" . . . you've got to stand up for the imaginative world, the imaginative element in the human personality, because I think that's constantly threatened . . . People do have imagination and sensibilities, and I think that does need constant exposition." -- John Read

"To disseminate my subjective thoughts and ideas, I stealthily hide them in a cloak of entertaining storytelling, since the depth of my thinking, shallow at best, might be challenged by erudite experts." -- Curt Siodmak

Friday, April 22, 2016

NRR Project: Benjamin Ives Gilman Collection

"Parakansalak gamelan and dancers at the 1893 World Columbian Exposition in Chicago" [Bancroft 1893]
The Benjamin Ives Gilman Collection Recorded at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition at Chicago
Benjamin Ives Gilman, recorder
101 cylinders
1893

In 1893, the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago was held to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Columbus’s landing in the Americas. This 600-acre fair entertained 27,000,000 visitors in its year of existence. It vaunted American scientific and industrial know-how, but included 46 pavilions showcasing nations from around the world.

As a part of this cultural exchange, musical performers came to America and shared their work with visitors. Benjamin Ives Gilman, psychologist and amateur cultural anthropologist, record 101 cylinders of music from the participants, including music from Fiji, Samoa, Java, and Turkey.

Like the recordings of the Passamaquoddy tribe, these recordings are unavailable to the general listener. However, whereas the Passamaquoddy have some say over their tribal heritage – where are the Gilman recordings? Do they also hold sensitive material not meant for casual auditors? Are their makers’ descendants being tracked down for permission to use the recordings? Not even the documentation telling us what’s there is available. Why?

The National Recording Registry Project tracks one writer’s expedition through all the recordings in the National Recording Registry in chronological order. Up next: The Laughing Song.