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Flood Water Blues & Public Domain Torrents

Houston-born jazz singer Sippie Wallace’s 1927 song, Flood Water Blues (Real Media) was about the Mississippi River flood of 1927. Bluesy, heartbreaking, certainly worth remembering on this day. In the meantime, Terry Teachout wonders aloud about the safety of jazz archives in New Orleans:

A question to anyone in the New Orleans area who is familiar with the situation on the ground: is anything known about the condition of the Hogan Archive at Tulane University? This is one of the most important collections of primary-source jazz documentation in the world, and I’m starting to get questions about it from scholars. Has it survived the flood, and if so, in what condition?

For those wanting to remember New Orleans pre-flood, it might be interesting to revisit Heidi Dylan’s amazon.com list of New Orleans-themed novels. Feel free to recommend your own books re: New Orleans (ebooks or print).

Public domain works? Well, there’s Kate Chopin’s works (with Awakening being her best loved work). She lived most of her life in New Orleans but spent the latter portion of her life in St. Louis. Surprisingly, Lafcadio Hearn (who is probably best known for his public domain ghost stories, especially Kwaidan) spent a portion of his life living in and writing about New Orleans. Amazingly, his collection of New Orleans writings called Inventing New Orleans has never been scanned by Project Gutenburg, but have no fear–with the help of WorldCat, Interlibrary Loan and my trusty scanner, I personally will see that it is done pronto! (A short Hearn piece about New Orleans Superstitions is available here. See also his New Orleans story, Chita). Update: Other public domain works: Old Creole Days by George W. Cable. Cable is a 19th century Louisiana novelist with many novels in the public domain.

In other public domain (but non-ebook news), here’s a site devoted to public domain movie torrents. Were it not for Sonny Bono Act, works from 1930 would be available (and in the 1920s, New Orleans was a hotbed for jazz creativity). As a thought experiment, imagine being able to download as a torrent file several gigs worth of 1920s public domain New Orleans jazz –legally! I spent last night listening to Louie Armstrong/Jelly Roll Morton, and looking at the list of New Orleans musicians on the redhot jazz site. Gosh, it’s easy to see just how much we’re missing in the American public domain. See King Oliver Creole Jazz Band for instance.

(posted originally at Teleread).

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