Thursday, September 15, 2011

Notes from a World Music Catalog, part 2

An occasional series about the heyday of World Music, analog recordings, John Storm Roberts and Original Music.
Part Two, the Original Music Catalog Itself
Be prepared for a little dry detail to start this post!  When I decided to write about the catalog I delved into my archival stash and picked one that I liked, as an example for study.  Working so closely with it as I did, I never really gave much thought to what it looked like. And it occurred to me that it might be useful to establish some facts before moving on to the romancing - to take a step back and get a look from a new perspective.
I was a little astonished by this example catalog from Winter 1991:  
  • Dimensions: 9 inches tall by 6 inches wide
  • Length: 40 pages
  • Number of recordings: 200
  • Number of countries represented: over 60
  • Africa alone is represented by 61 recordings from 21 countries. 
  • There are also 16 books and 11 videos included, plus an essay by John, and Qarl's Qassette Qorner.  
  • I counted 95 recordings on LP only, a lot of them lavish affairs with glorious photos and extensive notes in several languages (I promise lots of lovely pictures of these wonderful albums are coming soon.)  
It seems quite an undertaking in hindsight. I was not a little impressed at what we managed to do!  Of course by this time John had built up a vast store of knowledge and the connections needed to hunt down what he wanted to make available.  Our own label often filled the gaps he saw in coverage of various forms and styles - but I'm getting ahead of myself!

For now, you will have to be happy while I set the scene with these grubby scans of the catalog. Here is the front page, with John's greeting and introduction:

Here is a wonderful essay by John about one of our shared passions:

And finally, here is Qarl's Qassette Qorner, a semi-regular feature in which I tried to flog lovely music in one of the least lovely of formats.

So that's a quick look at the Thing Itself.  I am particularly interested in writing about the LPs as objects, and in documenting some of the inspired battiness that was O.M., and you need to have some small feeling for the enterprise as it was embarked upon before I can start spinning tales and rhapsodizing about the music and the place.  
It is important also that you get a feel for John as he was with his writer's hat off.  His books are engaging, but they don't convey his love of bad puns and silly brass instruments, or the joy with which he approached the music.  I will be pleased to show documentation of his love for animals, and of his menagerie, at a later date, but these few pages should give you a glimpse of the playfulness that was often part of his, and our, working hours.
Oh alright!  Here's a photo of John with Raissa and me at the Catskill Game Farm - taken from the back cover of the Original Music sampler CD Mbuki Mvuki, compiled by Richard Henderson.

I continue to fool around with how best to post scans of the catalog so that they are readable - please bear with me!

To be continued...


  1. Qarl, Raissa, and a camel! You so young. Love.

  2. Carl, wonderful blog. Look forward to future posts!