Stanford Libraries receives major Black music collection, supporting new department and expanding possibilities for research
Bram Dijkstra, professor emeritus at UC San Diego, and renowned literary agent Sandra Dijkstra have donated their music collection, nearly 65 years in the making, of irreplaceable recordings of jazz, Jamaican music, blues, soul, and other genres.
Stanford Libraries has accepted the generous donation of the Dijkstra Black Music Collection, a selection of approximately 8,000 commercial vinyl discs in near mint condition. "The collection is remarkable in its scope, depth, and curatorial vision," said Michael A. Keller, the Ida M. Green University Librarian at Stanford.
About half of the discs in the Dijkstra collection document the work of essential twentieth-century jazz artists, creating a core jazz library that according to Keller "complements and dramatically enriches Stanford's existing holdings, including the Monterey Jazz Festival Collection and the Riverwalk Jazz Collection." The unparalleled corpus of Jamaican popular music, which includes representation of instrumentalists, vocalists, and DJs, establishes a new research strength for Stanford.
Once the collection is catalogued and available for use, Stanford will follow audio preservation best practices to protect the integrity of the discs and will provide digital listening access to students, faculty, and researchers while welcoming them to examine the physical discs, sleeves, and liner notes by appointment at Stanford's Archive of Recorded Sound (ARS).
"The ARS was founded in 1958 to preserve sound recordings as a core part of our cultural heritage," said Tamar Barzel, head music librarian at Stanford. "The Dijkstra Black Music Collection will have a meaningful and profound effect on ARS collections, which have historically been strongest in early jazz, classical music, and opera."
Bram Dijkstra's diligence and passion for documenting the full sweep of jazz history and Jamaican popular music has been a lifelong pursuit. Dijkstra, who was born on a small Indonesian island and raised in Holland, traces its inception to a transformative experience listening to a new record by the New Miles Davis Quintet in 1955. "I admired Miles Davis' clear, coherent trumpet, but I was shocked into incredulous admiration by the hoarse, abrasive, yet melodious solos of the young tenor saxophone player Miles was featuring here for the first time, someone with the rather strange name of John Coltrane," said Dijkstra. He recalled that Coltrane's playing, "rough-toned and oddly jagged, daringly dancing on the edge of failure, but driven by an inner rhythm that steadied every part," seemed to express what he was feeling – it "made almost physically tangible the music that was in my soul."
That initial impression endured, inspiring a relocation to the United States, an immersion in African American music, and a commitment to creative work. John Coltrane, he wrote, "taught me to listen to Black music in all its many forms: Coltrane called me to America. He taught me that to be creative is to always search for what is better—and that searching for anything likely to make us better is never neat."
Original and early pressings in the collection represent the best extant examples for many of Coltrane's recordings. Rare individual discs, including Bob Marley's original 12-inch 45rpm single of "Buffalo Soldiers," Sun Ra's original Saturn issues with blank or hand-made covers, and early hip hop LPs, are also rich in research potential.
"Recordings are essential primary sources for contemporary music scholarship," remarked Professor Stephen Hinton, chair of Stanford's Music Department. "As we expand our programmatic offerings in the areas of jazz studies, popular music, and ethnomusicology, the Dijkstra Black Music Collection will be an indispensable resource for research and teaching."
Deep runs and other exceptional rarities are found within the Dijkstra Black Music Collection, including a full run of the Blue Note 1500 series of the late 1950s; virtually all John Coltrane commercial releases; a strong representation of avant-garde artists on small label releases from the U.S., Europe, and Japan; and a significant complement of artists' private-issue and limited-edition releases. The collection's appraised valuation exceeding $2.3 million reflects the many one-of-a-kind and extremely rare items, which are both of immense worth in the collectors' market and priceless in their cultural heritage and research value.
The donated collection arrives at a fortuitous moment in Stanford's history in tandem with the formation of the new African and African American Studies Department. Professor Ato Quayson, chair of the English Department, also chairs the Framework Task Force subcommittee focused on the departmentalization of African and African American Studies. "The Dijkstra Black Music Collection will instigate whole new research agendas in different areas of Black music studies," said Quayson. "It will be a boon to the Stanford community, and indeed to anyone beyond who wants to take jazz, popular music, and ethnomusicology seriously."
An event celebrating the collection is scheduled for February 13, 2023 from 5:30 p.m. at the Cecil H. Green Library on Stanford's historic campus. The event is free and registration is requested. The collection will remain unavailable while it is being processed; inquiries about the collection can be submitted to the Archive of Recorded Sound at Stanford Libraries.