The following is a guest post from 2011 Junior Fellow Jarek Ervin.
My name is Jarek Ervin, and I spent my summer working as a Junior Fellow for the Music Division at the Library of Congress. During the year, I am a graduate student studying Music History at Temple University. My research is mostly focused on American music since 1960, but I have a performance background as a classical guitarist and lutenist and love music from all periods and countries. During my internship in the Music Division I loved working with and around the amazing Music and Recorded Sound collections – my workspace was right next to the Federal Theater Project and Danny Kaye/Sylvia Fine collections, among others!
My primary project for the Music Division was working with a collection of recording company related materials, including catalogs, periodicals, promotional materials, and collectible items. The collection contains approximately 10,000 items, and spans from 1895 to 1995 – nearly the entire history of commercial recording. The bulk of the materials were used in promotion and marketing by record labels, but they are immensely valuable to scholars researching recordings or performers; many of the catalogs, especially those listing pre-World War II items, are the only records of recordings that have gone out of print or otherwise been forgotten. The collection has material from major and independent labels, and has documents of nearly every genre; Enrico Caruso’s Victor recordings, Mamie Smith and blues or “race” records, The Andrews Sisters and popular World War II-era artists, and Vietnam-era protest music all are represented in the collection.
One of my favorite items from the collection is a memo from Capitol Records announcing the release of the Beatles’ 1964 album Meet the Beatles! Capitol printed a weekly memo, News from the Public Relations Department, in a plain, no-frills format that announced new releases and music-related events, and this one captures the excitement and energy surrounding the rise of Beatlemania in the United States. The Beatles had already released the album Please Please Me with Capitol’s UK sister company Parlophone, but after a Walter Cronkite story on the group provoked demand from American teenagers, Capitol finally saw the commercial potential of the group. This ad is one of the first official announcements of the record and promotes the performance on the Ed Sullivan show that would help to establish the Beatles as one of the most popular groups of recording history.
What a great experience. I think I would have gotten in trouble for reading all the info I was asked to file, not to mention listening to many of the recordings as well!