Recirculating J. H. Hutton’s Cylinder Recordings in Nagaland
The research project, funded by the International Association of Sound and Audiovisual Archives and scheduled for January-March 2022, is a collaborative effort involving the Pitt Rivers Museum, the Archives and Research Center for Ethnomusicology (ARCE), and the Highland Institute, targeting the recirculation of the cylinder recordings of John Henry Hutton (1885-1968) in Nagaland. Hutton was a British colonial administrator and anthropologist working for the Indian Civil Service from 1909 to 1936 in the Assam province, which incorporated the territory of Nagaland of present-day India. During his early service, he made fifteen cylinder recordings in the Nagaland region, featuring ritual songs, work songs, and other pieces performed by members of different Naga communities. Hutton donated the cylinders to the Pitt Rivers Museum between 1915-19. Only twelve of the fifteen cylinder recordings were copied to reel-to-reel tape at the National Sound Archive in London in 1987, as sound engineers found three cylinders irreparably broken. Today, the fifteen cylinders are at the Pitt Rivers Museum, and a selection of the twelve digitized recordings are accessible on its website for listening.
Dr Christian Poske, the principal investigator, will evaluate the cylinders, their documentation, and related material, including Hutton’s field photographs and correspondence at the Pitt Rivers Museum and other archives in England in the first stage of the project. In the second stage, he will conduct fieldwork in Nagaland with Lanuakum Aier of the Highland Institute to introduce members of Naga communities to Hutton’s recordings and evaluate their responses to the songs. There will also be an exhibition at the Institute highlighting Hutton’s recordings, recordings from the Linguistic Survey of India, and a selection of new recordings from Nagaland made by the Swiss researcher Thomas Kaiser between 2004-11. A music workshop will take place during this exhibition. In the third and final stage of the project, the Pitt Rivers Museum will provide digital copies of Hutton’s recordings with enhanced documentation to the ARCE and the Highland Institute to make these permanently accessible to researchers and Naga communities in India.