Saturday, July 5, 2008

"For Posterity": The Personal Audio Recordings of Louis Armstrong

Louis Armstrong Collage

The Spring/Summer issue of The American Archivist has a fascinating article about Louis Armstrong's personal audio recordings and collages. The collages intrigue me because they are "visual jazz" and use enormous amounts of scotch tape, the bane of archivists! How are they being preserved?

From the abstract:

"Louis Armstrong exerted a defining influence on one of the most influential products of the American imagination: jazz. As noted by one of Armstrong's biographers, however, Armstrong's character was 'buffeted by the forces of racism and commercialism.' From the perspective of the archives, Armstrong's reaction to these influences was a form of psychological withdrawal that often coalesced around this interaction with recording technologies. Armstrong developed an intimate relationship with audio recording and relied upon its particular form of capture to shape a posthumous identity that was beyond the distortive influences that shaped his public and commodified image, and that was appreciably honest in its relationship with, to use Armstrong's word, 'posterity.'"

The PDF of "For Posterity": The Personal Audio Recordings of Louis Armstrong is available from The American Archivist online.

Visit, the official site of the Louis Armstrong House and Archives.

The Paris Review offers some pictures of the collages.

1 comment:

The Musician Archivist said...

Only a few of the tape boxes have undergone conservation treatment because it's enormously expensive. The rest of the boxes are sitting in a climate-controlled room. Given that they consist of at least 50% scotch tape and range in age from 37 to over 65 years, they're in fairly good shape. There is a very messy box there containing Louis's raw materials for his collages, full of magazine and newspaper cutouts and gummed together by massive amounts of tape. It's ridiculous.