PennSound is pleased to welcome Chris Mustazza as our new Associate Director. Chris has served as our technical director since the founding of the PennSound project in 2005. He brings to our work extraordinary technical expertise in digital sound analysis and audio preservation. His appointment marks the inauguration of PennSound 2.0. Over the past decade PennSound has worked to digitize and make accessible many thousands of sound files by hundreds of poets. With PennSound 2.0, we are enabling computational analysis of our vast sound archive, allowing for both “distant listening” — the analysis of our aggregated files — as well as “close listening” to individual files, including specific features of the initial recordings conditions. Chris will also ensure that the PennSound keeps up with best archival practices, including upgrades and interfaces.
Mustazza joins co-founders and co-directors Charles Bernstein and Al Filreis, Editor Michael Hennessey, and Technical Director Chris Martin.
Herman Beavers, Salamishah Tillet, and Chris Mustazza joined Al Filreis to discuss James Weldon Johnson’s “O Southland!” Johnson made a recording of this and a few other poems late in his life in December 1935 at Columbia University, as part of a project led by George W. Hibbitt and W. Cabell Greet, lexicologists and scholars of American dialects. The PoemTalk conversation here speaks to the depth of Johnson’s rhetorical, idiomatic, metrical, and strategic influence on civil rights in later decades. The extent of this influence — and the centrality of Johnson’s “call” for us to hear “The mighty beat of onward feet” — seems to be disclosed fully only on close listening, for those “feet” are metapoetic notes toward the inexorable work of the poem as poem.
We urge readers of Jacket2 to look at — and listen to — Gertrude Stein’s PennSound author page, where new recordings have now been linked. Most who have encountered Stein’s mellifluous voice have heard it from Caedmon record TC 1050 (1956), either directly or via its digitization in PennSound.
Thanks to the scholarly sleuthing, the archival negotiating, the digitizing, the uploading and filenaming, and the context-setting of Chris Mustazza, PennSound is now adding eight audio recordings of Harriet Monroe — the founding editor of Poetry and one of the crucial figures in the editorial acceptance and promotion of modernism in the U.S. — made in 1932.
PennSound is now making available a new page of Vachel Lindsay recordings — many dozens of them. They are some of the oldeset materials in this archive. The editor of the Lindsay page is Chris Mustazza. He has described the project under whose auspices these recordings were first made onto aluminum disks. They were subsequently dubbed to reel-to-reel tapes by the Library of Congress in the 1970s. These digitizations are made from the reels, which are stored at Columbia University. We at PennSound are grateful to our colleagues at Columbia for making these unique recordings available. This is far and away the largest collection of Lindsay recordings.
The earliest known recording of William Carlos Williams reading his work was created on January 9, 1942, as part of a collaboration with the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) and Columbia University Press. The recording is currently available at PennSound, the largest collection of poetry recordings on the web, which is based at the University of Pennsylvania and directed by Al Filreis and Charles Bernstein.