The Historical Music Recordings Collection houses a group of 408 discs (78 rpm) of Jewish cantors and opera stars that were generously donated by Joseph Prager in 1995.
Pictures of the cantors and stars have been cut and pasted to the spines of the albums.
The collection includes work by Yossele Rosenblatt, considered one of the greatest Cantors of his era, and who has been referred to as the “Jewish Caruso.” Rosenblatt performed as himself in the first talking film, The Jazz Singer.
Cantors serve an important function in Jewish religious practices, as explained below by musician Jeremiah Lockwood.
The Historical Music Recordings Collection is the largest repository at the university for sound recordings (and one of the largest such collections in the United States) featuring a breadth of genres in almost every type of format utilized to store sound.
Due to the variety of formats, the HMRC also maintains an equipment morgue of anachronisms — a collection of Victrolas, Edisons, wire recorders, reel-to-reels, tape recorders and other bygone audio recording and listening devices.
Genealogist Mary Henrietta Chase collected almost all of crooner Bing Crosby’s commercial recordings. She also made 200 audio recordings from radio broadcasts from December 1948 to October 1956, though as these are on consumer-grade acetate discs their condition is poor. She catalogued her collection on typed index cards which she kept in a small recipe box.
While we’re apt to sound out the world-class general and distinctive materials maintained by the Libraries, these resources are just a single galaxy in a greater universe of extraordinary collections across UT campus.
In the first of its kind accounting, the University of Texas Press has just released a massive assemblage of the rare, unique and exceptional collections that reside on the Forty Acres in the form of The Collections, a necessarily significant tome documenting the various holdings — recognizable and not so — from around UT.
Represented in the book are Libraries mainstays such as the Benson Latin American Collection, the Alexander Architectural Archive, the PCL and Walter Geological Map Collections and the Historical Music Recordings Collection, as well as highlights from discrete collections across the branches.
The book features hundreds of items from more than 80 collections campus-wide, covering a range of subject areas: archaeology, ethnography, fine and performing arts, rare books and manuscripts, decorative arts, photography, film, music, popular and material culture, regional and political history, natural history, science and technology.
Edited by Andrée Bober with the support of more than 350 staff from across the university, The Collections features a foreword by UT Austin President Gregory L. Fenves and a historical introduction by Lewis Gould, professor emeritus of American history, whose essay traces the formation of the collections and acknowledges many people whose visions are manifest in these material resources.
A happy convergence of circumstances at the beginning of the recent academic year resulted in a creative endeavor that highlights the Libraries, its users and the students who represent the quality of talent at The University of Texas at Austin.
Reia was a guitarist for Berkeley-area punk band The Criminals in the 1990s, active during a time when the city was spawning a pop-punk revival that manifested bands that would go on to garner broad attention, such as Rancid, The Offspring and Green Day. His connection to the punk music scene and the various players in a place where record stores are in abundance made it possible for Reia to build an exceptional collection of genre-specific gems.
Reia’s collection was donated to the FAL’s Historical Music Recordings Collection (HMRC) by Reia’s mother, Flora Salyers, and his wife, Tamara Schatz, with the hope that the music he had spent his life compiling would benefit future students, faculty and researchers who rely on the archive as a resource. Salyers delivered the collection herself, hauling the records in her car on a road trip from Little Rock, Arkansas, after a series of consultations with Hunter.
Reia’s lifetime of collecting — and his family’s decision to make the donation of materials — serves to fill a genre gap in the HMRC. Punk music was notably underrepresented as a focus within the archive, but the addition of such a range of items, many of which are uncommon or even obscure, has opened a new avenue of development for the collection.
This fall also saw the opening of the new Learning Commons in PCL, including the new expanded Media Lab on the ground level of the building. The lab is designed to provide students and other users access to the tools needed to build creative multimedia projects that are increasingly the currency of productivity in the higher ed learning environment. The lab is managed by Libraries Teaching and Learning professionals, but is staffed by students — Media Lab Assistants — from the University Leadership Network, a program of the UT Provost’s office designed to help undergraduate students from historically disadvantaged communities develop leadership skills while achieving academic success consistent with graduating in four years.
Lab assistants come from a range of different fields of study across campus, and work in tandem with their supervisors to develop expertise in the use of hardware/software in order to share their skills with fellow students who use the lab. Some of the assistants were chosen by the Media Lab managers for skills and knowledge they already had, such as Charisma Soriano, a junior Marketing and Radio-Television-Film major, who has experience with filmmaking and production. Charisma brought with her an understanding of that process which has been invaluable for Libraries staff.
To expand the opportunities for the ULN students in the Media Lab, as well as to fill a need for the Libraries, Charisma and her fellow lab assistants Lucia Aremu — junior Government major — and Jocelyn Mendoza — junior, Education — were approached by their supervisors to see if they would be interested in making a short film to highlight some aspect of the Libraries efforts; the subject matter was left completely to the students’ own interests. All three enthusiastically agreed to take on the project, and settled on the Reia punk collection as the focus for their effort.
Working in coordination with Media Lab Manager Andy Wilbur, the students toured the HMRC collection (located at the Collections Deposit Library) with David Hunter, conducted preliminary interviews with Hunter and Katherine Strickland — PCL Map Collection manager and punk music aficionado — then organized, shot, edited and produced a short documentary film on the collection, which is viewable below.
The Libraries relies on the generosity of donors and the talent of students and staff to make efforts such as this possible.
The preliminary estimate for processing the Reia Punk Collection is estimated at $8,000 — covering the cost of a graduate research assistant and cataloging. Consider donating to the Fine Arts Library to make this collection available for use by students, faculty, researchers and scholars.
The Libraries’ Historical Music Recordings Collection (HMRC) recently added a massive infusion of pristine and rare punk vinyl in the form of 700 LPs and 400 singles (45s) from a collection amassed by the late Justin Gibran (Freud) Reia.
Freud was an avid music collector and musician. His mother, Flora Salyers, and wife, Tamara Schatz, generously donated his collection, which fills a significant genre gap the HMRC’s overall corpus.
David Hunter, Music Librarian, is enthusiastic about the addition to the HMRC, and notes that it will take some time to process the collection and make it available to students, faculty, and researchers. The preliminary estimate for processing the materials is around $8,000, which covers the cost of a graduate research assistant’s time and cataloging.
“The collection is great, just absolutely great,” says Benjamin Houtman, outgoing HMRC Graduate Research Assistant. “Very, very authentic, widely varied — you can tell he loved this stuff. I’ve just barely scratched the surface but I’ve already seen Sham69, Flipper, the Jim Carroll Band, Iggy, Stiv Bators, Richard Hell and the Voidoids, Blondie, The Clash, Black Flag — all legends — along with tons of completely obscure stuff.”
“I wish my record collection was 1/10th as good as this. I’m envious of the GRA who really gets to dig into this collection. I hope they appreciate it. Every record I’ve looked at appears to be in good shape too. Wow.”
If you would like to make a contribution to support this effort, please click here.
The Best of Sir Douglas Quintet is a classic album from an Austin transplant musician that came to the Libraries as part of the KUT Collection last year, when we received the beloved Austin radio station’s back catalog of 4000 LPs and 60,000 CDs.
Formed by Doug Sahm and his friend Augie Meyers in 1965 at the suggestion of record producer Huey Meaux, the Sir Douglas Quintet presented a Texas-regional rock and roots sound that belied their rather British-sounding name — a name chosen specifically to connect the band to the ongoing British Invasion period of music occurring at the time. Their unique Tex-Mex style rock was influenced by the cross-cultural currents of south and central Texas, where the sounds and traditions of Mexico, Germany, Acadian-Creole and the African-American south commingled.
The band actually garnered a top-20 hit with “She’s About a Mover,” but broke up after members were arrested on marijuana possession charges at the Corpus Christi airport. The arrest led Sahm to move to San Francisco, but Sir Douglas Quintet eventually re-formed with a new lineup, releasing the successful single and album Mendocino in 1969.
Bob Dylan was even a fan of the band, once stating, “Look, for me right now there are three groups: Butterfield, The Byrds and the Sir Douglas Quintet.”
Once added to the Fine Arts Library the music in the KUT Collection will more than double the library’s existing audio recordings, with the LPs being added to this Historical Music Recordings Collection.
Chairman of the Audio Preservation Fund William Vanden Dries hand-delivered the eclectic mix of recordings to the Collections Deposit Library on Tuesday. After an extensive review of the HMRC’s holdings, the group determined where their reserves might bridge gaps in the collection’s catalog, and the gift was amassed from the cache of an unnamed individual collector.
The Audio Preservation Fund acts as a facilitator for the collection and preservation of sound recordings, and for the distribution of donated items to suitable recipients including public archives, libraries, museums, universities and research centers. The Fund’s goal is to make private collections available to the public in an effort to improve access to rare, unique and historical audio.
We express our gratitude to the Audio Preservation Fund on behalf of the Libraries and the patrons who will benefit from their generous gift.