If your research involves discographies you’ll know about the hazards of the online variety; they’re a very diferent animal from the work of professional discographers (as those who subscribe to The Record Collector will know). On the other hand, every new release or re-release will be electronically identified by the major discog websites, and that means even the most obscure records needn’t remain forgotten for long. I was reminded of the problem recently when I received a letter (a sheet of paper – or in this case several sheets – that comes wrapped in another sheet) complaining that I’d omitted Heinz Hoppe from Tenor:History of a Voice. This was the first complaint since the online updating (and was shortly followed by another one from my friend Larry Josefovitz telling me I’d missed Yossele Rosenblatt – barely conceivable since he and I corresponded at length on the subject, but sadly true). I always check out these omissions; it’s impossible to account for everyone’s favourite tenor but if someone’s taken the trouble to write it’s the least I can do. I then reply with whatever info I’ve found and file it away in case of a future update.
My Hoppe fan doesn’t have email, but assuming she at least had access to a computer I printed out some links to online discographies and a German Wikipedia entry and posted them off. Some weeks later a package of photocopied Hoppe discographies arrived, courtesy of an old boyfriend and a helpful Barnes & Noble person who’d downloaded them for her. She was naturally excited by the fact that there were Hoppe discographies of any sort, but disappointed to have to wade through multiple CD sets which contained only one Hoppe track, not to mention unwanted information about a bass called Fritz Hoppe (I hadn’t heard of him either).
When I was doing the online update I abandoned the format in the printed tenorography, which had separate subheadings for print and internet material and token discographies that were just there to whet the appetite. Between the print edition and the update there had been an explosion in internet material and I opted for links to online materials wherever possible. It was itself an online resource so readers just had to click on the links and could then search for print versions if they wanted to. For most tenors I used AllMusic; at its best this has comprehensive listings, often with a brief but accurate biography – just what most people need if they’re trying to explore further.
Having had mixed results with my Hoppe exchange (over several transatlantic snail mail weeks) I thought I’d revisit AllMusic and see how the site was progressing (these sorts of programmes never stand still – see my previous post). It’s now even more comprehensive, with detailed categories of contribution ranging from performer to liner note writer. To test its accuracy I did the only thing you can do in the circumstances and tried it on myself.
Well, there was a rather flattering biography from Patsy Morita. It was bang up to date (and even mentions the Conductus project). The list of recordings totalled 189 which must be about right (I lost count a while ago). And there were the usual re-release/re-packaged albums that I didn’t know about (including a Shakespeare anthology for EMI in which ‘Come again’ is sandwiched between readings from John Hurt and Ralph Fiennes). But I have no recollection of playing banjo on a Kenny Ball album and trombone on one of Veljo Tormis’ Estonian Lullabies, or doing English translations for Soul Flower Union’s 90s singles anthology. I couldn’t remember doing the paintings for Inanition’s Controlled Bleeding either, or the layout design for Mortification’s Scrolls of the Megilloth. Well, at least I’m on Harmonia Mundi’s Decade of Excellence (what…???).
So…be warned – the discog algorhythm still needs work. There’s a link for corrections, but I think I’ll let it sort itself out; some of that stuff I never knew I did…or, in fact, did… is pretty cool.