Saturday, December 31, 2011

Notes from a World Music Catalog, part 4

An occasional series about the heyday of World Music, analog recordings, John Storm Roberts and Original Music.
Part Four, Buying the LPs, continued.

Well!  It has been some time since I last posted anything.  The lassitude accompanying the end of the year has taken its toll on the blogging center of my little brain.  So even though I have been revising this particular post over and over in my head for months, I am going to put it up now to get the ball rolling again.  The photos are not particularly good (and even really good photos could not possibly convey how beautiful the LPs actually are), but they will have to do or I will never get on to the next project, which is highlighting some of John's formative influences through his catalog entries.  So, Happy New Year!  Go sit down somewhere quiet and really listen to some lovely music.

We also ordered LPs from Barenreiter-Musicaphon, an outfit in Kassel, Germany that published absurdly slick and detailed ethnographic recordings.  Along with the very orderly collections of tribal music, they also published amazing LPs of railway station and hotel bands from Mali.  The very famous Rail Band featuring Salif Keita is not even the most gorgeously packaged or musically transcendent of the lot!

One summer, we ordered so many of their soon-to-be-discontinued LPs that they were sent in a container and it would cost extra to get them shipped to Tivoli.  We decided that Raissa would drive her Isuzu Trooper to Elizabeth, NJ and I would help her load the LPs and bring them back.

Driving there took us on an elevated highway over the Meadowlands swamp.  A tangle of road over an even more endless tangle of reeds and grasses.  That familiar feeling of being absolutely nowhere that you get on some highways that travel through uninhabited territory, compounded by being hemmed in by other cars and trucks all racing headlong at something you can't quite see, with the exits jumping out at us unexpectedly like the downbeats on a Serbian polka.  

Well, it's my memory and my blog so you can go look it up on Wikipedia and skip over the poetry if it's all that awful!

Anyway, Elizabeth Port is apparently the principal container ship facility for goods entering and leaving the New York Metropolitan area (see, Wikipedia!)  That was more than apparent when we got there.  The loading dock (just one of the many loading docks) towered over the Isuzu. Also dwarfing the Isuzu were the big wooden boxes our LPs were trapped in.  The guys at the dock did not have much of a sense of humor about it.  

I remember four or five forklifts whizzing around like worker bees - when they took a break, they would all wheel round at once and whiz off to the little office tucked in the corner of the giant warehouse.  After giving us a right scolding they agreed to unbox the LPs and help get them on to the Isuzu if we promised to never, ever show up there again.

Then back out over the swamp, a bit of an adrenaline rush and, for some reason I remember quite clearly, a cassette of vodoun drumming in the stereo.

Barenrieter-Musicaphon never managed to make the move to CD while I was still active, though I remember a glorious one from Calabria - I did a quick search for them and found reference mostly to the LPs we sold.  You have to admit they are beautiful - there would be no way to give a CD, no matter how beautiful the music, the same kind of luscious treatment.  I have the Tibetan series as well and John gave Raissa the Indian one as a present one year.  They are some of the few recordings I have that really stray into the collector side of things.  I don't listen to them all that much (except for the Malian ones) and am prone to taking them out to show to people.  Ah well, I suppose I should allow myself to enjoy them in whatever way I am able.

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