Audiovisual Archives: A Room Full of History, Treasures and Curiosities

In my first few weeks as audiovisual archivist at the Marvin Duchow Music Library, I’ve had the pleasure of becoming acquainted with the archives and the vast array of projects that await within; from sorting through stacks of audio/visual material (various tapes, LPs and 78s) and assessing the digitization and dissemination of 10 inch 78 RPM jazz recordings, to planning the ongoing preservation and conservation of our collections. There is much to be done and much to be shared. Being given the keys to the archives is like being granted access to a musical Shangri-la. Discoveries abound and possibilities seem endless, much to this archivist’s delight.

In our trust are some impressive collections including the David Edelberg Handel Collection, the world’s most complete collection of Handel long-playing recordings, as well as the Noel Vallerand Collection of Gustav Mahler and Richard Wagner recordings.

One of the projects we are currently working on involves a unique collection which belonged to the late Ted Comben, head of the jazz department of the much-lamented Sam the Record Man store, formerly located a few short blocks away from the Library on Ste. Catherine Street. Tucked into the one of the shelves among the LPs, was a copy of Mr. Comben’s obituary, paying tribute to this iconic and notoriously acerbic jazz buff.

J J  Johnson - Dial J J  5 (3)

Dial JJ 5,  by J.J. Johnson

Working our way through the collection in order to eventually bring it all to the public’s eyes and ears, we find some top rate jazz LPs such as Thelonius Monk’s Five by Monk by Five issued on Riverside’s Contemporary Series (Thelonius Monk, piano; Thad Jones,  cornet; Charlie Rouse, tenor sax; Sam Jones, bass; Art Taylor, drums) and J.J. Johnson’s  Dial J.J. 5 released on Columbia (J.J. Johnson, trombone; Bobby Jaspar, tenor sax, fl & cl; Tommy Flanagan, piano; Wilbur Little, bass; Elvin Jones, drums).

 

Part of the fun of going through collections is finding bits and pieces of related material, as well as some choice recordings. Among the great LPs in Mr. Comben’s vast collection were a few quirkier selections such as this gem, from Dr. Samuel J. Hoffman dubbed “Haunting themes for the Theremin… an unforgettable musical experience.”

Hoffman Theremin LP (3)

Music Out of the Moon and Music for Peace of Mind, by Dr. Samuel Hoffman

After an early start as a violinist under the name Hal Hope, Dr. Hoffman (a podiatrist by trade), went on to become an accomplished thereminist, recording on various soundtracks (Spellbound, The Day the Earth Stood Still, The Thing from Another World, etc.) as well as releasing three albums under his own name.

This LP features two of these three albums: Music Out of the Moon (1947) with works composed by Harry Revel and arranged by Les Baxter, and Music for Peace of Mind (1950) with works composed by Revel, and arranged by Billy May.

Part lushly-orchestrated lounge jazz, part ethereal mood music, this is the stuff space-aged easy listening dreams are made of. In fact, Music Out of the Moon is reported to have been brought by Neil Armstrong on Apollo 11…

Did you know the Music Library has a theremin expert on staff? David Curtis could tell you more about the history of this unique and historically important early electronic instrument.

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