Jonathan Bernstein

Readers of a certain age will fondly (or not-so-fondly) remember the outrageous haircuts, fashions and music of the '80s new wave scene. Mad world: an oral history of new wave artists and songs that defined the 1980s gives 35 of the most notable artists of the time, from huge stars to one-hit wonders, a chance to tell their stories of pop stardom and the creation of their biggest hits. If you were around at the time, the playlist suggestions will have you digging your old tapes out of the basement for a trip down musical memory lane.


How Music Got Free, by Stephen Witt                      Cowboys And Indies by Gareth Murphy

Music is an art, but it's also big business, and these two books take you behind the scenes for a look at the commercial side of the recording industry. How music got free: the end of an industry, the turn of the century, and the patient zero of piracy, by Stephen Witt, traces the history of online music from the invention of the MP3 in a German audio lab to the revolutionary shifts that occurred for both artists and record companies when it became possible for any music fan with a modem to download songs and entire albums from the internet for free.

Gareth Murphy's Cowboys and indies: the epic history of the record industry is an ambitious overview of the entire history of the recording industry, from the invention of the first sound-recording devices in the 1850s right through to the present day, with colourful profiles of the many record label founders and executives, talent scouts and producers who played an instrumental part in building the music biz into a multi-billion dollar enterprise. 

How Music Got Free:


The History Of Rock 'n' Roll In Ten Songs by Greil Marcus


The always thought-provoking cultural critic Greil Marcus is back with his latest book, which hones in on ten of rock 'n' roll's turning points, songs and artists who single-handedly changed the course of the music. The history of rock 'n' roll in ten songs weaves together the past, present and future of the music by outlining how these singular tunes helped create and preserve the unruly and liberating glory that is rock music in all its forms.


Do Not Sell At Any Price by Amanda Petrusich      Confidence Or The Appearance Of Confidence

The next time you're at a flea market or garage sale and see some old 78 rpm records sitting in a box, it might be worth your while to have a look at them. In Do not sell at any price: the wild, obsessive hunt for the world's rarest 78 rpm records, Amanda Petrusich delves into an eccentric and secretive subculture where intrepid collectors and archivists hunt down decades-old records and music that are in danger of being lost to history (and are sometimes worth thousands of dollars).

The American literary magazine The Believer has been publishing interviews with musicians since it launched in 2003, and Confidence, or the appearance of confidence: the best of the Believer music interviews compiles their wide-ranging conversations with thirty-five of the past decade's most creative and influential musicians. Where else are you going to read Jack White's instructions on how to upholster a couch, Björk's thoughts on poet e.e. cummings and Ice Cube talking about kicking George Clooney's butt at basketball under one cover?

Do not sell at any price:



June 30, 2015 | Charlene Lee | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

Panamania 2015

July 10 will mark the start of the Toronto 2015 Pan Am/Parapan Am Games. As thousands of athletes descend upon Toronto, so will thousands of artists. Bringing their A-game in music, dance, theatre, comedy, fashion, and the visual arts, this kaleidoscope of creativity is aptly called PANAMANIA.  

Presented by CIBC, this 35-day arts and culture festival will celebrate the Games as well as the diversity that surrounds them. With more than 130 musical performances by Grammy, Latin Grammy, and Juno-award winning artists, music lovers better start clearing their schedules from July 10 to August 15. Catch local musicians like Stars, Lights, and Jann Arden, or check out Puerto Rican duo Calle 13 or some Afro-Colombian hip-hop with Choc Quib Town

For some raucous dance-punk, catch Death From Above 1979 on Sunday, July 12 at Nathan Phillips Square. More than a decade since their first release You're a Woman I'm a Machineand a split and reunion, the Toronto duo can still bring the punch and grit. 

Also on July 12, you can see Canadian electronic group A Tribe Called Red at CIBC Pan Am Park. The Juno-nominated trio combines a unique fusion of styles including dubstep, hip-hop, and reggae with elements of First Nations music, to produce colossal, emotive tracks. Have you ever been intimidated by music? Check them out for raw, powerful anthems. 

A Tribe Called Red
A Tribe Called Red, photo courtesy of Falling Tree Photography

On Friday, August 7 Montreal duo Chromeo will be taking over the stage at Nathan Phillips Square. Get your groove on as the group brings some electro-funk to the Games.  

For some hip-hop and neo soul, check out American band The Roots on Saturday, August 8 at Nathan Phillips Square. The group formed in 1987 and have quite an expansive catalogue from which to play. 

There are plenty of events happening in addition to the Games, check the PANAMANIA website for more event information. You can also join us this summer for a range of free programming in celebration of the TORONTO 2015 Pan Am/Parapan Am Games.

The N Word, Some Context

June 26, 2015 | Bill V. | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

There's been a lot of buzz around President Barack Obama's recent use of the N word on a podcast interview of "WTF with Marc Maron." 

On Monday, Obama, the first African American U.S. president, astute politician and speaker, used the N word in a very public manner. In using such a painful and demeaning term, right after the massacre in South Carolina, Obama may well be trying to intentionally spotlight attention on racism now in America. On Friday, Obama will deliver a eulogy for Rev. Clementa Pinckney, the state senator who was one of nine people killed in the racially motivated shooting last week in Charleston. While it is unlikely the bookending of these two disparate public speeches is intentional, it is certainly striking.


If you're curious about the origin, history and some context around use of the N word then the following two books and DVD may interest you:

The N word  who can say it, who shouldn't, and why

Jabari Asim was a Washington Post columnist when he published this book in 2007. To quote the Booklist review (and presaging Obama's podcast) "he argues that the word has had a long history of powerful impact in more responsible hands as a reminder of the troubled legacy of race relations in the U.S."

The N Word - Divided We Stand

This DVD uses well known actors, directors, musicians and educators in a pro vs con type format where prominent figures debate the impact of the N word. 

Nigger  the strange career of a troublesome word

Distinguished Harvard legal scholar Randall Kennedy, in 2002, traces the origins and connotations of “the nuclear bomb of racial epithets". The New York Times Sunday Book Review gave it a lengthy review

RIP Archie Alleyne Canadian Jazz Legend and Drummer

June 24, 2015 | Bill V. | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

When I heard that local Toronto jazz musician, trailblazer and drummer Archie Alleyne had died June 8th 2015, it made me nostalgic. In respect to his long career I decided to listen to his LP record Up There.

Up there From Bebop to Now - close up of LP Vinyl record label


I savoured handling the LP and reading the liner notes. I enjoyed the tactile process of taking it out of the album sleeve and then the thin paper cellophane liner. I placed the Sony earphones on and heard the telltale slightly scratching sound of a record. It took me back to listening to him play, quietly and slowly in the room with all the noise associated with a busy club, bar or restaurant.


Up There LP vinyl album cover by musicians Archie Alleyne and Frank Wright Quartet


Did you know the Toronto Reference Library Arts Department still has over 15,000 LP records for you to listen to? We also have over 22,000 CDs. And we have free listening stations for both CDs and two record players. There are several CDs that feature his work including Kollage, featuring Archie Alleyne and Doug Richardson.


Listening to Archie Alleyne's LP record at the Toronto Reference Library Arts Department free record players


There were many obituaries written about Archie Alleyne and I like the different takes on him from the CBC and the Toronto Star. I also thought this online interview with him really gave him a chance to speak in his own voice and fill in the details of his life.

But I was also struck by the information about him on the website of the Archie Alleyne Scholarship Fund for young musicians to further their training and education and its message of "without a past .... there is no future".

If you're not able to come and listen to his record then you might enjoy the following Youtube clips including two performances, one solo interview and a moderated talk with some other black Canadian musicians. 







If you're interested in jazz you'll enjoy this other blog post by Beau on jazz books.

Don't forget to check out the streaming music databases available through the Toronto Public Library's catalogue and the Naxos Music Library (Jazz).

Naxos Music Library Jazz

The Library also has many music scores including ones on drumming and jazz. The largest collection of over 30,000 music scores that you can borrow is found at the Arts Department of the Toronto Reference Library. 

Jazz, Funk & Fusion Over 60 Classic Grooves In Standard Notation

Audition material for Plays, Shows and Musical Theatre at the Toronto Reference Library, 5th Floor

June 15, 2015 | Wendy | Comments (10) Facebook Twitter More...

We have audition material for upcoming plays and shows that you can use at the Arts Department, 5th floor of Toronto Reference Library (the list is updated regularly).  


New Auditions:



Know of an upcoming audition

Tell us in person, call the 5th floor Arts Desk at 416-393-7157, or email us at Want to leave your script here so you can refer actors to us?  We do that too.                


Toronto Reference Library has an extensive collection of monologues for all your audition needs! Come to the Arts Department on the 5th floor to sample some...

Monologues for Women

Monologues for Men

Canadian Monologues

Multicultural and LGBT gay/lesbian monologues


Audition items are for use in the library only and on first come first served basis.  There are sometimes copies at other branches that you can borrow or reserve.  We do have photocopying - but you'll need a copy card or blue or white library card - remember to add money at the Main 1st floor information desk. We are on the 5th floor - Arts Department desk - Toronto Reference Library -  thank you and knock'm dead.

Art Scandal: Journalist Evan Solomon, Art Collector Dealer Bruce Bailey, Businessman Jim Balsillie and Artist Peter Doig

June 11, 2015 | Bill V. | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

I think it's safe to say we've all heard of the conflict of interest scandal that has brought down journalist Evan Solomon. In an odd bit of coincidence, I was reading the May 2015 issue of British art magazine Apollo which had a cover story on artist Peter Doig (who incidentally also has a strong Canadian connection). Doig's paintings are central to Solomon's story and fall from grace. His work sells for millions and I was intrigued to read the interview with him in Apollo.  Doig is a major contemporary living artist and the Library has many books about him.

Apollo Magazine


Bruce Bailey, art collector/dealer/socialite/bon vivant (is that a job and how does one apply?), sold at least one of Doig's paintings to Research in Motion /Blackberry co-founder Jim Balsillie. Evan Solomon, who introduced the two men, surreptitiously to facilitate the sale of art, felt his contract with Bailey entitled him to a 10% commission on the sale of all art to Balsillie.  Bailey had offered "only" a finder's fee of $200,000 and Solomon wanted his regular commission or about $1,070,000 (which puts the Doig painting's worth at about $10 million). Bailey disagreed and Solomon took him to court. They settled before trial.

Wow! It's a complicated, murky, dare I say sordid, combination of art collecting, selling, greed and money. That's the art world in a nutshell. There is often a morally ambiguous relationship between the collector who buys early in an artist's career, then promotes the artist and finally sells their work for a vast profit.


If you're interested in reading about Peter Doig's art you may enjoy:

             Peter Doig  Peter Doig

Peter Doig Works on Paper


Peter Doig  no foreign lands


If you're interested in reading about Jim Balsillie and Research in Motion you may enjoy the following:

         Blackberry  the inside story of Research in Motion        BlackBerry planet  the story of Research in Motion and the little device that took the world by storm

For books on other art collectors / dealers you may like a couple of the following:

  The pop! revolution how an unlikely concatenation of artists, aficionados, businessmen, collectors, critics, curators, dealers, and hangers-on radically transformed the art world

         Collecting art for love, money and more       The supermodel and the Brillo box back stories and peculiar economics from the world of contemporary art


Tales from the art crypt  the painters, the museums, the curators, the collectors, the auctions, the ar  The art prophets  the artists, dealers, and tastemakers who shook the art world  Art for sale  a candid view of the art market

Celebrate CONTACT with New Photography Books

May 14, 2015 | Brent | Comments (1) Facebook Twitter More...

It's hard to believe the CONTACT Photography Festival -- which runs throughout the month of May--is almost half over. There are still dozens of exhibitions and events taking place throughout the city; Our own exhibition at Toronto Reference Library, Exposed features highlights from the Toronto Star archive. On May 28 at 2pm, we're lucky to have Stephen Bulger -- his Queen West gallery is one of the preeminent photography venues in the city -- conduct a tour of the exhibit.

In keeping with all this activity, the Arts Department on the fifth floor of Toronto Reference has just received a bumper collection of new photography books. They are full of surprises. Matador features wonderful work by Spanish photographer Ricky Davila whose pictures of his extended family replicates Nicholas Nixon's classic photographs of the Brown sisters.




With their casual poses and exquisite attention to light, both share links with some of the brilliant portraits by recently rediscovered Arkansas photographer Mike Disfarmer. Toronto Reference is fortunate to have new books featuring all three photographers:

     Matador photography    Nixon The Brown Sisters    Becoming Disfarmer

These are just a few of the new additions to our collection. They all look great, but they are so visually different that collectively they make a strong argument that photography might just be as diverse as painting.

           Lissie Habie       Rehersal of Space    Arctic

                   Filip Dujardin       Reisch

                         Joan Fontcuberta     Iran Interrupted

       Colita Fotografia       Grand Paris Martin Parr     Slovak New Wave

                 David Seymour      Eve Arnold       

                                   Object Photo

         Vanished Summer    Erwin Olaf  Steve Sabella

         Joan Colom      Office Romance     Exiles


                          Make a Photo Yourself

Scarborough Civic Centre Branch Has a Cool Green Roof

May 14, 2015 | Bill V. | Comments (2) Facebook Twitter More...

The Scarborough Civic Centre Branch will be opening on Wednesday, May 20th at 10 a.m.  It's our 100th location and has a lot of special features including the sweeping architecture, a Digital Innovation Hub, KidsStop Interactive Early Literacy Centre, an outdoor reading garden and following a recent trend within Toronto Public Library it will also have a green roof.  

You can read more about the new branch from an interview with the branch head librarian Trina Preece. You can also read about the rich history of libraries in this part of Scarborough in Barbara Myrvold's local history blog post.

Cheery Blossoms and the new Scarborough Civic Centre Branch Toronto Public Library
photo courtesy of Sharanja on twitter @Sharanja_J

The sloped green roofs and adjacent landscaping has been designed to allow users on the ground floor of the library and on the raised connection to the Scarborough Civic Centre to fully see and enjoy the native plantings.

The 1,550m2 roof mimics a bio-diverse alvar ecology (native to Southern Ontario) that is self watering and will provide habitat for birds, insects and a variety of indigenous plants (and very likely a raccoon).  It will incorporate existing mature trees on the east side. 

Our buildings are often designed with large windows to let natural light come into a branch and for the outside world to see into the library. In this case, the same design elements will allow library users to see outside to the green spaces.

Scarborough Civic Centre Branch Toronto Public Library green roof and landscape design plan

Scott Torrance Landscape Architect Inc has been responsible for the green roof working with the building project team lead Levitt Goodman Architects (LGA) and with Phillip H. Carter Architect.  LGA has provided a very nifty time lapse video on Vimeo of the construction of the building that you might enjoy.

Scarborough Civic Centre Branch Toronto Public Library green roof ramps during construction

Scarborough Civic Centre Branch Toronto Public Library green roof  in progress

Scarborough Civic Centre Branch Toronto Public Library green roof  in progress with some plantings


The final roof will have varying soil depths from 50 to 150mm and will provide 50% vegetated cover. If you're interested in green roofs you may enjoy an earlier blog post on all the other green roofs at Toronto Public Library branches.

Scarborough Civic Centre Branch Toronto Public Library green roof and landscape design model

  Scarborough Civic Centre Branch Toronto Public Library green roof and landscape design model ramps

Scarborough Civic Centre Branch Toronto Public Library green roof

   Scarborough Civic Centre Branch Toronto Public Library rendering

Photo credit: LGA Architectural Partners/Phillip H. Carter Architects in Joint Venture


Outdoor Reading Gardens at Toronto Public Library

April 30, 2015 | Bill V. | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

As spring becomes summer and we move into warmer weather, what could be more lovely than reading out of doors? Several Toronto Public Library branches have outdoor reading gardens with a variety of seating and landscaping that you can enjoy.

The Beaches Branch is one of Toronto Public Library's 10 Carnegie buildings (seven are still active). Built in 1915-1916, it's done in an English Renaissance style (lots of interior wood and soaring ceilings in an open central hall design) and is identical to High Park and Wychwood branches.  Beaches Branch is located beside beautiful Kew Gardens, just north of Lake Ontario and the boardwalk and is in heavily wooded neighbourhood. The reading garden was planted within the last few years as part of the most recent renovation.

There is also a detailed, visually interesting Pinterest board on Toronto's 10 original Carnegie branch libraries.

Beaches Branch Toronto Public Library exterior photo of reading garden (reason # 70)

If you're visiting the Beaches Branch, don't miss Wordsworth, the one-ton bronze owl sculpture, installed at the branch entrance on July 7, 2005. It was designed by architect Phillip H. Carter and artisan Ludzer Vandermolen. If you like the owl, then you'll likely really enjoy this duo's work at the entrance of the Lillian H. Smith Branch where they have two large bronze griffins flanking the doors.

Beaches Branch Toronto Public Library exterior photo of bronze owl sculpture and reading garden (reason # 70)


For something very different, I want to take you to Bloor/Gladstone Branch. Built in 1913 in the Beaux Arts style it was renovated extensively between 2006 and 2009 and the award winning results are awe inspiring (including a large pavilion addition). The renovation was very complex, but the final product is outstandingly beautiful and includes an exterior reading garden space accessible from the inside of the branch. Bloor/Gladstone also has Toronto Public Library's first green roof. There is a very detailed Pinterest board on the history of the branch that you might like as well.

Bloor Gladstone Branch Library reading garden reason # 70 courtyard

Bloor Gladstone Branch Toronto Public Library reading garden Reason #70 exterior photo of courtyard

Reading gardens are not a recent innovation at Toronto Public Library, as seen in this 1911 newspaper article about the then new Bloor Gladstone Branch, where they describe a garden terrace with fountain and shrubbery being used as a summer reading area.

Article about Bloor Gladstone Dovercourt Branch Library from the Toronto Star Dec 13 1911 page 7


There are several other library branches in Toronto that also have reading gardens:

And if your local branch doesn't have a formal outdoor reading garden space, it may have a bench in front of it and some lovely rose bushes like Highland Creek Branch.

Highland Creek Branch Library outdoor bench and roses

Celebrate National Canadian Film Day April 29 2015

April 29, 2015 | Bill V. | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

Did you know April 29th is National Canadian Film Day

Reel Canada wants you to celebrate and Toronto Public Library is offering several free movie screenings today. So if you're able why not join us and celebrate Canada by watching a great Canadian film?  For today only, you can also watch the free online streaming of "Rude" by African Canadian filmmaker Clement Virgo.


Icon of the event National Canadian Film Day: Rhymes for Young Ghouls
Wed Apr 29, 2015 | 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm

Join us for a screening of Rhymes for Young Ghouls (2013): "On the Red Crow Rez, growing up means getting even." Directed and written by Jeff Barnaby, starring Devery Jacobs, Glen Gould, Brandon Oakes.

Icon of the event National Canadian Film Day: Bollywood/Hollywood
Wed Apr 29, 2015 | 4:00 pm - 5:30 pm

We will be screening Bollywood/Hollywood (2002): "Nothing is what it appears to be." Written and directed by Deepa Mehta, starring Rahul Khanna, Moushumi Chatterjee, Dina Pathak.

Icon of the event National Canadian Film Day: Double Happiness
Wed Apr 29, 2015 | 1:00 pm - 3:00 pm
York Woods

We will be screening Double Happiness (1994). Synopsis: Jade Li (Sandra Oh), a vivacious Chinese Canadian, wants to become an actress without upsetting her extremely traditional parents. It's a balancing act Jade finds difficult to achieve. Great for ESL. Rated PG.

Icon of the event National Canadian Film Day: Fido
Wed Apr 29, 2015 | 4:00 pm - 5:30 pm

We will be screening Fido (2006), starring Kesun Loder, Billy Connolly, Carrie-Anne Moss. Ages 13+.

Icon of the event National Canadian Film Day:  Men with Brooms
Wed Apr 29, 2015 | 6:00 pm - 8:30 pm
North York Central Library

Come and celebrate National Canadian Film Day with a screening of the classic Canadian curling comedy, "Men with Brooms." The film stars Paul Gross and Leslie Neilsen.Directed by Paul Gross. Rating: AA.


On a more personal note, I am going to make a pitch to watch the Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz as my own great Canadian film moment.   One of the first Canadian film success stories I remember it when it came out originally in the 1970s.   Based on Mordecai Richler's book Richard Dreyfuss gives a great and moving performance.

The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz DVD


And, if you're really interested in exploring lesser known corners of Canadian films I suggest reading Life without death : the cinema of Frank Cole. This is a critique and biography of the Canadian documentary film maker (who was also a world traveler and the first documented person to cross the Sahara Desert on foot alone, where he was murdered in 2000). His remains were cryogenically preserved at the Michigan Cryonics Institute! Frank Cole shows there's a lot about Canada's film scene still to be discovered.

Life without death the cinema of Frank Cole (book)

You can watch a documentary about his life The Man who Crossed the Sahara , and see an excerpt below.



Not surprisingly there is a lot published about Canadian film and if you're interested in reading further please see here for a list of books.


If you're interested in films you'll really enjoy the research potential of Film Indexes Online.  You can access it from anywhere and it's free of charge if you have a Toronto library card.

Film Indexes Online


These free online magazine databases can give you all sorts of useful, interesting information on filmmakers, actors, specific movies and critical analysis of film from many perspectives and sources. Information about film and television (some full-text), including FIAF Plus, the American Film Institute Catalog and Film Index International.

All you need is a Toronto Public Library card to log in from home 24/7, your smart phone, tablet or from any of our libraries.



The library's blog devoted to the discovery of diverse artistic and cultural works in the library and Toronto. For more information on what the library has to offer please see our Theatre & Performing Arts page