Dream of a 'Global Jukebox' is Becoming a Reality
Sound recordist Alan Lomax's fieldwork is being digitized at last
Sound recordist and archivist Alan Lomax once dreamed that his extensive fieldwork—ranging from Christmas carols to Cajun fiddle tunes to prison work songs—would be spread through a Global Jukebox is finally getting his wish.
The vast Alan Lomax Collection at the Library of Congress’ American Folklife Center is composed of recordings, videotapes, film, manuscripts, and other material.
By the end of this month, the Association for Cultural Equity (ACE), founded by Anna Lomax Wood (Alan's daughter), will begin offering free streaming of 17,400 music tracks, including hillbilly music recorded in the South in the 1930s and 1940s. In coming months, some of that material will be made available for purchase.
The best-known material features recordings by singer, songwriter, and social activist Woody Guthrie.
But the collection also includes hundreds of obscure, but historically significant traditional fiddle tunes from the United States, Canada, Europe, Africa, and beyond.
Use the advanced search feature on the Cultural Equity website to find fiddle tunes in specific styles.
A limited amount of this material has been available for purchase through the Smithsonian's Alan Lomax Collection (distributed by Rounder Records) but a more extensive, research-friendly selection can be found on the (ACE) website, which includes research notes and oral histories.
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 father and numerous collaborators contributed more than ten thousand field recordings.
He also worked as a consultant to astronomer Carl Sagan and helped select recordings included on a gold record sent into space aboard the spacecraft Voyager. The disc included recordings of Bach, Beethoven, and Mozart, as well as Chuck Berry, Mbuti pygmy chants, and Louis Arstong's jazz.
Though he was investigated by the FBI and other intelligence agencies during his lifetime for alleged connection to socialist organizations, Lomax received the National Medal of the Arts from President Ronald Reagan in 1986, a Library of Congress Living Legend Award in 2000, and was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Philosophy from Tulane University in 2001.
Lomax died in 2002.