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natewooley on 04/28/2011 at 05:34PM

The Fellowship of Collecting: Rick Moody and New Monuments' Ben Hall

via The Ben Hall Gospel Archival Project will become part of dramonline on Sunday May 1st

When I was growing up, I was a voracious reader of Aldous Huxley.  Not that I was a believer in his theories, or even a great fan of his writing style, but Huxley was the first thinker I had encountered that had that kind of broad base of knowledge that people associate with the term "renaissance man".  I've always been drawn to these sorts of people, those that can analyze Scelsi after one or two listenings, then recreate a Szechuan dish from scratch, and tromp you on the basketball court.  Maybe it's some sort of hard-wired search for my own brand of the Nietzchean super man, but I hope not. 

Enter Ben Hall.  Object based percussionist with groups like New Monuments and Graveyards...Label head of Broken Research Recordings...Sculptor....Conceptual Artist....Detroit social activist....Restaurateur....Featured once on CNN Business News....Former handball great.....Graffiti artist.....Cook of some of the best macrobiotic food I've ever eaten.....and most germane to this blog entry.......COLLECTOR.

Ben has been collecting Southern and Detroit gospel 45s, 78s, and LPs for years and while, initially, his entrepreneurial spirit had a hand in his collection, he is now providing the bulk of his recordings on his own website:

When we started dealing seriously with archives at DRAM, I was very gung ho to get this collection, in some sort of curated form, as part of our burgeoning collection.  I've always been proud in the music we present in DRAM, but the A does stand for American and the fact that we had no representation of American Gospel music, seemed to me to be an oversight in search of a resolution.

Well, fret no more, because as of Sunday, May 1st, the bulk of the ongoing Ben Hall Gospel Archival Project will be up and available for those with access to DRAM. (an aside, many have asked about individual subscriptions to DRAM, and we are working out the process.  If you are interested, please write me at and I'll let you know how you can get an individual subscription to this archive and all the other great stuff on DRAM).

Not only are we presenting over 300 tracks of vocal quartet, Motown R&B gospel, and amateur/professional recordings of gospels choirs and sermons from Harlem, Detroit and the American South, but we have wrangled one of my favorite novelists of all time, Rick Moody, to write the opening exhortation to the archive. I sent the whole collection to him to listen to for research, and he was so blown away by the music, and by the personality of Ben (remember....renaissance superman) that he also, under his own steam, did the interview found below, which talks about collecting records, the fellowship of making music available, and growing up in Detroit.

As a little teaser, I've included the first five tracks from the archive as well, just for some Sunday morning listening.

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