Wednesday, 22 April 2015

What do Radiohead, the comedian Steve Martin, and Big Bird all have in common?

Ilka Heale knows . . .

'Sounds' by Fe Ilya. Reproduced under a Creative Commons Licence.
Last month it was announced that 25 sound recordings have been selected for preservation and added to the US Library of Congress' National Recording Registry. Each year, the Library of Congress (LoC) chooses recordings that are "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant".

Amongst them was the public-nominated 'OK Computer' by Oxford's Radiohead. Released in 1997, this was the band's third album but their first to reach number one in the charts. The album's abstract lyrics, densely layered sound and wide range of influences laid the groundwork for their later, more experimental work.

Album cover photo by Mr.Smashy.  Reproduced under a Creative Commons Licence.
Since 2002, the National Recording Preservation Board (NRPB) and members of the public have nominated recordings to the National Recording Registry. The Library is currently accepting nominations for the next registry at the NRPB website.

Another recording added was an album of songs from the US children's TV series Sesame Street (remember that?). With its catchy theme song, the programme was first broadcast in 1969. Using music as an integral part of the educational development for young children, the programme's songwriters wrote songs that covered a wide range of genres such as country-and-western, jazz, opera, Latin dance tunes and even Romanian fiddle tunes! The quality of music attracted to the show a diverse mix of musicians such as B.B King, One Direction, R.E.M and Feist.

Sesame Street 10th Anniversary Album, photo by Luke GattusoReproduced under a Creative Commons Licence.
Steve Martin's 1978 album of comic songs, 'A Wild and Crazy Guy', also made the LoC list. Now a Grammy award winning musician, Martin plays the banjo and sings with the Bluegrass band Steep Canyon Rangers.

For the entire list of 25 sound recordings go to:

And it isn't just the US who are running a sound preservation project. On 12 January 2015, the British Library launched a new initiative called Save our Sounds. One of the main aims of this programme is to preserve as much as possible of the nation's rare and unique sound recordings - not just those in the British Library's collections but also key items from partner collections across the UK.

Sound collections at York

  • In the Library’s Fairhurst Building, we have the John Barry Audiovisual collection which includes our large collection of music CDs and DVDs. You can search for titles using the University Library catalogue YorSearch. To narrow down your search you can select the audiovisual category from the menu on the left of the screen.
  • Along with our physical collections, we also have access to a list of electronic audio resources. For a full list, please see the Music subject guide.
  • In a joint venture between the Music Department and the Borthwick Institute for Archives, the University of York Sound Archives contains sound recording collections available for teaching, research and listening.

For more information on this post . . .

  • Although we do not have any of their CDs in our collection, there are several books about Radiohead on the catalogue, including a musical score for the songs on 'OK Computer'.
  • For books by and films starring Steve Martin, search the University Library catalogue, YorSearch.

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