The Case for a Community Archive of Live Recording in Providence, RI

Erik-Dardan Ymeraga

Abstract


The intent of this project is to envision, working directly with musicians and concertgoers in the Providence, RI musical underground, a web-based platform for local amateur performance recordings; while such a space would be open to the public at large it would ideally serve primarily as a living community archive. The ever-increasing fidelity and declining consumer costs of handheld digital recording technology have lowered many barriers for amateur recordists including myself, yet while live recordings are increasingly available on blogs, filesharing services and even mainstream news sites, few attempts have been made to frame them in a localized, community-oriented manner. Based upon my interactions with the Providence underground, a small, tight-knit musical scene where the relationship between audience and performer is only minimally mediated, it seems to me that any adequate documentary project should reflect and serve that locality. There is certainly no want for opportunity: Providence performances frequently occur in small, unlicensed spaces with no restrictions on audience recording, and musicians are almost always enthusiastic about recording of their performances and interested in hearing them, whether to examine the state and success of unreleased material currently being live-tested or simply to briefly step into an external perspective on their own work. Some have even expressed interest in officially releasing the results of these recordings on cassette, but even in these cases few have raised any objection to their somewhat open dissemination on personal social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, often reposting recording links themselves. Many musicians and listeners alike in this community have encouraged me to establish some sort of archive for this accumulated material, now in excess of 46 hours, and it is the aim of this project to do just that, drawing on the successes and drawbacks of current platforms such as Bandcamp, Soundcloud and the Free Music Archive as well as previously existing online audio archive initiatives. It is my hope to create something that will encapsulate the best of these existing outlets while functioning primarily on a localized, community-oriented level; if successful, such a platform could serve as a template for other local communities with resonant archival concerns.

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