…was the title of an e-mail from Rob that awaited me upon my return from a two week vacation. It turns out that Rob’s impeccable digging skills, honed over years of record and book collecting, serve him just as well on the internet. Here is a link to an absolutely amazing collection of Edison cylinder recordings hosted by the University of California at Santa Barbara. Despite being transferred from Edison wax cylinders from the early part of last century (e.g., 1900-1920), these recordings sound amazingly clear (even in MP3 format). Perhaps most importantly, because they are so old, they are not covered by any copyright. You can download them, post them yourself, cut them up, paste them over your favorite beat, make a collage out of them, or just listen to them without fear of litigation. (Of course, since I am not a lawyer and probably could not offer legal advice here even if I was AND it is quite possible that the recording industry could push back the length of copyright protection even further – Caveat Emptor).
Since this archive contains the 1909 Cal Stewart track Uncle Josh in Society, which I cited in LOVE 1.4 as one possible source for the first use of the term “jazz” on record, I was actually able to confirm that its not in there. Unlike academic researchers, beat researchers are interested in null results (e.g., not finding a musical source you expect) as much as they are in positive ones. The value of these null results is that it helps us define boundaries, limits of theories, ends of musical tributaries, gaps in the transmission of memes. I guess I gotta just keep diggin.