I ran across a quote by Alan Lomax last night. You know…the guy who spent his entire life recording the rapidly disappearing folk musics of the world?

THIS good hero.

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The son of another man who did similar work, John Lomax.

Alan Lomax said:

“When the whole world is bored with automated, mass-distributed video music, our descendants will despise us for having thrown away the best of our culture.”

This quote brought me up short.

Because I had just spent two days in Washington DC dealing with some of the very people who are making sure that this civilization does NOT disappear into the mists of shredding time.

Read on.
Have you ever read the book “How the Irish Saved Civilization”? You should, if you have not. Fascinating reading. It is about the work of the Celtic monasteries of Europe during the Dark Ages. How the monks worked tirelessly to copy and preserve the writings of the Greek, Roman and other civilizations that preceded them.

I am involved in producing several jazz repertory concerts this summer in New Hampshire. If you are not familiar with the jazz repertory movement, it started in the late ’60s and early ’70s in New York City.The first orchestra of this type…of which I was a member…was a band led by the bassist Chuck Israels and called The National Jazz Ensemble. Its goal was to play ALL the music of the history of jazz in an authentic but not hokey manner. The same idea as the symphony orchestras that play Western European orchestral music. Bach as serious as Bartok? Then why not Jelly Roll Morton as serious as Gil Evans?

And so it began. The Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra…in which I was and still remain a member…the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra. and over the last decade, a number of others.

The only problem with this movement, besides funding, was that due to the racist social conditions of the times, the music was not afforded the same respect as other highly evolved idioms. Thus of the literally thousands of amazingly beautiful pieces of ensemble music written and performed by jazz and latin-jazz musicians from the early 1900s right up to the ’70s and beyond, I would say that 80% or even 90% of the scores and parts were not systematically preserved.

The GOOD news is that much of it was recorded.

So there grew up a sort of underworld of people who set about finding and preserving whatever original written music remained and also a number of people who painstakingly transcribed the music from the recorded versions. One note at a time. I have done some of this work, and let me tell you, the Celtic monks had NOTHING on those who do this sort of work.

Now, there are departments in great universities and other cultural storehouses such as the archives of the Smithsonian Institution and the Library of Congress that store and preserve this work. I went to Washington to start the process of collecting and putting in playable shape the 40 or so pieces that we will need to be able to perform three concerts…Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman and an overview of the whole history of large ensemble jazz…and even though I have been involved myself as a performer/music director/transcriber/educator in this movement, I was absolutely blown away by its scope, and by the good men and women who are managing it.

They ARE the monks of medieval Europe.

Right here in the bosom of the Evil Empire.

I rail on regularly about here the PermaGov, about the mainstream media, etc. With damned good reason. And I also sometimes get rather down about the possibilities of this culture actually rebounding and surviving in the midst of the media trance machine efforts that seem to have been so effective in trashing it.

But I am here to tell you…there is a counter-movement SOLIDLY in place, right in the belly of beast. And it is even being FUNDED by that beast!!!

The continuance of miracles.

I had no idea of the scope of the effort.

I spent two whole working days in the aforementioned Smithsonian Museum and Library of Congress, xeroxing scores and parts. And I got a glimpse into an establishment the size, seriousness and efficiency of which just flat out blew my mind. Every person I met there was ready and willing to help a poor, bumbling novice at this sort of research. They all knew the material, and more. MUCH more. They are making the same effort in OTHER trashed parts of the culture as well. Movies, books, comic books, military band music, pop music, old records…the works.

America lives in the stacks.

It is still there.


I spent two days of hard work, and I literally barely scratched the surface of what is available in just this quite limited part of the culture. It is SO huge that it has barely been efficiently catalogued. I could easily have spent a couple of YEARS swimming around in this sea of information and not touched bottom. Box after box after box of old scores and parts. Often damaged and/or incomplete…but restorable by someone who knows what’s what in the field…but also often just as if Benny Carter or Fletcher Henderson or Bill Finegan had finished the piece, had it copied and then put it in a time capsule and sent it forward almost untouched to the present.


And these people…these true librarian types in their glasses and comfortable shoes, coming to work every day and doing their eight hours, collecting their paychecks from whatever tentacle of the unconscious governmental octopus extends into their domain…they are HEROES!!!


THEY are the monks who are saving THIS civilization.

And short of a nuclear strike, when THIS Dark Age ends…and they all do, if history is to be our guide…all that information will be there for the edification and nourishment of the NEXT Renaissance.

So let’s hear it for these people.

A big internet cheer for ’em. one and all.

Fuckin’ AY!!!

There is hardly any money interest in art, and music will be there when money is gone.“-Duke Ellington.


When Rove and Cheney and Perle and Butch and the like are the laughingstock of history…and that WILL happen, it always does…when their shallow and obsessive pursuit of money and power is long gone, this music, this culture will remain.

And these people will be the ones who saved it.




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