Thursday, September 15, 2016

The NRR Project: Frances Densmore Chippewa/Ojibwe Cylinder Collection

Densmore recording material with Mountain Chief of the Blackfoot tribe, 1916.
Chippewa/Ojibwe Cylinder Collection
Curated by Frances Densmore
Singer: Billy Murray
Recorded September 1907 – November 1910
357 cylinders (15 hours, 4 min.)

Here’s another example of sound recordings that are not available to the public; like their predecessors, the Passamaquoddy tribal field recordings of 1890, this is due to the tribal control of the material’s use.

Frances Densmore was a pioneering ethnomusicologist from Minnesota who began her career with these recordings. She was sympathetic and rigorous, fighting to preserve Native American traditions at a time when the American government was hard at work extinguishing them, and popular culture was content with the stereotype of the marauding Redskin. More than 50 years of her efforts resulted in a trove of material for tribal members, and researchers.

The National Recording Registry Project tracks one writer’s expedition through all the recordings in the National Recording Registry in chronological order. Up next: Caruso’s ‘Vesti la giubba.’