Contemporary Classical Collection of Dr. Jon Rieger Donated to Music LibraryPosted: October 27, 2022 Filed under: Collections, donor, Ekstrom Library, Kentucky, Louisville, Music Library, New Items, People, University of Louisville, University of Louisville Libraries | Tags: classical music, contemporary classical music, donation, donor, Jon Rieger, Music Library, sociology, UofL Leave a comment
UofL Sociology professor Dr. Jon Rieger, who died in 2020 at age 83, distinguished himself in many areas beyond a remarkable 60-year academic career, including as a pioneer in visual sociology, as a US Navy captain, as a board member and patron of Louisville community and arts organizations, and as the author of a seminal bodybuilding manual.
Beyond these achievements and closer to the hearts of the local artistic community was Rieger’s strong impact on their creative work and lives. He functioned as a mentor, sounding board, supporter, caring critic, and advocate for many local musicians, photographers, painters and dancers. His obituary captures the love and respect they had for a man passionately devoted to fine art in its multi-varied forms.
One of Rieger’s strong, lifelong passions was contemporary classical music, which led him to amass a vast collection of recordings in various formats. Some are extremely rare, perhaps singular, from such locations as Russia, China, Eastern Europe, and the Americas, many gathered abroad during his years of active duty in the Navy.
Due to Rieger’s generosity and the University Libraries great fortune, these recordings are now publicly available at UofL’s Music Library. The new Jon Rieger Collection contains around 7,000 recordings (circa 4,000 LPs, 2,500 CDs and some 200 cassettes). Due to the size of the collection, the library’s process of cataloging is ongoing, but all recordings are available for borrowing or enjoying on site.
“Many of the recordings were collected while he traveled the world in the Navy and sought out recordings from other countries,” said Music Library Director James Procell. “So what you see in this collection are some extremely rare recordings, many of which were never commercially available in the US. He ordered pressings of particular broadcasts he encountered on the BBC, Radio Netherlands or on other international stations, so it’s possible these are the only recordings.”
A true audiophile, Rieger created a sophisticated sound environment in his home with two massive speakers for high-quality listening, said Procell. “He enjoyed sharing this experience with others and would often invite friends over for listening sessions and parties.”
In 2015 after Procell became Music Library director, Rieger reached out to him to arrange the library’s acquisition of his collection “when he was done with it” (i.e. upon his death). He wanted it to go to UofL, but remain separate from the Library’s main holdings.
“Typically, we can’t do that for most individual donors, but since Rieger’s collection is so unique and distinguished and expansive, we agreed to create a separate area for it. Not many people collect these types of sound recordings anymore, or have these big physical collections, so this is particularly special.”
Procell also plans to create a separate listening area with comfortable seating and headphones, so that students, faculty, researchers and the public can come and enjoy the music and browse the stacks at their leisure. The Music Library will organize the collection by record label, following Rieger’s own printed catalog of works and method of organization, which he updated until 2018.
“Anyone can check out the albums even though not all of them are cataloged as yet,” said Procell. “All are browse-able and on the shelves.”
Procell has been aided in his curation of Rieger’s collection by Louisville cellist, songwriter, and storyteller Ben Sollee. In Rieger’s obituary, Sollee says that Rieger “built a family around his love of the arts . . . that he affectionately coined the ‘Tin Ear Society.’ This expansive family of dancers, musicians, composers, photographers, writers, visual artists and creatives were all connected by his mentorship, patronage, and radically honest critiques of our work. He helped us make better and more meaningful art. And, importantly, he never missed an opportunity to get us all together to enjoy Louisville’s bounty of performances. He taught us all, as both a sociologist and Big Brother, that great art is the product of and the fuel that grows thriving communities.”
“Jon was a huge supporter of the arts,” said Procell. “He financially supported causes he thought were important, including various arts organizations, and individual artists, photographers, dancers and musicians.”
“He was a very good friend of the Music Library and the School of Music and is missed by everyone here that knew him.”