Got 90 seconds? Then you’ve got time for a trip through the history of recorded sound! Sound Beat is a daily, 90-second show highlighting the holdings of the Belfer Audio Laboratory and Archive. Belfer is part of Syracuse University Libraries’ Special Collections Research Center and is one of the largest sound archives in the United States. Each Sound Beat episode focuses on one particular recording from the Archive and provides a back story detailing its place in recording history.
What kinds of recordings? Popular and classical music performances, film scores those from distinctly American musical forms like jazz, bebop, country, and bluegrass. Old favorites, rare gems, and some that you’ve never heard before… from Cab Calloway to the castrated stars of Italian opera, you’ll hear it all on the Sound Beat!
And it’s not just music. Sound Beat episodes also feature speeches and spoken word performances from some of the great thinkers, political figures and luminaries from the late 19th and early- to mid-20th centuries — people like Thomas Edison, George Bernard Shaw, Amelia Earhart, Albert Einstein, and Theodore Roosevelt.
About the Team
Brett Barry ’98, G13 (S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications) is the owner of Silver Hollow Audio, an independent production company and audio book publisher. Brett and his wife live with their two daughters and two dogs in New York’s Catskill Mountains.
Jim O’Connor is the head writer and producer of Sound Beat and producer of Access Audio productions. He is an avid appreciator and performer of music, and that consuming love is tolerated daily by his wife and family in Syracuse, NY.
Rachel Fox von Swearingen is the librarian for music, dance, and musical theater. Rachel participates in the Sound Beat Class Partnership by introducing prospective faculty partners, coordinating library involvement, and assisting students with the research side of writing their Sound Beat episodes. When not at the Libraries, Rachel enjoys attending concerts, communing with her three cats, and tromping through parks in Central New York with her partner Daegan.
Funding for Sound Beat: the Savada family’s Records Revisited
Records Revisited closed its doors in 2008, but the collection lives on at Syracuse University Libraries, thanks to an historic gift made by the Savada family. The complete inventory of the Manhattan record store, more than 200,000 78-rpm records, were shipped to the University in honor of their father and store’s proprietor, the late Morton Savada.
“I am unaware of another donation of recordings as large as the Savada gift to Syracuse University Libraries,” said Sam Brylawski, past president of the board of Association for Recorded Sound Collection. “It is an outstanding gesture by the family. It is gratifying, too, to know of Syracuse University’s commitment to preserving the work of Morty Savada and making it available to the public and the research community.”
In addition to the major labels of the first half of the 20th century, Columbia, Decca, and Victor among them, Savada collected rare and specialized recordings. To record collectors, audiophiles, and entertainment industry professionals the world over, Records Revisited was a goldmine and its owner an unparalleled source of the history of commercial sound recordings.
“For any collector looking for a rarity, historian working on a research project, or reissue producer in search of something so rare it wasn’t even in the vault, Records Revisited was generally the first call to make,” Will Friedwald wrote in Savada’s New York Sun obituary.
Additional materials donated with the voluminous collection include The Morton J. Savada Papers in the Libraries’ Special Collections Research Center. The collection includes papers from Records Revisited; correspondence from customers, other dealers, and friends; inventories and receipts; and obituaries, clippings, and other information about artists of the era.
The Savada Family renewed their philanthropic commitment to the collection in 2015 through creation of the Savada Family Sound Beat Endowed Fund. Their generous support provides for the maintenance and care of the artifacts themselves but also a new purpose for the collection. Through digital transfers made at the Belfer Audio Archive, these records contribute source material for Sound Beat episodes, broadcast to hundreds of stations and millions of listeners across North America and beyond. The gift also provides opportunities for students, faculty, and interns to interact with this material through the Sound Beat Class Partnership.
“The Savada collection is truly an archival wonder—an exhaustive survey of popular music recordings from the first half of the 20th century,” Theo Cateforis, Associate Professor of Music History and Cultures and Sound Beat class partner.
Additional Funding for Sound Beat made possible by:
- The John Ben Snow Foundation
- National Endowment for the Arts
- George W. Hamilton ‘53, G’54
- and listeners like you!