Category: Finding Aids (page 2 of 8)

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. 

A Dive into a Jazz Contract

Jazz connoisseurs are familiar with things being branded “blue note.” There’s the Blue Note in New York City with chains in Japan, China, and the U.S., Blue Note Records, the Blue Note Jazz Festival, The Blue Note in Chicago (now closed), to name a few. Another prominent jazz club with the popular name was in Philadelphia, and Harvard is fortunate to have a selection of their musician contracts from 1949-1957, with the bulk of the contracts concentrated in 1956.

Represented in the collection are jazz contracts from well-known musicians Cannonball Adderley, Louis Armstrong, The Australian Jazz Quintet, Count Basie, Miles Davis, Charles Mingus, The Modern Jazz Quartet and several others. The most frequent signatures on the contracts are Jack Fields, owner of the Blue Note in the early 1950s, also known by his given name Irvin Rosenfeld as described in his obituary, and Lou Church, co-owner with Bob Pesselo, who began signing the contracts we have in hand starting in June 1956.

Miles Davis signature on contract

Lou Church and Miles Davis signatures on contract for performances from Dec. 3-8, 1956. Ms. Coll. 119

From December 3rd to the 8th, the Miles Davis Quintet began a two month series of engagements, starting in Philadelphia. The group featured Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Red Garland, Paul Chambers, and Philly Joe Jones.

Miles Davis contract for December 3 through 8, 1956.

Contract for Miles Davis performance at the Blue Note in Philadelphia. Ms. Coll. 119

On Saturday, December 8th, the set was featured on Bandstand, U.S.A., with audio available on YouTube. On this night the club was raided by police, as described in the African-American newspaper The Philadelphia Tribune. Lou Church is quoted as saying, “Police squads armed with shotguns enter the Blue Note frequently and frisk customers in hopes of embarrassing them into not coming to the club again.”

Headline from Philadelphia Tribune "Police Harass 400 At Blue Note; Deny Drive on White-Tan Lovers"

Philadelphia Tribune clipping

Clippings from the Philadelphia Tribune, Dec. 11, 1956.

The Collection of Jazz Contracts, 1949-1957 (Ms. Coll. 119) is located in the Isham Memorial Library, adjunct to the Loeb Music Library. There’re a lot of connections to be made about the life and history of the musicians and the Blue Note Club of Philadelphia in the collection of contracts. The collection can be viewed by appointment.

Bibliography

Chambers, Jack. Milestones I: The Music and Times of Miles Davis to 1960. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1983.

“Police Harass 400 at Blue Note; Deny Drive on White-Tan Lovers.” Philadelphia Tribune, Dec. 11, 1956.

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