Digging Through the Caffe Lena Archives with Jocelyn Arem

Jessica Thompson, Steve Rosenthal and Jocelyn Arem
Jessica Thompson, Steve Rosenthal and Jocelyn Arem

Photograph by Sophie Brill

Multimedia archivist, musician and producer Jocelyn Arem will offer a multimedia presentation, “Reviving, Restoring and Re-imaging the Music Archive,” at 8pm on Thursday (March 26) at Skidmore College’s Filene Recital Hall in Saratoga Springs. Admission is free.

The program will feature music culled from the 2013 three-CD box set, Live at Caffe Lena: Music from America’s Legendary Coffeehouse (1967-2013), which Arem co-produced with Steve Rosenthal. The evening will start with a presentation on the audio restoration process by Arem, Rosenthal and Jessica Thompson, her colleagues from the Magic Shop Studio in NYC. Then they’ll examine the process with examples of the original audiotape recordings, the restored, re-mastered recordings and finally live performances.

The goal of this three-part approach is to illustrate the archival restoration process from the stage to the studio and back to the stage, giving audiences and performers an inside look into the buried treasures hidden in music archives.

Among the selections to be showcased are Jean Ritchie’s “West Virginia Mine Disaster” (recorded in 1969), Barbara Dane’s “Mama Yancey’s Advice / Love with a Feeling” (1968), Frank Wakefield’s “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” (1971), Rick Danko’s “It Makes No Difference” (1988) and others. Raymond Giguere, Dave Scheffel, Phoebe Radcliffe, Elisa Smith, Alisha Stommel, Jack Mullin, Noah Prebish and the band Fenimore Blues will offer the live performances.

“We will be able to present a historical overview of the Caffè’s musical history and various musical styles from blues to bluegrass to singer-songwriters, interpreted in new ways from a DJ to the Chinese erhu to an all-female acoustic group,” Arem explained.

A 2004 Skidmore graduate, Arem was the director of the Caffè Lena History Project, curating a collection of 6,000 photos, 700 hours of recordings, 45 boxes of memorabilia and 100 interviews to illuminate and preserve the legacy of the famed Saratoga coffeehouse, which is celebrating its 55th anniversary this year. She found a home for the complete archive at the Library of Congress, and last fall, ASCAP presented Arem with the prestigious Deems Taylor Award for Multimedia for the project.

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