Friday, October 25, 2013

U DIG IT?: Matt Segall digitizes Mtume's 1972 recording Alkebu-Lan

The James R. and Susan Neumann Jazz Collection presents

the neUmann DIGITization project

Beginning in fall 2013, we're giving interested students the chance to choose an LP to digitize from the ca. 50,000 jazz-related recordings currently in the Neumann Jazz Collection and then to answer a few brief questions about their experience.  If you'd like to be a part of the project, you can find out more information here. Today our post is by Matt Segall (OC '15), who chose the 1972 album Alkebulan: Land of the Blacks by Mtume (Strata-East SES-1972-4.]

Why in general did you want to be a part of this project?
I came up with the idea of the U DIG IT? Project, so I wanted to be the first to contribute to it – to give an example for what these blog posts could mean to the participants.  I've worked for Jeremy Smith in the Neumann Collection since fall 2012, and I was eager to tell more students about the collection, and even more so, help get them access to listen to the LPs themselves (which formerly were only listened to for digitization purposes by employees).  So my mission with this project is twofold: first, to increase the accessibility of the thousands of LPs in the Neumann Collection, particularly for students interested in jazz history, recording, and vinyl collecting; and second, to promote and increase awareness of this incredible and underrepresented resource to the greater Oberlin community.

Why did you choose this particular record?
I noticed Alkebu-Lan while I was doing some preservation work on the LPs one day.  I was very intrigued, because the personnel included a handful of artists I knew personally: Gary Bartz, my primary teacher here at Oberlin, and mentor; Billy Hart, drum instructor at Oberlin; and Ndugu, who I have studied with since the age of 13 at the Stanford Jazz Workshop. Beyond this personal aspect, the artists are a remarkable and unlikely cast.

What did you gain from this experience that you otherwise wouldn’t have if you had found an existing digital version on YouTube or Spotify?
The warm quality of vinyl recordings is sorely missed in low-quality digital format recordings found on YouTube, Spotify, and the like.  While there is some fuzz, pops and other noise, the nuanced quality found on vinyl is much truer to the sounds of the instruments, and in this case (because Alkebu-Lan is a live record), the audience as well.  To me, that makes the experience so much realer, actually feeling close to the musicians.  The cover art on a 12” record is so much more a part of the experience, even than that of a CD, and non-existent with a digital recording.  The art (and liner notes), aside from being aesthetically appealing, gives context to the recording, resulting in a deeper and more integrated experience of the music.

What musically stood out to you as you listened to the recording?
As with many other recordings from this era, this record is explicitly “not jazz”.  I would describe it as Afro-centric, spiritually and politically charged.  The music is constructed of loose melodies, reminiscent of early black spirituals, mixed with energetic free sections.

Can other students listen to the LP now that it's been digitized?
Yes, just click here and, when prompted, enter your ObieID and password.