As the semester winds down to our final week of classes, my energies are occupied in preparing my hula class for their end-of-semester hō‘ike. We will be outside on the “Diag,” the epicenter of central campus. Pray for good weather. The weather forecasts calls for a high temperature of 53 degrees on Wednesday. Ouch. Pray for sunshine. Chunks of my time over the past five days have been spent sewing 33 pā‘ū for the women, and tonight I will crank out 7 sashes for the men. Sewing straight seams on yards and yards and yards of red fabric does allow the mind to wander . . . and there is much to ponder.
A lot of my energy the rest of this semester has been spent engaging with two undergraduate research assistants. Together we have sifted through mountains of information about sound recordings. All the LP digitizing Iʻve been doing since last summer has paid off as we have ranged over the tracks, identifying and linking up originals and reissues. This work could only have proceeded with access to the recordings themselves, which is why I had been feverishly digitizing. Here is one example of the payoff. Among all of the sound recordings associated with the orchestra and chorus of the “Hawaii Calls” radio broadcasts (spread across at least 5 record labels!), there are at least 10 appearances of the song “Beyond the Reef.” There are only five distinct performances; the other five tracks are reissues of four out of the five distinct performances.
Does this level of detail matter? To many it may not, but to some it will. “Hawaii Calls” was broadcast over three decades, during which artists came and went. It makes sense that there would be more than one version of “Beyond the Reef” that made it onto recordings, just as it makes sense to understand that one version of “Beyond the Reef” cannot represent all of Hawaii Calls over its entire history.
The only way to confirm this level of distinction is to be able to listen to the tracks and verify them aurally. There is absolutely no substitution. Zero, nada, zip. Thus the rationale behind my digitizing blitz which began last summer. I will have much more to share in due course. There are many more lessons emerging from this exercise.