This is an unfair and inaccurate characterization of Alan Lomax.
Most criticism of his fieldwork is based on a small sample of it--usually the most famous recordings of artists such as Leadbelly, Woody Guthrie and Muddy Waters. These recordings are only the very tip of an iceberg of literally hundreds of hours of field recordings that can be heard at the American Folklife Center of the Library of Congress.
One of the most impressive things about the Lomax fieldwork is it's inclusiveness and the fact that it is largely free of the preconceptions and idee fixe's of which he is often accused. There are Lomax recordings of African American fiddlers, banjoists, poets, middle class church choirs, balladeers and many others who don't fit into the narrow, poorly informed image that many have of his fieldwork.
Your post suggests that you believe that Lomax's collaborators from Fisk University were a part of all of his African-American fieldwork, but this is not the case. The Library of Congress / Fisk University collaboration of 1941 and 1942 was the last major fieldwork that Lomax undertook for the Library of Congress. Lomax made his first such field recordings in 1933, and made many more between those sessions and those of 1941 and 1942. He has been accused of denying credit to his Fisk collaborators, accusations that are not borne out by the paper and audio record of the 1941-2 field trips. Lomax has also been portrayed as a naive, non-southern "visitor" prone to romanticizing poverty who was well out of his depth on this field trip, when in fact he was born and raised in the south, and had recorded African-American music in every southern state by this time, not to mention the Bahamas and Haiti. I could go on and on about this (and I will, if you really want me too, but that might be better done offlist, or at next week's conference).
Full disclosure: I worked for Alan Lomax in the 1980s, and on the Alan Lomax Collection CD series from 1996 to 2003. He had his flaws, to be sure, but they do not include those you attribute to him.
The Library of Congress
101 Independence Ave., SE
Washington, DC 20540-4610
email: [log in to unmask]
>>> Bob Olhsson <[log in to unmask]> 4/27/2007 2:48:01 PM >>>
Unfortunately Lomax chose to omit an immense body of music that didn't fit
his personal and somewhat primitive image of the African American. "The rest
of the story" has recently been uncovered at Fisk University in notes kept
by the music professors who served as his guides. Many slaves had been given
an excellent music education and their descendents and children became the
music teachers to the working class of the southeastern United States. Their
amazing fusion of West African, English, Irish, French and German folk and
Gospel music along with European classical music became the basis of
America's popular music.
There's an amazing story sitting there for somebody to flesh out.
Bob Olhsson Audio Mastery, Nashville TN
Mastering, Audio for Picture, Mix Evaluation and Quality Control
Over 40 years making people sound better than they ever imagined!
From: Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List
[mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of [log in to unmask]
Sent: Friday, April 27, 2007 11:03 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Sounds of Slavery
Start with the LOC:
Ann Arbor, MI
-------------- Original message ----------------------
From: Joel Bresler <[log in to unmask]>
> Dear friends:
> A recent book by Shane White and Graham White, "The Sounds of
> Slavery: Discovering African American History through Songs, Sermons,
> and Speech", attempts to analyze the sounds of American slave
> culture. The accompanying CD includes 18 cuts, mostly dating from the
> 1930s. The authors note that these selections are "about as close as
> we are ever going to get" to sounds from slaves themselves. (p. xxii)
> Given that recording technology had been around for decades by the
> 1930s, is this true? Are any lister's aware of earlier recordings
> that might shed light on the "field calls, work songs, sermons, and
> other sounds and utterances of slaves on American plantations"?
> Many thanks for your thoughts.
> From Booklist:
> >With no recordings of slave songs and narratives, the authors have
> >undertaken the difficult task of bringing to contemporary readers
> >(and listeners, via the CD that accompanies the book) the sounds of
> >American slave culture. The impressive work songs, spirituals, and
> >prayers were compiled from tracks recorded in the 1930s by the Works
> >Progress Administration. Drawing on WPA interviews with former
> >slaves, slave narratives, and other historical documents from the
> >1700s through the 1850s, the authors provide the context for the
> >field calls, work songs, sermons, and other sounds and utterances of
> >slaves on American plantations. The authors also focus on
> >recollections of the wails of slaves being whipped, the barking of
> >hounds hunting down runaways, and the keening of women losing their
> >children to the slave block.
> Joel Bresler
> Independent Researcher
> 250 E. Emerson Rd.
> Lexington, MA 02420
> 781-862-4104 (Telephone & FAX)
> [log in to unmask]
> IN CASE OF VERIZON EMAIL PROBLEMS, PLEASE USE MY BACK-UP EMAIL: