You are about to hear something extraordinary. Teacher and pop music archivist Hugo Keesing has put together something called “Chartsweep”.
In two parts, you will hear 5 seconds from every number one song ever (well, at least up through the 1990s, although there are rumors that another version exists that goes into the 2000s).
Listen to both parts below, then scroll down for more on the Chartsweep project:
Hugo Keesing is a teacher and a pop music archivist. I’m not sure he’d refer to himself as an artist (I didn’t ask him), but he did produce a piece of work called Chartsweep, which many of us who listen to sound collage couldn’t help but think of as art.
I think The ECC‘s Mark Gunderson sent me a copy of Chartsweep, probably around 2003 or 2004. I aired the first part in 2004 (Check out Episode 74 HERE – originally aired February, 2004) and part 2 a few months later.
At the time, noone could find out anything about the work and so it seemed like a mystery which needed to be solved. All we knew was that the piece was true to its name. It was over an hour of recognizable segments of every #1 single, as recognized by the “music charts” (I wasn’t sure which chart, but I assumed it was Billboard. It turns out that was partially correct. Read on to learn more…) and that it was assembled by Hugo Keesing. I’m not even sure how or where the recording surfaced. Perhaps Mr. Gunderson will comment on this post… Regardless of how or why, it eventually made it into my library and I aired it on the show.
It was actually Wobbly who made first contact with Mr. Keesing, and with his help I was able to contact the Professor myself. He may not be trained as an artist, but based on how he describes his class presentations, I can say he sounds like a great teacher. Without further ado, here’s the SAR Q&A with Hugo Keesing… adding some much needed information about Chartsweep to the world wide web…
*Name: Hugo Keesing
*Are there any additional names used to describe this project: Full name – Hugo A. Keesing (for teaching and other academic purposes I sometimes add “PhD.”) On-line I’m known as “musicdoc.”
*Do you use a pseudonym? No pseudonyms, no band…
*Is there a story behind your name? The concept and term “Chartsweep” both originated in the late 60s with a syndicated radio show called “The History of Rock ‘n’ Roll.” I listened to it on WOR-FM in New York and recorded portions of it on an old Wollensack reel-to-reel tape recorder. As you know, the ‘sweep presented segments of every Billboard #1 single starting with “Memories Are Made of This” (Jan 1956). I don’t recall where it stopped, but it was around 1968/69. Six years later I began teaching an American Studies course at the University of Maryland called “Popular Music in American Society.” To provide a setting for each class I dusted off the concept, took it back to January 1950, added a number of songs based on Joel Whitburn’s re-definition of #1 songs, and continued where the original had stopped. I added each new #1 until fall, 1991 when I stopped teaching the course. “Set Adrift on Memory Bliss” was the 900th. At the start of each class I played a portion of the ‘sweep that corresponded to the years we were covering that night. To accompany the tape I made 35mm slides of either the original sheet music, 45 rpm record sleeve or something similar, so that students could see as well as hear the pop music history. Copies of each night’s tape went to the undergraduate library. I assume that an enterprising student or two made their own copies and it is a copy of a copy of a copy that remains in circulation. That’s the story in a nutshell.
*Tape manipulations, digital deconstructions or turntable creations: I’m a pop music collector, historian, archivist and teacher. My scope of interest is the 50 years between 1940 and 1990. In my 40 years of teaching I did my best to combine music with documentary excerpts–speeches, news broadcasts, PSAs, advertisements, etc.
*Location: Columbia, MD
*Original Location: I was born in the Netherlands and came to the US as a 7-year old.
*What is your creative/artistic background: Popular culture [comics, baseball cards, music, etc] was a major factor in helping me become “Americanized.” I never learned to read or play music, so I began learning about it… who sang the song, on what record label, flip-side, chart position, etc.
*History: I’ve collected records and related materials since 1955. At one point I had over 15,000 discs, almost 4000 books on R&R in 15 languages, and 18,000 pieces of sheet music in my basement. Much of the collection is already at the University of Maryland’s Performing Arts Library as the “Keesing Musical Archives.” I first began using pop songs in my teaching in 1966, and wrote my doctoral dissertation [one of the first in the US] on popular music and youth culture. It was entitled “Youth in Transition: A Content Analysis of Two Decades of Popular Music,” Adelphi University, 1972. Since then I’ve published or presented more than 200 monographs, papers, reviews and other materials.
*Born: November, 1943
*Motivations: My motivation was simple: I love the music and love to teach. I hit adolescence at the onset of rock ‘n’ roll, with Elvis, Fats Domino, the Platters, the Everly Brothers, Coasters, Roy Orbison and others. 45 rpm records were king and because I bought them and brought them to parties, I became a de facto disc jockey in junior high school. [In the early 1970s I did some dj-ing for the American Forces Radio & Television Network in Turkey as “HK the DJ” with a show called “Rock Recollections.”
*Philosophy: My philosophy has been that people learn best when they’re engaged, and music engages them. If they can connect important information to music they are more likely to retain that knowledge.
*How would you like to be remembered: It’s too early for me to consider how I want to be remembered. I’m not ready to write my epitaph quite yet.
*Web address: (none)