…a collection of “Music in Vernacular Photographs 1880-1955.”  I picked this delightful book up recently (through Amazon) after reading a review in the Times.  That’s its title in my blog header, the first line of a poem by Swedish Nobel Prize Laureate Par Lagerkvist.  It sets the tone (as does the absence of any Caps fonts throughout) for the delicacy, poetry and mystery that the author wants to impart through this collection of his old postcards and 78 records.

The images (and quality of same) run the gamut but are very evocative of a simpler era remembered by few of us today (“no phones, no lights, no motor cars; not a single luxury…”).

Subjects include phonographs, pianos and drums, and instrument players of every description: horns, fiddles, guitars, banjos, mandolins, zithers, musical glasses and quite a few “musical marvel” multi-instrument contraption inventors.  Yes, there’s even a Gibson harp guitar player…  Of great interest to me were postcards that captured two different unusual zither-harp inventions – one, a homemade invention that I’ve never seen the likes of.

The specific instruments, though, are not the point (even if we occasionally may spot a Gibson, or even a Howe-Orme mandolinetto (a beautiful new image of an African American soloist).  It is their relationship with their owners, captured in these candid or posed images – just like the fascinating Iconography pages I love adding to this site.

Perhaps my favorite is this wonderful shot, which naturally brought to my mind’s eye an image of Stephen Bennett at HGG50.

The book includes 2 CDs of old 78 recordings featuring assorted singers and instrumentalists – like the photographs, from amateur to professional – performing all manner of period songs that reflect the era of the images.  My favorite was the “jews harp” solo that gives all the Tuvan throat singers a run for their money.

Assuming that you have exhausted all possible shopping opportunities at Harp Guitar Music, this would make a great gift for any musician friends or family…