The Black Sound and the Archive Working Group at Yale University is a two-year initiative (supported by Yale’s 320 York Humanities Grant) that focuses on the history and significance of African-American sonic practices in tandem with critical examination of the nature of archives. The group seeks to augment the very notion of what constitutes a black sound archive. Beyond historical sound recordings as such, African-American sonic practices are also embedded in a rich yet often opaque archive of extraordinary and everyday objects, photographs, narratives, performances, and repertoires. The group is led by Professors Daphne Brooks (African American Studies, American Studies, Theater Studies, Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies) and Brian Kane (Music), and includes faculty, graduate students, and undergrads from Yale and beyond. It produces a variety of events, including workshops, performances, and this exhibit at the Gilmore Music Library, also entitled Black Sound and the Archive. The exhibit, which runs from April 13th through July 30th 2018, features an array of rare and unusual items from the library’s collections, such as an arrangement written by Mary Lou Williams, a document in Duke Ellington’s hand, and several surprising objects (ranging from a walking stick to pajamas*) that belonged to J. Rosamond Johnson, the composer of “Lift Every Voice and Sing. In this exhibit we investigate the stories behind artifacts that have never been displayed before.
*J. Rosamond Johnson's Pajamas will be on display April 13th-May 21st only.