Field recordings and Folklife

cover of Jayme Stone's Lomax Project CD. A banjo, open reel tapes, photographs, and a folder of notes are viewed from above.

Our friends at The ArtsCenter in Carrboro are hosting banjo musician Jayme Stone and his Folklife Project on Friday, April 27. Continuing the practice from 2014’s Lomax Project, CD-15287 in the Southern Folklife Collection, Stone and his collaborators continue to look to recordings made by folklorists and field recorders for songs to reimagine. While Alan Lomax made recordings across the globe, opening up the source material allows for Stone to explore the work of other folklorists and song collectors, presenting that work to new listeners.

cover of 2018 LP by Anna & Elizabeth, "The Invisible Comes to Us". Photo of the two artists leaning on each other with square designs superimposed.The Smithsonian Folkways recording artists Anna & Elizabeth have also looked to archival recordings for source material, and during a recent performance at Chapel Hill’s Nightlight, the duo performed along with a field recording of Margaret Shipman singing “Jeanno and Jeanette”  recorded by Helen Hartness Flanders, a folklorist from Vermont whose collection is at Middlebury College Davis Family Library. The Flanders collection is digitized and you can hear her recordings of Margaret Shipman streaming online via the Internet Archive

The Southern Folklife Collection is the repository for thousands of field recordings and many of these stream online thanks to the Audiovisual Preservation and Access Team and grant support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. I hope these recordings can inspire artists to create new and reassembled works as well. Remember that Wilson Library does offer fellowships!

There are well over 20,000 streaming audio recordings streaming online through the Southern Folklife Collection finding aids. Field recordings are made in the field, taking the listener to a specific time and place. With that in mind I selected a few recordings made in North Carolina. Be sure you click through to the streaming file to listen.

  • For some old time inspiration, the Paul Brown Collection (20382) includes many recordings made at the home of fiddler Benton Flippen. Audio cassette FS-6582 was recorded 22 October 1980 along with Paul Brown and Paul Sutphin.
  • For some blues, the Joan Fenton Collection (20382) includes open reel tape recordings she made of Howard Cotten, bluesman and storyteller from Goldston, NC. Audiotape FT-0891 was made 6 August 1976 and includes Mr. Cotten performing the Piedmont blues classic “Step it Up and Go” as well as sharing memories about Blind Boy Fuller.
  • Field recordings in the Artus Moser Papers (20005) were made on instantaneous discs. Listening through some of those recordings recently, I fixed on disc FD-0705. Songs on the recording, including a driving and lightly swinging version of “John Henry.” are performed by an unidentified female singer, recorded to instantaneous disc by Artus Moser in the 1930s.

If you are interested in other field recordings in the Southern Folklife Collection and Wilson Library, contact us anytime! And remember you can hear Jayme Stone’s Folklife interpret field recordings at The ArtsCenter this Friday.

NC Heritage Award Wikipedia Edit-a-thon, Thursday April 12

flier for NC Heritage Award winners Wikipedia Editathon at Wilson Library, April 9, 2018, 5-9PM

Join us in the Wilson Special Collections Library at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for a Wikipedia edit-a-thon on April 12, 2018.  At this fun, collaborative event, we’ll create and improve Wikipedia articles about winners of the North Carolina Heritage Award. The edit-a-thon is offered in conjunction with this year’s awards ceremony, which will be presented in May by PineCone and the North Carolina Arts Council.
Many thanks to the North Carolina Collection, Southern Folklife Collection, PineCone, North Carolina Arts Council, and North Carolina Folklore Society for their contributions to this event!
Wikipedia banjo.jpgAll are invited, with no subject expertise or Wikipedia editing experience needed. A brief workshop on the basics of Wikipedia editing will be offered at the start of the edit-a-thon. We will have library resources and a list of suggested topics on hand.

WHEN: Thursday, April 12, from 5:00 to 9:00 p.m. Come when you can, stay as long as you would like.

  • Please arrive at 5:00 pm if you’d like to attend the Wikipedia basics workshop.

WHERE: Wilson Library, Room 504, on the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill campus.

WHO: Anyone!

  • Experienced or new Wikipedians (We’ll provide assistance with Wikipedia formatting and syntax.).
  • Amateur historians or research pros (We’ll have library materials on hand to help with research).
  • UNC faculty, staff, and students.

WHAT TO BRING: A laptop. We’ll help you access the University’s wireless network.

WHAT TO KNOW BEFORE YOU ARRIVE:

  • Enter Wilson Library through the main entrance.
  • There are several parking options within a few blocks of Wilson Library, including the Rams Head Parking Deck (330 Ridge Road), Cobb Deck (on Paul Green Drive) and metered parking along South Road and Country Club Road. Please see the Department of Public Safety’s Map of Visitor and Metered Parking for a complete list of visitor parking on UNC’s campus.
  • For information about disability parking, see the Wilson Library website.

WILL THERE BE FOOD? Yes! We’ll have pizza, a few salad options, and soft drinks for participants.

WILL THERE BE FREE STUFF? Yes! We’ll have North Carolina-themed posters. We’ll also have a button-maker on hand for making your own buttons.

WILL THERE BE PRIZES? Yes again! During the event we’ll raffle off prizes related to our theme of traditional North Carolina artists.

 

 

Latest video roundup: From Tennessee to Hawaii

Image

As the AV Preservation team waits on the next large batch of digitized video content (check-in later this summer!), a small selection of videos has been described and made available for streaming in the last week, including:

VT-20004/1: 5th Annual Tennessee Grassroots Days
Held in Nashville’s Centennial Park in 1980, this video features performances by Leola Cullum, Gospel Stirrers, Bud Garrett, Lizzie Cheatham, Nimrod Workman, Jo-El Sonnier with Frazier Moss, Sam’s Ramblers, and Hazel Dickens. Also included are shots of the festival grounds, with demos spanning quilt-making to beekeeping.

Additional footage, PSAs and television coverage of annual Grassroots Days through the 80s can be found in the Southern Folk Cultural Revival Project Collection (#20004)

 

VT-20466/5: James “Son Ford” Thomas at Bacchus, Newark, Del., winter 1978

I highlighted a different James “Son Ford” Thomas video in the Robert Bethke Collection (#20466) in a previous post, in which he performed with George Thorogood and Ron Smith. Primarily playing solo, but joined by Ron Smith eventually, this performance takes place at the University of Delaware’s Bacchus Theater.

 

VT-20018/1 & VT-20018/2: Walter Raleigh Babson at UNC Chapel Hill with Andy Cahan, 1987
Walter Raleigh Babson performed twice at Chapel Hill in 1987, including his last public concert with Andy Cahan on November 12th (VT-20018/2), 26 days before passing away. Along with the performance, this tape includes a retrospective of Babson’s life through home movies and photographs.

 

Babson gracefully executes advanced yoga pose in home movie, undated (VT-20018/2)

VT-20018/1 documents Babson’s performance earlier in 1987 at Gerrard Hall on March 28th for the Southern Accents Fine Arts Festival at UNC, where he is again joined by Andy Cahan. Additional audio recordings and interviews of Babson can be accessed in the Andy Cahan Collection (#20018).

 

VT-20379/20 part 1 and part 2: Gene Bluestein with Nona Beamer on Folk Sources in American Culture, 1986

Gene Bluestein tries out the gourd rattle, with guidance from Nona Beamer

Gene Bluestein hosted a number of guests on his series Folk Sources in American Culture while at California State University. Many of these segments can be found in the Gene Bluestein collection (#20379). On this particular day, he hosted Nona Beamer, who shared examples of instruments and related Hawaiian folk traditions.

 

 

 

Remembering Cecil Taylor

record sleeves for Looking Ahead, 1958, Mary Lou Williams and Cecil Taylor EMBRACED, 1977, and For Olim, 1988. Cecil Taylor_SFC_call nos_FC20462_FC22772_FC23892_Pulled a few favorites by the great Cecil Taylor today in honor of the artist’s passing. Taylor was incredibly prolific, but for the briefest of surveys of his music the three albums pictured above might be a place to start.

The Cecil Taylor Quartet, looking ahead! (Contemporary Records, 1958), was recorded in the Nola Penthouse Studios in New York City, June 9, 1958 and features Earl Griffith on the vibra-harp, Buell Neidlinger on bass, and Dennis Charles on drums. Working as the leader of a quartet, Taylor stretches the tonal, melodic, and rhythmic structure of the pieces and his collaborators. The second album, Embraced (Pablo, 1977), recorded live in New York City is a collaboration between Taylor and one of his influences and another pioneer of the avant-garde, Mary Lou Williams. The two artists take the listener through the history of jazz, from spirituals and ragtime through boogie, bop, blues, and beyond into the future. Finally, For Olim (Soul Note, 1987), a solo album recorded April 9, 1986 at “Workshop Freie Music 1986” in Berlin, a collection of works that demonstrate the full range of Taylor’s compositional and performance skills, challenging and thrilling listening.

You can hear clips on our instagram, @sfolklife. You may also want to tune into the 24 hour memorial broadcast on WKCR that will extend through Sunday, April 8 at 8PM.

Martin Luther King, Jr. speaking from Birmingham, 1963

closeup of Martin Luther King, Jr. signature on Guy Carawan's banjo head Like many of you today, we remember Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his legacy by turning to his own voice and words. In that spirit we’d like to share a clip of a speech Dr. King made to a group of organizers and activists at a Mass Meeting in Birmingham, Alabama, April 1963, digitized from open reel tape recording FT-20008/9832 in the Guy and Candie Carawan Collection (20008). He addresses the audience with seriousness and humor, inspiring them to continue to fight for the cause and lifting them up in solidarity before they all join together to sing “We Shall Overcome”. Listen to those clips here or read the transcription below:

Flyer for "Freedom Rally" with speaker Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. 20008_Folder17_FreedomRideFlyer_SFC006[Applause]

[Martin Luther King, Jr.]: Now what I’m saying to you we are in this together and they are scared to death they don’t know what to do but this demonstrates the power of numbers. Mr. Connor has hollered, I know he’s gonna be a hoarse tonight, he has hollered so loud and when we were leaving I said, “How you doing Mr Connor?”
[MLK mimicking Mr. Conner] “Arrrerrrarrrarr, How the hell you….!”
[laughter]
And so as we were driving out he looked at Billups and we were in the car, he said “You better get on back over that church and I hope you get there safe”
[Applause]
Yes but God bless you that’s all we want to say, “Don’t worry..” We’re gonna take care of everything and see that everybody’s treated alright. And I said this to Mr. Marshall, I said “Now, I want you to know this Mr. Marshall, they are not criminals.” And I said “It’s not our problem.”
And Mr. Marshall said, “Well you know the city’s had a real problem today with so many…”
And I said “Well that’s that your problem, not ours. When you arrest somebody it is the job of the city to see that they are housed, that they are fed this is the job of the city. These young people have been unjustly arrested for standing up for that right. Don’t you know it’s a sacred right to picket and to protest. People can march around the White House, 500 went to the White House yesterday nobody was arrested. And down here in Alabama we are put in jail because we will stand up for our rights.”
And we are going to let them know if they put us in jail they’re going to treat us right after we get there
[Applause]

[Speaking: Rev. Charles Billups]:

Now let us join hands and let us sing together, “We Shall Overcome”

[singing]
We shall overcome
We shall overcome
We shall overcome someday,
Oh deep in my heart
I do believe
We shall overcome someday.

You can hear the entire tape, as well as interviews and comments from participating student actives, streaming through the Southern Folklife Collections digital collections here: FT-20008/9832. Digitized recordings in the Guy and Candie Carawan Collection have been made accessible through streaming thanks to SFC’s ongoing audiovisual preservation grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

The photo above is a closeup of Guy Carawan’s banjo head (pictured in full below), signed by Martin Luther King, Jr. as well as other leaders like Rosa Parks, Mahalia Jackson, Septima Clark, Fred Shuttlesworth and more. If you are interested in other archival materials related to Martin Luther King, Jr. you may want to read an article from today’s News and Observer, April 4, 2018, “Martin Luther King, Jr. and Chapel Hill’s Jim Crow Past,” by journalist Mike Ongle. The article based on research across the collections at Wilson Special Collections Library and details Martin Luther King’s visit to Chapel Hill and UNC Chapel Hill in May of 1960, including photos from the John Kenyon Chapman Papers (05441) .signatures and autographs of leaders in the Civil Rights Movement, including Martin Luther King, Jr., Mahalia Jackson, Rosa Parks, Fred Shuttlesworth and more on Guy Carawan's banjo head

 

Now Available for Research: Joan Moser Collection

newspaper clipping of Joan Moser holding a medicinal plant

Asheville Citizen-Times clipping found in Folder 2 of the Joan Moser Collection #20370

We recently published a finding aid for the Joan Moser Collection (20370), which contains the papers and audiovisual materials of the western North Carolina based folk musician and historian, Joan Moser. There’s a chance you may have heard of Joan’s father, Artus Moser, whose collection of papers also resides at the Southern Folklife Collection. Like her father, Joan studied and taught the music and folk traditions of Appalachia. She also played – guitar, banjo, lute, and dulcimer, to name a few.

Joan’s collection is made up mostly of reel-to-reel tapes that she compiled over the years. Thanks to SFC’s ongoing audiovisual preservation grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Joan Moser Collection is now available for research and her tapes have been queued up for digitization.

Many of the tapes found in her collection have close ties to the music and traditions of western North Carolina. Below is a visual sampling of these tapes, including live recordings from the Asheville Mountain Dance and Folk Festival and recordings made at the Moser family home in Swannanoa, N.C., located on Buckeye Cove in Buncombe County.

open reel tape box from Joan Moser Collection

“Asheville Mountain Dance and Folk Festival, 1st and 2nd nights, tape 1, Asheville, N.C., 8 August 1959” (FT-20370/1) A live recording from the 32nd annual Mountain Dance and Folk Festival in Asheville, NC. The festival was founded by musician and folk historian, Bascom Lamar Lunsford.

open reel from Joan Moser Collection

“J. J. Bailey and A. M. Moser, oral history continued, 5 July 1972” (FT-20370/3) An oral history conducted with Artus Moser and Jesse James Bailey. According to the Southern Highlands Research Center Oral History Collection at UNC-Asheville, “Bailey was born 14 June 1888 in Madison County, N.C. He was Sheriff of Madison County (1920-1922) and Buncombe County (1928-1930). For 58 years he worked as a telegrapher and then as a detective for the Southern Railroad.”

open reel tape box from Joan Moser Collection

“Pleaz Mobley at Artus Moser’s House, 7 August 1959” (FT-20370/17). In 1959 Joan Moser recorded the Kentucky born attorney, politician, and ballad singer, Pleaz Mobley, at the Moser family home. A note found on the recording reads, “Pleaz Mobley often stayed with Mosers when coming to Asheville Mountain Dance and Folk Festival.”

open reel tape box from Joan Moser Collection

“Party at Home with Ruth and Latrobe Carroll and children, 1960” (FT-20370/23) A home recording featuring the Asheville based children’s books illustrator, Ruth Crombie Robinson Carroll, with her husband and co-collaborator, “Archer” Latrobe Carroll.

open reel tape box from Joan Moser Collection

“Fiddle music 4: Mrs. Edd Presnell, Marcus Martin, August-September 1959” (FT-20370/42) Recordings featuring traditional musicians from western North Carolina, including Mrs. Edd Presnell on dulcimer and Marcus Martin of Macon County, N.C. on fiddle.

Documenting the origins of SNCC in the Guy and Candie Carawan Collection

The back of Guy Carawan singing to audience in auditorium at Shaw University, Durham, NC, 1960. Founding meetings of SNCC.

Our colleagues at Duke University are hosting a conference March 23-March 24 to honor the work of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and the creation of the SNCC Digital Gateway, a “documentary website tells the story of how young activists in SNCC united with local people in the Deep South to build a grassroots movement for change that empowered the Black community and transformed the nation.” [“About,” SNCC Digital Gateway]

In solidarity with the conference and the SNCC Legacy Project, we present these two images from the Guy and Candie Carawan Collection (20008).  The top image shows the back of Guy Carawan singing to the audience in an auditorium at Shaw University in Durham, April 1960. Brought together by the encouragement of SCLC Executive Director Ella Baker and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the protest leaders founded SNCC at this meeting.

The image below shows the members of newly founded SNCC demonstrating the power of music and the movement at Fisk University. Guy Carawan is playing guitar, Candie Carawan is second from the left in the back row, and Congressman John Lewis is at the far right. These images serve as a powerful reminder that youth have been, and remain, at the forefront of activism advocating for social change.

Members of SNCC singing onstage at FIsk University, 1960, including Guy Carawan, Candie Carawan, and John Lewis, amongst others. PF20008_0058_0006_002. Guy and Candie Carawan Collection (20008).

New City Songster in the Sing Out! Magazine Collection

This past week, we’ve been unpacking and lightly processing a new (and very big!) accession to the Sing Out! Magazine Collection (#20550). The accession, which has yet to be published to the finding aid, includes the magazine’s reference collection of LPs and CDs, as well as their papers – subject files, administrative files, and a selection of newsletters, serials, and printed materials compiled by the magazine staff.

a sampling of soon-to-be-processed printed materials found in the Sing Out! Magazine Collection #20550

As AV Archivist, I came on board the project to help the Southern Folklife Collection pack and unload the LPs and CDs, but I’ve also had a chance to help my colleagues in the Wilson Library Technical Services Department (shout outs to Nancy, Amy, and Laura!) make better sense of the papers that landed on their doorstep.

One of my favorite encounters while unpacking Sing Out!’s printed materials was a partial run of the New City Songster (NCS).

a partial run of the New City Songster found in the Sing Out! Magazine Collection #20550

First published in the United Kingdom at the tail-end of the folk revival movement, the NCS’ main mission was to circulate new folk and protest songs to eager audiences. As the first 1968 volume states:

“It is not a folk magazine as such, with articles, reviews, and traditional songs, but is strictly devoted to circulating new songs: songs for tomorrow, today, and possibly yesterday, but no further back.”

According to the Working Class Library Museum, the publication was almost entirely the work of Peggy Seeger (who chose, edited and notated the songs) and David Scott (the artist for all but one of the issues). It featured songs by Peggy Seeger and Ewan MacColl and songwriters from all over the English-speaking world. It ran for 21 volumes from 1968-1985.

Below are some sample pages from various volumes. Enjoy!

NSC, vol 12., 1976, p 1

NCS, vol. 8, 1972, p 10-11

NCS, vol. 19, 1984, p 10-11

NCS, vol. 19, 1984, p 34-35

NCS, vol. 1 reprint, 1974 (orig. 1968), p 6-7

 

 

Cats of the SFC

One of my favorite parts about digitizing photographers’ collections or searching through stacks of photos to find something specific is finding the rare photo that seems out of context but says a lot about the person who captured it. Oftentimes I see photo after photo of performers and performances and famous artists, but sometimes a photo of a pet or a flower or a road sign finds its way into the mix. It’s a fun reminder that the photographers, while focusing on their work, still let a little bit of their personality shine through in ways other than their shooting style. In the Ronald D. Cohen Collection, I noticed a bunch of photos of cats sprinkled throughout images of the folk revival movement in and around New York City in the 60’s, and I thought it was only fair to give them a spotlight since the photographers clearly thought they were worth the film. The cat photos, of which the ones you see here are but a few, are mostly captured by Aaron Rennert, with some additional shots from Ray Sullivan. They were documenting the folk scene in Greenwich Village for Caravan magazine, and I think these cats exemplify the spirit they were trying to capture. Continue reading

Clifton Chenier, King of Zydeco

Here’s a photo I came across while musing through the John Edwards Memorial Foundation Records Collection: Clifton Chenier with his accordion. Clifton was a prominent zydeco artist from Opelousas, Louisiana, known as the “King of Zydeco,” and sometimes billed as “King of the South.” He was born in 1925 and lived to be 62 years old. He began his recording career in 1954 when he signed with Elko Records, and went on to sign with Chess Records and Arhoolie, for which the above is a publicity photo. Clifton won a Grammy in 1983 for his album, I’m Here, and was the second Louisiana Creole to do so, following Queen Ida. He was well-known for his accordion playing and was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame posthumously in 1989, and The Louisiana Music Hall of Fame in 2011. Check out some video of him performing!