Alan Lomax (; January 31, 1915 – July 19, 2002) was an American ethnomusicologist, best known for his numerous field recordings of folk music of the 20th century. He was also a musician himself, as well as a folklorist, archivist, writer, scholar, political activist, oral historian, and film-maker. Lomax produced recordings, concerts, and radio shows in the US and in England, which played an important role in preserving folk music traditions in both countries, and helped start both the American and British folk revivals of the 1940s, 1950s, and early 1960s. He collected material first with his father, folklorist and collector John Lomax, and later alone and with others, Lomax recorded thousands of songs and interviews for the Archive of American Folk Song, of which he was the director, at the Library of Congress on aluminum and acetate discs.
Alan Lomax (; January 31, 1915 – July 19, 2002) was an American ethnomusicologist, best known for his numerous sports ground recordings of folk music of the 20th century. He was as well as a musician himself, as well as a folklorist, archivist, writer, scholar, political activist, oral historian, and film-maker. Lomax produced recordings, concerts, and radio shows in the US and in England, which played an important role in preserving folk music traditions in both countries, and helped start both the American and British folk revivals of the 1940s, 1950s, and in the future 1960s. He collected material first in the appearance of his father, folklorist and saver John Lomax, and highly developed alone and later than others, Lomax recorded thousands of songs and interviews for the Archive of American Folk Song, of which he was the director, at the Library of Congress upon aluminum and acetate discs.
After 1942, when Congress cut off the Library of Congress’s funding for folk proclaim collecting, Lomax continued to collective independently in Britain, Ireland, the Caribbean, Italy, and Spain, as with ease as the United States, using the latest recording technology, assembling an Big collection of American and international culture. In March 2004, the material captured and produced without Library of Congress funding was acquired by the Library, which “brings every one seventy years of Alan Lomax’s do its stuff together under one roof at the Library of Congress, where it has found a surviving home.” With the Begin of the Cold War, Lomax continued to talk out for a public role for folklore, even as academic folklorists turned inward. He devoted much of the latter allowance of his dynamism to advocating what he called Cultural Equity, which he sought to put on a solid theoretical foundation through to his Cantometrics research (which included a prototype Cantometrics-based learned program, the Global Jukebox). In the 1970s and 1980s, Lomax advised the Smithsonian Institution’s Folklife Festival and produced a series of films not quite folk music, American Patchwork, which aired on PBS in 1991. In his late seventies, Lomax completed a long-deferred memoir, The Land Where the Blues Began (1995), linking the birth of the blues to debt peonage, segregation, and irritated labor in the American South.
Lomax’s greatest legacy is in preserving and publishing recordings of musicians in many folk and blues traditions vis-Ð°-vis the US and Europe. Among the artists Lomax is attributed with discovering and bringing to a wider audience put in blues guitarist Robert Johnson, protest singer Woody Guthrie, folk player Pete Seeger, country musician Burl Ives, and country blues singer Lead Belly, among many others. “Alan scraped by the summative time, and left bearing in mind no money,” said Don Fleming, director of Lomax’s Association for Culture Equity. “He did it out of the passion he had for it, and found ways to fund projects that were closest to his heart”.
Lomax was born in Austin, Texas, in 1915, the third of four children born to Bess Brown and pioneering folklorist and author John A. Lomax. Two of his siblings next developed significant careers studying folklore: Bess Lomax Hawes and John Lomax Jr.
The elder Lomax, a former professor of English at Texas A&M and a much-admired authority on Texas folklore and cowboy songs, had worked as an administrator, and unconventional Secretary of the Alumni Society, of the University of Texas.
Due to childhood asthma, chronic ear infections, and generally frail health, Lomax had mostly been home schooled in elementary school. In Dallas, he entered the Terrill School for Boys (a tiny prep instructor that higher became St. Mark’s School of Texas). Lomax excelled at Terrill and next transferred to the Choate School (now Choate Rosemary Hall) in Connecticut for a year, graduating eighth in his class at age 15 in 1930.
Owing to his mother’s declining health, however, rather than going to Harvard as his father had wished, Lomax matriculated at the University of Texas at Austin. A roommate, future anthropologist Walter Goldschmidt, recalled Lomax as “frighteningly smart, probably classifiable as a genius”, though Goldschmidt remembers Lomax exploding one night though studying: “Damn it! The hardest matter I’ve had to learn is that I’m not a genius.” At the University of Texas Lomax gate Nietzsche and developed an concentration in philosophy. He associated and wrote a few columns for the learned paper, The Daily Texan but resigned taking into consideration it refused to publicize an editorial he had written on birth control.
At this era he in addition to he began collecting “race” records and taking his dates to black-owned night clubs, at the risk of expulsion. During the spring term his mom died, and his youngest sister Bess, age 10, was sent to live similar to an aunt. Although the Great Depression was unexpectedly causing his family’s resources to plummet, Harvard came going on with tolerable financial aid for the 16-year-old Lomax to spend his second year there. He enrolled in philosophy and physics and next pursued a long-distance informal reading course in Plato and the Pre-Socratics considering University of Texas professor Albert P. Brogan. He moreover became functioning in campaigner politics and came down gone pneumonia. His grades suffered, diminishing his financial aid prospects.
Lomax, now 17, therefore took a break from studying to associate his father’s folk tone collecting ground trips for the Library of Congress, co-authoring American Ballads and Folk Songs (1934) and Negro Folk Songs as Sung by Lead Belly (1936). His first dome collecting without his dad was done in the same way as Zora Neale Hurston and Mary Elizabeth Barnicle in the summer of 1935. He returned to the University of Texas that fall and was awarded a BA in Philosophy, summa cum laude, and relationship in Phi Beta Kappa in May 1936. Lack of maintenance prevented him from quickly attending graduate college at the University of Chicago, as he desired, but he would far ahead correspond behind and pursue graduate studies subsequently Melville J. Herskovits at Columbia University and afterward Ray Birdwhistell at the University of Pennsylvania.
Alan Lomax married Elizabeth Harold Goodman, then a student at the University of Texas, in February 1937. They were married for 12 years and had a daughter, Anne (later known as Anna). Elizabeth assisted him in recording in Haiti, Alabama, Appalachia, and Mississippi. Elizabeth moreover wrote radio scripts of folk operas featuring American music that were broadcast higher than the BBC Home Service as part of the conflict effort.
During the 1950s, after she and Lomax divorced, she conducted extended interviews for Lomax as soon as folk music personalities, including Vera Ward Hall and the Reverend Gary Davis. Lomax as well as did important field achievement with Elizabeth Barnicle and Zora Neale Hurston in Florida and the Bahamas (1935); with John Wesley Work III and Lewis Jones in Mississippi (1941 and 42); with folksingers Robin Roberts and Jean Ritchie in Ireland (1950); with his second wife Antoinette Marchand in the Caribbean (1961); with Shirley Collins in Great Britain and the Southeastern US (1959); with Joan Halifax in Morocco; and in the declare of his daughter. All those who assisted and worked in the same way as him were well credited upon the resultant Library of Congress and supplementary recordings, as competently as in his many books, films, and publications.
From 1937 to 1942, Lomax was Assistant in Charge of the Archive of Folk Song of the Library of Congress to which he and his daddy and numerous collaborators contributed more than ten thousand showground recordings. A pioneering oral historian, Lomax recorded substantial interviews with many folk and jazz musicians, including Woody Guthrie, Lead Belly, Jelly Roll Morton and new jazz pioneers, and huge Bill Broonzy. On one of his trips in 1941, he went to Clarksdale, Mississippi, hoping to CD the music of Robert Johnson. When he arrived, he was told by locals that Johnson had died but that complementary local man, Muddy Waters, might be comfortable to stamp album 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 dream that Waters needed to leave his farm job in Mississippi to pursue a career as a blues musician, first in Memphis and forward-thinking in Chicago.
As part of this work, Lomax traveled through Michigan and Wisconsin in 1938 to collection and document the normal music of that region. Over four hundred recordings from this store are now handy at the Library of Congress. “He traveled in a 1935 Plymouth sedan, toting a Presto instantaneous disc recorder and a movie camera. And later he returned nearly three months later, having driven thousands of miles on barely paved roads, it was similar to a cache of 250 discs and 8 reels of film, documents of the incredible range of ethnic diversity, expressive traditions, and occupational folklife in Michigan.”
In late 1939, Lomax hosted two series on CBS’s nationally broadcast American School of the Air, called American Folk Song and Wellsprings of Music, both music response courses that aired daily in the schools and were supposed to put stress on links in the midst of American folk and classical orchestral music. As host, Lomax sang and presented additional performers, including Burl Ives, Woody Guthrie, Lead Belly, Pete Seeger, Josh White, and the Golden Gate Quartet. The individual programs reached ten million students in 200,000 U.S. classrooms and were also shout out in Canada, Hawaii, and Alaska, but both Lomax and his dad felt that the concept of the shows, which portrayed folk music as mere raw material for orchestral music, was deeply flawed and unproductive to reach justice to vernacular culture.
In 1940 under Lomax’s supervision, RCA made two groundbreaking suites of public notice folk music recordings: Woody Guthrie’s Dust Bowl Ballads and Lead Belly’s The Midnight Special and Other Southern Prison Songs. Though they did not sell especially well when released, Lomax’s biographer, John Szwed calls these “some of the first concept albums.”
In 1940, Lomax and his close friend Nicholas Ray went upon to write and fabricate a fifteen-minute program, Back Where I Came From, which aired three nights a week upon CBS and featured folk tales, proverbs, prose, and sermons, as skillfully as songs, organized thematically. Its racially integrated cast included Burl Ives, Lead Belly, Josh White, Sonny Terry, and Brownie McGhee. In February 1941, Lomax spoke and gave a campaigning of his program along when talks by Nelson A. 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 instigation its worldwide programming initiative. Mrs. Roosevelt invited Lomax to Hyde Park.
Despite its skill and high visibility, Back Where I Come From never picked taking place a flyer sponsor. The perform ran for by yourself twenty-one weeks in the past it was hurriedly canceled in February 1941. On hearing the news, Woody Guthrie wrote Lomax from California, “Too honest again, I suppose? Maybe not purty enough. O well, this country’s a getting to where it can’t listen its own voice. Someday the agreement will change.” Lomax himself wrote that in anything his doing he had tried to capture “the seemingly incoherent diversity of American folk melody as an trip out of its democratic, inter-racial, international character, as a discharge duty of its inchoate and turbulent many-sided development.”
On December 8, 1941, as “Assistant in Charge at the Library of Congress”, he sent telegrams to fieldworkers in ten stand-in localities across the United States, asking them to accumulate reactions of unmemorable Americans to the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the subsequent pronouncement of clash by the United States. A second series of interviews, called “Dear Mr. President”, was recorded in January and February 1942.
While serving in the army in World War II, Lomax produced and hosted numerous radio programs in relationship with the battle effort. The 1944 “ballad opera”, The Martins and the Coys, broadcast in Britain (but not the USA) by the BBC, featuring Burl Ives, Woody Guthrie, Will Geer, Sonny Terry, Pete Seeger, and Fiddlin’ Arthur Smith, among others, was released on Rounder Records in 2000.
In the late 1940s, Lomax produced a series of trailer 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 next hosted a radio show, Your Ballad Man, in 1949 that was present nationwide upon 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 later electric guitars, to Finnish brass bands – to make known a few. He along with was a key participant in the V. D. Radio Project in 1949, 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 misfortune from syphilis to point treatment.
In December 1949 a newspaper printed a story, “Red Convictions Scare ‘Travelers‘“, that mentioned a dinner solution by the Civil Rights Association to rave review five lawyers who had defended people accused of visceral Communists. The article mentioned Alan Lomax as one of the sponsors of the dinner, along gone C. B. Baldwin, campaign bureaucrat for Henry A. Wallace in 1948; music critic Olin Downes of The New York Times; and W. E. B. Du Bois, all of whom it accused of swine members of Communist tummy groups. The later than June, Red Channels, a pamphlet condensed by former F.B.I. agents which became the basis for the entertainment industry blacklist of the 1950s, listed Lomax as an artiste or present journalist favorable to Communism. (Others listed included Aaron Copland, Leonard Bernstein, Yip Harburg, Lena Horne, Langston Hughes, Burl Ives, Dorothy Parker, Pete Seeger, and Josh White.) 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 act of “emergencies”, while the House Un-American Activities Committee was broadening its hearings. Feeling certain that the Act would pass and realizing that his career in broadcasting was in jeopardy, Lomax, who was newly divorced and already had an attainment with Goddard Lieberson of Columbia Records to compilation in Europe, hastened to renew his passport, cancel his speaking engagements, and intention for his departure, telling his agent he hoped to compensation in January “if things cleared up.” He set sail on September 24, 1950, on board the steamer RMS Mauretania. Sure enough, in October, FBI agents were interviewing Lomax’s connections and acquaintances. Lomax never told his relatives 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 isolated to work on his Columbia Project.
Lomax spent the 1950s based in London, from where he edited the 18-volume Columbia World Library of Folk and Primitive Music, an anthology issued upon newly invented autograph album records. He spent seven months in Spain, where, in auxiliary to recording three thousand items from most of the regions of Spain, he made copious notes and took hundreds of photos of “not deserted singers and musicians but anything that impatient him – empty streets, old buildings, and country roads”, bringing to these photos, “a business for form and composition that went exceeding the ethnographic to the artistic”. He drew a parallel between photography and pitch recording:
When Columbia Records producer George Avakian gave jazz arranger Gil Evans a copy of the Spanish World Library LP, Miles Davis and Evans were “struck by the beauty of pieces such as the ‘Saeta’, recorded in Seville, and a panpiper’s tune (‘Alborada de Vigo’) from Galicia, and worked them into the 1960 album, Sketches of Spain.”
For the Scottish, English, and Irish volumes, he worked later the BBC and folklorists Peter Douglas Kennedy, Scots poet Hamish Henderson, and bearing in mind the Irish folklorist Séamus Ennis, recording along with others, Margaret Barry and the songs in Irish of Elizabeth Cronin; Scots ballad singer Jeannie Robertson; and Harry Cox of Norfolk, England, and interviewing some of these performers at length roughly their lives. In 1953 a teenager David Attenborough commissioned Lomax to host six 20-minute episodes of a BBC TV series, The Song Hunter, which featured performances by a wide range of established musicians from whatever over Britain and Ireland, as competently as Lomax himself. In 1957 Lomax hosted a folk music show on BBC’s Home Service called ‘A Ballad Hunter’ and organized a skiffle group, Alan Lomax and the Ramblers (who included Ewan MacColl, Peggy Seeger, and Shirley Collins, among others), which appeared upon British television. His ballad opera, Big Rock Candy Mountain, premiered December 1955 at Joan Littlewood’s Theatre Workshop and featured Ramblin’ Jack Elliot. In Scotland, Lomax is ascribed with creature an inspiration for the School of Scottish Studies, founded in 1951, the year of his first visit there.
Lomax and Diego Carpitella’s survey of Italian folk music for the Columbia World Library, conducted in 1953 and 1954, with the cooperation of the BBC and the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome, helped take over a snapshot of a multitude of important normal folk styles suddenly before they disappeared. The pair amassed one of the most representative folk tune 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 feint style, the environment, and the degrees of social and sexual freedom.