Category: Digital Collections (page 1 of 24)

Last Chance To See (But You Can Listen Anytime): Indigenous Siberian Fieldwork at the Loeb Music Library

The Eda Kuhn Loeb Music Library’s Fall 2019 exhibition, Tree of Life: Cosmology and Environment in Yakutian Epic, features highlights from the Eduard Alekseyev Fieldwork Collection of the Musical Culture of Yakutia, 1957-1990. On display until Friday, January 24th are photographs and personal effects that document fieldwork in Yakutia (also known as the Sakha Republic) in the second half of the twentieth century by the ethnomusicologist Eduard Alekseyev, who was born there in 1937.

Dressed in a grey suit and holding a microphone on an extension stick, Eduard Alekseyev sits in a crowded auditorium. The date and location of this photograph are unknown.

Undated photograph of Eduard Alekseyev performing fieldwork. Image courtesy National Library of Sakha

Yakutia is located in the circumpolar region of Russia, straddling the Arctic Circle. Its capital of Yakutsk has the reputation for being the coldest city on earth. Dr. Alekseyev’s recordings of musical life in the region capture religious and cultural expressions of Sakha identity/nationhood that have survived Soviet repression, urbanization, and climate change. Also on display are musical instruments crafted in Yakutia and other locally made birchbark and metal handcrafts.

The Eduard Alekseyev Fieldwork Collection has been fully digitized and is available to stream. Among the different musical genres represented in the collection is olonkho, sacred epics sung by a narrator who differentiates between characters by alternating song and recitative. The texts traditionally describe a cosmography of lower, middle, and upper worlds, with the sacred tree, or tree of life, characteristically a larch, bridging across the layers. In the recordings, you will hear the khomus (also known as a mouth harp, jawharp, or Jew’s harp), the diungiur (shaman’s drum), and the bayan (button accordion). The collection also features musical traditions of Crimean Tatars recorded in Kiev, Ukraine. Listen here to Yegor Trofimovich Leveriev sing Siine tuhunan Toiuk (Song about the Siine River) in 1979, one of 689 freely available audio tracks in the collection.

Co-curated by Harvard graduate student Diane Oliva and Music Library staff member Christina Linklater, this exhibition marks the United Nations International Year of Indigenous Languages, bringing special attention to indigenous language collections housed at Harvard Library.

The exhibition also details the process of preserving and digitizing sound recordings. Nineteen-sixties recording technologies relied on acetate and polyester audio tape reels and VHS PAL videocassettes: highly vulnerable for decay and breakage, these magnetic media are typically prioritized for preservation and reformatting. The original cases have been retained, which contain Alekseyev’s own annotations.

This reel case features handwritten notes by Eduard Alekseyev.

Loeb Music Library, AWM RL 16254

 

The Music Library holds several other audio and audiovisual fieldwork collections that capture musical expression around the world:

Lowell H. Lybarger Collection of Pakistani Music Materials

Stephen Blum Collection of Music from Iranian Khorāsān

Lara Boulton Collection of Byzantine and Orthodox Musics

James A. Rubin Collection of South Indian Classical Music

Marie-Thérèse, Baroness Ullens de Schooten Collection (Iran)

Kay Shelemay, Collection of Ethiopian Music

Richard Kent Wolf Collection of Fieldwork (India)

Virginia Danielson Collection of Field Recordings of Muslim Calls to Prayer

This post was contributed by Diane Oliva, a candidate for the PhD in historical musicology at Harvard University. Diane Oliva is the May-Crane Fellow of the Loeb Music Library for 2019-2020. 

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

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