The 78 Project movie we’re making will be filled with entirely new performances and the history that ties them to the momentous recordings of the past. The recordings that have inspired us and filled us with emotion – Lead Belly, Woody Guthrie, Jean Ritchie, Jelly Roll Morton, the high lonesome sounds from the mountains of Kentucky, the hard-driving determined voices of prisoners on a work line – they still exist! And not only are the 78rpm discs that contain them very real, but so are the details that surround their creation. On visits to the Library of Congress in Washington, DC we have seen hand-written letters from Muddy Waters and Lead Belly, we have seen the sleeves and boxes that contain the scribbled notes on some of the greatest field recordings ever made, the Library is a place where the great musicians who shaped American music can all sit together side-by-side.
We wanted to bring you there with our movie, so that you could see some of these amazing stories with your own eyes. We stopped in to visit the Library during our first road trip, and our good friend and wonderful advisor Todd Harvey led us into the mysterious downstairs vaults. Watch your head going into the video clip below, there’s a low clearance on that vault ceiling.
There is still a way to support our film fund! You can be a part of this movie by donating here. We will put your name in the credits, and thank you during every step of the making, as we shoot more incredible footage and continue this journey to experience our shared musical legacy!
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Reality with the top rolled off! they declared when they heard the acetate played back. All the momentum of Richard Thompson’s powerful guitar playing was there in the lacquer, all the urgency and command in his voice right there spinning back at us at 78rpm. But there was nothing to fear, nothing anyone’s ears could find out of place. It sounded as it did in the room, intimate, precise, confessional, strong. It sounded as it did in our wildest dreams.
He jokingly referred to it as his “suburban English” version. Almost a hundred years ago Clarence Ashley had taken an old English folk ballad and made it Appalachian with a turn of his banjo’s tuners. And Richard had taken it again with his deft fingers dancing over guitar strings, and made it new.
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Richard told two tales of rakish scalawags that day. In the first he became a gambler hoping to win a heart as he wins at cards and dice, while in his original, “How Many Times”, he takes on the role of a jaunty, jilted hunter, determined to capture his love in the end.
“The Wayfaring Stranger” felt truly right when Rosanne Cash sang it. With her husband, John Leventhal, playing guitar accompaniment and surrounded by the cozy familiarity of their kitchen, the quiet rumble of the Presto’s spinning platter seemed comforting and familiar to everyone gathered. The song is about the hope for comfort that carries you through a long journey, the promise of finding those you love again. This simple, graceful message of faith has carried “The Wayfaring Stranger” on a 200-year journey through history, and Rosanne’s belief in it brought it to rest on an acetate in her home.
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For her Flipside song, Rosanne chose a new original. “Etta’s Song” is about coming home as well, but to the city where she was born, Memphis, Tennessee, and is a tribute to a dear family friend.
Thanks to all who were able to join us at City Winery on Sunday, May 20. It was beautiful to see our New York Series artists take the stage together to celebrate the shared experience of field recording. And we couldn’t have been more honored to have Marshall Crenshaw join us onstage to record a 78 acetate live with the stage monitors silenced and the eyes of the audience upon him. It was a most moving moment in a night filled with many a momentous feeling.
We’ve posted photos from the show on our Facebook here. And you can listen to the digitized versions of Marshall’s acetates, “More Pretty Girls Than One,” and “Passing Through” below.
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Official 78 Project Stroboscopic Disc now available in our store.
We knocked together our love of sound, technology and the moving image to create The 78 Project. We are just so excited about exploring the places where music, film and science meet. Call it nerdy, we won’t argue. But we know you’re with us!
It’s why, when we were looking to make something, a piece of The 78 Project that you can hold in your hands, a Stroboscopic Disc seemed like the perfect thing. It’s a vintage science experiment you can perform on your turntable at home, with a useful function, and a cool visual effect to boot.
For almost 200 years stroboscopes have been employed as useful tools for determining cyclic speed. On a stroboscopic disc, concentric bands of radial squares each correspond to a speed on your turntable – 33.3, 45 and 78 rpm.
Place the disc on your turntable, apply direct light and set the platter spinning. The corresponding radial appears to be perfectly still if the record player is working just right.
If you’re testing a vinyl or acetate recorder, the extra hole on the disc fits right onto your stabilizer pin. We use this to test our PRESTO before each recording!
Our friend, and super-talented Brooklyn silkscreen artist, Kayrock, cooked these Strobes up for us. He even had them die-cut for precision. We love them. Can’t help it. They’re the perfect piece of functional beauty.