Allen Ginsberg - At Reed College: The First Recorded Reading Of Howl & Other Poems LP
Recorded in 1956 and discovered in 2007, one of the most important audio documents in the history of American literature, from the second half of the 20th century, is available to be heard far and wide in 2021. Allen Ginsberg’s first public reading of his epic poem “Howl” took place in October of 1955 at the famous Six Gallery in San Francisco. In attendance that night were Gary Snyder, Philip Whalen, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Philip Lamantia, Michael McClure, Kenneth Rexroth, Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady. Imagine if that evening’s readings been recorded! It was long thought that the first recorded reading of “Howl” was the March 1956 reading in Berkeley, California; however, prior to that evening, Ginsberg travelled to Reed College in Portland, Oregon, with Gary Snyder for a series of readings. Reed College, a small liberal arts college founded in 1908 and known for its academic excellence had been attended by the likes of Steve Jobs, Barry Hansen (Dr. Demento), Barbara Ehrenreich, Ry Cooder, Max Gordon (founder of The Village Vanguard), and poet Gary Snyder.
Snyder and Ginsberg read at Reed on the nights of February 13 and 14, 1956. The Valentine Day’s performance was recorded and then forgotten about until John Suiter, researching Snyder at Reed’s Hauser Memorial Library, found it in a box in 2007. Having gotten the material he required for his research, Suiter returned the tape to the box in the library and there it remained for another decade plus. In 2019, when Dr. Audrey Bilger was named Reed College’s president (the first female president, no less), she brought with her, her wife, record producer and Omnivore Recordings co-founding partner, Cheryl Pawelski. Omnivore had previously worked with the Allen Ginsberg estate and upon learning of the existence of the recording of “Howl” at Reed, Pawelski knew exactly how historic the recording was and just whom to call to allow the recording to be heard by a wider audience.
Wanting to pay tribute to Reed and make certain that the release of this historic document was appropriately tied to the place where it happened, Pawelski tapped Dr. Pancho Savery, Professor of English and Humanities at Reed to write the liner notes, not only to trace the history of how Snyder and Ginsberg came to Reed in February of 1956, but to also explain the history of the poems and their development at this early stage. Since the readings at Reed were not widely publicized, no photos of the events exist. And so for the album cover, Pawelski asked Gregory MacNaughton of Reed’s Calligraphy Initiative, in honor of Lloyd J. Reynolds, to create the cover, imagining what a Reed poster for the event might have looked like in 1956. Calligraphy has a long history at Reed College, and it just so happened that one student of Reed calligrapher and professor of creative writing and art history Lloyd Reynolds was Gary Snyder.
The package also includes photos from the era and pages from the early “Howl” manuscript, courtesy of the Estate of Allen Ginsberg, who worked with Grammy Award-winning producer, Cheryl Pawelski to bring the project to fruition. The original analog tape was freshly transferred, restored, and mastered by Grammy Award-winning engineer, Michael Graves. Omnivore Recordings is proud to be able to bring this historic recording to a broad, worldwide audience on CD and LP.