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Collections & Critiques

By Jack Wilner

One hundred years ago last Monday John Knowles Paine, the founder of the University's Music Department, was born. To celebrate the anniversary of the man who, for forty-three years, was the embodiment and able champion of the College's musical tradition, Widener Library now has an eight-case display in its main hall. Appropriately chosen and arranged with taste, the exhibition contains holograph manuscripts, portraits, books, and original texts, many of which have been lent to the Library by Professor Paine's colleagues and friends. Of special note is a large, colorful portrait of Professor Paine by Caroline A. Cranch.

After excellent training abroad and a brief career as an organ virtuoso, Paine became director of music here in 1862. When President Eliot took over the reins in 1869, music was given an especially important role in the revised curriculum. In 1875 Paine was promoted to a full professorship, which was the first chair in music at an American university. As a composer, he was especially versatile, turning out many symphonies, tone poems, operas, overtures, and cantatas. In the present display are included copies of his "Columbus March and Hymn" for the 1893 World's Fair, his "Harvard Hymn," and the song he wrote for the College commencement exercises. Shortly after his resignation from active service on the Faculty, the beloved musician died.

Professor Paine's true merit is revealed in a stimulating article written by Richard Aldrich '85 for the Dictionary of American Biography. The following statement comes from Aldrich's closing paragraph: "The best of Paine's works show a fertility, a genuine warmth and spontaneity of invention, and a fine harmonic feeling as well as a sure touch in the organization of form and skill in instrumentation."

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