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Library of Congress Adds Cultural, Historic Recordings to National Registry

Israel “Cachao” Lopez, Descargas (originally released in 1957)

Courtesy of EGREM

The Librarian of Congress, James H. Billington, recently announced the selection of 25 sound recordings to the the National Recording Registry because of their cultural, artistic and historic importance to the nation’s aural legacy. The selections named to the registry feature an array of spoken-word and musical recordings—representing nearly every musical category—spanning the years 1918 to 1980.

From the cultural significance of Chubby Checker’s song-and-dance phenomenon and the historic moment of Van Cliburn’s triumphant Cold War performance in Moscow to the artistry of Cuban bassist Israel “Cachao” Lopez’s all-star jam sessions, the 2012 inductees to the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress reflect the diversity and creativity of the American experience.

Simon & Garfunkel, Sounds of Silence (1966)

Courtesy of Columbia Records

“Congress created the National Recording Registry to celebrate the richness and variety of our audio heritage and to underscore our responsibility for long-term preservation, to assure that legacy can be appreciated and studied for generations,” says Billington. “Our challenge, however, continues to be finding collaborative and innovative ways to protect and make available this unmatched legacy to the public.”

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 annually selecting 25 recordings that are “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” and are at least 10 years old. The selections for the 2012 registry bring the total number of recordings to 375.

Among this year’s selections are Simon and Garfunkel’s 1966 album, Sounds of Silence; The Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd; the soundtrack to the movie Saturday Night Fever; the 1918 trendsetting “After You’ve Gone” by Marion Harris; Cheap Thrills, Janis Joplin’s second release with Big Brother and the Holding Company; the radio broadcast featuring Will Rogers’ 1931 folksy insights in support of Herbert Hoover’s unemployment-relief campaign during the Great Depression; and Artie Shaw’s breakthrough hit, “Begin the Beguine.”

Additions to the registry feature notable performances by Leontyne Price, Ornette Coleman, The Ramones, The Bee Gees, Clarence Ashley, Doc Watson, Philip Glass, Betty Carter, Junior Wells, Jimmie Davis, Frank Yankovic, The Blackwood Brothers, and The Neville Brothers.

Van Cliburn

Image courtesy of Testament

Nominations were gathered through online submissions from the public and from the NRPB, which comprises leaders in the fields of music, recorded sound and preservation. The Library is currently accepting nominations for the next registry at the NRPB Website. Several of the selections on the registry were public nominations.

As part of its congressional mandate, the Library is identifying and preserving the best existing versions of each recording on the registry. These recordings will be 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 Packard Campus is home to more than 6 million collection items, including nearly 3.5 million sound recordings.

After 10 years of collaborative effort and the 2010 release of the first-ever-conducted comprehensive study on the state of recorded-sound preservation in the U.S., last month the Library unveiled its plan to save the nation’s endangered aural legacy. This blueprint makes 32 recommendations—long-term and short-term—covering infrastructure, preservation, access, education and policy strategies. Among them are the application of federal copyright law to pre-1972 sound recordings; creation of a national directory of all recorded sound collections and a national discography; and establishment of university-based degree programs in audio archiving and preservation.

View the National Recording Registry Choices for 2012.

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