As a longtime lurker on this list, I'd like to add my thanks to David for
his moving and eloquent tribute. I didn't know Don--I only exchanged a
handful of emails with him over the years--but I have benefited
incalculably from his important research on the history of calypso and from
the many excellent compilations of early recorded Trinidadian music that he
oversaw. His death is a loss to the small community of calypso
researchers, but in his humanity and generosity, he left us all a rich
Professor, Department of English <http://www.humboldt.edu/english/>
Advisor, International Studies
(emphasis in Global Cultural Studies
Founders Hall 168
Humboldt State University
Arcata CA 95521
707.826.5906 (ph) | 707.826.5939 (fx)
"Sir, I have found you an argument, but I am not obliged to find you an
understanding." --Samuel Johnson
On Tue, Jan 8, 2019 at 12:58 PM David Giovannoni <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> Longtime ARSC member, Dr. Donald R. Hill, has passed away at the age of 79.
> Don was a mentor and friend to many, recognized by all as an esteemed
> scholar, unwavering humanist, and gentleman collector. Don taught through
> example that the purpose of collecting was to make some-thing of it-a book,
> a reissue, an archive worthy of institutional accession. He believed that
> focus, quality, and depth determined the value of a collection-the finest
> being only as large as it must be. And he showed us all that relation-ships
> among collectors are more important than the artifacts we seek.
> We met in the 80s while riffling side by side through shellac. Pulling
> from crates he'd note to this beginning collector the records worth having,
> their trade values, and most importantly, the intrinsic and essential
> of the re-cord-ings themselves. He guided and accelerated my discoveries,
> and pro-foundly shaped an enduring ethos of what a collection and collector
> should be.
> Commercial recordings comprised only one of Don's collecting interests. As
> trained ethnographer he had collected in Cuba, Carriacou, Trinidad, Jim
> Crow's South and New York City. "When people ask what instrument I play, I
> tell them 'the tape recorder'" he'd quip. For Don, acquisition was a
> gratifying, necessary, yet insufficient component of collecting. Getting
> songs and stories heard was his ultimate goal. He took pride in his
> insti-tutional deposits, taking care to find the right homes for his unique
> contribu-tions. And when clearing shelves to make room for his treasured
> "musica Africana", Don assessed the appropriateness of private collections
> with the same resolve. While others scrambled for his pre-war blues and
> country, Don entrusted to my curation his wax cylinder recordings made by
> people in their homes-the squalls of newborns, Grandma's earnest rendition
> of hymns, Junior's jokes, the first words spoken in the year 1900 and more.
> At that time, in the 90s, early home recordings were neither valued by
> collectors nor appreciated by institutions as the ethnographic documents
> they are. But thanks to Don's prescient salvaging, these "vernacular"
> recordings-now under the care of UCSB's Special Collections-have been
> recognized as "culturally, historically or aesthetically important" by the
> Library of Congress' National Recording Preser-vation Board and placed on
> the National Recording Registry.
> Don's various collections have informed myriad articles, books,
> documentaries, LP and CD reissues, presentations, and lectures. The
> humanities are richer for them.
> Don instilled in me the aspiration of making private collections available
> to every-one. Towards this end we worked on three reissues for Rounder
> Records in the 90s. We spoke at ARSC about the emerging digital tech-niques
> we were using to restore seminal field record-ings. And as distribution
> networks and institutions caught up with our visions of universal access,
> began in earnest to find partners to make this happen. The passing of every
> important collector reminds us of the symbiosis between indi-viduals and
> institutions that outlive them. It certainly reignites my own resolve.
> A few years ago, while packing his ultimate wall of 78s for transfer to
> UCSB, we paused to play Lionel Belasco's 1929 Gennett recording of
> "Vene-zuela". Don noted to David Seubert that this was one of only three or
> four copies known. But far more important than its rarity is its beauty.
> Terry Zwigoff famously featured it in "Ghost World" in 2001, and Don and I
> had restored it a couple years earlier for "Good-night Ladies and Gents-The
> Creole Music of Lionel Belasco". Don wrote in the notes:
> The Venezuelan waltzes.typify this CD more than the other songs. For
> die-hearted lovers of music of the African Diaspora like myself, your
> non-West Indian run-of-the-mill waltz is really boring (even Strauss should
> be per-formed sparingly!). But just listen to these Caribbean waltzes; they
> seem to define charm in its purest form.
> "Venezuela" would have been a strong opening track on the CD. But Don made
> it the last. He wanted to close his carefully-sequenced 90-minute tour of
> Belasco's Caribbean with a sense of sailing from port, the islands
> disappearing below the waves while "Venezuela" beat six-against-four from
> shore, fading with distance into the tropical sea breeze. I believe, and I
> think Don would agree, it's a fitting soundtrack with which to reflect on
> what compels us to set the recorded past adrift into the future, and to
> retell tales of retired captains who maneuvered us into this intemperate