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COLLECTION Identifier: C 37346 - C 37816

Arthur Freedman Collection, 1976-2000.


The Arthur Freedman Collection at the Loeb Music Library contains audio recordings of primarily Boston-area rock and punk bands, most of which were recorded live between the late 1970s and the mid-1980s. The collection richly documents this era of Boston rock history, and contains many unique recordings unavailable elsewhere.


  • Creation: 1976-2000.

Conditions Governing Access

The Freedman audio collection is largely inaccessible due to ongoing preservation work. However, digital access copies of some tapes are available; please contact the Loeb Music Library for questions about access.

Conditions Governing Use

Reproduction and/or publication of materials subject to copyright requires written permission from a) the copyright owner, his/her heirs or assigns and from b) the Loeb Music Library, owner of the original material.


1 collection (Sound recordings: 8.75 linear feet (480 sound cassettes, analog: 3 3/4 ips ; 7 1/4 x 3 1/2 in., 1/4 in. tape.))

The Arthur Freedman audio collection at the Loeb Music Library includes over 720 hours of local rock and punk music performances, recorded on normal or high-grade 90-minute sound cassettes. Some tapes contain accompanying material such as set lists, tickets, and technical or performance notes. The majority of tapes were recorded at live shows between the late 1970s and the mid-1980s, often in storied Boston clubs of that era that no longer exist. The collection serves as an important document of Boston rock history, and contains many unique recordings unavailable elsewhere.

Biographical and Historical Note

At age seven in his hometown of Newton, Massachusetts, Arthur Freedman (b. 1957) sat on the basement steps at the house of the band that practiced around the corner from his home. Inspired by the music he heard, Arthur attended concerts on the Common, the Esplanade and venues like the Music Hall (now the Wang Center), the Modern Theater and the Orpheum. When Arthur reached 18, he began to explore nightclubs like Cantone’s, the Club, the Rathskeller, Jonathan Swift’s, Jack’s and many others. That band in his neighborhood, the Rockin’ Ramrods, would eventually back up the Rolling Stones on the Canadian leg of their first North American tour, and Freedman would eventually go on to not only attentively listen to many more bands but record a whole era of local culture.

Watching the bands in the early days of the local punk rock movement, he realized that each show was unique: he witnessed set, song and personnel changes, different arrangements for some songs and, tragically, untimely deaths of band members. Many of these independent, unsigned bands would never make it into the recording studio, and those who did may not record the songs he liked or sequence the tracks on the record like a live set. Believing that the energy and exuberance of a live performance could never be reproduced within the controlled perfection based recording studio, Arthur quickly realized the critical need of chronicling the edgy and incredibly creative era of punk music within the scene he loved.

In the late 1970s, he bought a cassette deck with microphone inputs and two microphones and started to record all of the shows he attended. In 1984, Freedman bought a video camera. He was one of the only people recording or filming in the nightclubs of Boston, Cambridge, Somerville, and the occasional out-of-town venue. Often sighted in front of the stage, video camera in hand, he documented countless rock acts for posterity, including many bands and venues that no longer exist. Either with tape decks and microphones, video cameras or video cameras attached to video recorders, Freedman would often go from club to club recording multiple bands in one evening. He became a familiar figure in the local Boston area rock scene for nearly four decades.

Dedicated to the music and his craft, Freedman wanted the tapes to be always available to the bands he recorded. However, magnetic media is subject to degradation over time. He alerted the public to the massive nature of this preservation proposal through multiple articles in newspapers; thus, Harvard University became aware of a once in a lifetime opportunity to collaborate on an exclusive project and approached Freedman with a feasible way to preserve and make available the life’s work of a creative visionary.

System of Arrangement

Cassettes are listed alphabetically by band name, and most include performance date and recording location. Set lists will be added in the future.

Acquisition Information

Arthur Freedman's audio collection was donated to Loeb Music Library in 2011.

Related Materials

Freedman also recorded over two thousand hours of rock music performances on videotape using VHS, Hi8, 8mm video, and Mini DV formats. The video collection is available at the Harvard Film Archive as the Arthur Freedman Collection, ca. 1985-2011.

----. 1993. Mass. Ave. : the Boston scene (1975-83). 1 sound disc (60 min.) : digital ; 4 3/4 in. Los Angeles, CA : Rhino. Held by the Loeb Music Library, CD 43584

Processing Information

Processed by: Peter Laurence, Dhy Berry and Aidan O’Connell

Finding aid encoded by Peter Laurence

Arthur Freedman Collection, 1976-2000: A Finding Aid
Eda Kuhn Loeb Music Library, Harvard College Library
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Eda Kuhn Loeb Music Library Repository

The Eda Kuhn Loeb Music Library is the primary repository of musical materials at Harvard. The Music Library’s collecting mission is to serve music teaching and research programs in the Music Department and throughout the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. In addition, it supports the musical needs of the broader Harvard community as well as an international scholarly constituency. We collect books, musical scores, serial titles, sound recordings and video formats, microforms, and rare and archival materials that support research in a wide variety of musical disciplines including historical musicology, music theory, ethnomusicology, composition, and historically informed performance practice, as well as interdisciplinary areas related to music. The special collections include archival collections from the 19th, 20th and 21st century.

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