Congratulations to our friend Stephen Wade on his nomination for a GRAMMY award. Wade was nominated in the Best Album Notes category for his extensively researched essay accompanying his n...ew release for Smithsonian Folkways, Banjo Diary: Lessons from Tradition. The album includes several tunes that Wade learned from AFC field recordings. One of these tunes is "Santa Anna's Retreat," as played by Henry Reed. Hear the original field recording at the link above.
Wade is also the author of the new book The Beautiful Music All Around Us, which is an exploration of American traditional music focusing on thirteen field recordings from the AFC archive. For more information on the book, visit http://www.press.uillinois.edu/books/catalog/55qpr7zm9780252036880.html
- One of AFC's archival recordings has been inducted into the prestigious GRAMMY Hall of Fame. This year's inductee is "Bonaparte's Retreat" by William Hamilton Stepp, which was recorded by Alan and Elizabeth Lomax in Salyersville, Kentucky,... in 1937. You can hear the recording at the following link:
Stepp's version, transcribed by Ruth Crawford Seeger, became the source for Aaron Copland, who used the tune as the basis for the "Hoedown" section of his score for the ballet Rodeo. The ballet was the source for further popular versions including a TV commercial with the slogan "Beef: it's what's for dinner" and a progressive rock piece by Emerson, Lake and Palmer, which you can hear at the link below:
You can read more about this and other popular adaptations of AFC's recordings in a recent issue of Folklife Center News, available as a pdf download here:
This is the third of AFC's recordings to make the GRAMMY Hall of Fame. Previous inductees include Lead Belly's 1936 recording of "Goodnight, Irene" (inducted in 2002) and Circle Sound's 1949-1950 release of Jelly Roll Morton's 1938 recordings (inducted in 1980).
- It's the eighth of January! AFC has many versions of the traditional song and fiddle tune "The Eighth of January" in its archive. Some authorities believe the tune was written to commemorate Andrew Jackson's victory at the Battle of New O...rleans on January 8, 1815. Others believe the tune may have predated the battle. At the link below, note that the song sung by Mrs. Mary Sullivan, from AFC's Voices from the Dust Bowl collection, is entitled "The Eighth of January," but has nothing to do with the battle.
Today is the birthday of Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960). Hurston was a key figure in African-American literature during the early twentieth century, and also an important folklori...st. She attended Howard University and Columbia University, where she worked with anthropologists Franz Boas, Ruth Benedict, and Margaret Meade. Se then set out on her career as a folklorist and a writer. In her lifetime, she wrote four novels, two folklore collections, an autobiography, a play (co-authored with Langston Hughes), and a wealth of short fiction and essays. During the 1930s, she worked for the WPA collecting folklore in her native Florida; the fruits of those efforts are here at AFC, and comprise part of our online collection Florida Folklife from the WPA Collections, 1937-1942, which you'll find at the link above.
Most of Hurston's collecting was done in writing, but her sound recordings are particularly interesting, because they are songs she learned from various informants and then sang herself for other collectors. See the link below for an example, "Let's Shake It," recorded from Zora Neale Hurston by Herbert Halpert and Stetson Kennedy:
- Happy New Year! The first day of the year is notable for many reasons; in particular it's an important date in the history of the abolition of slavery. On this day in 1773, the hymn that became known as "Amazing Grace", then titled "1 Chro...nicles 17:16–17," was first used to accompany a sermon led by clergyman, former slaver, and abolitionist John Newton in the town of Olney, England. Exactly ninety years later, in 1863, the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect in Confederate territory. It took several more years, including the Civil War, and a lot of work and struggle on the part of African Americans and their white allies, before emancipation could be realized.
The link below is a Library of Congress online collection about Amazing Grace, which explains and explores many aspects of this fascinating song. It includes many field recordings from the AFC archive, as well as commercial recordings of the song. Enjoy!
- Happy New Year! The American Folklife Center is prominently featured on the Huffington Post Arts and Culture blogs this week, where our staff member Stephen Winick has written an introduction to the mumming tradition, including reference to the AFC's James Madison Carpenter Collection:
- On this day in 1846, Iowa became the 29th state. To celebrate the rich multicultural heritage of Iowa, why not view AFC's webcast featuring the Lao Natasinh Dancers and Musicians from Des Moines? They performed here in the Homegrown Concert Series in 2006.
- It's the third day of Christmas, so my true love gave to me...three French hens. In honor of this traditional gift, let's hear Henry Reed of Virginia play "Cluck Old Hen."
Alan Jabbour... commented on this performance:
One of the tune's special features is the "cluck" made by left-hand picking of the strings. In this, Henry Reed's second performance, the "cluck" is the open E-string, though other fiddlers use both the E and A-strings, or even the E, A, and D-strings. In his first performance (AFS 13037a17), he does not do the left-hand picking, but the set shows interesting variation among the repetitions of the second strain. It seems clear here that the variation is a matter of conscious creative modification, not unconscious changes.
- Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays! On December 18 and 19, American Folklife Center staff members celebrated the season by performing a Mummers Play. Read about the creation of the play, read the full text, and see some great photos at the site of one of our staff members. The link is below!
- Happy Holidays from the American Folklife!
Enjoy our favorite rendition of the most recorded holiday song of all time, "White Christmas".
Alan Lomax recorded this on the Caribbean Island of Nevis during his 1962 fieldtrip. St. Kitt's nat...ive and AFC staff member Valda Morris assures us that these family names and this tradition is still practiced on Nevis.
Click on the link below supplied Alan's Association for Cultural Equity.
- The American Folklife Center staff, including the AFC Mummers, wish all of our friends a very happy holiday season. On December 18 and 19, members of the AFC staff presented a mummers play, derived from texts collected in Britain, which ar...e part of AFC's James Madison Carpenter Collection. One of the venues for the play was the Great Hall of the Library of Congress, next to the Library's Christmas tree. After the play, the costumed mummers joined the rest of the staff for this group photo.
- On this day in 1787, New Jersey became the third state to ratify the U.S. Constitution. Let's celebrate New Jersey's statehood by exploring AFC's online collection "Working in Paterson: Occupational Heritage in an Urban Setting."
- Today is Wright Brothers Day, a United States federal observance. The day celebrates the Wright Brothers' first heavier-than-air powered flight, which took place on this date in 1903 at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. The American Folklife Ce...nter has a fascinating collection relating to the Wright Brothers in our Local Legacies project, celebrating the brothers' earlier career as printers, during which they published a daily and a weekly newspaper, as well as custom jobs including large books. More details are at the link!
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