Brazilian Bus Magnate Zero Freitas Buying Up Records for All-Purpose 'Emporium Musical' Library

By Ian Holubiak on Aug 12, 2014 11:27 PM EDT

Perhaps the reincarnation of Alan Lomax, or just a messiah to the entire music collector community, Zero Freitas has slightly become an enigma with his extensive music library that he is now attempting to make into a non-profit. A wealthy businessman with too much time on his hands, perhaps, has led to an uncanny musical expedition determined to catalog every record in the world.

This isn't an exercise in hoarding, or even an attempt at a world record. The compulsion is comparable to something similar to a recent collection he bought: a former music-store owner in Pittsburgh name Pal Mawhinney, who had an arsenal of some three million discs. His mission was to collect any and every record (particularly those lost to obscurity), and when the world shifted to digital libraries, it changed to a crusade to preserve music or sounds through electronic means. I mean, all the world's ignored some records entirely, but wouldn't we want those to exist on the Internet in some way?

And yet, it is a compulsion tied up in a childhood memory that includes his father and a hi-fi stereo that came with a 200 album as a parting-gift. A successful venture of his, his family's private bus line in São Paulo, brought him wealth enough to continue his insatiable desire. After him and his wife split, it became a certified obsession (not really).

But the next stop on his record collecting train could be going public. A model that he has adopted from Bob George, a music archivist in New York who in 1985 converted his private collection of some 47,000 records into a public resource called the ARChive of Contemporary Music. The collection, now, includes 2.2 million tapes, records and compact discs and has become a major outlet for musicologists, record companies and filmmakers in search of that one, very unknown song. It has entered into a partnership with Columbia University and has garnered the support of rock stars like Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones, David Bowie, Paul Simon, Nile Rodgers, Martin Scorsese and Jonathan Demme.

The name of Freitas' brainchild: Emporium Musical, and it has finally gotten the go ahead from the Brazilian government to import used records from across the globe, making him the first in the country to do so.

And as the collection grows further, the rare records that pass through the São Paulo warehouse become more obscure by the second. Monte Reel of the New York Times recounts that Freitas had a box not yet shelved from Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald and Leonard Bernstein.

(Here's Ellington's "Portrait of Louis Armstrong" from New Orleans Suite, one of the signed and rare discs on Freitas' collection.)

The records were signed elaborately, the owner of them commanding their utmost respect. And now, these momentos to someone else sit perfectly enclosed in a sleeve, outliving their owners and, hopefully, forever being immortalized electronically.

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TagsAlan Lomax, Zero Freitas, Sao Paolo, Monte Reel, The New York Times, Emporium Musical, Keith Richards, The Rolling Stone, Bob George

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