Alan Lomax. 17,000 Sound Recordings Online. For Free.

Alan Lomax (right) with musician Wade Ward during the Southern Journey recordings, 1959-1960. photo credit: Shirley Collins/Alan Lomax Archive

Folklorist Alan Lomax spent about 60 years, beginning in the 1930s, traveling around this country and the world recording our musical heritage. From a 1991 interview with Lomax on CBS:

"The modern computer with all its various gadgets and wonderful electronic facilities now makes it possible to preserve and reinvigorate all the cultural richness of mankind."
The folks at the Association for Cultural Equity, a nonprofit organization founded by Lomax, have just put up 17,000 sound recordings on their website fulfilling Lomax's wishes. I encourage you to visit the Association for Cultural Equity website and spend some time traveling back in time and around the world with Lomax as your guide. Having access to this much musical history is well beyond important, it is an international treasure.

One of my favorites is the music and interviews from the 1966 Newport Folk Festival featuring Son House, Howling Wolf, Skip James, Bukka White, Canray Fontenot, Bois Sec Ardoin, Clark Kessinger, Liam Clancy, Joe Heaney, Growling Tiger, Dixie Hummingbirds, Swan Silvertones, Gospel Harmonettes, Bessie Jones, Janie Hunter, Jimmy Driftwood, Dock Boggs, Kilby Snow, and others.

I'd also recommend checking out this interview with Lomax on NPR.

Here's Lomax's daughter, Anna Lomax Wood, from an atricle on NPR on her father:

"He believed that all cultures should be looked at on an even playing field," she says. "Not that they're all alike. But they should be given the same dignity, or they had the same dignity and worth as any other."

PDQ.Bach's picture

Thank you Michael, for this precious link.

It is reassuring to know that the Lomax archives are safe and available to the public. They ought to be declared a national treasure — indeed, a world treasure.

The FBI file excerpt introducing the note by Anna Lomax Wood is, as usual, priceless. Unintentionally so, but priceless.

My father was an ethnomusicologist.
Besides his direct teacher Harry Brauner, John and Alan Lomax were his constant professional inspirations throughout his life.

I have still somewhere in my archives carbon copies* of airmail* slips my father wrote to Moses Asch, of Folkways Records, eagerly asking every six months or so if anything new from the vast Alan Lomax archives was becoming available on vinyl.

* My apologies to the digital generation for evoking antique communication technologies like carbon copies and airmail.
(I'm still used to splicing audio tapes (and computer tapes, even).)

Michael Lavorgna's picture
...those wonderful personal experiences.


PalJoey's picture

I have bookmarked the Association's website, and I expect I will be digging deep into their collection for years to come.

What a wonderful thing.

Dibbs's picture

What a treat! Amazing. Thanks.