Interview: Ian Nagoski - Forgotten Music

Interview: Ian Nagoski - Forgotten Music

June 26, 2015

Written by:

Andrei Tănăsescu

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The Dream House

Ian Nagoski is a music researcher and record producer specializing in early 20th century music in languages other than English. He lives in Baltimore, Maryland, where he operates a great record label called Canary Records, dedicated to the reissue of non-English-language music of the 78rpm-era.

This is his story.

To start off, can you talk a bit about your background and the role music played in your life?

Ian Nagoski: I came from a very musical household. My mother was young when she had me. She was a piano and voice teacher, while working on the photography business that both my parents had to earn a living. The story in the family goes that I learned to count to four by lying awake at night with her giving piano lessons downstairs. She played some Bach and Mozart, but then also a lot of 70s singer-songwriter stuff (Manilow, Carly Simon, Elton John, Jim Croce). She had a rather hard life at the time too, with four small children by the time she was 23 or 24, so she would often cry when she sang. It was very emotional. There are recordings of that actually - children crying in the background, while she’s sort of weeping and playing Carpenters songs. I had that early connection to music as an outpouring of strong feelings.

My father had an extraordinary record collection. In the late 60s, early 70s, he had gathered up what he thought were important works of musical literature, which included Stockhausen, Partch, Cage, Soothing Sounds for Baby by Raymond Scott, the White Album, Beethoven. Also the Nonesuch Explorer Series (Goro Yamaguchi’s Shakuhachi Music - A Bell Ringing In The Empty Sky, a great record) and bargain bin things of African music.

By the time I was a teenager I started exploring those. Kurzwellen by Stockhausen was a record that was around and was very special to me, because other people around me wouldn’t know about it.

My grandfather was a rather conservative swing-jazz drummer and he taught me drums. My sister has a PhD in conducting and is a figure in the choral arts world. So yeah, it was a musical world that I came from. I taught myself guitar - my father played guitar, there were a lot of instruments around; he had a 19th century Buckbee banjo, different sized recorders, a big box of different sized harmonicas. I was sick home from school a lot, so I just messed around with stuff.

By the time I was 11 - 12 years old, I was already forming bands and playing rock music as a drummer or guitarist. A girl kissed me the first time for I was a drummer in a rock band - so that was a good lesson.

Then, when I was nineteen years old, in particular, was a kind of traumatic year where I had begun taking LSD, stopped writing songs and began improvising. I needed a direction for my life and a lot of that came through the book about Anthony Braxton that Graham Locke wrote, called Forces in Motion. A friend of mine, who was a little bit older and wrote for ‘zines, wanted to start a new one and he asked me to do a project. I said I don’t know what to do, and he said “do the thing you most want to do.” So I wrote a letter to La Monte Young and Marion Zazeela, because I had fallen in love with the Dream House in New York, from going up to see jazz shows at the Knitting Factory. I asked them very earnestly if they would talk with me about their work. Six months after I sent the letter, they called me. I was nineteen years old and we spent a year and a half or two years in a dialogue that led up to the publication in a very good interview that we published in this magazine called Halana.

So I went and lived with them; I stayed in the Dream House for six months when I was 21, and I was a student of a kind, took singing lessons, was their house boy, watering their plants, washing their dishes, doing their laundry. I was lonely and unhappy there so I left and decided from that point on that I was already a musician. I would just do my thing, so I started putting out records of electronic music. So yeah, that brings us up to 23 years old.

Could you talk about “Warm, Coursing Blood”?

IN: That’s immediately after I left the Dream House I decided I was a musician. I began making a piece on 4-track cassette on two Tascam four-track cassette recorders. I submitted it to the touring festival called Sonic Circuits - and they rejected it. So then I decided I would just make a record. I had a friend named Jason DiEmilio who had a record label for his own music and he offered to put it out. I put up the money but he had the distribution, the experience and a good mastering guy. So I just finished three other pieces along with the first piece to fill up the album and that was the beginning. This was around 1998, 1999, living in Ardmore Pennsylvania, working at a Borders bookstore. Then I moved to Baltimore in 2000, because I’d met a woman there who’s since become a good poet and electronic musician and teacher named Bonnie Jones. She was very helpful to me.
The process is important, but the actual objects, whatever you pay for them, is just rent. 78s are made of stone, and they will last hundreds of years longer than you will. You don’t own the records. If you’re lucky, the records own you.

First exposure to 20th century music

What was your first exposure to early 20th century music and what attracted you to it? Was there a ‘click’ similar to you making experimental music?

IN: I started working in record stores when I was 16 and had a voracious appetite for music, and music that other people around me weren’t aware of. My first exposure to early 20th century music was through my grandfather, because he was playing me recordings from the 20s and 30s by Jimmy Lunsford, Chick Webb, the Dorseys, Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw. I was hearing the stuff from the 30s-40s, the swing bands, you know, all that kind of stuff.

Then, when I was 14 or 15 my first job out of the house was at the local library shelving books, and my father bought at a library sale there a copy of the second volume of the Anthology of American Folk Music, the Harry Smith set; the social music volume, which is one record of dance music and another record of religious music. He didn’t really listen to his albums, but he knew that it was cool. He brought it into the house, and I really got into that record. I kind of stole it from him. I stole a lot of records from him as a matter of fact - that Stockhausen record didn’t stand a chance!

At 19 years old, that same period where I’m improvising and stopped songwriting, I was at a flea-market in New Castle, Delaware, where I bought three 78s and a little portable schoolroom record player that played 78s. The 78s were 10 cents apiece and that began the process. It was a Carter Family record on Montgomery Ward, a record by The Bagelman Sisters who were sort-of the Jewish Andrews Sisters, singing in Yiddish, but doing the Borscht-Belt pop - some klezmer influence, but you know, pop. And a Japanese record made in Hawaii in the late 40s (I think) called “The Song of Arriang” which was a 12-bar blues and a waltz about leaving home and about nostalgia. I went, “OK, I understand several of the elements here,” but there was for me a sense of wonder about “how did all these elements come together?” So then, I felt “OK, I might as well keep doing this ‘cause obviously these things are interesting and odd, and if I can keep finding more of these kind of things…” The sound of the record was interesting, because it was a different sound than you’re used to coming from records. You can’t believe how heavy the thing is, you can’t believe the sound coming out.

I kept finding things in foreign languages. In a big box of Russian records I found by accident at a yard sale in Connecticut a Lemko record. It was “The Gypsy Wedding”, which wound up on Black Mirror (which came out in 2007).

I worked at a software company where it was half Indians and half Russians who were the programmers. The Russians were able to get me feedback on all these songs. I didn’t know “Black Eyes,” or any of these famous folk songs. One woman told me, “Oh this is a gypsy song”, and then they would say something horribly racist about gypsies, and I would think “Oh, that’s interesting; you’re a prejudiced person.” The actual comment I still remember to this day is “oh, gypsy song - steal and sing, two things gypsies can do well.”

Then somebody at that same company, said to me offhandedly what a slob their mother was. You know, she would throw her clothes all over the floor, on the Victrola, everywhere. I said, “Wait, the Victrola? You got any records in that thing? “Oh yeah, there’s a whole pickle-bucket full of them.” They invited me over; I bought the Victrola and the records. They were a combination of Ethel Waters (who was from Chester, Pennsylvania, a great jazz singer along the lines of Bessie Smith but a little more middle-class, acceptable…light-skinned, let’s face it, and cute) and there was a bunch of gospel quartet singing - Birmingham Jubilee Quartet, the Virginia Female Jubilee Quartet. Those records were like hearing something from Mongolia; they were crazy sounding to me. I loved them immediately; they were so good. And I had never heard of gospel quartet singing. It’s masterful, wonderful, beautiful stuff, and pretty much ignored and kind-of an extinct form now, but you know, rather middle-class. The big group was the Golden Gate Quartet in the 40s and 50s, but before that, back to the 20s and earlier, African-American middle-class (or aspiring) folk had this amazing quartet singing form, that still kind-of exists in pockets here and there. So I started looking for more of that kind of stuff on eBay - right around the time eBay starts.

I started doing Internet searches, sending away for catalogues and lists, and bidding on things that were cheap. I could never afford good records, but $5 here, $6 there… I paid $30 for a Moondog 78 at one point. I thought that was really extravagant. (It came with a sleeve on Brunswick).

A whole world opened up that I had access to but that other people around me didn’t know about. It became fun to play records and talk about them at that point. I started hanging out a lot with this guitarist in Philly named Jack Rose and playing him records and he was collecting really heavily. By that point we’d already heard the Yazoo and Origin Jazz Library and Herwin reissue records, and now and we were studying them like they’re the Torah - really reading the notes.
Ian Nagoski
Ian Nagoski

Black Mirror and Canary Records

How did your first compilation, Black Mirror come about?

IN: I had made an experimental electronic record for a label in Georgia called Edition and I got a letter from another guy in Georgia who also made an experimental record for the same label named Lance Ledbetter. He was going to put out a gospel compilation and he had read an article where I was talking about old records and gospel quartets and preachers. So he said, “Oh, you’re that guy who made that electronic record and you’re thinking about these things too, and I’m making a gospel compilation. Would you listen to some of these tracks and tell me what you think should be on it?“ I wrote back, telling him he's got to have this and that. He wound up totally ignoring my advice actually, but he made this CD set called Goodbye Babylon, which is the first release on Dust-to-Digital.

It’s one of the greatest records that’s come out of the idea of reissuing 78s - a visionary work - and I loved it. So he came up to visit me, and by that point, 2005-2006, I had a record store that I was running; my daughter had been born and I was trying to make some money. We spent the day just eating pizza and drinking beer behind the counter at the record store, playing records. We were listening to hip hop, all kinds of psychedelic stuff, and whatever. I pull out a box of 78s and start playing him some of my favourite records and telling him stories: “Here’s what this is, this is with that, somebody gave me this, there’s a good story here.”

He goes “you should make a record for my label, Dust-to-Digital.” About a year goes by and I’m working on it; I’m thinking about it. My job is crazy. Lance writes to me and says, “dude, are you doing it or not? Do it or don’t”. He was very sweet about it, and I finally decided if I was going to get it done, I gotta boil it down. What I wound up doing was basically a greatest-hits from my record collection.

I knew an older 78 collector, who is somebody I liked immensely, and who is also good at mastering 78s, in Frederick, Maryland. He has the other big 78s collection in Frederick, other than Joe Bussard, his name is Steve Smolian, but his collection is mostly Classical. He’s not really well known but he’s done a lot of work for very good things that were nominated for Grammys, etc. He’s a wonderful person - really a dear, dear person. I started taking these records out to Steve to transfer and restore. That was a long process. Finally then, I finished the notes - Lance was helpful with that, so was another mutual friend Steve Fenton who ran Edition.

How did Canary Records start?

IN: I already had a dialogue going on with this guy out in Portland who was doing reissue records, named Eric Isaacson, who had just started this label called Mississippi Records. My record shop was buying boxes of everything he put out, because they were all good records, and we had this really good arrangement. The records were super-cheap and we were flipping them really hard and fast at the store.

So Eric heard Black Mirror, and he wanted to reissue it as an LP (that never happened for a variety of reasons). But then he goes, “Would you make a follow-up?” This being around 2008, right as I’m leaving the record store. I was like, “Yeah, I would love to, but I’m actually trying to get enough money together to start my own label right now. I’ve got ideas. I want to form a collective of people who want to do reissues and we would each get to take turns and we put money in together as a collective.“ He said, “Let me talk to my partner, but I’ve got an idea.” He came back to me saying, “Yeah, we’ll just give you a label. You just do whatever you want with it. We’ll manufacture it, we’ll distribute it. Whatever you do is going to be good, we know that. But we have last say on packaging; we do the packaging. When you send us the master and the notes we’ll send you a check for your part.” Cool!

So that becomes the first Canary release - String of Pearls. And String of Pearls is basically a continuation of Black Mirror. It’s part 2. And it did well. They pressed 3000 of them and bing! - gone. It’s not a great record but the performances on it are really good. The writing is still rather mystical and still rather about what is music and what is this all about, why do these things touch us. That’s how Canary started and how I start making reissue records.

The life of a musician

What lies behind your desire to reissue music?

IN: I got really concerned about death and the meaning of the life of a musician. What is it you leave behind? What is it you’re actually doing while you’re alive? Having a kid, for one thing, puts you immediately in the middle of a life-death continuum. One of the first things that happened to me emotionally was thinking “I’m going to die; this person will outlive me; I’m a certain generation and she’s a certain generation.” And then people do start dying in my life who are artists and musicians. I got thinking about that a lot. I remember sounds coming out of me (I was singing at the time). I remember being alone and just suffering, suffering vocally. I began thinking about what kind of sounds people make out of their emotions, reading about that, thinking about lamentation. So the idea of those couple of records was to lament through listening, rather than through playing. And the fact that all of the people on the records were dead was immediately interesting as well. What is the value of their life, who are they, how can I contribute to their memory because their memory now matters because my friends’ memories matter.

This is something your work is rightfully associated with - reviving and doing justice to forgotten histories.

IN: That’s how that happens, by thinking about the value of people’s lives. I don’t really accept that people who do something beautiful - particularly in a powerfully beautiful way - would have to wait around for them to be remembered. Bach was totally obscure for 80 years after he died; he was forgotten. The Mendelssohn Family were close to the Bach family and bought a number of his scores directly. Felix Mendelssohn went about this project of reintroducing Bach’s music to the culture. A handful of ‘record nerds’ (they were organ-fiends) had remembered Bach, but it was a specialist world. So the culture, for 80 years, about as long as it’s been since Marika Papagika died, just forgot. Hadn’t it have been for those organ-nerds, specialists, and Mendelssohn with his personal connection and motivation to reintroduce this music in present-day society culture, there would not be Bach now. He wasn’t thinking about 200, 300 years later, he was thinking about now.

It was an odd thing to do then, listening to the past. It was a rather slippery new idea. Music from the past was obsolete; it wasn’t ‘good’ anymore, because we’ve done better things since then. That’s the thinking in Western culture. Dealing with those questions - of time and memory and the value of human life became visceral and motivating for me.

Speaking of Marika and doing justice to the artist and his/her history…

IN: I’m told that although she was known and enjoyed and appreciated by appreciators of that Greek music (most of whom were Greek as opposed to American among whom she lived half of her life) nobody tried to see her individually as a complete artist and human being. That was a new thing for her.

What was first contact with her music?

IN: That happened as an accident. My first exposure to Marika was working at the record store. Two guys who cleaned out houses for a living would bring me records periodically - stuff they found: soul and disco records. On one particular occasion they brought two boxes of 78s: one box was all-Greek, and I knew nothing about it. I paid $0.10 a piece for the records; 50 records, $5. Most of the box was regular Greek pop music, but there were a number of very good things in there, including a recording of Yiorgos Tsanakas, who recorded in Smyrna in 1908, and 3 records of Marika Papagika.

To What Strange Place was the by-product of a frustrating, incomplete research project on Marika. In order to understand Marika I felt I had to hear everything that surrounded her, so then I had this knowledge and understanding of this context in which she lived, and that became To What Strange Place.

A Story to Tell

There’s a particularity to the packaging of reissue records, in that they really try to open up the music for the listener and provide an immersive context for it.

IN: A lot of people do that; it’s a very normal thing to do in reissuing 78s. The Bear Family reissues, this label out of Germany that’s been going for decades, does the most exquisite packages; unbelievable work and tons of context. It’s not terribly accessible, and rather expensive to buy the packages. The difference with the Mississippi stuff is their stuff is rather cheap, and it tends to sell to younger people, not to the older, nostalgic 78 collectors but to younger folks who are just exploring the world.

I think all the great 60s-70s 78 reissue LPs were attempts to do something similar. So I felt that I was going to be one of the many good people who picked a thing and brought it back to the world a little bit. I liked those records and there’re many of them where somebody took a scholarly approach to a particular artist or scene and tried to present it to a public that was not waiting and did not care out of their own need and desire for music. That’s a tradition I fall into.

With reissue albums accessibility is very important, something you’ve approached through your beautifully woven narratives.

IN: That’s a function in a sense of me being a dropout, of having left high school and college young, of not having any credentials or authority in the culture and having to be a small humble person and just communicate my own sensibility directly. I have no soapbox to stand on, other than my own feelings and experience. One tries to fill in one’s feelings and experience as fully as possible in order to be authentic and believable as you tell your story. I don’t take a very academic tone, and I sometimes get shit wrong. I don’t have a lot of access to aspects of the stories that I want to tell so I just accept the limitations as best as I can and try to correct mistakes as I find them. You do the best with what you got.

There’s something inspirational about curators of reissues – it sets an example for the rest of the newer ‘archeologists’.

IN: All I’m saying is that if you follow the rabbit down the hole and go to Wonderland, you’ll come back with a really good story. That’s something that I learned from a tradition, the whole Bruce Chatwin-Errol Morris-Werner Herzog-Ryszard Kapuscinski school of documentary-journalistic-reflection on subjective wonder in the world. I’m just an extension of that tradition and not the best one.

Your work stands on its own because of the personal focus and attention it brings to a specific subject, rather than weigh it down and dilute it within a larger narrative.

IN: Yeah, all the old, serious, ethno musicological reissue records would include discussions of social context that are very dry. They would include little chart-bar of what scales are being used, which nobody gives a fuck about and was never really accurate. Not that that’s not good work, important to publish, to be put in the libraries, that people can refer to theoretically for some other purpose later on. But if you’re looking for life… I like jokes and the normal speaking tone of people who are enjoying one another’s company and talking about their real, actual lives and experiences.

Reclaim the Past

There’s been an outpouring of reissue labels and niche, curated records in the last decades…

IN: I do see some influence of Dust-to-Digital. The fact that they’ve recruited particular individuals - I’m one, probably the least important - Jon Ward, David Murray. And gathering those up and putting out very good projects which are then influential on other people. Like Honest Jon’s, who I think started doing 78s reissues rather in the wake of Dust-to-Digital and under some influence. The Sprigs of Time compilation was rather influenced by the Victrola Favourites collection that Rob Millis and Jeffrey Taylor did. Rob Millis and Jeffrey Taylor were putting out cassettes through Anomalous records made from their 78 collection.

What do you read into this visible tendency to reclaim or revive the past?

IN: It’s not that these compilations are about the past, as much as they are about a larger world than just blues, country jazz, etc. That I think is a direct result of the wars and 9/11 and Iraq.

I don’t know how it went for other people, but I can say for sure that’s how it went for me. Realizing in the early 2000s, mid-2000s that I really didn’t know much about the world, that I was given a very bad, incomplete education, and the media surrounding me was lacking in good information on how the world operates and the variety of pleasures, musically, that go on in the lives of the musicians that create those… For me it was very much about exploring the world and understanding my place in it.

That’s the reason for To What Strange Place as I originally proposed it to Dust-to-Digital. Storyville is the neighborhood in New Orleans from where jazz came up - it was the red light district. Anybody who is down the rabbit hole of Americana sees that as source, the beginnings of what we created as Americana, that led up to Charlie Parker and John Coltrane. It’s a very well documented scene. There’s sex, there’s drugs, there’s confluence of cultures. And I thought, “There’s another Storyville in New York City except that it’s all people from the Middle East! How about that? Don’t you think America should know that we had a scene of Middle-Eastern musicians almost parallel, almost contemporary, to the development of jazz and country music and blues?” It was an exciting idea, and I thought that America needed to hear that and that people would really care. I thought it would change America.

You make a reference in the To What Strange Place mini-doc to that reality and try to peel the layers of history for people to see. You point out to the audience that 15 blocks away, 99 years ago, there was Turkish Brooklyn folk music.

IN: New York is really crazy like that. It’s just so full of layers of immigrant history. That’s a rabbit-hole I could go down forever. And would love to if I had the time, the resources and access to really good archives of materials about that stuff - which I - unfortunately - barely do. But New York still is to this day like that.

People from different places and different backgrounds talked to each other, played each other’s songs and something came out of that. It didn’t come out of nowhere, it came out of dialogue, and that dialogue I’ve always felt, is sorely lacking. Which has to do with isolationism, fear, xenophobia, all these things I feel strongly against, of course.

Is there a bigger picture to these records exploring different facets of non-Western cultures? Perhaps one symptomatic of the political tensions of the last decades?

IN: Part of my interest in demonstrating a Middle-Eastern culture inside the United States very much had to do with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and I would say that has had some influence on some of these people. Clearly Mark Gergis reissuing material from Iraq & Syria [on Sublime Frequencies], clearly Honest Jon’s dealing with Iraq, these are expressions of and an interest and attempt to humanize what has been depicted as an enemy in our media.

The tendency to revisit, renegotiate the past is taking shape in Romania as well...

IN: You’re coming, in a way, from this business of the recycling of aesthetic material that has a break in tradition and then is kind-of reintroduced. Those breaks in tradition are interesting and problematic. As Americans, we don’t have these breaks in our history, these periods of silence. We’ve never had a domestic war in the last 150 years, so there’s not that same need to reclaim something that was silenced.


This leads to the inevitable question about royalties, the role that rights-holders play and whether the labels become an altruistic vehicle for posterity.

IN: The whole business of rights is different in the United States than anywhere else on earth. In the US nothing in the history of sound recording has ever gone out of copyright. Somebody owns it. All of it. From the early Edison stuff, somebody owns it. In the beginning of the 20th century in the US there were two major record companies, which were Victor and Columbia. Both of those are now Sony. So Sony owns all but 12 performances of Marika Papagika, out of 250. Yet they’ve never done anything with that, which is not to say that they should.

The nature of the business is to keep feeding the people what they want, which is more reissue packages of Bob Dylan and Miles Davis and the Columbia catalogue and these same things over and over again. The whole history of 78rpm reissues has been individuals deciding that they’re just going to go ahead and do it. Hadn’t it have been for those records, well, rock’n’roll would be a very different thing in that period that we appreciate now as having been good. Without the squirrely, nerdy guy showing off his record collection, we don’t have da-da-da-da-da.

Now if you work for a government institution like the Library of Congress or the Smithsonian, you have to pay the royalties to Sony. But everybody else who’s doing 78 reissues, they’re all bootleg labels. They’re also doing Research and Development for the major record companies, should the majors decide they want to pick up on this thread. Yet the fact of the matter is they have not done a series of 78 reissues in almost 20 years of anything, in any language. Including English. In Europe it is a completely different situation. Things go out of copyright after 40, 50, 60 years, depending.

It’s different all over the world but the US has these incredibly draconian copyright laws that were built by the major entertainment industries (Disney in particular), and that’s the situation we all contend with. We’re all aware that at some point if somebody decides to get blood from the stone, they could make life very problematic for us. In Germany, the Bear Family, who do these spectacular packages, work very closely and have a relationship with BMG, with the major companies, and they have great access to stuff. Honest Jon’s has a particular relationship with their sources, which is one of the reasons their records sound so incredibly good. But private collectors in the US at least have a particular tradition of reissuing, and it’s been important to the definition of America in particular, so I feel that that work is decent and good and pure. I have no moral quandaries about that. There have been instances where I have noticed that an independent record company still exists that put out something in 1952 that I want to reissue and I’ve sent them a check.

Everybody is fascinating

How big is your collection of 78s? What’s your most ‘prized’ record? Or the most valuable?

IN: I’m not a fetishist in the sense that I need to own things. I hardly keep anything. I’ve started selling off collections as soon as I started building them basically. During my first record store job, at 16 years old, I built a huge collection in a very short time. I had spent all the money I earned in order to buy records and then had to sell the entire collection in order to keep going to school. I don’t own the Marika record anymore. I can’t afford to keep stuff.

The process is important, but the actual objects, whatever you pay for them, is just rent. 78s are made of stone, and they will last hundreds of years longer than you will.

You don’t own the records. If you’re lucky, the records own you.

When I was young and making electronic music my purpose was to infect other people with my disease, to take them into my tumultuous internal world and be appreciated for that, I guess. My contribution, I thought, was my ability to not only feel so deeply but also to express articulately, and I was very forceful in that. Since taking on the 78 reissue project and the birth of my daughter in particular, my attitude has adjusted so that now I’m really only interested in sharing. If there is a thing I like and there is an opportunity to share it with somebody, I do that, and the answer is “yes.” And you just say yes all the time - to life. Because you only have this very short window so you have to do everything that you can.

That’s a key element you walk away with from your talks. Every life is important, everybody has a story and it is guaranteed to fascinate through the prism through which you view it.

IN: Everybody’s fascinating. Right. Anybody who is dedicated to expression is making choices in their life that are difficult and interesting to everybody who hasn’t given up on life; because within all of your relationships, you have to dedicate a certain amount to expression. Artists and people who write and think about stories, these are people who, in order to do that as a way of life, sacrifice other things.

What’s next for Canary Records?

IN: I continue to try to sell downloads of both my “finished” LPs and their notes as well as minor releases of mixtapes through my bandcamp site in order to supplement the meager living that I earn. I have three LPs on the subject of a group of interrelated 78 labels in New York in the 1940s-50s that catered to immigrants from the Near East - speakers of Albanian, Armenian, Greek, Latino, and Turkish - coming out as LP in the Fall of 2015. And a project on Laughing Records, a popular genre of the early 20th century, is being released. Meanwhile, I continue my work on the early recording on cage-birds and bird-imitators. This has been some respite from the onslaught of stories of oppression, exploitation, suffering, and murder that have been part and parcel of the work I’ve done on early 20th century music so far. I’m doing a series of podcasts for Die Mundt/ La Monee (the state opera house of Belgium). And generally just figuring out a way to earn enough money to get out of being a retail clerk in Baltimore who can never pay his rent on time. I’m 40 years old now. Things have got to change.
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