The Storyville Jazz Portraits by Johannes Vennekamp


Billie Holiday, Voice, Johannes Vennekamp

The Marr Sound Archives handed me an uncatalogued box set containing 12 CD’s from the Norman Saks Collection. Each disc contains a compilation of works featuring a single jazz musician in an ensemble. I opened the linen-covered box to find not only the 12 CD’s inside but also a linen folder with 12 mind-blowing art prints by artist Johannes Vennekamp.

Vennekamp depicts the face of each of the twelve artists in pen and ink sketches with some additional coloration. Upon closer observation, the staffs, notes, clef signs, geometrical lines, and instruments depicted around and across these faces all indicate the mental processes associated with a musician’s performance style. Performers must adjust their pitch, dynamic level, and rhythm to blend and balance with the rest of the ensemble while simultaneously playing or singing the correct notes in the correct key and time signatures.

Then add to this process what the mind of a jazz performer must use in order to accomplish the additional tasks required of improvisation. These additional tasks require the musician to not only be in the current performance moment, but to also be thinking ahead to how he or she is going to serve up their variation of the melody in solo form. Their mind is now split between the current moment and a future moment in which notes should be bent, melodic phrases should be played louder or softer, a jazz scale of that key should allow an attractive solo within the melodic line, and rhythmic changes should be accomplished without losing the rest of the accompanying ensemble members.

How does one depict this mental process in artistic form?

Take the Sidney Bechet print as an example: The music staffs and notes are above, across, and below his face. The music rising from his saxophone ascends, bends and twists together like smoke rising from a familiar cigar. Or maybe the music descends from the white light of music above his head in a waterfall of splashing tones and rhythm. The music is so imbedded in his soul that it even comes out as wrinkles in his forehead.

Sidney Bechet, Sax, by Johannes Vennekamp.

Sidney Bechet, Sax, by Johannes Vennekamp.

The next example is the pianist Art Tatum’s print: Art’s mind is divided precisely by geometrical arrows of rhythm and yet the lines of music around his head are bent. The collar of his suit jacket is a treble clef staff. The picture ends with a whimsical man whose body is yet another staff. The words in German across the bottom state, “So it is.” So it is that the music will be bent and whimsical while following the rules of time and key signature.

Art Tatum, piano, by Johannes Vennekamp

Art Tatum, piano, by Johannes Vennekamp

Coleman Hawkins’ portrait depicts him taking a break from playing, with a sideways glance back to the ensemble. The bent lines around his cheeks and ears not only demonstrate that he’s listening, but that he’s pleased with what he hears. To me, the word “Zeit” (“time” in English) and the “f-hole” of the bass with the bent arrow beside it denotes that he’s listening to the drummer and bass player set him for his solo.

    Coleman Hawkins, sax, by Johannes Vennekamp

Coleman Hawkins, sax, by Johannes Vennekamp


We’ll end with Ben Webster’s portrait. With each bent staff around him there are the words “fire, air, water, earth.” It’s as if Ben is calling forth all of the elements of the universe to accomplish his statement made through his improvised solo.

Ben Webster, sax, by Johannes Vennekamp

Ben Webster, sax, by Johannes Vennekamp

I don’t know if all of the details of these portraits can ever be absorbed, but isn’t that just like trying to improvise a melodic line? It’s always new, never predictable, in the moment yet beyond the moment. These portraits depict jazz precisely.

To see all of the portraits, feel free to come by The Marr Sound Archives and ask for “Masters of Jazz, vol. 1-12” on Storyville Records. Listen to the music as you study the portraits. You won’t regret it.

Vicki Kirby catalogs special formats metadata for UMKC Libraries.

Midwest Archives Conference: “Don’t Knock The Rock”

midwest-archives-300x134The 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.


The Northeast Ohio Popular Music Archives is stationed at the Library and Archives of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. NEOPMA actively develops its collections relating to local and regional popular music acts such as The Dead Boys, Pere Ubu, and Devo (pictured above). They also hold notable collections relating to radio personality Alan Freed and labels such as Sire Records.

“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.


The Louisville Underground Music Archive (LUMA) documents the history and culture of the Louisville rock music scene from the 1970s to the present, with a focus on the 1980s and 1990s which brags such noteworthy acts as Will Oldham, Slint, and Rachel’s.

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:

National Hispanic American Heritage Month

September 15-Octobefiesta-poster-1000wr 15, a time to recognize the contributions of Hispanic and Latino Americans in Kansas City and all over the nation and to celebrate their heritage and culture. Here is a blast from the past depicting the annual Fiesta at the Guadalupe Center, 1954. This year’s Fiesta was held at the Barney Allis Plaza in September, a tradition that continues to enrich the cultural fabric of our diverse community.

LaBudde Special Collections is privileged to house Archives of the “MANA de Kansas City.” The organization was chartered in 1981 with the focus of creating community leaders, engaging them in community service and educating and involving the membership on public policy issues important to Latinas and their families. MANA de Kansas City’s Mission is to empower Latinas through leadership developMANAment, community service and advocacy. MANA also seeks to increase the opportunities and education of all Latinas. They are informed activists and a support system for their members.*

Source: MANA de Kansas City

Teresa Wilson Gipson, Library Information Specialist II, LaBudde Special Collections

Visual Rhetoric Analysis in WWII Propaganda

Deliver us from evilCountless times each day we are bombarded by visual rhetoric, the use of images to influence or persuade an audience. The persuasive element of visual rhetoric lies in its ability to instantly connect with our emotional mind before the rational part of the brain is signaled. Using an example of World War II propaganda from UMKC LaBudde Special Collections I will demonstrate the mechanics and effectiveness of visual rhetoric while expanding understanding of how images influence people.

Visual rhetoric techniques make use of the appeal of pathos, a form of persuasion appealing to an individual’s emotions – rather than their rational mind – therefore having greater persuasive influence (“The Forest of Rhetoric”1). Although it might seem hard to believe that humans can be influenced subconsciously, it can be explained by the observations of neurobiology researchers Joseph LeDoux and Antonio Damasio. They suggest that when the eye observes a visual image, a signal is sent to the cortex, the part of the brain that houses rational thought (Damasio). But before the sensory signal is sent there, another signal is first sent to the amygdala, the part of the brain that processes emotions and memory (LeDoux). Thus, the amygdala creates an emotional response before the mind can fully perceive an image. This circumvention of reason and provocation of emotional response is the goal of visual rhetoric elicit.

In the next section I will analyze an example of World War II propaganda and explain the techniques used in the image. Upon looking at the poster, “Deliver us from evil,”2 emotions of dread and fear are conveyed to the viewer. There is also a strong desire to help the child in the center and a loathing felt towards the enemy. But why?

The first aspect that conveys these emotions is the color scheme. The black and white image expresses a sense of negativity and despair because there are no bright colors that normally illustrate happy moods. Even the blue font reading “Buy War Bonds” is muted and doesn’t stand out, compelling the viewer to focus on the girl rather than the intended response of promoting war bond purchasing in a more natural, less contrived way. The quote at the top of the poster, “Deliver us from evil,” is an excerpt from the Lord’s Prayer, something that most onlookers would be able to recognize because at the time the majority of Americans were Christians. This quote emphasizes a sense of desperation because prayers are commonly associated with a time of great need and obstacles to be overcome. It also acts as a call to arms for the American population to rise up and fight off the “evil” (Deliver us from evil). The word “evil” obviously refers to Nazi Germany, symbolized by the swastika in the center of the poster, surrounding a frightened girl. The poster also associates the word “us” with the young girl in the center, asking the viewer to save her and girls like her. Looking at the child communicates a feeling of empathy and suffering because her hair is disheveled, her eyes are tearing up, and her clothing is worn and dirty. The use of a young girl is also a key factor in this example of visual persuasion intended to demonize the enemy. The girl is a symbol of innocence and purity that, in the context of the image, is in danger of being corrupted and harmed by the Nazi government. This imparts a sense of protection on the viewer to defend the child, and creates a negative impression of the German government. Thus, it becomes assumed that the enemy is wrong and therefore we, Americans, are in the right. All of these factors are linked with the hardship and pain which the viewer is able to identify easily.

Returning to the connection between the word “evil” and Nazi Germany, this link is made for two reasons: the matching colors of the word and swastika and the placement of the symbol surrounding the little girl. In the poster, white is the brightest color and since both the word “evil” and the swastika are both the same shade of white the eye recognizes this and the mind instantly associates one with the other in the context of the image. As for the position of the swastika, it looks as if it is trapping the little girl and is therefore responsible for the hardship and agony that the girl is experiencing.

The combined effects of associating the word “evil” from the Lord’s Prayer with the swastika causes the viewer to associate Germany and Nazis with negative images. This leads civilians to dislike and even hate the Allied enemies and subsequently generate a sense of duty to support for the war effort with the hope that children similar to the one in the poster are protected. Underlying all of these emotions is the subtle message of the poster “Buy War Bonds” (Deliver us from evil). This is intended to be the overall reaction to viewing the propaganda, and although it is not overly emphasized, there is no room left for questioning the message or an alternative option. It’s a firm, declarative statement with the unsaid “or else” that implies that the child in the poster will suffer if not followed.

Visual rhetoric is a persistent influence on our lives every day and is a powerful force in shaping our biases and perceptions. Being able to recognize patterns of visual persuasion and decipher how certain themes evoke certain responses will enable scholars to be more effective at communicating with the general public. Increasing public understanding of visual rhetoric will not only increase the awareness of the many influences people encounter daily. It will also lead to more logical and unbiased decisions made due to people recognizing the media’s and interest groups propaganda efforts and therefore rationalizing the issue instead of letting emotion control one’s actions.

Contributed by Alex Poppen (for English H225)

1“The Forest of Rhetoric.” Silva Rhetoricae. Web. 23 Oct. 2012.
2“Deliver us from evil.” WWII Poster Collection. Dr. Kenneth J. LaBudde Department of Special Collections, Miller Nichols Library, University of Missouri–Kansas City, Kansas City, MO.