Words and Music ~
The Album Notes Project
In the fall of 2016, a group of students from various disciplines engaged in the study of the notes that accompany recorded music with the purpose of learning to analyze and evaluate this unique form of mass communication and apply principles and practices of research to craft their own notes for album, CD or other recording formats. THE GOAL?To begin to build an archive of album notes ofnotable recordings that could serve as a resource for those researching artists, recordings or the music of those eras in which they were produced. The students read celebrated notes for recordings of Bob Dylan, John Coltrane, Janis Joplin, Bessie Smith, among others; the published work of music writers Robert Christgau, Stanley Crouch, Robert Gordon, Anthony DeCurtis, among others; and selected materials on conducting secondary research. The students listened critically to a lot of music, studied various categories of album notes, compared styles and approaches and, finally, wrote notes for two assigned works from the Sixties and Seventies. Among the significant recordings were albums from Joni Mitchell, Herbie Hancock, Buck Owens and Elton John. We’ve assembled a sampling of the notes here.
To prepare, we listened to a lot of music …
”In music, the only thing that matters is whether you feel it or not. You can’t intellectualise (sic) music; to reduce it analytically is often to reduce it to nothing very important. It is only in terms of emotional response that I can judge whether what we are doing is successful or not.” ~ Ornette Coleman
and to a lot of writers …
“Liner notes aren’t a blog. It is(a) permanent archival document, often of films and scores that have very little written about them, that will hopefully be used for research by other film music enthusiasts and journalists for years to come.” ~ Jim Lochner, film music writer
and to writers about other writers.
In his notes for Ole’ Coltrane (Atlantic, 1961), Gleason played safe, filling the standardised [sic] three-column format with a widely-used quote-heavy formula. Here, Coltrane had space to talk, discussing how he likes to ”play long” and providing a critique of his fame soloing. ~ Stanley Hardy
We studied various categories of album notes and compared and contrasted the work of experts.