Lomax Goes Digital

Alan Lomax

Ten years after his death, the ‘Global Jukebox’ project envisaged by renowned American folklorist and ethnomusicologist Alan Lomax, as a means of making his extensive field recordings accessible to people around the world, looks set to happen at the end of this month thanks to the wonders of modern technology.

Given that Lomax first started recording in the American South in the mid-1930s this is no mean feat. Out of the “5,000 hours of sound recordings, 400,000 feet of film, 3,000 videotapes, 5,000 photographs and piles of manuscripts” (New York Times) he amassed, some 17,000 music tracks will be available for free streaming by the end of Feb with more available to purchase as CDs or downloads later on. A plan to digitise his radio shows, lectures and interviews is also underway.

Earlier this week, the Global Jukebox label released The Alan Lomax Collection From The American Folklife Center, a 16-track download sampler of Lomax’s field recordings to commemorate what would have been his 97th birthday on 31st January.

To find out more about the Global Jukebox project and delve into Lomax’s wealth of recordings, check out the Association for Cultural Equality website.

Bessie Jones with Hobart Smith, Ed Young and the Georgia Sea Island Singers, recorded by Alan Lomax in Williamsburg, Virginia, 11 April 1960

“The Georgia Sea Island Singers were one of the most popular groups on the 1960s and ’70s folk circuit, performing at colleges, festivals, the Poor People’s March on Washington, and Jimmy Carter’s inauguration. Join The Band – released on LP through Mississippi Records in December 2011 and digitally by Global Jukebox in February 2012 – is a collection of their first stereo recordings, made by Alan Lomax in 1959 and 1960, that showcases their utterly unique hymns, spirituals, ring shouts, and work songs.” (Alan Lomax Archive)

Also check out Whaur The Pig Gaed On The Spree, a 60th anniversary celebration of Lomax’s first Scottish recordings, curated by Scots singer & songwriter Alasdair Roberts and produced in collaboration with the Global Jukebox label.