The controversial release of the first recording of contemporary stand-up comedy, the country-music hit that divided American women and an innovative television theme song are among the sound recordings that have been selected for preservation by the Library of Congress.
On April 6, Librarian of Congress James H. Billington named 25 new additions to the ninth annual National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress, ensuring that these cultural, artistic and historical recordings always will be available to the American public.
“America’s recorded-sound heritage has in many ways transformed the soundscape of the modern world, resonating and flowing through our cultural memory,” said Billington. “Audio recordings have documented our lives and allowed us to share artistic expressions and entertainment. Songs, words and the natural sounds of the world that we live in have been captured on one of the most perishable of all of our art media. The salient question is not whether we should preserve these artifacts, but how best collectively to save this indispensable part of our history.”
Under the terms of the National Recording Preservation Act of 2000, the Librarian, with advice from the Library’s National Recording Preservation Board (NRPB), is tasked with selecting every year 25 recordings that are “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” and are at least 10 years old. The selections for the 2010 registry bring the total number of recordings to 325.
The selections named to the registry feature a diverse array of spoken-word and musical recordings—representing nearly every musical category—spanning the years 1853-1994. They cover a wide range of sounds and music, ranging from the political voices of GOPAC and the haunting sounds of humpback whales to the soulful lamenting of Al Green and the innovative jazz of Henry Mancini.
Among the selections are Edward Meeker’s “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”; Tammy Wynette’s 1968 crossover hit, “Stand By Your Man”; the 1955 unauthorized recording of Mort Sahl’s concert “At Sunset,” which is considered the first recording of modern stand-up comedy; Voice of America radio broadcasts by legendary jazz producer Willis Conover; the parlance of the last Yahi Indian in 1915; the first Jazz at the Philharmonic concert in 1944; the Boswell Sisters’ “It’s the Girl”; and the first recorded sounds ever captured, harking back to 1853.
Other additions to the registry also feature notable performances by Nat “King” Cole, Les Paul, Lydia Mendoza, Blind Willie Johnson, the Sons of the Pioneers, George Crumb, John Fahey, Steely Dan and De La Soul.
Nominations were gathered from online submissions from the public and from the NRPB, which comprises leaders in the fields of music, recorded sound and preservation. The Library accepts nominations for the registry at the NRPB website.
Later this year, the Library will release a comprehensive national plan for recorded sound preservation. It follows the release in 2010 of the first comprehensive study on a national level examining the state of America’s sound recordings.
As part of its congressional mandate, the Library identifies and preserves the best existing versions of each recording on the registry. These recordings are housed in the Library’s Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation in Culpeper, Va., a state-of-the-art facility that was made possible through the generosity of David Woodley Packard and the Packard Humanities Institute, with benefaction from the U.S. Congress. The Library’s Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division’s collections include nearly 3 million sound recordings.
2010 National Recording Registry (Listing in Chronological Order)
- Phonautograms, Edouard-Leon Scott de Martinville (ca. 1853-1861)
- “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” Edward Meeker, accompanied by the Edison Orchestra (1908), Cylinder Recordings of Ishi (1911-14)
- “Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground,” Blind Willie Johnson (1927)
- “It’s the Girl,” The Boswell Sisters with the Dorsey Brothers Orchestra (1931)
- “Mal Hombre,” Lydia Mendoza (1934)
- “Tumbling Tumbleweeds,” The Sons of the Pioneers (1934)
- “Talking Union,” The Almanac Singers (1941)
- “Jazz at the Philharmonic,” (July 2, 1944)
- “Pope Marcellus Mass” (Palestrina), The Roger Wagner Chorale (1951)
- “The Eagle Stirreth Her Nest,” Rev. C.L. Franklin (1953)
- “Tipitina,” Professor Longhair (1953)
- “At Sunset,” Mort Sahl (1955)
- Interviews with Jazz Musicians for the Voice of America, Willis Conover (1956)
- “The Music From ‘Peter Gunn’” Henry Mancini (1959)
- United Sacred Harp Musical Convention in Fyffe, Ala., field recordings by Alan Lomax and Shirley Collins (1959)
- “Blind Joe Death,” John Fahey (1959, 1964, 1967)
- “Stand By Your Man,” Tammy Wynette (1968)
- “Trout Mask Replica,” Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band (1969)
- “Songs of the Humpback Whale,” (1970)
- “Let’s Stay Together,” Al Green (1971)
- “Black Angels (Thirteen Images from the Dark Land),” George Crumb, CRI Recordings, (1972)
- “Aja,” Steely Dan (1977)
- “3 Feet High and Rising,” De La Soul (1989)
- GOPAC Strategy and Instructional Tapes (1986-1994)