Popular music


New facility for the Library & Archives of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum

Former SAA Performing Arts Roundtable newsletter editor, George Bain, points us in the direction of an article by Andy Leach in the latest issue of Ohio Archivist regarding the expansion of the Library and Archives at Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.

Great news!  But whither Performance! itself?

Image credit: Photograph of Library and Archives building from Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum Web site

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Marquee of Cort Theatre on West 48th Street showing Manny''s Music

Marquee of Cort Theatre on West 48th Street showing Manny''s Music

I guess this could be seen as the pop music world’s equivalent of the Joseph Patelson Music House, about whose demise we blogged all too recently.  Now there’s a piece in this week’s New Yorker on the imminent closure of Manny’s Music in New York City.  Devotees have created a “Virtual Wall” to try to keep the vibe alive, but is it really the same thing?

Image credit: Christopher Frith photograph of Freak marquee (1998), NYPL Digital Gallery Image ID#400892

I’m still getting my conference notes together, but in the meantime we can all chew our collective cud (cuds?) over a recent New York Times story by Stephen Holden promoting the latest recording by performer Michael Feinstein. It’s not clear whether or not Holden is lauding Feinstein’s “archivist’s mentality” in his description of the vocalist’s career and latest projects, but buried within the piece is the news that the singer/pianist intends to donate “his ever-expanding sound archive” and “all his memorabilia and manuscripts” to what will become known as the Feinstein Foundation for the Education and Preservation of the Great American Songbook, to be located in a still-under-construction performing arts complex in Carmel, Indiana. Another press release I somehow managed to miss back in June.

Personally, I’ve always had some difficulty with the whole “Great American Songbook” construct (if it’s not a concept recognized by LC, then don’t talk to me about it!), but it did amuse me that the Wikipedia entry asserts that the acronym for this topic is GAS.

Also touching on issues relating to popular music and music archives is an article by Andrew Clark in the Guardian concerning the possible sale of the powerful Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization (which the paper nevertheless persists in calling “Organisation”) — a story apparently first reported in the New York Post. It’s a story with some worrisome implications and obviously one worth keeping an eye on.

Image credit: Negative of John Vachon photograph, Closed gas station on U.S. 40, Brazil, Indiana. Library of Congress P & P Online Catalog Digital ID: (digital file from intermediary roll film) fsa 8a33325 http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/fsa.8a33325

I was only half awake when I heard this story on NPR’s ‘Morning Edition’ earlier today regarding the pending lawsuit between the estate of James Brown and stock photo concern, Corbis, but it does make for some entertaining reading (though the transcription has a few errors) or listening. Most interesting perhaps was to hear Corbis described as a “photo archive.” Do “archivists” think of it as being what we traditionally view as archives in the public sense? Isn’t Corbis just another shop? Albeit a very well-stocked one. On its corporate Web site, Corbis describes itself as a “creative resource.”

Be that as it may, the story also reminded me about another blog post that I had started here several months ago, but aborted mainly because it occurred at around the same time that problems first began with the media uploading platform on WordPress (an issue hopefully resolved for good now) and I was unable to insert the above image of an early performance of James Brown and the Flames (hopefully neither the Library of Congress nor the estate of James Brown will mind me doing so now).

Way back in April there were various reports in the media that an exhibition of the late singer’s memorabilia was being planned by the I. P. Stanback Museum and Planetarium at South Carolina State University. At that time it had been announced that the show would open at some point during the summer, so I decided to check back on its progress. This time around, I discovered the museum’s own blog, which indicates that the exhibit will open in October 2008 (to coincide with SCSU’s homecoming week). Something else to add to your calendars!

Image credit: James Brown and the Flames during live performance, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Online Catalog, Digital ID (b&w film copy neg.) cph 3c21427 http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3c21427

Today’s New York Times reports on the acquisition of the Savada Collection by the Syracuse University Library’s Belfer Audio Laboratory and Archive. This enormous and important collection, which was compiled by the late Morton J. Savada (former owner of the Records Revisited store in New York City), contains over 200,000 thousand rare 78-rpm recordings of popular music, as well as related printed materials. A more official press release with fuller details regarding this excellent resource (and its future availability to the public) can be found on the SUL Web site.

I scarcely had time to begin musing about what criteria may make a new archival acquisition “newsworthy” enough to rate a mention in the Times when I (suddenly) recalled one of the more curious comments I overheard at the recent ALA conference. At a discussion group meeting someone remarked that her institution had “dodged a bullet” by not having acquired the Grateful Dead Archive, indicating that it had gone instead to the University of California, Santa Cruz Library’s Special Collections and Archives. Leaving aside, for the time being, the entire question of the kind of attitude that comment reveals, I wondered inwardly, “Why didn’t I hear about it? Has it happened already? Was it in the Times?”

Well, yes, Virginia, it turns out that the NYT did run a story way back in late April (!) when the announcement of the new acquisition was first made. But it was included in the U.S. news section, which, sad to say, I rarely find the time to read these days when all the news I supposedly am interested in, “comes to me” directly via RSS feeds from the Arts section. There also was a very nice piece that came out in the San Francisco Chronicle at around the same time. So, belated props to UCSC for so cheerfully taking on the very special challenges of this unique gift. They’ve even recently started up their own blog about it.

Image credits:

(Top) Photo of Morton J. Savada in 1988 by Elias Savada. From New York Times obituary.

(Bottom) UCSC press conference photo by r.r. jones; Pictured (l-r): Nion McEvoy, Virginia Steel, George Blumenthal, Bob Weir, and Mickey Hart. From UCSC News.