Category: Audio Preservation (page 1 of 3)

PLAY THIS RECORD LOUD

DMZ. The Neighborhoods. La Peste. Watching punk bands in the early days, Arthur Freedman realized that each show was unique. He witnessed set, song, and personnel changes, different arrangements for some songs and, tragically, untimely deaths of band members. Believing that the energy and exuberance of a live performance could never be reproduced within the recording studio, Arthur bought a cassette deck and microphones (and eventually a video camera) and started to record many of the shows he attended. Often sighted in front of the stage, video camera in hand, he became a familiar figure in the local Boston area rock scene for over four decades.

A box of cassette tapes from the Freedman collection

The Arthur Freedman audio collection came to Loeb Music Library in late 2011, and over the last year we have been working hard to finish digitizing all the original compact cassettes in the collection. Providing a window into an essential era of Boston rock history, it contains over 720 hours of live performances by primarily local rock and punk bands, most of which were recorded between the late 1970s and the mid-1980s. The majority of these recordings were made in storied Boston clubs that no longer exist, and the collection contains many unique performances unavailable elsewhere. Some of the tapes contain accompanying material such as set lists, tickets, and flyers, and others include technical notes or anecdotes about the performance.

Ticket, Boys Say Go, August 1, 1984 at Jumpin’ Jack Flash

Flyer, The Primevals and The Classic Ruins, July 20, 1985 at The Boston Food Co-op

We’d like to celebrate the completion of this project by making the first digitized performances available in the Freedman finding aid. These are two performances by the all-female band Bound & Gagged, recorded at Baba O’Reilly’s in New London, CT on January 29, 1981 and the following night at Hurrah in New York City. The Hurrah show was also filmed by Merrill Aldighieri, but Freedman’s audio version contains two encores.

 

Hear the shows

 

Bound & Gagged formed in 1979 and released an eponymous EP in 1980 on the Boston-based Modern Method label (a small, unassuming note on the rear of the jacket suggests: “PLAY THIS RECORD LOUD”). Members featured in these performances are Martha Swetzoff on guitar, vocals & percussion, Wendy Stone on guitar, Trude Koby on bass & vocals, Marcia Maglione on keyboards, vocals & percussion, and Deni Ozan on drums. Special thanks to Martha Swetzoff for helping us to make these the first streaming performances available from the collection.

Flyer for a benefit show (Sept. 28, 1980) held for Bound & Gagged after their equipment was stolen following a gig at Cantone’s. Courtesy of Martha Swetzoff.

Freedman also recorded over 2000 hours of video during these years, which are a part of his collection held at the Harvard Film Archive. “Artie” still makes recordings and he was recently on hand at screenings of the documentary film “Boys from Nowhere,” which chronicles the Boston garage punk scene of this era. At the Cabot Theater in Beverly, MA in April, the film was followed with sets by the Nervous Eaters and Willie Alexander & The Boom-Boom Band, as well as a panel discussion featuring JJ Rassler of DMZ. Artie was again there to capture it for posterity.

Are you a member of a band Freedman recorded? Did you attend these shows? We want to hear from you! Get in touch with Peter Laurence.

-Peter Laurence, Lesley Bannatyne

Polish Solidarity Tapes Digitized

Andrea Bohlman, a doctoral candidate in Historical Musicology in the Harvard University Department of Music, works on socialist and post-socialist music cultures, European popular song and hymns, musical media, and music in politics. In this guest post, she describes some of her discoveries in the stacks of the Harvard libraries, and their importance to her research:


Though the bulk of my dissertation research brings me to archives housed in basements of private homes, government organizations, and academic institutions across Poland, generous support from the Eda Kuhn Loeb Music Library, Houghton Library, and the Music Department at Harvard has helped to make some of the most unusual materials available on this side of the Atlantic: a selection of rare cassette tapes. The digitization of these materials, which were collected among members of the Polish opposition in the 1980s, makes radio programs, audiobooks, news montages, and more available to any user at Houghton Library. The creative sound documents recorded on the tapes had previously been inaccessible because of their fragile media. Now we have the opportunity to listen to the sounds of organized dissent and to understand the significance of music for Polish activists.

The Solidarity Collection itself (to which these tapes belong) is unique outside of Poland. It contains a variety of materials assembled from private collections of Polish-American supporters of the independent Solidarity trade union (Solidarnosc), and other dissident organizations from the late 1970s to the end of the Cold War. Members of Polish opposition depended on a variety of means of communication to organize meetings, discuss their demands, critique the ideologies behind the Peoples’ Republic of Poland, and create a culture of dissent. In scores of news bulletins and written documentation of organizational matters, “dissident culture” supported the publication of literature censored by the government and promoted its own agenda through stamps, posters, and other iconographic media.

The Solidarity Collection, because it represents not the record of a single organization, but the collections of individuals invested in the movements’ politics, speaks volumes about the way in which documents printed by the Polish underground presses—Polish samizdat—were actually disseminated and received. The Solidarity Collection offers a snapshot into the diverse means of expression at the heart of the Polish opposition, the local efforts in what came to be a nationally triumphant political party.

My dissertation concerns music and activism in Poland during the 1980s. It was when I was perusing the Solidarity Collection for songbooks that I noticed a reference to 38 cassette tapes. When I inquired about them, a Houghton librarian, Joseph Zajac, was kind enough to take me into the bowels of the stacks, where I got a sense for the richness of the sound materials. I began to talk with Richard F. French librarian Virginia Danielson about listening access, since Houghton has neither the digitization facilities nor the audio technology of the Eda Kuhn Loeb Music Library.

The tapes represent the bulk of the output of two major underground presses. From 1983-1990 these presses used cassettes as a primary means of disseminating political cabaret, political anthems, and audiobooks (such as George Orwell’s 1984), as well as editorial essays read by their activist authors. Cassettes not only recorded the sounds of the opposition, they afforded journalists, workers, and literary figures the opportunity to create a sound object. The digitization of these tapes has made the material more accessible and has transformed the nature of my work with the cassettes: I can return to listen to interviews and audio montages repeatedly. But, most importantly, engagement with their form and content can alter historians’ understanding of music in the Polish opposition by underlining the vitality of sound and music at a crucial moment of Cold War history in Poland.

– Andrea Bohlman


Notes: David Ackerman, Bruce Gordon, and Darron Burke, of the library’s Audio Preservation Studio, digitized the tapes, which are stored in the University Library’s Digital Repository Service, a state-of-the-art permanent digital storage facility.

The Music Library acknowledges the continued, valuable support from the Andrew W. Van Houten Audio Preservation Fund for our work with rare and unique electroacoustic and ethnomusicological recordings.

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