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Monday, 31 October 2016

Alan Lomax Collection, Library of Congress, American Folklife Center; Todd Harvey; Inside The Library Building

I was really lucky today, following a guided tour (by an excellent Czech-American guide) of the impressive Thomas Jefferson Building at The Library of Congress. I was hoping to catch a glimpse of the Music Department or of the Alan Lomax Collection. I was directed along a few corridors and was given a friendly welcome by Todd Harvey, a Folklife Specialist and Curator of the Alan Lomax Collections. He was working on the recording details and exact dates of the Lomax recordings, on 16 inch discs, of Muddy Waters and 'Son' Sims at the Stovall Plantation in 1941 and 1942. He showed me some of Lomax's manuscript notes of a later Southern recording trip, eg about recording Forrest City Joe and Fred McDowell. He also showed me an example of a model of a portable Presto Disc Recording device, which was powered by a car battery. Not exactly the same model that Lomax used, but very similar. I will certainly return to do some research next time I'm in DC. Thanks Todd! See also, Son House, Field Recordings    and   Muddy Waters, Country Blues  and Boy Blue and His Two, Dimples

Alan Lomax, Special and Temporary Assistant, Archive of American Folk Song, Library of Congress, 1936-1937; Permanent Assistant in Charge, 1937-1943 (information from the introduction to Alan Lomax, Assistant in Charge The Library of Congress Letters, 1935-1945, edited by Ronald D. Cohen)."He was skilled at luring plain folk before his microphone...he was also involved with the mechanics of recording in the field, often with primitive, troublesome equipment" (Ronald D. Cohen)..

Alan Lomax Recordings, LPs and a CD from my own collection:

Elsewhere in The Library of Congress (details)

Minerva (Athena)


Alan Lomax on the BBC Third Programme, 1966, an extract from "The Folk Song Army" in the series "America Since the Bomb". In this recent Radio 3 music programme featuring archival items, Alan Lomax talks about Verne Partlow's "Talking Atomic Blues" (go to 1 hour and 30 minute point)

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