A Language of Song: Samuel Charters Remembers John Fahey and the Fahey Style

countrybluescover01Within the archive of books, recordings, sheet music, letters, audiovisual materials, and advertising materials assembled by Samuel Charters are the compositions and recordings produced by contemporary blues-based musicians including John Fahey.  Rare recordings released on Fahey and Ed Denson’s independent record label Takoma Records, dating from the founding of the record label in 1959, together with Fahey’s later releases, reside in Series IIB of the Samuel and Ann Charters Archives of Blues and Vernacular African American Musical Culture.  Here, Samuel Charters remembers his first encounter with John Fahey and later, with his instrumental and compositional style:

In the summer of 1959 an LP came in the mail to the basement apartment in Brooklyn where I had just finished writing The Country Blues. The record was in a white cover, with only the words “Blind Joe Death” in large letters on both sides. With it there was a letter to me from someone named John Fahey, telling me that this was a record he had made of his own music, and asking me for an opinion. The letter was as guarded as the LP jacket. The music was a series of guitar instrumentals based on the finger picking style of the Mississippi bluesmen. I kept waiting for someone to sing, and when I didn’t hear any singing I wrote John a short note saying that other people in New York were doing countryblues02b1the same kind of thing but the record was interesting. John has never forgiven me for my note, and even if I’m not sure if we ever would really have become friends I have always been angry at myself for my insensitivity. John sent out a few copies of the record, which he had pressed for himself on his own Takoma label, and sold more through mail orders.

When the copies were gone he recorded a new record and sold the copies the same way. This time the copies went more quickly, and he recorded a third album. Within a few years Fahey and his music had become one of the growing influences of the 1960s. He was still almost unknown personally, but his music was everywhere in the new underground.

I had difficulty describing the pieces when I first heard the 1959 album, but I soon realized that John had created a new music, based entirely on the materials he had learned from the country blues. He had been one of the people who rediscovered Bukka White, and then Mississippi John Hurt, and from the musicians themselves he had absorbed finger techniques and new concepts of guitar tunings and chordal structures. He has never described himself as a guitarist – his description of his own music is that he is a composer who plays the guitar. What he did was to create a compositional style which synthesized elements from the entire range of rural southern string music, including the Mississippi slide guitar, Virginia string bands, the alternate thumb picking of the Delta, and the finger style of the Carolinas. His compositional technique was to record passages with different guitars which built up segments of his pieces – then he spliced the tape sections together, editing, changing tone, and adding echo effects. His last step was then to learn the piece as it was finally structured so he could perform it.

593196bBy the middle of the ‘60s John was touring regularly, and he had outgrown the small record company he had set up with a partner, ED Denson, the man who had gone to Memphis with him to find Bukka White. I had known ED for several years and we worked together to sign John to a contract with Vanguard. There were two albums – the first an album that included three long requia, and an extended three part piece that utilized a complicated sound montage over John’s guitar. We recorded many of the sound effects for the montage at Knott’s Berry Farm outside of Los Angeles, where the events John was depicting in the composition had taken place. Because of time problems and delays from John’s side I finally went ahead and mixed the sound piece without him, and our edgy relationship became even more difficult.

For the second album on the Vanguard contract he worked with a friend, Barry Hansen, in Los Angeles, while I acted as executive producer in New York. The album, The Yellow Princess, was one of John’s finest achievments, with a music concrete piece built on montage, a successful fusion of his guitar with small instrumental groups, and a rich collection of new compositions.

By this time Fahey had a series of disciples, among them Leo Kottke, who developed the idiom John had created into a more flamboyant and emotionally open statement. John was not upset. He recorded Kottke for his own record company, and they continued to be close friends. He was also having emotional problems, and his life often veered into difficulties, despite the growing creativity of his music. By the 1970s an entire school of guitar composition had grown from his work, and a new record company, Windham Hill, was established by a guitarist named Will Ackerman to present young guitarists playing in the Fahey style. It isn’t an exaggeration to say that John’s guitar compositions were the basis for the New Age movement that swept the guitar world, and that the basic foundation for all of it was southern blues guitar.

 

The series A Language of Song features the words of Samuel Charters and the recordings he produced as preserved in The Samuel and Ann Charters Archives of Blues and Vernacular African American Musical Culture at the University of Connecticut. The series is a tribute to the great Samuel Charters – poet, novelist, translator of Swedish poets, and renowned scholar of the blues, jazz, and musical culture of the African diaspora.  Samuel Charters died on March 18 at the age of 85.

 

Tomorrow: Fred Ho Fellow Marie Incontrera Performs with the Eco-Music Big Band

Marie IncontreraUConn welcomes Marie Incontrera – conductor and band-leader of the Green Monster Big Band (Fred Ho’s premiere big band) and the Eco-Music Band – to campus tomorrow April 14 at 12:45pm for a public performance.  The Eco-Music Big Band is a 15-piece, multi-generational big band that is committed to continuing the prodigious compositional and creative legacy of Fred Ho. The ensemble also performs the works of the overlooked composers of 20th century (such as Cal Massey), and provides a platform for the next generation of big band composers.

Ms. Incontrera has been awarded the 2015 Fred Ho Fellowship, named for Asian American Musician, composer, writer and activist Fred Ho. Established by the Asian and Asian American Studies Institute, the Fred Ho Fellowship supports research in the Fred Ho Papers, which are held in Archives and Special Collections at UConn.

Fred Ho’s conducting protégé before his death in April of 2014, Marie Incontrera conducted the Green Monster Big Band for Fred Ho’s final album.

Ms. Incontrera’s work spans queer opera, political big band, and music-for-the-oppressed. As a composer, Marie has been a recipient of the Miriam Gideon Composition Award, a winner of HoMarie2the Remarkable Theater Brigade Art Song Competition, the 2011 Vocalessence / American Composers Forum “Essentially Choral” readings, and a finalist in the Iron Composer 2010 competition. She has been awarded grants from Meet the Composer Metlife Creative Connections, Foundation for the Contemporary Arts, Puffin, and New York Women Composers Seed Money Grant. Commissions have come from the Young New Yorkers Chorus, Remarkable Theater Brigade, ANALOGarts, Brooklyn Art Song Society, ANIKAI Dance Theater, MOIRAE Ensemble, Beth Morrison Productions, and Atlanta Opera. Her work has been performed in Carnegie Hall, Symphony Space, Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Meridian Arts Festival in Bucharest, Roulette, Galapagos Art Space, WOW Cafe Theatre, highSCORE Festival, and other respected venues across the United States and internationally.

The Fred Ho Fellowship provides support to a faculty member, doctoral candidate or independent scholar who has a demonstrated research interest in the Fred Ho Collection. The Fred Ho Fellow is required to give a public lecture at the University of Connecticut and to reference the collection in his or her published works.

@ NYC: Alice Notley Reading / Ed Sanders Drawings and Daybooks / Sharon Olds Pens Poems for You

Nov09Glyph5Long a hub for hearing the poetry and poetic voices of the now, New York City next week and the week after hosts some of the best poetry events and exhibitions happening during this National Poetry Month.

On Tuesday, April 14, the prolific and prize-winning poet Alice Notley will read her work at the City University of New York Center for the Humanities.  Erica Kaufman, editor of the ever-fresh and propitious Lost & Found publication series, an initiative of the CUNY Center for the Humanities, will lead a conversation with Notley during the program.

While you are in the City, see the rarely exhibited notebooks and drawings of the poet, musician, activist Ed Sanders on display at the Poet’s House, located on its serene perch at 10 River Terrace.  During the course of a long and diverse career Sanders used a glyphic alphabet, a script of hand-drawn characters, symbols, and graphemes.  In his words, “a Glyph is a drawing that is charged with literary, emotional, historical or mythic, and poetic intensity.” Curated by Ammiel Alcalay and Kendra Sullivan, the show displays pictures and manuscripts by Sanders from 1962 to the present. 

On Thursday, April 23, Pulitzer Prize-winner Sharon Olds, and Bob Holman, founder of the Bowery Poetry Café, will sit in a booth (inspired by Lucy’s booth from the Peanuts comic strip) and write poems for those who request one.  The Poet is In: takes place in the new Fulton Street Station and features an array of award-winning poets, including NY State Poet Laureate Marie Howe.  Free and open to the public, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Replicating the Human Voice: Gender, Automation and Created Beings

“Hello, I’m here.” Throaty, warm, and incredibly human, the first lines spoken by Samantha, the incorporeal female operating system in Spike Jonze’s 2013 film Her, are a far cry from the mechanical voice recognition technologies that we are used to. In addition to its thought provoking philosophical predictions about the near-future, Jonze’s film also hones in on the ideal of voice-replication technology: an artificially intelligent system so natural and intuitive that we can fall in love with it.

Replicating the intricacies of human characteristics and behaviors in non-sentient technologies is far from a new curiosity. Throughout history, automata creators worked to imbue automata with the ability to pen poems, perform acrobatics, play musical instruments, and bat their eyelashes, and these self-operating HumanVocalTractmachines were often admired and judged for their ability to replicate human behaviors. In perhaps the most dramatic fictional interaction with an automaton that blurs the lines separating human from machine, protagonist Nathaniel in E.T.A. Hoffmann’s short story “The Sandman” falls in love with automaton Olympia, whom he mistakes for a human female.

If imitation and replication of human characteristics is one of the driving forces in the creation of artificial beings, it is also one of the greatest challenges. Moving away from automata and toward operating systems and other examples of artificial intelligence, reproduction of human speech is one of the greatest hurdles to clear if we are to produce operating systems like Jonze’s fictional Samantha. The 1981 premiere issue of High Technology affirms that the simulation of human speech has historically been one of the most elusive replication technologies. One article, “Talking Machines Aim For Versatility,”discusses various methods used to replicate speech and reflects upon the value of machines that are capable of producing and understanding human speech.

At the time, most recordings (like the voice on the operator line) consisted of actual recordings of human speech or utilized early word synthesis technologies that tended to sound flat and robotic. Higher-end technologies were very expensive; the Master Specialties HighTechnologymodel 1650 synthesizer, for example, was $550 for only a one-word vocabulary, and each additional word cost $50, so the technology was very cost restrictive. Technologies have vastly evolved since the time of rudimentary “talking machines,” but the article discusses the potential of speech synthesis and compression technologies that would streamline the process of stringing phonemes (the smallest speech units) into complete sentences, therefore maximizing speech output, concepts which have influenced current speech synthesis techniques. While there are various approaches to “building” voices, the most common technique in the modern day is concatenative synthesis. A voice actor is recorded reading passages of text, random sentences, and words in a variety of cadences, which are then combined with other recording sequences by a text-to-speech engine to form new words and sentences. The technique vastly expands upon the range and comprehensiveness of operating systems like Apple’s Siri.

The High Technology article reflects that because machines would be able to communicate in a form that is natural to humans, they are more equipped to fulfill “the role of mankind’s servants, advisors, and playthings.” Over thirty years later, this goal is still extraordinarily relevant, especially as artificially intelligent systems become more integrated into consumer products like phones, tablets, cars, and security systems. Furthermore, advancements in voice recognition and synthesis technologies have benefitted individuals with impairments who require speech-generating devices to communicate verbally. There are, of course, many challenges that still remain, including the ability of these systems to understand different human accents and dialects. Creating believable artificial speech, however, still harkens back to the greatest challenge in the evolution of these technologies: authenticity. Humans are able to register subtle changes in tone and inflection when we communicate with each other, and these subtleties are currently difficult to replicate in artificially intelligent systems, which explains why we can easily discern a human voice from that of a machine. Jonze’s film suggests that clearing this authenticity hurdle is essential to our ability to truly connect with our technology. Far from the utilitarian “servants, advisors, and playthings” suggested in the High Technology article, intuitive and human-like operating systems could alter our emotional relationship with machines to the extent that they become our confidants and romantic partners.

Intern Giorgina Paiella is an undergraduate student majoring in English and minoring in philosophy and women’s, gender, and sexuality studies. In her new blog series, “Man, Woman, Machine: Gender, Automation, and Created Beings,” she explores treatments of created and automated beings in historical texts and archival materials from Archives and Special Collections.

Archives in Action: Reading Shakespeare Today – on Display at the Homer Babbidge Library

shakespeare01In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, a flower struck by Cupid’s bow is instantly imbued with magical powers.  A touch of the nectar from the flower, a wild pansy, to the eye of the sleeping fairy queen Titania causes her infatuation with Bottom and the ensuing chaos that follows in the play.  Plants, flowers and herbs figure prominently in several of Shakespeare’s plays, most notably A Midsummer Night’s Dream and A Winter’s Tale.   During Shakespeare’s time, the wild pansy was known by many names including “Heartsease,” “Love-lies-bleeding,” and “Jack-jump-up-and-kiss-me”.  Botanicals in medieval Europe have long cultural histories and symbolic meanings derived from their use as curatives and medicine through time.  When characters such as Oberon and Puck from A Midsummer Night’s Dream mention flowers and herbs, it can be assumed that Shakespeare drew from these deep histories and intended for the audience to understand the associations that each flower represented.

A rare text on the medicinal properties of plants and other botanicals from the collections of Archives and Special Collections is currently on display in the exhibition The Plays the Thing: Shakespeare at UConn in the Homer Babbidge Library plaza level gallery.  Flore Medicale [Medicinal Plants] is a catalog of plants and hand painted illustrations produced by Francois-Pierre Chaumeton, a French botanist, physician, surgeon, and eventual shakespeare02pharmacist.  He lived from 1775 to 1819 and practiced for most of his professional life at the Val-de-Grace military hospital in Paris. Chaumeton translated medicinal texts from Latin, Italian, French and other languages and compiled the 8 volume Flore Medicale. The set was first published in 1814 and contains over 360 hand-painted illustrations of plants in total.

The exhibition features commentary from several UConn faculty members on different facets of Shakespearean scholarship.  Associate Professor F. Elizabeth Hart discussed Shakespeare’s allusions to Queen Elizabeth I in plays such as Comedy of Errors, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and The Winter’s Tale; Professor Pamela Allen Brown provides examples of “The Advent of the Actress and Shakespeare’s All-Male Stage”; and Professor Gregory Semenza provided samples of Shakespearean influence in modern culture in the form of comic strips, graphic novels, and video games.

shakespeare03Though the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death will be recognized in 2016, it is unlikely that students and scholars will ever come to a complete understanding of William Shakespeare and the influence that his work has had on the English language.  In The Play’s the Thing: Shakespeare at UConn, Connecticut Repertory Theatre’s (CRT) Managing Director Matthew Pugliese and Assistant Professor in the Department of Dramatic Arts Lindsay Cummings show the creative work of the students and artists of the Department of Dramatic Arts and Connecticut Repertory Theatre.  The exhibition is on display until June 15, 2015.

- Lauren Silverio

Lauren Silverio is an English and Psychology major and student employee in Archives and Special Collections.

Remember when?

Media guide, 1994-1995 Women's Basketball

Media guide, 1994-1995 Women’s Basketball

April 2, 1995–a significant event in UConn history. Twenty years ago today, the UConn Women’s Basketball won the first NCAA Division I Basketball Championship by defeating the Lady Vols 70-64 at the Target Center in Minneapolis.  Women’s basketball has never been the same–especially in Connecticut.  Best wishes to the 1994-1995 as the 2014-2015 team strives to follow in your footsteps to make it a record-breaking 10!

Media guide, 1994-1995 Women's Basketball

Media guide, 1994-1995 Women’s Basketball

 

UConn’s mascot — a ram?

UConn mascot

It’s a little known historical fact that in the mid-1930s, when the Connecticut State College (an earlier name for what became the University of Connecticut) was pondering what would be its mascot, the ram shown above, named Sir Ram-a-lot, was seriously considered, edging out in student polling over the next most likely mascot, the Eskimo husky dog known as Jonathan.  The student newspaper quoted freshman Francis Pickering as saying “What kind of stupid name is Jonathan for a dog?  I think Sir Ram-a-lot would invoke the kind of fear and respect we need on the football field against opposing teams.”  Fortunately the students’s preference for the ram was contested by the new college president, Albert N. Jorgensen, who made the decision to allow the animals to decide between themselves with a vigorous game of rock/paper/scissors.  Jonathan was victorious, thus beginning his eighty year reign as UConn’s beloved mascot.

[We hope you enjoyed this April Fool’s Day post.  For the real story of what’s going on in this photo, visit our digital repository and see the photo at http://archives.lib.uconn.edu/islandora/object/20002%3A199722613]

Man, Woman, Machine: Gender, Automation, and Created Beings – An Examination of Early X-Rated Video Games

The issue of sexism in video games may seem like a modern one, especially in light of events like the recent GamerGate controversy. Although discussions about violence and sexism in video games are still extraordinarily relevant in the present day, they actually have a history dating back to 1980s digital culture.  In the early 1980s, when video game production was on the rise, these discussions introduced new ethical questions about technological representations.

CustersRevengeProtestI recently looked through feminist alternative press publications like Off Our Backs and New Women’s Times. These periodicals discuss the 1982 release of a video game called Custer’s Revenge, designed for the Atari 2600 video game console by American Multiple Industries (AMI). The goal of the game is to maneuver a naked and erect General Custer across the desert, arrows flying, toward a red-skinned, dark-haired Native American woman tied to a cactus. After he reaches the woman, he rapes her as his revenge and reward—as the tagline of the game notes, “you score, when you score.” In the 1980s, video game producers like Playaround and AMI started to churn out many x-rated video games, including “Beat ‘em and Eat ‘em,” “Harem,” and “Bachelor Party.” The latter game features eight naked women and one man, where the object of the game is to maneuver the man to each of the eight women, scoring a point after each “victory” and causing the female figure to physically disappear from the screen after the conquest. These games were produced in response to a growing demand for pornographic games, which were expected to gross more than $1 billion annually on the adult market. Although sale of the game was restricted to minors, this did not preclude younger gamers from being exposed to it. Atari even filed a lawsuit against AMI because of the negative attention and association drawn between the system and Custer’s Revenge.CustersRevengeCoverCustersRevengeCover2

The first game of its kind to be released, Custer’s Revenge received significant attention in the press. Moreover, the game’s fusion of sexist and racist content created uproar in the activist community. Members of organizations like the New York Chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW), Women Against Pornography (WAP), and the American Indian Community House (AICH) organized an October 1983 protest against the inclusion of racism, sexual exploitation, pornography, and profiteering in video games with the hope of pulling pornographic games from store shelves. Denise Fuge, then-president of NY NOW, reflected upon how sexist video games push teenage boys closer to our culture’s acceptance of recreational violence against women. In response, representatives from AMI stated that the game is simply harmless fun depicting “an act of two consenting adults” and therefore could not be construed as enacting violence on women.

CusterPicTCuster’s Revenge was ultimately pulled from the market. The release of inappropriate video games presented new ethical questions about technological representations, the most important of which I will refer to as “moral slippage.” Both in the era of these early pornographic games and in the current day, many debates focus on the extent to which fictional representations like video games can influence real-life behavior. Copycat behavior and replication of violent acts that are depicted in films, music, and games are not uncommon in violent crimes—after all, there is no value-free pop culture. This is not to say that all individuals who play violent games are themselves violent or sexist, but young populations in particular are vulnerable to accepting and adopting problematic views. Custer’s Revenge, for example, was not simply a game or harmless fun, but rather promoted rape culture and racism.

Although modern games are not as overt as Custer’s Revenge, they still incorporate troubling sexual content and depictions of violence. Despite its incredibly loaded content, the pixelated simplicity of Custer’s Revenge allowed many to brush it off as harmless in its time. Simulation and interactivity have always been integral aspects of gaming. Technology has greatly advanced since the days of early gaming, however, resulting in modern games that contain more graphic and realistic content. This heightened realism intensifies the debate about sexist and violent video games in the modern day because it further blurs the boundary separating gamer, game interface, and reality.

Intern Giorgina Paiella is an undergraduate student majoring in English and minoring in philosophy and women’s, gender, and sexuality studies. In her new blog series, “Man, Woman, Machine: Gender, Automation, and Created Beings,” she explores treatments of created and automated beings in historical texts and archival materials from Archives and Special Collections.

Civil War diaries in the digital repository

The digital repository is growing at a record pace, with materials from almost every subject area within our collections.  Some of the latest items you will find in the repository are several Civil War diaries, in the Connecticut Soldiers Collection.

Page from the diary of D. Alonzo Smith

Page from the diary of D. Alonzo Smith

The diary of D. Alonzo Smith of Torrington, Connecticut, gives us an inside look at his service with the 19th Connecticut Regiment from 1862 to 1864.  Smith served as a prison guard at Fort Ellsworth, Virginia.  Above is a page from his diary where he writes “Received a letter from my Wife. a sorce of Comfort.”

The diary of Christopher Boon of Westbrook, Connecticut, tells us that he was wounded in May 1863, with details of his convalescence at a VR hospital in New Haven, Connecticut.

John L. Sage from  Cromwell, Connecticut served with Company D, 24th Connecticut Regiment. His diary includes entries from  Louisiana and  Mississippi dating from September 1862 through September 1863.

Gurdon Robins, Jr., of  Hartford, Connecticut, documents battle and camplife in 1863, followed by his experiences as a prisoner of war in Libby Prison. 

A Language of Song: The Cajuns

The series A Language of Song features the words of Samuel Charters and the recordings he produced as preserved in The Samuel and Ann Charters Archives of Blues and Vernacular African American Musical Culture at the University of Connecticut. The series is a tribute to the great Samuel Charters – poet, novelist, translator of Swedish poets, and renowned scholar of the blues, jazz, and musical culture of the African diaspora.  Samuel Charters died on March 18 at the age of 85.

cajunsfiddlepicIn the second post in the series, together with a personal remembrance by friend and UConn Libraries staff member Nicholas Eshelman, Mr. Charters describes his recording sessions in Louisiana with Cajun and Zydeco musicians including the great accordion player Nathan Abshire.

The sessions were released on a series of record albums including The Cajuns – Vol.1: Balfa Brothers Orchestra With Nathan Abshire (SNTF 643 Sonet, 1973).  All of the recordings were done at the La Louisianne Studio, Lafayette, Louisiana.  The Charters Archives holds the recordings and documents relating to the recordings, such as the studio log sheets.

Sonet Grammofon was interested in a wide range of American music, and over a period of several years I recorded a number of Cajun groups. The trips were usually in connection with other recordings that I was doing western Louisiana – often Rocking Dopsie – but also Bill Haley and the Comets, since I traveled to Nashville or Muscle Shoals for his albums. There was an initial double album set titled The Cajuns, and a number of individual Cajun albums, including a documentary of the famed Mamou Cajun Hour radio broadcasts from Fred’s Lounge on the main street of Mamou.Cajunscover

In December, 1972 I finished a session with Haley in Nashville and traveled on to Lafayette, Louisiana to do a broad documentation of the musical scene there. I worked with four groups, and rounded out the sessions with instrumental duets by talented accordion player Bessyl Duhon and a guitarist. The sessions captured exciting music that could not be duplicated, though I was able to record several other excellent groups a few years later. For this album the Balfa Brothers recorded with the great accordion player Nathan Abshire and the superb two violin team of Dewey Balfa and Merlin Fontenot, and on later recordings with the group neither Abshire or Fontenot took part. The Ardoin Brothers recorded with young Gus Ardoin playing the accordion, and he was tragically killed in a road accident only a few months later.

cajunslistI first met Sam Charters in 2001 when my wife, Kristin, took a job at UConn that included curatorship of the Samuel and Ann Charters Archives of Blues and Vernacular African American Musical Culture. Meeting Sam was a big deal for me because my brothers and I had grown up listening to the records he produced, pouring over his liner notes and learning more from his great book, The Country Blues.  This was in the 1970’s when finding the blues, jazz and folk LPs we loved in a small Pennsylvania town was nearly impossible, as was finding any good information on how the music came to be. This made every record we did scrounge up something  precious, to be listened to over and over, so for this I felt I owed him a great debt and was more than a little nervous about meeting him.

Sam and Ann had invited us to their home, and we were privileged for this to happen many more times over the years.  I realized I could spend all evening asking him questions like “Did you know Gary Davis?” “What was Moe Asch / Dewey Balfa / John Fahey like?”  And not just because he always graciously answered but also because there was no end to the list of remarkable people he’d known, produced, helped or counted as friends. But by then he’d given enough interviews in his life  that he’d grown weary of them and I certainly didn’t want to pester him, in his own living room, with questions he’d been asked thousands of times before. Besides, it was just as fun to talk to him and Ann about other things, such the differences between national styles of aquavit (with samples!) or to hear stories about his hunting caribou in Alaska (for subsistence, not sport)  or of the colorful artistic and literary types he and Ann knew in Sweden.

I had only known of Sam as a record producer and  scholar of folk music and jazz. I soon learned that he was also a novelist, poet, translator, excellent classical pianist, jug, cajunsabishirewashboard, banjo and clarinet player, Korean war veteran, art collector,  jazz musician and literary scholar. And I’ve probably left some things out.  He was also tireless.

Into his 70’s and 80’s he traveled extensively and seemed to never stop working or finding new additions to the Charters’ Archive. Crazy things would happen to him in his travels. On a trip to Scotland to visit his ancestral home town, he stopped to admire the sights and was approached by a local who recognized him. She was the co-owner of Document Records, a company that publishes meticulously documented collections of rare American music. She and her husband, the other co-owner, had been inspired by Sam and were great admirers. They invited Sam in to chat and the result was the UConn Archives receiving the huge full catalog of the Document label for inclusion in Sam and Ann’s collection.

It was a tremendous honor to know Sam Charters. I’ve never met anyone else like him and certainly never will again. His contribution to music, especially American music, is enormous and invaluable.  And even though Sam is gone, his work and the music he loved, studied and recorded will be with us forever. One of the last things I wrote to Sam was that the Charters’ archive is in good, loving hands. I know someone who will see to that.

- Nicholas Eshelman