Every so often, a press release catches my eye in such a fashion that I think to myself: "Aha! This means I don't have to write an article today!" Ahem. Today is one of those days.
The Library of Congress today announced the launch of what they're calling a "National Jukebox" which puts the entire pre-1925 Sony catalogue of recordings online to the public for free. This is the coolest use of tax dollars I've seen in quite a while, so I thought I would give it the exposure it deserves.
In the ongoing debate (which has been raging for over 200 years now) as to the size of government in America, this is the type of thing which should be an exemplary example of government at its finest. These recordings are no longer commercially viable, and Sony would never make any money releasing them. So why not give them to the Library of Congress so that they can be enjoyed by a much wider audience online? These have moved from the commercial world into the realm of being historical documents, and that's exactly what the Library of Congress should be about -- preserving such history for future generations.
I've excerpted the press release from the Library of Congress below. It's a fairly long press release, but it is worth reading in full, to get more details.
-- Chris Weigant
Library of Congress Launches, with Sony Music Content, the National Jukebox, an Online Destination for Historical Sound Recordings
Largest Collection of Historical Recordings Ever Made Publically [sic] Available Online
The Library of Congress and Sony Music Entertainment today unveiled a new website of over 10,000 rare historic sound recordings available to the public for the first time digitally. The site is called the "National Jukebox" (www.loc.gov/jukebox/).
Developed by the Library of Congress, with assets provided by Sony Music Entertainment, the National Jukebox offers free online access to a vast selection of music and spoken-word recordings produced in the U.S. between the years 1901 and 1925.
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"This amazing collection is a chance to hear history," said Librarian of Congress James H. Billington, who joined Connick and officials of Sony Music Entertainment at the press event. "This collection includes popular music, dance music, opera, early jazz, famous speeches, poetry and humor. It is what our grandparents and great-grandparents listened to, danced to, sang along with. This brings online one of the most explosively creative periods in American culture and music and one of the finest additions to the Library's American Memory materials."
"We are thrilled to be joining with the Library of Congress to launch the National Jukebox," said Richard Story, President, Commercial Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment. "As the steward of much of the output from the American recording industry prior to 1934, Sony Music is excited to preserve and share online these important cultural treasures from its archives with students, historians, and music-lovers alike, and create new audiences for and appreciators of the many extraordinary works from the pre-1925 era."
The agreement for the National Jukebox grants the Library of Congress usage rights to Sony Music's entire pre-1925 catalog -- comprising thousands of recordings produced by Columbia Records, OKeh, and Victor Talking Machine Co. among others – and represents the largest collection of such historical recordings ever made publicly available for study and appreciation online.
Works by Fletcher Henderson, Al Jolson, George M. Cohan, Eddie Cantor, Will Rogers, Alberta Hunter, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Leopold Stokowski, Arturo Toscanini, and opera stars Enrico Caruso, Nellie Melba and Geraldine Farrar are all covered, as are such original recordings as the Paul Whiteman Concert Orchestra's "Rhapsody in Blue" with George Gershwin on piano, and Nora Bayes' "Over There."
Visitors to The National Jukebox will be able to listen to available recordings on a streaming-only basis, as well as view thousands of label images, record-catalog illustrations, and artist and performer bios. In addition, users can further explore the catalog by accessing special interactive features, listening to playlists curated by Library staff, and creating and sharing their own playlists.
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Not just limited to music, users also can access political speeches by Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, William Jennings Bryan and William Howard Taft, recitings of famous popular poems such as "Casey at the Bat" and "Wynken, Blynken and Nod," readings from the Bible and early sound-effects records such as a collection of snores and sneezes.
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