Greek Music in America Archives Project

FILE - A dance group dancing with the live music provided by a Greek orchestra (Photo Metropolis of San Francisco)

A new preservation project is underway that few in Greek America would have dreamed possible. For the first time, a group of professional specialists from around the country have undertaken to identify, collect, contextualize, preserve, and make public an integrated collection of Greek music produced in North America. The Greek Music in America Archives Project (GMAAP), a collaboration between Florida Cultural Resources, Inc. and the Archives of Traditional Music/Indiana University, is now in progress and has shifted into its second phase.

Directed by Tina Bucuvalas for Florida Cultural Resources, the project was awarded a grant by the National Endowment for the Arts/Folk and Traditional Arts Program. I will quote extensively from the grant application so that the nature and complexity of this archival venture is understood:

The Greek diaspora brought with them the many permutations of music in Greece. During the early 20th century, a flood of immigration combined with commercial record production to generate unparalleled documentation of ethnic music. From 1896 to 1942, over 1000 analog discs with Greek recordings appeared in the U.S. on labels large and small – and thousands more have since appeared. Encompassing not only traditional music from all regions, but also emerging urban genres, stylistic changes, new songs of social commentary in traditional music forms, and reflections of the daily lives of Greek immigrants, they are invaluable documents of community practices and preferences. Music was one of the most prized and enduring creations of the diaspora, and an important element for most social occasions. Greek music generated in the U.S. continues to have an enduring influence on the musical culture of Greece and other diaspora communities.

Grant funds will support the creation at the Archives of Traditional Music/Indiana University (ATM) of a comprehensive, contextualized, and publicly accessible collection of commercially released Greek music recorded in America or recorded by American companies in Greece from 1896 to 1985. The collection will encompass multiple formats, including analog discs, audiotapes, piano rolls, cylinders, and associated ephemera such as record catalogs, sheet music, or images. At this time there is no comprehensive collection of Greek recordings – and in recent years several excellent private collections were dispersed upon the collector’s death. We estimate acquisition of ca. 2000 items that fit the project scope.

People of all ages and backgrounds may benefit from the increased knowledge about the history and development of Greek music in America, but for some there will be greater benefits. The intended audiences for project results include Greek Americans and Greeks with an interest in their musical and social history, folklorists, anthropologists, ethnomusicologists, Modern Greek studies scholars, world music enthusiasts, music archivists and historians, and others…Scholars in Greece have already expressed strong interest in the development of this collection, which will provide them with a needed resource to extend their knowledge of the development of Greek music in the diaspora…For them and for other scholars and enthusiasts, the collection could provide the groundwork for many future publications.

Among the potential audiences named above, there are between 1.3 and 3 million Greek Americans in the U.S. They constitute the project’s primary community base, and for them the project will have particular importance because they will be able to more easily access and learn more about their musical history…

This project has three major components:

  1. Survey existing collections: in partnership with ATM staff, GMAAP staff will survey ATM holdings of US-recorded, commercially released Greek music. Efforts will be guided and informed by ATM catalogs, collection descriptions, and staff knowledge as well as through consultation with discographers and project partners Meletios Pouliopoulos, Steve Frangos, Dick Spottswood, Michael Kaloyanides, and Panayotis League and their extensive published or unpublished discographic resources.
  2. Acquisition: GMAAP staff will determine the recordings needed and seek to acquire them for deposit with ATM via donation. In addition, the team will conduct national outreach to Greek American communities, American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (AHEPA) and other nation-wide organizations.
  3. Cataloging: Working in partnership with ATM staff, Pouliopoulos will describe acquired recordings using ATM’s system, as well as the standards-based archival database created by the National Folklore Archive Initiative, Folklore Collections Database (FCD http://www.folklorecollections.org)….Archivist Andy Kolovos will train GMAAP staff in FCD use.

 

The Archives of Traditional Music was chosen as a project partner not simply for its history of preservation and dedication to disseminating the world’s music and oral traditions. Serving scholars, public patrons, and those whose cultural heritage is represented, its holdings cover a wide range of cultural areas through commercial and field recordings of music, folktales, interviews, oral history, as well as videos, images, and manuscripts. It is a leader in preservation and access strategies and a key player in preserving 300,000 recordings at Indiana University.

GMAAP project staff has already acquired about 1,000 items – primarily 78 rpm recordings, but also items in other formats as well as related materials such as sheet music and record catalogs. At this time they are searching for up to 1,000 additional items in order to complete the collection. Particular items of interest include those released on small independent labels.  Among items needed are the following:

Greek Orthodox Church Music from throughout the U.S.

Early recordings of traditional and popular music: Kyria Koula, Sotirios Stassinopoulos,
Marika and Gus Papagikas, John Kiriakatis
Alexis Zoumbas, Kostas Papadakis aka Naftis
Zembillas. and Maillis (early Grecophon 78 rpm recordings).
Early rebetika: Kostas Dousas, Kostas Besos aka A. Kostis, Manolis Karapiperis, Jack Gregory (78 rpm – Athena Recordings, New York, NY).
Early Greek vocalists: George Helmis, Marius Lyberopoulos.
Greek orchestras: Lucianos Cavadias, Diomidous Avlonitis aka Don Avlon.
Record companies: Greek National Opera Company Records, New York, Greek Record Company, Chicago, Okeh 12″ records – 82500 Series, Columbia “E” Series, Arion Records from New York.
Independent Greek labels: A.H. Records (LPs and 45s), Athens Recording Company, Chicago, IL (45s), PAS Records (45s),PSP Record Company, New York, NY (LPs, 45s)

If you are willing to donate and send any of the above items, or if you need more information on particular items needed, please contact Project Music Specialist Meletios Pouliopoulos at Meletios@GreekCulturalResources.org  or (603) 502-9425.

This is your opportunity to contribute to the creation of the only publicly accessible archive of Greek music recorded and listened to in the United States.  Projects like the one outlined above, and this is no exaggeration, may only come once in a lifetime.

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