Created by Matt Jones, The River Street Anthology is a music preservation project that travels all over the state of Michigan with the intention to collect, preserve, and make accessible music covering the gamut of genres, cultures, ages, and genders of Michigan music. I have been working on RSA since the summer of 2015, filming as many of these performances as possible. All of the videos released so far can be seen on the project's Vimeo and Facebook pages.
"The River Street Anthology is creating a map in real time of the Michigan musical landscape. The RSA has traveled thousands of miles, recording over 300 Michigan musicians via digital tape, film, photograph and fine art. The project seeks to collect, preserve, and make accessible music covering the gamut of genres, cultures, ages, and genders of Michigan music. Our mission is to preserve for future generations the opportunity to examine their own roots, as well as build understanding of the experience of their neighbors. Through the documentation of the artists in their respective geographies and societal context, the RSA hopes to provide culturally inclusive opportunities for research and reflection.
The RSA was born in February of 2015 as a way for SE Michigan musicians to connect, and collaborate on a recording project. As word spread, it became obvious that we would have to expand the project to entire state. I use a very stripped down recording setup- one small digital recorder and one microphone. The object is to capture the most accurate and intimate document of the performance- not to win a Grammy. Since context is so integral to any story, and any history, I also bring along a small film crew, a photographer, and a sketch artist to record the artist's immediate environment. We have recorded in art galleries, historic theaters, barber shops, one room schoolhouses, coffee shops, basements, living rooms, churches, record stores, and everything in-between.
All materials collected by the RSA will be housed and preserved in the Archives of Michigan in Lansing in perpetuity. They will be made accessible to the public via a website currently under construction. I will ask each artist to sign a waiver giving me the mechanical rights to the recordings- meaning that I will be asking for ownership of these specific recordings for the purpose of putting them into the Archives in Lansing. I won't own the songs, or the artist likeness, or any intellectual property rights.
As to where and when this would take place, we figure that out once the planning begins. We don't require much- only that the artist record in a place in which they are familiar and comfortable. We set up shop, and schedule people in half-hour time slots. Everyone records one song, or, if the half hour allows, they can record more than that. My team and I are usually so enthralled by whatever is taking place that it wouldn't take much to convince us to just record an entire album for people. We love doing this, and we get pretty wrapped up in it.
We are obsessed with history, and also with the idea that things should not be allowed to disappear. Without history, there is no future. Without the past, we can't possibly attempt to understand the present. The River Street Anthology is our attempt to increase understanding, to bring people of different backgrounds together, and to make history now."