by Steven Rosen
at 01:28 PM | Permalink
Monthly Listen to This! series introduces "Record Roulette"
Steven Kemple, who was
featured last year in CityBeat’s Cool Issue for his innovative programming as
the Main Library’s music librarian,
runs a monthly Listen to This! session there at which the group (it’s open to
anyone) hears in new ways selections from the Public Library of Cincinnati and
Hamilton County’s vast collection of recordings.
The sessions have been
inspired, sometimes wittily so — North Korean music when Dennis Rodman visited
that country, for instance. Or timely — when all of the underappreciated singer
Harry Nilsson’s albums were reissued a while back, Kemple scheduled a Nilsson
But even by his high
standards, the most recent Listen to This! was brilliant. Using a computer
program, Kemple randomly selected 14 LPs — vinyl albums — from the collection. Then,
on a portable record player, he played selections/excerpts from each —
accompanied by group discussion. The
informal name for the presentation was “Record Roulette.”
Those present consistently
found unexpected connections in the different recordings, and also made serious
and insightful observations. Even when
you might think they would treat something like a joke — during an excerpt from
The Speechphone Method, for instance,
on which speech specialist Hazel P. Brown read pronunciations of words.
One person noticed how the
way we say certain words has changed since this record’s 1959 release. And
careful listening to Brown’s list-reading of words began a long conversation,
not quite an argument, about whether she had a slight New England accent that
softened some "R"s.
The evening started with the
album Ballads by Niles, from the
traditionalist balladic Folk singer and Kentucky native John Jacob Niles (who
studied at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music — now University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music). The late Niles, popular in
the 1950s, doesn’t get much airplay these days and several in the group weren’t
familiar with him. Especially jarring, at first, was the high voice — it made
some think of Tiny Tim — as he started
singing “Mattie Groves.” But as it became clearer that Niles was using
different voices to portray different characters, and that he had an operatic,
storytelling approach to folk music, he impressed all present. This was a real
records from which we heard excerpts were:
·Songs of Corsica featuring Martha
Angelia (It prompted a discussion about the Corsican language.)
·The Trial of the Cantonsville Nine by
Daniel Berrigan, S.J. (This was a play based on an act of disobedience in 1968 — the burning of Selective Service-related files — by Catholic activists to
protest to Vietnam War. Berrigan, a Jesuit priest, was one of the nine. That was a long time — the younger members of
the listening group weren’t familiar with it.)
·“March from the River Kwai” by Mitch Miller & His Orchestra, from The 50’s Greatest Hits (The whistling
prompted a suggestion for a night of whistling songs.)
·Africa: Ceremonial & Folk Music
(We discovered the wrong record had been in the jacket for
who-knows-how-many-years — we heard the jazzy track “Americanization of Ooga
Booga” by South African trumpeter Hugh Masekela.)
·Classical Russian Poetry read in Russian
by Yevgeny Yevtushenko and English by Morris Carnovsky
·“April Come She Will” from Collected
Works of Simon & Garfunkel, the closest to rock ‘n’ roll the night got.
·From the seventh realm, a Modernist
classical work from the 1920s by Arthur Fickenscher for piano and string
quartet (This unfamiliar work, from an unfamiliar composer who pioneered
microtonal music, was moving – and had us wondering how many other 20th century composers are out there waiting for rediscovery.)
·Pianist Ronald Smith on a 1977 recording of Twelve
Studies in All the Minor Keys, Opus 39, by 19th century French
pianist and composer Charles Alkan
·The Best of John Williams (Hoping to
hear Star Wars, we discovered this John Williams is the classical
guitarist, not the film composer. Entertaining nonetheless.)
·In the Matter of J. Robert Oppenheimer,
performed by the Repertory Theater of Lincoln Center under the direction of
Jules Irving (Interestingly, the computer picked two plays about political
trials of post-war American leftists. Oppenheimer, one of the chief architects
of the A-bomb, was persecuted in the 1950s during the height of McCarthyism for
wanting international control of the bomb. From what we heard, the 1964 play had
interesting and unusual multimedia aspects, possibly a precursor to the John
Adams opera Doctor Atomic.
ready to end with some silly pop by now, maybe the Chipmunks or Weird Al
Yankovic, but instead the computer chose for us Three Short Operas by Bizet and Romberg’s The Student Prince from a
Readers Digest collection, Treasury of
we discussed it’d be great to have these “Record Roulette” vinyl sessions on a
regularly scheduled basis, maybe every other month, so they could build the
larger following they deserve.
posts information on a Facebook event page.
remaining June events at the Main Library — at 7 p.m. — are a lecture next
Wednesday, June 11, by noted Cincinnati musicologist David Lewis on Mamie
Smith, the famed Cincinnati-born singer of early 20th century Blues
and Jazz; a multi-act Experimental Music at the Library session on June 18 with
headliner Wrest, a free jazz trio with percussionist Ben Bennett , saxophonist
Jack Wright and bassist Evan Lipson; and on June 25 another Listen
to This! session.
The popularity of shorter EP releases continues to grow among artists, labels and fans
0 Comments · Tuesday, November 26, 2013
As sales of physical music releases continue to decline, musicians and labels are rediscovering and embracing the advantages of issuing shorter EPs.
0 Comments · Tuesday, April 3, 2012
In March, according to Rolling Stone,
Jack White celebrated his label Third Man Records’ third anniversary by
giving away all of the label’s “Blue Series” singles on an “easy to play
but impossible to hear” vinyl record designed to be “played” at 3 rpm.
0 Comments · Tuesday, February 15, 2011
The popularity of left-for-dead formats in some circles makes us wish we had saved that Sha Na Na flexi-disc that came with a box of Tide mom bought in 1977. Vinyl died and then was instantly reborn and had a cult following. A growing network of underground artists and tape buffs have resuscitated the cassette as a hip period-piece/music provider. And now the clunky 8-track tape is getting a second look.