Library of Congress: American life, legend recordings

The seventh annual National Recording Registry has named 25 recordings identified as cultural, artistic and historical treasures to be preserved for future generations. In this way, the aural history will not be lost and the Registry now includes 275 recordings, including the newest.

Tracing the Tribe readers may find these of interest (hear audio clips also):

“2000 Years with Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks,” Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks (1961) The secret to living 2000 years? “Never touch fried foods!” In their party routine first performed for friends, Mel Brooks played a 2000-year-old man, while Carl Reiner, as the straight man, interviewed him. After much convincing, the two writers for Sid Caesar’s “Your Show of Shows,” recorded their ad-libbed dialogue for a 1961 album. Interview subjects ranged from marriage (“I was married over 200 times!”) and children (“I have over 1500 children and not one of them ever comes to visit!”) to transportation (“What was the means of transportation? Fear.”). Preview or Download

Acoustic Recordings for Victor Records, Jascha Heifetz (1917-1924) Sixteen-year-old Jascha Heifetz made his debut at Carnegie Hall in October 1917. He was immediately hailed as one of the greatest violinists of the time, praised for his immaculate technique and exceptional tonal beauty. Soon after his debut, Heifetz started recording for the Victor Talking Machine Company, maintaining a relationship with Victor, and later RCA Victor, over the course of his career. The acoustic recordings, made between 1917 and 1924, were mostly light recital pieces with piano accompaniment. The Victor Records brochure promoting his first four recordings touted “his phenomenal technique, complete mastery of bow and control of finger” and proclaimed his performances “as Mozart might have played.” Preview or Download

“Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen,” Andrews Sisters (1938) This adapted English-language version of a popular song from a Yiddish musical by Jacob Jacobs and Sholom Secunda brought the Andrews Sisters to national attention and made them famous. In the adapted version by Sammy Cahn, the only Yiddish retained was the song title (translation: To me, you are beautiful), a phrase which was repeated throughout the song. Vic Schoen, the sisters’ bandleader and arranger, turned the new song into a swing sensation that showcased the girls’ close harmony singing and smooth vocal syncopations. Preview or Download

“West Side Story,” original-cast recording (1957)While there are over 40 recordings of the score to the Broadway show “West Side Story” in various languages and styles, the original-cast recording is in many ways unequaled. The orchestra was increased to 37 for the recording, but the performances of this rich score are visceral and passionate. Leonard Bernstein’s music—with its Latin, jazz, rock and classical influences—was arguably the most demanding score heard on Broadway up to that point. Boasting Stephen Sondheim’s first lyrics for a Broadway musical, the songs range from the passionate love song “Tonight,” through the social satire of “America” and “Gee, Officer Krupke,” to the anthem hoping for a better world, “Somewhere.” Preview or Download

Among the others are Marian Anderson’s recital at the Lincoln Memorial (1939); Mary Margaret McBride’s interview with Zora Neale Hurston; sounds of the ivory-billed woodpecker in the Louisiana swamp forest, the last confirmed aural evidence of what was once the largest woodpecker species in the US; the recording credited with launching the American audiobook industry, “A Child’s Christmas in Wales”; Noah Greenberg’s ProMusica; Etta James’ “At Last” crossover masterpiece; Winston Churchill’s “Sinews of Peace” speech at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri; performances by The Who, Oran “Hot Lips” Page and Ray Bolger.

“This year’s selections lovingly reflect the diversity and humanity of our sound heritage where astonishing discoveries and a vibrant creative spirit seem to appear around every corner,” said Billington. “Our daily lives and memories are suffused with the joyous notes of recorded sound, making these choices extremely difficult. The Library, in collaboration with others, will now work to ensure that these cultural touchstones are preserved for future generations to hear and experience.”

The 275 items on the registry span 1908-1966.

Nominations were gathered from online submissions from the public and from the NRPB, which comprises leaders in the fields of music, recorded sound and preservation. The Library is currently accepting nominations for the next registry at the NRPB website (www.loc.gov/nrpb/).

As part of its congressional mandate, the Library is identifying and preserving the best existing versions of the recordings on the registry. These recordings will be housed in the Library of Congress Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation in Culpeper, Va., which was made possible through the generosity of David Woodley Packard and the Packard Humanities Institute.

In 2010, the LOC will publish a national plan to ensure America’s aural heritage survives and is made accessible for future generations. The Library’s Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division’s collections include nearly 6 million items, including nearly 3 million sound recordings.

Many of the Library’s resources can be accessed through its website or via interactive exhibitions on a new, personalized website.

Read more here.

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