The Alan Lomax Archive has announced the culmination of its seven-year effort to preserve and disseminate the work of one of the 20th-century’s foremost folklorists and musicologists, Alan Lomax.
On April 18, 2005, the Alan Lomax database, a multimedia catalog of audio and video recordings and photographs made by Lomax from 1946 to 1994, as well as recordings made by his colleagues, will go online.
Lomax recorded and nurtured the careers of Lead Belly, Woody Guthrie, Muddy Waters and other legends; many of his more obscure recordings have been featured in works such as O Brother Where Art Thou?. Alan Lomax was an ardent believer in a principle he called cultural equity, the need for all cultures to be equally represented in the media and in the classroom. Through many years of comparative research on folk song style, he drew a convincing parallel between natural and cultural ecology that underscores the importance of preserving our intangible oral heritage.
Lomax believed it was imperative to return traditions to their home sources and artists, a strategy he called “cultural feedback.” In addition to releasing The Alan Lomax Database online, the Association for Cultural Equity, which administers the Alan Lomax Archive, will send digital copies of audio and video recordings and photographs by Alan Lomax to a number of libraries and archives in the U.S., the Caribbean and Europe so that they will be available locally to people in or from the regions in which they were originally made.
The Alan Lomax Database, www.lomaxarchive.com, will also ultimately include some of the older collections of audio recordings made by Lomax on behalf of the Library of Congress, which have been transferred and remastered using cutting-edge technology. Developed and built by personnel and consultants of the Alan Lomax Archive, the Database features 25 collections and thousands of recordings, which have been preserved, digitized, and cataloged over the past several years with funds from the Rock, Concordia, Rockefeller, Richmond, and Grammy foundations, the Save America’s Treasures Program, and the National Endowment for the Arts, among others.
The Alan Lomax Database—interrupted tracks, false starts and all—can be searched by performer, song title, geography, culture, genre, subject, instrument, collection, session and recording date. Users can print out single-page reports of their search results. Photographs taken by Lomax during the field trips are linked to the appropriate sessions and also available in a separate searchable catalog. Every audio recording in the catalog can be heard in samples of 40 seconds (music, spoken word) to two minutes (radio shows, discussions, lectures).
The Alan Lomax Collection on Rounder Records is a multi-series, 100+ CD collection of folk music and narrative drawn from Alan Lomax’s international field recordings. For more information go to www.rounder.com/series/lomax_alan/.
Users can also visit www.alan-lomax.com for more information about the Alan Lomax Archive and the Association for Cultural Equity.