This is the third in a series of six posts presenting AFC’s new traveling exhibit Treasures of the American Folklife Center Archive. The exhibit takes the form of lightweight, colorful vinyl banners containing information about AFC, the Library of Congress, and (as the title suggests) some of the treasures found in our archive. Originally conceived of as part of our celebration of the Alan Lomax centennial, the banners were edited by me and Nancy Groce and designed by Stanley Bandong in the Library’s graphics unit. The fabrication was coordinated by Theadocia Austen.
We’ll be putting the banners online, both so our blog readers can see them, and to go on the record with full credit for all the images, which didn’t fit in the banner format. Here, we’re pleased to present the second of the original six banners. To see what the banner itself looks like, see the picture to the right; just click to enlarge. Watch for the others in the coming weeks!
As before, we’re also providing the banner’s content, in a format that’s easier to see, below. The main text of the blog post is the text on the banner. The photo captions are additional information just for this blog.
We’d also like to acknowledge that this banner’s title is an homage to John Szwed’s biography of Lomax, which is called Alan Lomax: The Man Who Recorded the World. Szwed came to AFC to talk about his book in 2010, and you can see a webcast of that talk here. Since these banners present Lomax’s photography and manuscripts, and since we’ve been working on making his manuscripts and notes accessible (they’re now online here!), we wanted to stress that he also documented the world in other ways besides his precious sound recordings.
Alan Lomax: The Man Who
Documented the World
Lomax did his first field recording with his folklorist father, John Lomax, in 1933 using an Ediphone cylinder machine. Over the next seven decades, he collected extensively throughout the United States, Europe, North Africa, and the Caribbean. He was among the first to document such iconic folk singers as Lead Belly, Vera Ward Hall, Aunt Molly Jackson, Muddy Waters, Honeyboy Edwards, and Mississippi Fred McDowell. He was among the first folklorists to record Cajun music in Louisiana and ethnic music in the Midwest, and to pioneer recording “man-on-the-street” interviews.
Between 1950 and 1958 Lomax lived in England where he worked on influential series for Columbia and Tradition Records and radio programs for the BBC. He also collected widely in England, Scotland, Ireland, Italy, Spain, and other parts of Europe.
After returning to the U.S. he undertook his famous “Southern Journey” field trip of 1959-60, making the first stereo field recordings of blues, ballads, fiddle tunes, and gospel music. Selections were released on commercial labels, making them among the world’s most widely-known field recordings.
Lomax photographed the street musicians below in Caggiano, Campania, Italy, in 1955.
Lomax was one of the first fieldworkers to document Spanish traditions. He photographed the dancer below in Valencia, Spain, in 1952.
Lomax’s 1962 Caribbean field trip produced enough material for 13 albums.
Alan Lomax (right–with microphone) doing fieldwork with the legendary Scottish folklorist and songwriter Hamish Henderson (left–with tape deck), Edinburgh, Scotland, 1958.
Lomax first visited the Georgia Sea Islands in 1935 with folklorist Zora Neale Hurston. When he returned in 1960, he met dynamic source singer Bessie Jones (below), who performed with the influential Sea Island Singers.
Lomax pioneered field recording in Italy. He recorded singers Luigi “Gi Fajo” Maccario and Gio Batta “Bacì Valeghia” Lantero in Baiardo, Liguria in 1954.