A Promotion And An Introvert’s Dream

I was recently promoted at work and given the largest desk on the floor which is affectionately referred to as “The Fortress of Solitude” by my team. It’s off by itself with four enclosed walls making it an incredibly quiet and private space which is a dream for an introvert like myself. My supervisor was confident placing me there because he knew I could work independently but would also continue to supervise and interact with new members of the team to assist them as needed.

I wasted no time in making the space my own – a home away from home. I ordered a few antique art pieces, a Persian style rug, I printed custom posters and had them framed, ordered limited edition lithographs, and had a second bronze bust of Beethoven cast to match the one I use in my home office for use as headphone stands in each space.

To ensure that each of the pieces would function well in the space, I took a moment between tasks at work to sketch out a rough template of the work area’s measurements and where I planned to place/hang each artifact. Here’s the (very) rough layout.

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It took a few months for all of the art works to be created, printed, or to ship from their nations of origin, but it’s all come together. The final step was to replace the boring wheeled plastic desk chair with something more my style. Thankfully I scored a vintage red armchair for just $7 at a local garage sale.

Here are a few shots of the results.

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The last item has just arrived and is now handsomely framed on my office wall. This is the limited edition bonus A2 lithograph from Brian Eno’s new Extended Edition of Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks, exclusively shipped to the first 250 persons worldwide to submit their orders upon the announcement of its release last May.

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The print showcases the lunar surface depicted on the original album cover from 1983. The piece is a perfect complement to the official Hearts of Space nebula poster I ordered from the ambient radio program that has been wishing space fans safe journeys for nearly forty years.

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The Beethoven bust turned out fantastic and really adds a refined touch to the space –

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My dual desktop wallpaper is a photo of the century-old chalkware “Nipper” statue and 1911 Monarch gramophone proudly displayed in my dining room in celebration of “His Master’s Voice,” the legacy of RCA, and the history of recorded music, and a small cast iron figure of Nipper sits humbly between the two monitors.

Here’s the actual statue in my home –

Chalkware Century Old Nipper and 1911 Monarch Replica Gramophone 02-12-19 - Close Up Pulled Back a Bit

and the cast iron figure –

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Also on display is my recently-acquired “His Master’s Voice” antique art mirror –

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a portrait of James Joyce, mantel clock, and I found a vintage lamp and shade to complement my burgundy-and-brass theme –

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a collage I assembled of influential figures in the history of experimental music titled, “The Rest Is Noise” –

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DJ Food (Strictly Kev)’s poster of all the releases from the late Pete Namlook’s ambient FAX +49-69/450464 record label –

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an engraved tea chest –

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and a limited edition t-shirt graphic I framed of post-rock legend Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s Faulty Schematics of a Ruined Machine from their majestic F# A# ∞ LP –

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There is also a fun antique style console radio clock –

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and I produced a high-res scan of Brian Eno’s sheet music for his seminal Music for Airports LP and formatted the layout to frame beautifully in a 10×13 frame above my desk.

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And on the far wall behind my desk I’ve framed the Apollo print and a classy 24” x 36” portrait of Miles Davis taken in 1948 in NYC from the Herman Leonard Collection.

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The Persian style area rug finishes off the space nicely, and makes it feel extra cozy.

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It’s a serene work space and really makes me feel at home.

Underworld MK1 – The Sire B-Sides

Underworld - Glory Glory.JPG

Another Underworld classic has arrived at Innerspace Labs! “Glory! Glory!” is a single from the Mk1 era before they changed their sound and released their epic Dubnobasswithmyheadman LP.

Their singles from this period were released between 1988 and 1989, and the Sire label singles featuring b-sides not found anywhere else in their catalog were issued exclusively in Germany and Australia.

I’ve researched all 53 variations of these single, compiled a list of all edits and b-sides and have been collecting them for years.

The Sire Singles b-sides include the following:

Glory Glory (7 pressings)

  • Shokk The Doctor
  • Glory! Glory! (Live – Full Length Version) – same as “Glory! Glory! (Live)”

Underneath the Radar (17 pressings)

  • Big Red X
  • Underneath the Radar (Edit)
  • Underneath The Radar (Instrumental Version)
  • Underneath The Radar (12″ Remix)
  • Underneath The Radar (7″ Remix) – 4:43 and exclusive to the Sire ‎– PRO-CD-2942 US CD Promo Single
  • Underneath The Radar (Dub)
  • Underneath The Radar (8:00 Remix) – same as 12″ remix
  • Underneath The Radar (6:00 Dub) – same as “(Dub)”
  • Underneath The Radar (Edit From Shep Petitibone Remix) – 4:40 and exclusive to the Sire ‎– 927 937-7 European 7″ single manufactured in Germany – NOTE: This version has the same runtime as the track listed on Sire ‎– PRO-CD-2942 called 7″ Remix issued as a promo CD in the US and the Discogs entry lists it as being “Edited By – Shep Pettibone.” They are very likely the same track.

Show Some Emotion (7 pressings)

  • Show Some Emotion (Remix)
  • Shokk The Doctor – also featured on some of the “Glory! Glory!” singles

Stand Up (14 pressings)

  • Stand Up (Extended Dance Mix)
  • Stand Up (Edit)
  • Stand Up (Ya House Mix)
  • Stand Up…(And Dance)
  • Outskirts

Thrash (3 pressings)

  • Thrash (Dance Pass)
  • Thrash (Extasy Pass)

Additionally, “Change the Weather” (3 pressings), “I Need a Doctor” (1 pressing), and “Pray” (1 pressing) were also issued as singles but only contained standard A-sides from the two full-length LPs released during the Mk1 era, Underneath the Radar (1988) and Change the Weather (1989).

Of these 53 releases I am missing four tracks –

Underneath the Radar (Edit) – 3:59
Underneath The Radar (7″ Remix) aka (Edit From Shep Pettibone Remix) – 4:43
Thrash (Dance Pass)  – 6:25
Thrash (Extasy Pass) – 5:46

I am actively working on completing the set.

I want to give some praise to Post Punk Monk who has engaged in a similar endeavor with Underworld’s even earlier work as Freur. His (or her) REVO Remastering: Freur/Underworld [Mk I] – Stainless Steel Tears [REVO 036] self-produced remaster compilation is exactly the sort of work I’m tackling.

At the present moment my Underworld collection presently comprises 62 physical releases and artifacts, memorabilia, subway posters, books, prints, magazine articles, DVDs, VHS tapes, etc, as well as 589 digital albums, EPs, mixes, concerts, and other materials. With new material being released every week, they’re showing no sign of slowing down.

More Minimal Ambient Classics

A visit to the legendary Bop Shop in my old home town of Rochester, NY yielded two delightful surprise acquisitions. The first was one of the three of Harold Budd’s 1970s and 80s classic output missing from my vinyl collection – Abandoned Cities. (I now need only The Pavilion of Dreams and The White Arcades to complete my collection.)

Harold Budd - Abandoned Cities

The other was an equally unexpected but similarly important work of early ambient music – a German import from Grönland Records combining two classic recordings of Can’s co-founder, Holger Czukay with the great David Sylvian.

Plight & Premonition / Flux & Mutability is a double reissue and remaster of their late-80s collaborations experimenting with abstract ambient soundscapes which are sparse, sombre, and atmospheric. Pitchfork contributor Robert Ham remarked that these recordings laid “the groundwork for years of ambient music that would follow.”

David Sylvian & Hogler Czukay - Plight & Premonition and Flux & Mutability

“Each feature two long instrumental works built around drones from a synthesizer or guitar interrupted by random shortwave-radio intrusions and occasionally disorienting tape edits.”

The first disc, Plight & Premonition, originally released in March of 1988, comprises drones of harmonium, synthesizer, piano, and guitar. The second disc, Flux & Mutability followed in 1989. Allmusic describes its ambience as “deep, expansive atmospheres with eerie samples and vacuous walls of sound” and calls the album “an important selection for fans of electronic minimalism.”

Both the Budd classic and this new remaster from Grönland are exquisite additions to my library of pioneering early ambient music. My next ambition is to secure a copy of the Editions EG 1981 reissue of Budd’s debut on Eno’s magnificent Obscure Records label in 1978. The Pavilion of Dreams is ethereal, holy, and exquisitely beautiful and has been a long-standing favorite recording of mine in the realm of the genre’s origins.

The Record Divider Project

Ever-striving to improve upon the organizational standards of The Innerspace Labs library, I finally set myself to the task of creating custom genre-labeled PVC dividers for the genre sections of my collection.

I began by assessing the key genres which would most effectively and productively be represented with tabs and compiled a list of 21 primary genres. Next, I surveyed various marketplaces for materials and determined that Rochester, NY’s classic Bags Unlimited collectors’ supply store had the best supplies available and at the lowest price compared to eBay and Amazon. (A tip – phoning in your order to BU will expedite the shipment as they do not have to transfer the materials from their web system!)

While their site is well-organized, they did not specifically provide dimension information for the tab area of their dividers nor the character width of their standard 0.5″ adhesive lettering. But with some simple importing and scaling in Gimp I was able to derive those dimensions and determine the maximum number of characters per 6″ tab, (which is approximately 12-15). I then adjusted all my genre labels, simplifying them to twelve or fewer characters.

Counting the number of each letter per sheet I dumped my list into a web-based character frequency counter and determined that I would need 9 of the shop’s sheets to complete the project. I ordered a pack of 10 to be safe. Shipping was free and they arrived in just 48 hours so I got right to work.

I had read on a scrapbooking site about the technique of using a flat acrylic ruler to aid in typesetting and in keeping the lettering centered and on a uniform baseline. Not having a typesetter’s ruler handy, and seeing that all suppliers in my area were out of stock of them, I produced one myself using a spare heavy sheet of acetate I found and  trimmed down in my workplace’s mail room, added a few 1/2″ incremental markings to aid in centering, and dove into the project.

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It took just two hours from start to finish, and I photographed the results. Here are the completed set of 21 dividers just as I finished setting them.

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I pre-measured my various storage systems to ensure that these standard dividers would fit and function in each space. They worked perfectly. Here they are in action. I think they add a touch of professionalism to my listening room and hope that years from now when I retire and bestow my library upon a foundation or organization of my choice that these will make the work of the recipient far easier to bear.

It was a fun accomplishment!

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04 80s and 90s and Classic Rock

 

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06 Tom Waits

(The box sets shelf seemed sufficient on its own so I didn’t include a divider here.)

07 Box Sets Shelf

08 New Age Moog Funk & Soul

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10 Experimental

11 Blues Soundtracks and Instructional.JPG

12 Jim Henson

13 PFunk and Pink Floyd

The whole project was very affordable and really enhances my library’s organization. Highly recommended for anyone looking to spruce up their listening room!

Jim Henson Vinyl Collection Cataloged At Last!

It’s been another productive evening! I realized that I’d never cataloged my Jim Henson / Muppet / Sesame Street / Fraggle Rock / Labyrinth / Dark Crystal vinyl collection so I dedicated some time to keying in all their matrix numbers and entered condition details and notes of the media, sleeves, and all included posters into Discogs.com.

I had to photograph and submit all release data for a few 6LP box sets that no one had ever contributed to the site before, entering all track and catalog data in addition to the images so it took some work but I’ve now got all 65 discs neatly organized with complete release data for reference whenever I’m crate digging in the wild.

Revisit your childhood and take a look at them all! Did you have any of these as a kid?

Here are just a few of the albums detailed in the link above:

Jim Henson Record Collection 05-28-18.JPG

 

A Holy Grail… free of charge.

This will only be a micropost, but the news is too amazing not to share.

A good friend tipped me off to a used record collection in town this morning so I took the chance and drove down to check it out. Mostly disco and jazz comps, nothing I needed, until I spotted one oddity among them.

This is the 1970 first US pressing of Parliament’s debut album, Osmium on the Invictus label.

I have the Argentinian pic disc boot and got George Clinton to sign it for me, but never expected to find the original pressing, let alone in a garage.

I hadn’t hit the ATM yet so I asked the owner how much cash I should take out.

He said, “just the one? Ahh, just take it. No charge.”

First press PFunk debut for free. I can’t believe it.

Parliament - Osmium - Invictus ST7302 1970 first US pressing - free 10-17-18 (thank you Elliot)

Published in: on October 17, 2018 at 3:35 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Just Keep Spinning – Reflections on Music Collecting

A friend kindly recommended my latest film screening – So Wrong They’re Right, a low-budget indie VHS documentary on offbeat 8-track collector culture and the 8-Track Mind zine. I’ve been exploring UK hauntological music and art lately so the retro subject matter fit right in. It was great to hear Wally Pleasant’s “Rock n’ Roll Yard Sales” on the soundtrack.

And serendipitously, while watching the film a related short appeared in my social media feed – an informational demo film to educate consumers about the upcoming compact disc format produced in 1982.

And WFMU just shared that Atlas Obscura published a feature yesterday called, “Inside the World’s Best Collection of Unintentionally Funny VHS Tapes” with this hilarious short!

Much like the VHS culture documentaries, Rewind This and Adjust Your Tracking, the 8-track film made me reflect on my own music collector hobby and how in the past year I’ve really put the breaks on my vinyl habit. Unlike vinyl, most 8-tracks are practically given away and as interviewees of the film profess, they’ve had to plead with Goodwill store managers just to get them to put their 8-track stock on the sales floor. (There are exceptions, of course. Discogs currently offers over 8,000 8-tracks in its marketplace, the second-most-expensive of which is a mint tape of Trout Mask Replica presently priced at $1,500.00.)

Captain Beefheart - Trout Mask Replica 8-Track Tape

But conversely, with vinyl, I’ve reached a point in my collecting where all the remaining titles on my wish list command $80-$550 apiece. And the days of scoring elusive original pressings of releases you’re after at your local VoA are long gone after the store’s inventories have been thoroughly picked over by eBayer resellers or by hipster employees who pull all the good stuff before it has a chance to hit the floor. And for my personal tastes, thrift shops have never been a good resource for the kind of content I seek.

Thankfully a lot of the rare early electronic, drone, and import tape music of the last century, and even of the 90s during vinyl’s darkest days, are being remastered and reissued by Dutch, German, and UK specialty labels, but with shipping you’re still looking at $60 minimum per release so I’ve resolved to reel in my habit and to spend more conservatively this past year.

It’s left me to wonder what the future holds for my hobby. I really enjoy the research and the unconventional subcultures surrounding the format, I just don’t know to what degree I can continue to participate in the acquisition and trade of the albums, themselves. And vinyl has been a significant part of my identity for many years, so I question how I’ll continue to occupy myself beyond this bizarre little pastime.

Thankfully, I have more music at present than I could experience in a lifetime, so at the very least I can kick back and enjoy exploring my archives. And I can continue to supplement my web-based research with more contextual studies from books specializing in my favorite genres. My next read will be Mars by 1980: The Story of Electronic Music by David Stubbs and should provide hours of reading enjoyment and hopefully an intimate understanding of a century of electronic sound.

Whether as a collector or just a researcher, this is indeed the finest time to be alive. Sites like Discogs and RYM provide instantaneous access to release data and listener reviews which previously took days or weeks of calls and form submissions to the LoC to obtain, and every day more and more fans upload thousands of hours or rare and exotic content from their collections to YouTube and file-sharing networks. It’s a curious phenomenon because when everything is accessible, nothing is rare. So, arguments for the paradox of choice aside, this is the greatest time in history for the inquiring listener. I plan to keep reading and listening, and maybe one day score a few of my remaining white whales.

Whatever your preferred format, be it 8-track, LP, cylinder, cassette, CD… just keep spinning.

Gettin’ Sentimental Over You: Diving into Classics of The Big Band Era

Lately, I’ve found myself with a considerable amount of quiet and reflective time which has been profoundly enjoyable. It’s afforded me the opportunity to explore thousands of albums in my library that I’d not previously had the time to experience. Recently I recalled a Tupperware storage box of cassettes that I have from my late father containing archives of big band radio broadcasts which he’d taped off the FM dial in the early 1990s, and I remembered his fondness for swing and standards.

Feeling inspired, (and admittedly a bit sentimental and nostalgic), I researched vinyl collections of big band and jazz classics and discovered a 10-volume box set issued by Reader’s Digest produced by RCA Victor in 1964 which did a magnificent job of showcasing the most beloved standards called, The Great Band Era (1936-1945). All of my favorites are here, from “The Music Goes Round and Round” to “Serenade in Blue.”

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I was also delighted to see that the set includes the beloved Glenn Miller classic, “Chattanooga Choo Choo” which had been a favorite of mine ever since I saw the live rehearsal segment of the track from the 1941 film, Sun Valley Serenade.

Annie Van Auken of Amazon remarked of the collection’s sonic merit:

Every one of its 120 tracks are original recordings, dubbed from restored 78 rpm master plates or archived discs. RCA’s simulated stereo effect has been sparingly used and filtration is minimal. The result: sparkling tracks that sound better over speakers than the shellac records.

She also made note of the exquisite quality of the packaging:

Each album has a stock paper sleeve, all of different colors and finely illustrated. The ten LPs are stored in an incredibly strong box with a drop-down door to make access a snap. This box slides into an outer case of similar thickness. It’s an set seemingly built to last centuries!

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Also included is a 24-page 12″×12″ booklet containing notes for each song, synopses of events for individual years, an essay on the Big Band era and a layman’s description of how transfers from record to tape was accomplished. There’s also bios for 36 band leaders and two contents list breakdowns: by bands, by songs.

From the musical selections (offered chronologically) to the quality of the mastery and packaging, The Great Band Era seemed like the perfect keepsake for any fan of 1930s standards.

Only one other set appeared to compare to the Reader’s Digest release. Time-Life Recordings issued a 29-volume half-speed mastered big band series on vinyl between 1983 and 1986, and later on compact disc between 1992-94. These were mail order subscription releases and as such are quite costly if one wishes to assemble the complete catalog. Each volume included an illustrated portrait of the band leader and accompanying liner notes. But as each individual set of the 29 Time-Life volumes command a price of ~$20, and as the Reader’s Digest set is readily available any day of the week for only $5, ordering the 10-volume collection was clearly the more sensible choice.

I also remembered that I have a sizable collection of yet-unplayed big band classics in my digital library. I’d previously assembled a 72-hour playlist titled, Shirt Tail Stomp: Swing & The Big Bands comprising 181 LPs and broadcast archives. This collection includes a chronology of Benny Goodman’s complete discographic catalog spanning 1928-1949, a library of 89 radio performance broadcasts, the six-volume big bands series from Archive.org, both the Glenn Miller and Glenn Miller Gold Collection releases, and the four-disc Smithsonian – Big Band Jazz: From the Beginnings to the 50s box set. This library will prove useful for mobile listening, but for my quiet evenings, dropping the needle on the Reader’s Digest box set will fill my home with the warm sounds of the golden age of swing for an experience that no digital playlist can match.

Personal Collection or Archive?: A Closer Look at What Defines a Library

archive

I was recently contacted by Dan Gravell, founder and programmer of the server-based music management software, bliss. Bliss received praise from Andrew Everard of What Hi-Fi and their official website calls it a tool “for people who care about their music collection.” Dan posed several questions about my library, and about what differentiates an average personal music collection from a true archive. He suggested that my response might prove useful as a journal entry at Innerspace Labs, so I’m sharing my response for others who might ask the same questions about their own meticulous collections.

So let’s dive right in –

Regarding the difference between run-of-the-mill “playable” music libraries and what one might call an “archive,” there are a few primary factors which could differentiate the two. The first is one of practical function and intent. If a library is for personal use for playback alone it is most likely the former, whereas a consciously organized collection of significant size and scope which is representative of a particular period or culture and which sheds contextual light on that era might serve a greater, almost scholarly purpose as an archive. Uniformity of structure, organization, navigability, and accompanying supplemental metadata enhance a library such as this to greater usefulness than mere playback. And it appears that it is precisely this focus on consistency by which Dan has endeavored to empower users like me with his bliss project. Another important factor is the long-term sustainability of an archive, which I’ll touch upon momentarily.

Next Dan asked whether my source media is exclusively physical. My collection comprises only a few thousand LPs, with a significant focus on the history of electronic sound. This spans the gamut from early notable works of musique concrète to the Moog synthesizer novelty craze, all the way through the international movement of ambient electronic music. I’ve also a predilection for archival box sets, like the Voyager Golden Record 40th Anniversary set with companion hardcover book and the special release from The John Cage Trust, as well as the previously unreleased collection of Brian Eno’s installation music issued earlier this year on vinyl with a new essay by Eno. But the bulk of my library is digital. This is both for practical and financial reasons, as digital libraries are far easier to maintain. (I don’t blog about digital nearly as often, as 450,000 media files are nowhere near as fascinating as a handsome limited edition LP!)

Dan also inquired about my workflow, which is critical to any archive. Early on in the development of my library, (around 2002-3), I began ripping LPs with the following process:

Exclusive analog recordings are captured using a Denon DP-60L rosewood TT with an Ortofon 2M Red cart, powered by a McIntosh amplifier (later replaced with a vintage Yamaha unit), and are saved as lossless FLAC via an entry level Behringer U-Control UCA202 DAC. I previously utilized a Cambridge Audio DacMagic DAC but after it failed I opted for the Behringer and it has been more than sufficient for my needs. Audio is captured using Audacity on my Linux-based DAW and basic leveling and noise reduction are performed but I minimize post-processing to maintain as much of the original audio’s integrity as possible.

Dan specifically inquired as to where the library information was stored (barcodes, etc) and asked about my policies on which metadata are included. This is fairly straightforward, as nearly all of the vinyl recordings I ripped pre-date the use of barcodes or were limited private releases with only a catalog number, which I bracket as a suffix in the release folder path.

Polybagged LPs are stored vertically and organized by primary genre, then by artist, then chronologically by date of issue. Due to the entropic property of vinyl playback, discs are played once as needed to capture the recording and subsequent playback is performed using the digital files. I employed a dozen static local DB applications over the years for my records, but eventually migrated to a Discogs DB which increases accessibility while crate digging in the wild and provides real-time market value assessment for insurance purposes.

But honestly, I almost never need to perform the rip myself, as the filesharing ecosystem has refined itself to the point where even the most exclusive titles are available through these networks in lossless archival FLAC with complete release details. There has never been a better time to be alive as an audio archivist.

Once digitized to FLAC, my assets are organized with uniform file naming conventions with record label and artist parent folders and parenthetical date of issue prefixes for easy navigation. gMusicBrowser is my ideal playback software for accessing large libraries in a Linux environment. Release date and catalog numbers have been sufficient metadata identifiers, as subsequent release details are only a click or a tap away on Discogs. Occasionally I will include a contextual write-up in the release folder where warranted, like in the case of William Basinski’s The Disintegration Loops 9LP + 5CD + DVD set as it related to the events of 9/11.

Next Dan inquired about how my archive is accessed. I employ Sindre Mehus’ Subsonic personal server application on my Linux DAW to make all of my audio and music video film content accessible from my phone, tablet, or any web-enabled device. I use both the official Subsonic app and the independently-developed Ultrasonic fork by Óscar García Amor for remote access of my library, (about eight hours daily). You can see a short video walkthrough of the features of the app that I put together here:

To return to his initial question about what differentiates a playback collection from an archive, my own library incorporates a few key factors which might lend itself to the latter:

– lossless bit-perfect FLAC wherever possible
– index documentation
– a systematic process guide for new acquisitions
– a 76pp manual highlighting special collections and large libraries of the Collection
– disk mirroring in multiple physical locations for preservation and sustainability
– fire protection for further indestructibility
– routine disk operation tests to mitigate risk of data loss
– complete discographic record label chronologies suffixed with catalog numbers
– elementary data visualizations created using Gephi and Prezi web-based tools
– the use of TrueCrypt whole disk encryption to prevent unauthorized access
– and the active use of Subsonic and Ultrasonic for enhanced accessibility

And scale is another noteworthy factor in my circumstances. Just to cite one example, I’ve collected every LP and single issued by the electronic duo Underworld that I’ve been able to get my hands on, and the digital audio branch of my Underworld collection comprises 482 albums, EPs and singles, including 2850 tracks and DJ sessions totaling well over 385 hours of non-stop music, spanning 36 years of Karl Hyde and Rick Smith’s work in all of their many incarnations. This collection is uniformly tagged, organized into a network of categorical root folders, and substructured into chronological subfolders by date of release. And the complete record label collections are a definite differentiator from the majority of casual-listening libraries.

I understand that my archive is small compared to the 12-20 TB libraries of some more seasoned users, but I feel that discretion and selectivity are virtues of my personal collection so that I can focus on only the most exquisite and remarkable recordings of my principle genre foci.

So what about your own collections? Do you employ standardized uniform file naming conventions and organizational standards? Do you supplement your library with relevant documentation to add context to your media? Does your collection offer insight into a particular era or musical culture? And do you take measures to ensure the longevity and sustainability of the work? If so… you might just have an archive.

Supplemental Note:

A good friend was kind enough to offer his thoughts about what sets an archive apart from other collections, and his remark was too good not to share. He said –

I think another major difference between the average personal collection and an archive is retention and adaptation.

A casual listener or collector wouldn’t have the retention of a true archive. The individual may build some playlists or even some advanced structure for locating and listening to music, but there is a very good chance that after some time, that particular music will get buried by the newer, or the most current thing the user is listening to. The casual listener may not want the huge or growing library, so when they feel they have moved on, the music will be removed from their collection. I cannot see someone who is keeping an archive remove anything from their collection. So retaining the entire collection and not removing anything because they are bored with it would be a difference.

I also mentioned adaptation. This is a rather basic idea but would be rather important in the grand scheme of things. Lets say you have a collection of 100 songs, all with 4 points of meta data. You realize as you begin to add more songs to your collection, a 5th point of data is needed. A casual listener may leave those 100 songs in the current state they’re in, with the 4 points of data. The archivist would need to go back, and add that 5th point to all 100 songs, and the new ones. Add another zero to those numbers and that can be a daunting, but necessary task for the archivist.

I really appreciated his input!

An Echo of Nothing: Archival Recordings From the John Cage Trust

John Cage - Sonatas and Interludes Box Set (Joshua's Wedding Reception Gift to Me Saturday May 5 2018) 01of11-1.JPG


I am so honored to have received this historic collectible as a gift from a dear friend. This is a promotional copy of the new recording of Nurit Tilles’ superlative performance of John Cage’s classic
Sonatas and Interludes for Prepared Piano (1946-1948), commissioned in honor of Cage’s Centenary and produced in conjunction with the John Cage Trust. Commercial copies of this deluxe 3LP audiophile set were limited, (befittingly) to just 433 copies worldwide.


The performance was recorded March 21 – 23, 2011 on a Steinway Model-D Piano at The Fisher Center For The Performing Arts at Bard College under the supervision of creative directors Donna Wingate and Naomi Yang for the John Cage Trust. The set was released on September 5, 2012. Most critics agree that
Sonatas and Interludes is the finest composition of Cage’s early period – his magnum opus for prepared piano, and this release serves as the definitive archival audiophile edition for collectors and lovers of Cage’s work.


The set includes a handsome heavy hard-shell slipcase containing a custom 10-page gatefold sleeve with metallic foil stamps and imprints, archival material, a 40-page color companion book with an introduction by Anthony B. Creamer III, as well as photographs and essays by Mark Swed and James Pritchett. The discs are pressed on 200-gram vinyl with archival audio at 45RPM. The packaging is exquisite and thoughtful and the set is a wonderful celebration of Cage’s 100
th anniversary.


The John Cage Trust was established in 1993 as a not-for-profit institution whose mission is to gather together, organize, preserve, disseminate, and generally further the work of the late American composer.
It maintains sizeable collections of music, text, and visual art manuscripts. The Trust also houses extensive audio, video, and print libraries, which are continually expanding, including two piano preparation kits created and used by Cage for this composition, as well as a substantial permanent collection of his visual art works, which are made available for exhibitions worldwide. Save for a 2011 CD recording of Cage’s 1989 performance at Skywalker Ranch in Nicasio, California titled, “How To Get Started,” this is the Trust’s lone public audio release.

From the official press statement:

“If the sinking of the Titanic in 1912 marked the end of the 19th century, then John Cage’s birth that year represented the start of a new one, musically speaking. Cage created hundreds of works and to my ears Sonatas and Interludes is one, more than any other, that will stand the test of time. Like a Merce Cunningham dance, there is something new to experience with each encounter of this magnificent piece. By my count, there are over 20 recordings of Sonatas and Interludes with each performer (and production and engineering team) bringing something new to the realization. However, this is the first recording of this seminal piece ever presented in a 45 rpm format for the audiophile. It is my hope that listeners will marvel at the breathtaking sonics of the recording, but more than that — the superlative performance by Nurit Tilles. When Laura Kuhn and I first discussed this project we immediately locked on Nurit. Her preparation and playing is nothing short of magnificent. And as wonderful is her playing, Nurit’s beautiful spirit comes through with verve in these grooves. A noted filmmaker said there is no history, only historians. This recording is historic.”
– Anthony B. Creamer III (Executive Producer of the set)

Creamer contributed to a discussion about the set on the Steve Hoffman forums where he remarked, “If you have first class playback equipment you will think there is a piano in the room.” His claim is no exaggeration. The care that went into the recording and mastering of this set is top notch and fitting for an archival work such as this. Forum user ScottM praised the quality of the extreme fidelity and wide dynamics of the release.

As Creamer mentions above, Sonatas and Interludes is likely the most recorded work in the Cage edifice. As such a listener might ask why we need another recording of these works? Amazon Vine Voice member, Scarecrow notes that each performer brings their own emotive world to these pieces. And the magnificent attention toward sonic quality and archival production makes this an unparalleled and definitive edition for Cage collectors.

For musicians interested in faithfully performing Sonatas & Interludes, Jesse Myers’ Piano Studio website offers a comprehensive performer’s guide to the prepared piano for this piece.

John Cage Sonatas And Interludes – Nurit Tilles Track Listing:


LP1

1. Sonata I

2. Sonata II

3. Sonata III

4. Sonata IV

5. First Interlude

6. Sonata V

7. Sonata VI

8. Sonata VII


LP2

1. Sonata VIII

2. Second Interlude

3. Third Interlude

4. Sonata IX

5. Sonata X

6. Sonata XI

LP3

1. Sonata XII

2. Fourth Interlude

3. Sonata XIII

4. Sonata XIV and XV Gemini (after the work by Richard Lippold)

5. Sonata XVI


Packaging fetishists will also enjoy this black-gloved unboxing feature produced by Acoustic Sounds in Salina, KS for the city’s own Quality Record Pressings who produced the LPs for this set.

I have two other vinyl recordings of Sonatas & Interludes in my library. The first was pressed in 1977 on Tomato Records and packaged with A Book Of Music (First Recording). The recording is of Joshua Pierce’s performance from July 26 & 27, 1975 on a Baldwin piano.

The second is featured on side B of disc 1 of The 25-Year Retrospective Concert Of The Music Of John Cage, recorded in performance at Town Hall, New York, May 15, 1958 issued by Italy’s Doxy label.

But unequivocally, this promotional copy of the John Cage Trust edition instantly became my favorite Cage artifact. It will be treasured and enjoyed for years to come.

A very special thank you to my dear friend for this generous and thoughtful gift!