In the midst of frigid temperatures here in Kansas City, the staff of LaBudde Special Collections and Marr Sound Archives offer our warmest wishes for the new year…no matter what your style may be.
While brushing up on editing skills and best practice for video preservation, I had the opportunity to complete a video project for The Association for Recorded Sound Collections (ARSC) in conjunction with their 2015 membership recruitment drive.
The videos, now on the ARSC Youtube page, feature ARSC members delivering personal testimonials, encouraging interested parties to join up with the organization. Being an ARSC member myself, I was able to utilize my connections to gain professional experience and enhance my resume.
Joining a professional organization, such as ARSC, can be critical for graduate students and professionals alike. Here is a glimpse into their mission:
The Association for Recorded Sound Collections, Inc. is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation and study of sound recordings – in all genres of music and speech, in all formats, and from all periods.
Founded in 1966, ARSC is unique in bringing together private individuals and institutional professionals. Archivists, librarians, and curators representing many of the world’s leading audiovisual repositories participate in ARSC alongside collectors, dealers, researchers, historians, discographers, musicians, engineers, producers, reviewers, and broadcasters.
Supplementary education for audio-visual specialists and students is key to professional development as well as networking with individuals in one’s field of choice. For instance, The Association of Moving Image Archivists (AMIA) may be a good fit for film and video specialists whereas The Society of American Archivists (SAA) would benefit archivists of all kinds.
ARSC, however, is geared toward audiophiles, record collectors, and individuals who work with audio materials. ARSC members receive the ARSC Journal and Newsletter, discounted registration fees for the annual conference, as well as access to past conference recordings via the homepage.Topics from the 2014 conference ranged from southern folk music, to new open source preservation tools, to metadata, metadata, metadata.
Here’s a pitch from LaBudde Special Collections’ Metadata Librarian and Chair of the ARSC Membership Recruitment Task Force, Sandy Rodriguez:
Several months ago, the Marr Sound Archives purchased a shiny new Mac Pro with intentions of preserving the numerous video tapes held in some of our most noteworthy collections. With the assistance of Adobe Production Suite, a Black Magic Studio Pro, and a Panasonic AG-DS850p Video Cassette Recorder, we plan to digitize our degrading VHS and S-VHS collections. Upcoming video preservation and digitization projects include video footage from the Ahmad Alaadeen, Jay McShann, and Ruth Rhoden collections, among others.
Before we proceed, however, there are a number of factors to consider in the realm of video digitization standards as we document our procedures. Some colorfully hypothetical questions arise as a result.
“Frame rates, aspect ratios, bit depth, metadata… Video capture is so much more complicated than audio. Where do I start?”
“What’s the difference between a multimedia container and a codec? I thought they were the same thing!”
“How much digital storage should I procure for my digital video collection? Will it fit on this flash drive?”
“What makes my files lossless? Of course they are! I can see them right here on my desktop!”
“What makes something born-digital? If I was born in the 1960s, does that make me pre-digital?
Of course, the majority of these ridiculous questions may be answered with some simple independent research or even a shallow Google search. Doing so would reveal that best practice for video preservation depends on the quality of the source and the digital needs of the archive.
For example, the uncompressed, non-proprietary audio file format, Broadcast Wave Format (BWF) has become the standard for audio preservation. Video formats, on the other hand, provide evidence of standardizations that are constantly in flux. For instance, while many digital repositories may stick with a Quicktime file format (MOV) for its consumer accessibility in video, others may utilize the Material eXchange Format (MXF) for high definition film preservation. Depending on cost, storage availability, and the quality of analog source tapes, repositories must decide what best fits their needs.
Our video collection, for example, consists mostly of NTSC source tapes recorded from television or personal camcorder. Standard definition, interlaced Quicktime files with 24 bit, 48 kHz WAV audio will suffice as perfectly acceptable digital preservation copies.
Last week, The Federal Agencies Digitization Guidelines Initiative (FADGI) released a study comparing target formats for reformatting videotapes to digital files. In the study, FADGI’s Audio Visual Working Group considered what formats would produce an authentic and complete copy of the source, which formats maximized picture and sound reproduction, and which formats best supported research and access. They consider it a living document as new preservation technologies will continue to emerge.
The Higginson Collection consists of two handwritten documents of great value and historic significance. These one-of-a-kind documents survived from the first recording dates for Kansas City jazz pianist Jay McShann and his band, which included alto saxophonist Charlie Parker, then only 20 years old. The recording session happened between November 30 and December 2, 1940, and was supervised by Fred Higginson of radio station KFBI in Wichita, Kansas.
The first document is a sign-in sheet containing the signatures and instrument played of each band member, and represents one of the earliest known signatures of Charlie Parker.
The second document contains the song list and corresponding band personnel for the two days of recording, November 30 and December 2, providing primary source information about the discographical details of the session.
Chuck Haddix explains the significance of the session, especially as a conduit of Parker’s musical development, in his book Kansas City Jazz: From Ragtime to Bebop – A History:
As Decca [Records] released the Kansas City Jazz album in the spring of 1941, the last great big band to come out of Kansas City, the Jay McShann band, rose nationally, boosted by good fortune and a hit recording. After closing at Fairyland [Park in Kansas City] in September 1940, McShann returned to the Century Room and further refined the band’s personnel, replacing alto saxophonist Earl Jackson with John Jackson. Slim and pensive, Jackson rivaled [Charlie “Bird”] Parker as a soloist. While based at the Century Room, the McShann band toured regionally, ranging north to Des Moines, Iowa, east to Paducah, Kentucky, and west to Wichita, Kansas. During a Thanksgiving weekend engagement in Wichita, a brash young college student and jazz fan, Fred Higginson, invited McShann and other band members for a couple of after-hours sessions at radio station KFBI, named after Kansas Farmer and Business. KFBI traced its lineage back to Dr. Brinkley, the goat gland doctor. McShann, figuring the band could use a little experience in the studio before the pending Decca sessions, took Higginson up on the offer.
The station’s engineer recorded the sessions to acetate discs, capturing the unit jamming on the standards “I Found a New Baby,” “Body and Soul,” “Moten’s Swing,” “Coquette,” “Lady Be Good,” “Honeysuckle Rose,” and on their theme song, listed as an untitled blues. While the band struggled to find its niche in the Kansas City jazz tradition, Charlie Parker had already transcended previous jazz conventions. [McShann bassist] Gene Ramey felt band members could not fully appreciate Parker’s techniques and ideas. “When I look back, it seems to me that Bird was at the time so advanced in jazz that I do not think we realized to what degree his ideas had become perfected,” Ramey observed. “For instance, we used to jam ‘Cherokee.’ Bird had his own way of starting from a chord in B natural and B flat; then he would run a cycle against that; and, probably, it would only be two or three bars before we got to the channel [middle part] that he would come back to the basic changes. In those days, we used to call it ‘running out of key.’ Bird used to sit and try to tell us what he was doing. I am sure that at that time nobody else in the band could play, for example, even the channel to ‘Cherokee.’ So Bird used to play a series of ‘Tea for Two’ phrases against the channel, and, since this was a melody that could easily be remembered, it gave the guys something to play during those bars.”
Parker’s innovative technique and wealth of ideas are evident in his solos on “Body and Soul” and “Moten’s Swing.” Parker maintains the ballad tempo of “Body and Soul” while running in and out of key. Taking a cue from Parker, the band and Buddy Anderson switch to double time, before returning to the ballad tempo in the last eight bars of the out chorus. After the piano introduction to “Moten’s Swing,” the band launches into the familiar riff pattern. Parker follows with a confident, articulate solo, highlighted by triplets in the second eight-bar section, and triplet flourishes toward the end of the bridge, first stating, on record, his musical signature. Parker had matured into a fully realized improviser, already pioneering a new musical style critics later labeled bebop. He soon had company.
I was quietly cataloging LP’s for Marr Archives from the Norman Saks Collection, when a local Kansas City artist caught my attention. IT WAS A WOMAN! It was a female jazz musician from Kansas City and it was not Mary Lou Williams or Julia Lee. As most women in jazz are known for singing or piano, I was doubly surprised to find that this female jazz artist was a TROMBONE player.
Melba Liston, the jazz trombonist, was born in Kansas City on January 13, 1926. She played with all of the great bands: Gerald Wilson, Dexter Gordon, Count Basie, Dizzy Gillespie, and Quincy Jones.
She endured the abuse that many female jazz performers endured during that time and was outspoken about that mistreatment. This exploitation caused her to leave music for a while. She spent most of her years in California, but finally came back to music and music education in the 70’s. This brought her back to Kansas City for the Kansas City Women’s Jazz Festival with her band “Melba Liston Company”.
Even after a stroke, Melba continued to write and arrange music that melded African Rhythms with American Jazz.
The Marr Sound Archives carries many recordings featuring Melba Liston, but one of my favorite songs is “Pow” from the Melba and Her Bones LP on MGM’s Metro Jazz label.
Contributed by Vicki Kirby, Library Information Specialist II and Special Formats Cataloger
Priscilla Bowman was born May 30, 1928, in Kansas City, Kansas, the daughter of a Pentecostal minister. She made her singing debut at age seven in front of inmates at the state penitentiary in Lansing, Kansas. As a teenager she was encouraged by local pianist Roy Searcy as she began singing in area nightclubs. Later she was introduced to Kansas City jazz pianist Jay McShann and began performing regularly with his band.
In 1955, Bowman cut her first sides with McShann for Vee Jay Records, which resulted in the #1 R&B hit “Hands Off” – the recording most closely associated with her. She toured on the success of the record, highlighted by engagements at Mel’s Hideaway on the south side of Chicago and the Apollo Theater in Harlem, New York. With marquee performances and a hit record to promote, the incessant grind of the road took a toll on Bowman. On the advice of entertainer Moms Mabley, who shared the same tour bill, the exhausted and ill Bowman returned to Kansas City for much needed rest. In a 1987 article for The Squire, Bowman reflected on how the decision impacted her budding career: “I wish I’d stayed [on the road], but if I’d stayed, I would have died…By stopping and staying home, they [the public] just forgot about me. And I’d forgotten about singing.”
Bowman continued to record through the end of the 1950s, achieving artistic and critical triumphs in the face of waning commercial success. Highlights include “I’ve Got News For You, the follow-up to her #1 hit (1956); “Everything’s Alright,” a Billboard Magazine pick (1957), and collaboration with doo-wop group The Spaniels (1958-59). However, Bowman failed to rekindle her initial success or to tap into the emerging rock ‘n’ roll market, a style ironically owing much to the rhythm and blues music she purveyed. By the early 1960s, Bowman had put her career on hold to get married and to raise a family.
Bowman revived her singing career in the late 1970s and early 1980s, performing at area nightspots and festivals. Original Rock And Roll Mama, the first full-length album collecting many of her 1950s recordings, was released in 1986. Despite surgery to remove a cancerous lung that same year, she continued to perform into 1987. She was honored posthumously with a Kansas City Jazz Heritage Award (1988) and an Elder Statesmen of Kansas City Jazz Award (2003).
Priscilla Bowman passed away July 24, 1988.
Learn more about the Priscilla Bowman Collection housed in LaBudde Special Collections at the UMKC Miller Nichols Library.
The Spring 2014 Midwest Archives Conference (MAC) was held at Westin Crown Center in Kansas City April 24th through the 26th. Several hundred archivists and MAC members crowded the hotel’s numerous conference rooms to witness presentations and debates on various archival standards ranging from use of metadata and social media to providing access to students, researchers, and educational institutions. Among the topics most relevant to sound archives was one of the final conference sessions entitled “Don’t Knock The Rock: Making Popular Music Collections a Part of Your Archives.”
Before introducing the panel of speakers, session moderator Scott Schwartz, Director of the Sousa Archives and Center for American Music at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, proceeded to lay out the complications of archiving unique rock and roll collections and acquiring such objects from local music scenes and collectors.
“It is true that many types of primary sources documenting such music scenes are ephemeral and frequently hidden,” Schwartz said. “Add to this conundrum, the fact that communities sustaining these music scenes can appear to be insular to outsiders because the musicians, the producers, the venue operators, and fans sometimes hoard their personal music artifacts and, at times, are reluctant to share them for a variety of reasons.”
Following these opening statements, five archivists from four different institutions reiterated this sentiment, identified roadblocks, and how they overcame them. Specific topics included identification of record vendors in local music scenes, the Dayton (OH) Funk Archives, the Northeast Ohio Popular Music Archives (NEOPMA), and the Louisville Underground Music Archive (LUMA).
The underlying message for this session was strong advocacy for and partnership with the local music communities that the archives will serve. Archives specializing in local rock music scenes must reach out to local record vendors, radio stations, collectors, and musicians in order to successfully document the historical narrative as assembled by the music community at large. This includes training potential donors to document their collections, with the intention of eventually gifting ephemera to local archives, as well as keeping up with the active musicians and venues to document music scenes currently in progress.
At the Marr Sound Archives, we encounter similar complications in our pursuit of rock and roll records and ephemera. When compact discs took the place of vinyl records as the medium by which music was bought and sold in the 1980s and 90s, the vinyl market dwindled into niche genres, markets, and labels and are, therefore, much harder to come by via our donations only collection policy.
Add to that, the fact that niche genres are still very much in the collector’s market and one would be hard-pressed to obtain a first pressing of an original Touch and Go Label Necros 7” without suffering the salivating, jealous sneers of collectors who would happily pay a pretty penny to adopt such a rare piece of history into their own stacks. If these items are not sitting in a record store bin at collectors’ prices, they are sitting on the shelves of the collectors themselves. This is not an outrageous fact, just a true one.
Many private collectors are already doing their part to document the 1980s and 1990s punk scenes in the Kansas City and Lawrence areas. Documentarian Brad Norman has been compiling fliers, live concert footage, and oral histories to preserve the legacy of Lawrence, KS punk and hardcore venue The Outhouse (1985-1997) for a feature-length documentary. Filmmaker Patrick Sumner has also compiled an impressive number of photos, fliers, and other ephemera from the Kansas, Missouri region with his Bent Edge KC Punk website.
In addition to that, Missouri Valley Special Collections and the State Historical Society of Missouri contain various fanzine and print collections covering subcultures and underground music scenes. While there is no single repository containing these priceless artifacts, resources are strewn throughout the Midwest and are available to researchers.
The Marr Sound Archives and LaBudde Special Collections have acquired an abundance of Kansas City musical history, although the last three decades of rock and roll music remains relatively scarce as archival materials. This does not mean we do not hold a vast supply of audio and paper items from the last 25 to 35 years of local and international rock and roll acts. Marr and LaBudde serve as repositories for the following collections containing rock and roll records, ephemera, and, oftentimes, personal items of the donors:
- The Dan Conn Collection (Employee of the Music Exchange)
- The David Conn Collection (Employee of the Music Exchange
- The Anne Winter Collection (Owner, Recycled Sounds)
- Allan Bell Collection (Promoter)
- The Grand Emporium Collection (Blues and Rock music venue)
- and the recently acquired Dan Mayo Collection.
The Marr Sound Archives holds two albums from the uncommon broadcast recordings of Major Glenn Miller and the American Band of the Allied Expeditionary Forces. These two albums are compilations of recordings over the American Broadcasting Station in Europe, EMI Studio, St. John’s Wood, Abbey Road, London England and are simply titled “Major Glenn Miller and the A.E.F. Orchestra.”
Miller was fulfilling a request by the Office of War Information to broadcast the orchestra’s performance under his direction to the German military and German prisoners of war. The propaganda broadcasts were intended to show Germans that the Allies wanted inclusion of all countries in the quest for peace and that American music and life among the Allies was lively, lovely, and upbeat.
German “Ilse Weinberger” serves as announcer with Glenn Miller, at times, answering her in pretty bad German, but mostly speaking in English between the performances of 13 works. It is also significant that the A.E.F. Orchestra performs the “Song of the Volga Boatmen” in order to drive home the point that the Russians are now allied with America and Europe against the Germans.
According to Glenn Miller experts, these two LP’s were bootlegged by Joseph Krug of the Colony Record Shop in New York City when doing business as the A.F.N. Record Company around 1949. His efforts were quickly shut down by the Miller estate. The details of the case can be found here.
The A.F.N. was intentionally meant to confuse the patron into thinking that the Air Force Network had published these. Even though few of these albums exist, Marr has had one copy of each of the two volumes gifted to their collection.
These recordings of Glenn Miller’s cooperation with the propaganda offices of Allied Forces during WWII are hard to come by but worth the listen. Unfortunately, Glenn Miller died 39 days after the recording of these broadcasts and therefore makes them precious items.
These particular broadcasts were recorded October 30th and November 6th, 1944 and aired November 8th and November 15th respectively. There isn’t much remarked on the containers about the band except that Sergeant Johnny Desmond and Sergeant Ray McKinley sing solos on “Is You Is or Is You Ain’t My Baby” (McKinley) and “Now I Know” and “My Heart Tells Me” (Desmond).
Although the band members are not listed on the albums’ containers, a resource in the Marr Sound Archives entitled “The Glenn Miller Army Air Force Band: I Sustain the Wings: Volumes 1 and 2” by Edward F. Polic clearly lays out who played in the orchestra at the time of these broadcasts. These reference resource books are exciting because of their details of discographies, scripts, personnel, and Glenn Miller’s life.
Contributed by Vicki Kirby, Library Information Specialist II and Special Formats Cataloger
Within American culture in the 1920’s, the audience was not aware of the advancements in music from the past twenty or so years. The concert halls were filled with traditional music that was composed in the 1800’s, during the romantic era. Most of the newer works were the generation of composers who died between 1890 and 1920—composers like Debussy, Rimsky-Korakov, Tchaikovsky, Bruckner, Debussy, etc. Edgard Varese sought to change this by bringing new works to New York.
Varese became popular very quickly after arriving in New York in 1915. His early conducting gigs gained him some fame within the music community. After that, he founded and became the conductor of the New Symphony Orchestra in 1919. He programmed music that had either never been performed before or had never been performed specifically in America. However, this came to a quick conclusion after two repeat performances. With an audience and musicians that wanted to hear and play standard repertoire, the NSO could no longer exist.
In the 1920’s he shifted his focus to composing and getting new music played through a society. He helped establish the International Composers’ Guild in 1921. Subsequently, the first concert was in February of 1922. The International Composers’ Guild was the first organization dedicated to the performance of contemporary music in America.
During the six-year run of the International Composers’ Guild, Varese had three premiers of his own work. Hyperprism caused a huge uproar from the audience. Some loved it and cheered for an encore, but many hissed at the music and began fighting. While the concerts were mostly a success, attracting between 300 and 1500 people, there were still those who longed for traditional music and resisted change.
Hyperprism includes a large battery of percussion with winds. Here is a sample from Hyperprism:[audio:http://info.umkc.edu/specialcollections/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/Hyperprism-Clip.mp3|titles=Hyperprism|artists=Edgard Varese]
One of his later works in 1931 was Ionisation. While Hyperprism has a large percussion section, this piece is strictly percussion. It is scored for thirteen percussionists playing a total of 37 instruments.
Here is a sample from Ionisation:[audio:http://info.umkc.edu/specialcollections/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/Ionisation-Clip.mp3|titles=Ionisation.|artists=Edgard Varese]
In the late 1960s and early 1970s Germany was still licking a few fresh wounds from World War II and having an enormous concrete wall dividing the capital didn’t lend to any less tumultuous times. Social unrest and student riots perpetuated through German youth culture. While some youth rebelled by joining left-wing militants like the Red Army Faction others explored the counterculture of creating some of the most inventive and influential music of the 20th century, birthing the Krautrock movement.
Perhaps the most commonly known German band of this period was Kraftwerk, who managed to chart in the UK and US thanks to cheerleaders like David Bowie. One possible explanation for Kraftwerk’s success is that they fit into the English-speaking world’s imagination of Germans: mechanical, unemotional and slickly engineered–like a finely tuned automobile. In name and demeanor, Kraftwerk is a thoroughly German band and essential to the revitalization of German culture and art.
Though easier to locate than most first-editions of Krautrock records, early Kraftwerk albums are a difficult find for crate-diggers, so it’s a real treat to find Ralf & Florian held in the Marr Sound Archives–Kraftwerk’s third studio album and a major breakthrough for the band. While it lacks the paeans to marvels of manufacturing and technology that run through most of their subsequent albums, there is a marked movement towards the “Menschmaschine” concept. Percussion is entirely by drum machine and except for a few claps and Florian Schneider’s processed flute, all instruments are electronic; they favored Farfisa organs and electric pianos to accomplish what would become their signature sound. They condemned the guitar strum for being too human, and preferred more electromechanical approaches. What results is mathematical and calculated; loop-based parts build momentum through repetition.
Through the 1980s onward interest in Krautrock artists continued to grow and names were saved from obscurity. The psychedelia revival of the 1990s proved to be fertile ground for reissues of hard to find releases like Ash Ra Tempel’s 1971 self-titled debut. The 1997 reissue on french label, Spalax, brought the two adventurous tracks to a wider audience.
Ash Ra Tempel’s musical aesthetic couldn’t be further from the persistent control of Kraftwerk–the two sides contain one song apiece, spanning 19:52 for side A’s “Amboss” and 25:31 for side B’s “Traummaschine.” Where Kraftwerk relied on repetition, Ash Ra Tempel approached songwriting as free-flowing jams of jazz-influenced drumming and electric guitar oozing and soaring through mountains of delay and reverb with bits of low-key electronic drones.
Ash Ra Tempel’s improvisational style was commonly referred to as “Kosmische” or cosmically-oriented music, and it’s easy to understand why. The two tracks have an exciting, metaphysical quality to them, balancing serenity with explosive licks. Their entire discography–particularly this seminal album–is an absolute trip, and deserving of its legendary place in the acid rock canon.
However, the link between these two very different albums of the 1970s is not merely country of origin. The engineer at the helm of Ralf & Florian and Ash Ra Tempel is truly what makes them such outstanding works. Konrad “Conny” Plank was an influential engineer who became known for his early adoption of multi-track recording (one of Europe’s first) and proved to be an ace at manipulating sound through mixing, reverb, echo and EQ effects to create distinct sounds that seamlessly blended the abstract with the conventional. His work heavily influenced David Bowie’s collaborations with Brian Eno and John Lydon’s Public Image Limited. Throughout the 1980s he racked up production credits for the Eurythmics, Echo and the Bunnymen, and The Damned among others.
In 1975 Lester Bangs wrote that the future of music is German. And though few German bands managed to crack the US charts since then, the influences of Kraftwerk, Ash Ra Tempel and their contemporaries permeated from the late 1970s onwards. Krautrock continues to be a relevant inspiration for some of today’s most respected artists.