Never mind the Grammys, here's the National Recording Registry
The National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress-created by the National Recording Preservation Act of 2000 to preserve sound recordings of particular significance-yesterday announced its 2010 additions. Each year, the National Recording Preservation Board, working with the Librarian of Congress, adds 25 recordings to the Registry, which must be at least 10 years old in the year of their nomination-and they've been sticking to their mission, picking out truly significant moments of the recorded past.
It's an amazing list-though sadly the Registry as it stands is simply a list-there's no archive of audio recordings on the Board's clunky Web site. Still, all of the 325 selections currently on the list are worth tracking down (if you're reading this, I'm willing to bet you're not put off by that prospect) and spending some time with. Look at it as a serious, thoughtful, and astoundingly wide-ranging guide to the country's recorded culture, ranging from the Edison cylinders and Jesse Walter Fewkes' 1890 recordings of the Passamaquoddy people of Maine (possibly the earliest ethnographic recordings) through Tupac Shakur's Dear Mama and Nirvana's Nevermind.
This year's predictably impressive list includes Alfred Kroeber and T.T. Waterman's 1911-14 recordings of Ishi, the last speaker of the Yahi language; the late Captain Beefheart's Trout Mask Replica, Steely Dan's Aja, Willis Conover's Voice of America series of interviews with American jazz greats-not a clunker in the bunch, though you may not actually want to listen to Newt Gingrich's admittedly significant "GOPAC Audio Instruction Series."
The Board also maintains a great bibliography if you're interested in audio preservation, engineering, or pretty much anything else having to do with sound. Or you can listen to selections from the catalog on NPR's Sounds of American Culture series.
- Michael Berk