Mrs. Lomaxs Fourth Grade Class Learns the 2+2s of the Federal Deficit

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From to , Lomax was Assistant in Charge of the Archive of Folk Song of the Library of Congress to which he and his father and numerous collaborators contributed more than ten thousand field recordings. A pioneering oral historian, Lomax recorded substantial interviews with many folk and jazz musicians, including Woody Guthrie , Lead Belly , Jelly Roll Morton and other jazz pioneers, and Big Bill Broonzy. On one of his trips in , he went to Clarksdale, Mississippi, hoping to record the music of Robert Johnson. When he arrived, we was told by locals that Johnson had died but that another local man - Muddy Waters - might be willing to record his music for Lomax.

Using recording equipment that filled the trunk of his car, Lomax recorded Waters' music; it is said that hearing Lomax's recording was the motivation that Waters needed to leave his farm job in Mississippi to pursue a career as a blues musician, first in Memphis and later in Chicago.

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As part of this work, Lomax traveled through Michigan and Wisconsin in to record and document the traditional music of that region. Over four hundred recordings from this collection are now available at the Library of Congress. And when he returned nearly three months later, having driven thousands of miles on barely paved roads, it was with a cache of discs and 8 reels of film, documents of the incredible range of ethnic diversity, expressive traditions, and occupational folklife in Michigan.


In late , Lomax hosted two series on CBS's nationally broadcast American School of the Air , called American Folk Song and Wellsprings of Music , both music appreciation courses that aired daily in the schools and were supposed to highlight links between American folk and classical orchestral music.

The individual programs reached ten million students in , U. In , Lomax and his close friend Nicholas Ray went on to write and produce a fifteen-minute program, Back Where I Came From , which aired three nights a week on CBS and featured folk tales, proverbs, prose, and sermons, as well as songs, organized thematically.

In February , Lomax spoke and gave a demonstration of his program along with talks by Nelson A.

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Rockefeller from the Pan American Union , and the president of the American Museum of Natural History , at a global conference in Mexico of a thousand broadcasters CBS had sponsored to launch its worldwide programming initiative. Roosevelt invited Lomax to Hyde Park. Despite its success and high visibility, Back Where I Come From never picked up a commercial sponsor. The show ran for only twenty-one weeks before it was suddenly canceled in February Maybe not purty enough.

O well, this country's a getting to where it can't hear its own voice. Someday the deal will change. On December 8, , as "Assistant in Charge at the Library of Congress", he sent telegrams to fieldworkers in ten different localities across the United States, asking them to collect reactions of ordinary Americans to the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the subsequent declaration of war by the United States.

A second series of interviews, called "Dear Mr. President", was recorded in January and February While serving in the Army in World War II Lomax produced and hosted numerous radio programs in connection with the war effort. In the late s, Lomax produced a series of commercial folk music albums for Decca Records and organized a series of concerts at New York's Town Hall and Carnegie Hall, featuring blues, calypso , and flamenco music. He also hosted a radio show, Your Ballad Man , in that was broadcast nationwide on the Mutual Radio Network and featured a highly eclectic program, from gamelan music, to Django Reinhardt , to Klezmer music, to Sidney Bechet and Wild Bill Davison , to jazzy pop songs by Maxine Sullivan and Jo Stafford , to readings of the poetry of Carl Sandburg , to hillbilly music with electric guitars, to Finnish brass bands — to name a few.

Radio Project in , creating a number of "ballad dramas" featuring country and gospel superstars, including Roy Acuff , Woody Guthrie , Hank Williams , and Sister Rosetta Tharpe among others , that aimed to convince men and women suffering from syphilis to seek treatment. In December a newspaper printed a story, "Red Convictions Scare 'Travelers'" , that mentioned a dinner given by the Civil Rights Association to honor five lawyers who had defended people accused of being Communists.

The article mentioned Alan Lomax as one of the sponsors of the dinner, along with C. Baldwin , campaign manager for Henry A.

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Du Bois , all of whom it accused of being members of Communist front groups. That summer, Congress was debating the McCarran Act , which would require the registration and fingerprinting of all "subversives" in the United States, restrictions of their right to travel, and detention in case of "emergencies," [26] while the House Un-American Activities Committee was broadening its hearings. Feeling sure that the Act would pass and realizing that his career in broadcasting was in jeopardy, Lomax, who was newly divorced and already had an agreement with Goddard Lieberson of Columbia Records to record in Europe, [27] hastened to renew his passport, cancel his speaking engagements, and plan for his departure, telling his agent he hoped to return in January "if things cleared up.

Lomax never told his family exactly why he went to Europe, only that he was developing a library of world folk music for Columbia. Nor would he ever allow anyone to say he was forced to leave. In a letter to the editor of a British newspaper, Lomax took a writer to task for describing him as a "victim of witch-hunting ," insisting that he was in the UK only to work on his Columbia Project.

Lomax spent the s based in London, from where he edited the volume Columbia World Library of Folk and Primitive Music , an anthology issued on newly invented LP records. He spent seven months in Spain, where, in addition to recording three thousand items from most of the regions of Spain, he made copious notes and took hundreds of photos of "not only singers and musicians but anything that interested him — empty streets, old buildings, and country roads", bringing to these photos, "a concern for form and composition that went beyond the ethnographic to the artistic".

Recording folk songs works like a candid cameraman. I hold the mike, use my hand for shading volume. It's a big problem in Spain because there is so much emotional excitement, noise all around. Empathy is most important in field work. It's necessary to put your hand on the artist while he sings.

They have to react to you. Even if they're mad at you, it's better than nothing. In a young David Attenborough commissioned Lomax to host six minute episodes of a BBC TV series, The Song Hunter , which featured performances by a wide range of traditional musicians from all over Britain and Ireland, as well as Lomax himself.

In Scotland, Lomax is credited with being an inspiration for the School of Scottish Studies , founded in , the year of his first visit there. Lomax and Diego Carpitella 's survey of Italian folk music for the Columbia World Library , conducted in and , with the cooperation of the BBC and the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome, helped capture a snapshot of a multitude of important traditional folk styles shortly before they disappeared. The pair amassed one of the most representative folk song collections of any culture.

From Lomax's Spanish and Italian recordings emerged one of the first theories explaining the types of folk singing that predominate in particular areas, a theory that incorporates work style, the environment, and the degrees of social and sexual freedom. The occasion marked the first time rock and roll and bluegrass were performed on the Carnegie Hall Stage.

According to Izzy Young , the audience booed when he told them to lay down their prejudices and listen to rock 'n' roll. In Young's opinion, "Lomax put on what is probably the turning point in American folk music. At that concert, the point he was trying to make was that Negro and white music were mixing, and rock and roll was that thing.

The two were romantically involved and lived together for some years. When Lomax obtained a contract from Atlantic Records to re-record some of the American musicians first recorded in the s, using improved equipment, Collins accompanied him. Their folk song collecting trip to the Southern states, known colloquially as the Southern Journey , lasted from July to November and resulted in many hours of recordings, featuring performers such as Almeda Riddle , Hobart Smith , Wade Ward , Charlie Higgins and Bessie Jones and culminated in the discovery of Fred McDowell.

Recordings from this trip were issued under the title Sounds of the South and some were also featured in the Coen brothers' film O Brother, Where Art Thou? Lomax wished to marry Collins but when the recording trip was over, she returned to England and married Austin John Marshall.


It made me hopping mad. I wasn't just 'along for the trip'. I was part of the recording process, I made notes, I drafted contracts, I was involved in every part". Lomax married Antoinette Marchand on August 26, They separated the following year and were divorced in Lomax was a consultant to Carl Sagan for the Voyager Golden Record sent into space on the Voyager Spacecraft to represent the music of the earth. Music he helped choose included the blues, jazz, and rock 'n' roll of Blind Willie Johnson , Louis Armstrong , and Chuck Berry ; Andean panpipes and Navajo chants; Azerbaijani mugham performed by two balaban players, [40] a Sicilian sulfur miner's lament; polyphonic vocal music from the Mbuti Pygmies of Zaire, and the Georgians of the Caucasus; and a shepherdess song from Bulgaria by Valya Balkanska ; [41] in addition to Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven, and more.

Sagan later wrote that it was Lomax "who was a persistent and vigorous advocate for including ethnic music even at the expense of Western classical music. He brought pieces so compelling and beautiful that we gave in to his suggestions more often than I would have thought possible. There was, for example, no room for Debussy among our selections, because Azerbaijanis play bagpipe-sounding instruments [balaban] and Peruvians play panpipes and such exquisite pieces had been recorded by ethnomusicologists known to Lomax.

The dimension of cultural equity needs to be added to the humane continuum of liberty, freedom of speech and religion, and social justice. Folklore can show us that this dream is age-old and common to all mankind. It asks that we recognize the cultural rights of weaker peoples in sharing this dream. And it can make their adjustment to a world society an easier and more creative process.

The stuff of folklore—the orally transmitted wisdom, art and music of the people can provide ten thousand bridges across which men of all nations may stride to say, "You are my brother. As a member of the Popular Front and People's Songs in the s, Alan Lomax promoted what was then known as "One World" and today is called multiculturalism. His radio shows of the s and s explored musics of all the world's peoples.

Lomax recognized that folklore like all forms of creativity occurs at the local and not the national level and flourishes not in isolation but in fruitful interplay with other cultures. He was dismayed that mass communications appeared to be crushing local cultural expressions and languages.

Some, such as Richard Dorson , objected that scholars shouldn't act as cultural arbiters, but Lomax believed it would be unethical to stand idly by as the magnificent variety of the world's cultures and languages was "grayed out" by centralized commercial entertainment and educational systems.

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Although he acknowledged potential problems with intervention, he urged that folklorists with their special training actively assist communities in safeguarding and revitalizing their own local traditions. Similar ideas had been put into practice by Benjamin Botkin , Harold W.


Thompson, and Louis C. Jones, who believed that folklore studied by folklorists should be returned to its home communities to enable it to thrive anew. The Association's mission is to "facilitate cultural equity" and practice "cultural feedback" and "preserve, publish, repatriate and freely disseminate" its collections.

Every time [Lomax] called me over a span of about ten years, he never failed to ask if we were teaching Cajun French in the schools yet. Lion Hudson.

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