Terry Smythe wrote:
> I too am a collector, but my perception is that in acquiring a
> rare document, I have saved it from destruction and have an
> obligation to share with the world and future generations. Why
> should I be the only one to view and enjoy such documents?
Permit me an anecdote along the above lines.
About 45 years ago, I was shopping for records at H. Royer Smith in
Philadelphia. A clerk was re-pricing a substantial collection including
five sets of acoustic recordings of opera. I bought them at the marked
price. I had never heard of their existence, but was fascinated
particularly since they came from La Scala.
A few years later, the first volume of "Opera on Record" came out and I
checked for those recordings. Those that were listed were only noted; no
copy was known to exist. One is remarkable (a Traviata with Bevignani).
Two embodied most unusual performance practice. The others were less
notable but were still the earliest recordings of those operas - from
the shrine of Italian opera; though casts were not stellar, they may be
as close as we can come to knowing how they were being performed when
relatively new. "Opera on Record" was compiled by the most experienced
and knowledgable collectors of the time. If the likes of Lord Harewood
and Alan Blyth could not locate copies, it might well be that mine were
the only survivors.
What to do?
First, I made second tapes with the equipment I had. Second, I donated
the originals to U. of California Riverside, the U. of C. repository for
older audio recordings. Finally, I strove to find ways to disseminate
the recordings. In fact, that was the inspiration for the Audio
Encyclopedia, a project which occupied me for over a decade.
So I have little enthusiasm for those whose objective in collecting is
merely to amass and to hoard. Yes, the originals should be preserved for
the context they afford, but even more I believe that the audio content
should be readily accessible. My objective in the Audio Encyclopedia has
been to make it possible for every interested listener, every scholar of
the artform, and every student looking for 'new' ideas on standard works
to know them.
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