Music is a large part of my life. I fill my time, and ears, with it on a daily basis and have a bit of an obsession when it comes to collecting records. My wife maintains an unwavering tolerance for me coming home with a handful of vinyl that I procured while on route to the grocery store or picking up a few items for the house. I take great joy in discovering an artist or record label I’ve never heard of before, and learning about the people, historical setting, and hard work that made the production of that record possible. Part of the allure in amassing a collection of records is the music itself, but the stories that surround the music are equally as intriguing and I yearn to gain more knowledge on the history of recorded music.
For example, during the Great Depression, a new cost effective material developed by a Columbia University professor named Durium was used to create cheap music for consumers. Before the use of Durium, record companies had used shellac combined with any number of different materials to create records that were inflexible and similar in consistency to a plate. The company that created Durium records, which were brown in color, quite flexible, and capable of withstanding a drop to the floor, was called Hit of the Week. These one sided records were printed on a weekly basis, and buying one of these recordings was the 1930’s equivalent of going onto iTunes and buying a new popular song that every radio station is playing. Many dance bands recorded for Hit of the Week, including Duke Ellington under the name “Harlem Hot Chocolates”. While Hit of the Week only survived for a few years, its creation was an ingenious way to sustain the music industry at a time in America’s history when most people were financially struggling and many industries were having trouble staying afloat.
Through my passion in one area, I have learned lessons about topics that I would otherwise avoid. Chemistry, business, and economics are not exciting material for me; I probably wouldn’t opt to read an article on any of those subjects. Yet when attached to an issue or concept I can relate to, I suddenly lose myself in disciplines I had previously labeled off-putting. Finding a provocative entry point to a subject can be a source of motivation when learning. Once an individual finds a way to add value to an otherwise alien subject area, an opportunity opens up for that person to learn and enjoy virtually any topic. In my case, it is the perfect justification for the continued expansion of my music library.
Submitted by Morgan Talbot, Landmark School Faculty Member, record collector, and music enthusiast.