|Smithsonian Folkways Recordings|
|Genre||Folk, World, Children's, Jazz, Blues, and more|
|Country of origin||United States|
|Official website|| www|
Smithsonian Folkways is the nonprofit record label of the Smithsonian Institution. It is a part of the Smithsonian's Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, located at Capital Gallery in downtown Washington, D.C. The label was founded in 1987 after the family of Moses Asch, founder of Folkways Records, donated the entire Folkways Records label to the Smithsonian. The donation was made on the condition that the Institution continue Asch's policy that each of the more than 2,000 albums of Folkways Records remain in print forever, regardless of sales. Since then, the label has expanded on Asch's vision of documenting the sounds of the world, adding six other record labels to the collection, as well as releasing over 300 new recordings. Some well-known artists have contributed to the Smithsonian Folkways collection, including Pete Seeger, Ella Jenkins, Woody Guthrie, and Lead Belly. Famous songs include "This Land Is Your Land", "Goodnight, Irene", and "Midnight Special." Due to the unique nature of its recordings, which include an extensive collection of traditional American music, children's music, and international music, Smithsonian Folkways has become an important collection to the musical community, especially to ethnomusicologists, who utilize the recordings of "people's music" from all over the world.
The Smithsonian Institution, established on August 10, 1846 "for the increase and diffusion of knowledge," is a group of museums and research centers administered by the Government of the United States. The institution is named after its founding donor, British scientist James Smithson. Originally organized as the "United States National Museum," that name ceased to exist as an administrative entity in 1967.
Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington or D.C., is the capital of the United States. Founded after the American Revolution as the seat of government of the newly independent country, Washington was named after George Washington, first President of the United States and Founding Father. As the seat of the United States federal government and several international organizations, Washington is an important world political capital. The city is also one of the most visited cities in the world, with more than 20 million tourists annually.
Moses Asch, often known as Moe Asch, was a Polish-American recording engineer and record executive. He founded Asch Records, which then changed its name to Folkways Records when the label transitioned from 78 RPM recordings to LP records. Asch ran the Folkways label from 1948 until his death in 1986. Folkways was very influential in bringing folk music into the American cultural mainstream. Some of America's greatest folk songs were originally recorded for Asch, including "This Land Is Your Land" by Woody Guthrie and "Goodnight Irene" by Lead Belly. Asch sold many commercial recordings to Verve Records; after his death, Asch's archive of ethnic recordings was acquired by the Smithsonian Institution, and released as Smithsonian Folkways Records.
The Smithsonian Folkways Recordings label arose when the Smithsonian acquired a vast collection of recordings from Folkways Records, maintained by Moses Asch. The original 2,168 titles produced by Folkways Records now make up the bulk of the label's collection.
In 1905, Moses "Moe" Asch was born in Poland. His father, Sholem Asch, a successful author, made enough money to move the family to Paris in 1912. In 1914, Sholem left Paris for work in New York City and, a year later, sent for his family. The experience at Ellis Island was traumatic for 10-year-old Moe, and, based on his own account, memory was seared into his mind. Sholem believed in educating his fellow man through his literature, and Moe showed that same passion through his chosen career of audio engineering.
Sholem Asch, also written Shalom Ash, was a Polish-Jewish novelist, dramatist, and essayist in the Yiddish language who settled in the United States.
Ellis Island, in Upper New York Bay, was the gateway for over 12 million immigrants to the U.S. as the United States' busiest immigrant inspection station for over 60 years from 1892 until 1954. Ellis Island was opened January 1, 1892. The island was greatly expanded with land reclamation between 1892 and 1934. Before that, the much smaller original island was the site of Fort Gibson and later a naval magazine. The island was made part of the Statue of Liberty National Monument in 1965 and has hosted a museum of immigration since 1990.
In the mid-1920s, Asch studied radio engineering in Germany, a center for the new science. When he returned to the United States, he worked for various electronic firms before opening his own radio repair business, Radio Labs, during the Great Depression. In this business, Moe built equipment for radio stations and installed recorders for air use.Asch wrote in a 1961 article, "Forming one of the first independent record companies it was natural for me to want to record folk music and people's expression of their wants, needs and experiences."
The Great Depression was a severe worldwide economic depression that took place mostly during the 1930s, beginning in the United States. The timing of the Great Depression varied across nations; in most countries it started in 1929 and lasted until the late-1930s. It was the longest, deepest, and most widespread depression of the 20th century. In the 21st century, the Great Depression is commonly used as an example of how intensely the world's economy can decline.
In 1940, Sholem invited his son with him to New Jersey to meet physicist and humanitarian Albert Einstein, who encouraged Moe to record and document the sounds of the world, which Asch took to be his life calling. Soon after that meeting, in early 1940, Asch founded Asch Records with a small staff and studio located in downtown Manhattan, New York. He allowed any artist to come and record at no charge, in contrast to bigger studios that charged artists fees for using recording equipment. Because of his open-door policy, Asch attracted many young and/or unique "would-be" artists. Due to the American Federation of Musicians' 1942 strike against major record labels, small labels such as Asch's filled the void in sales for distributors. The label grew and became more successful through deals with other producers, including Norman Granz. This partnership proved successful, leading to the concept of recording live concerts. These recordings came close to Asch's vision of documenting "real" sound, and, because there were no studio fees, were less expensive to produce. Around this time, Asch began another record label, Disc Records, though this fell through in a short time. Asch received recordings from Granz of an up-and-coming pianist named Nat Cole, which he decided to issue on a record in fall 1946. He invested a large amount of money in publicity and advertising, for the first time attempting to break into the pop charts. Due to a snowstorm, shipping was delayed past the holiday rush, causing Asch Records to fall into bankruptcy. As one of the terms of his bankruptcy, Asch was barred from starting another label. To get around this, in July 1948, Marian Distler, Asch's longtime assistant, became the president of a new label, Folkways Records and Service Corporation. Asch was hired as her "consultant," and Folkways Records was created. It was at this time that Asch created his plan for keeping all of the Folkways records in print, regardless of demand. In this way, he figured that demand, though small, would continue for decades. He famously remarked, "Just because the letter J is less popular than the letter S, you don't take it out of the dictionary."
Albert Einstein was a German-born theoretical physicist who developed the theory of relativity, one of the two pillars of modern physics. His work is also known for its influence on the philosophy of science. He is best known to the general public for his mass–energy equivalence formula E = mc2, which has been dubbed "the world's most famous equation". He received the 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics "for his services to theoretical physics, and especially for his discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect", a pivotal step in the development of quantum theory.
The American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada (AFM/AFofM) is a 501(c)(5) labor union representing professional instrumental musicians in the United States and Canada. The AFM, which has its headquarters in New York City, is led by president Raymond M. Hair, Jr. Founded in Cincinnati in 1896 as the successor to the "National League of Musicians," the AFM is the largest organization in the world to represent professional musicians. They negotiate fair agreements, protect ownership of recorded music, secure benefits such as health care and pension, and lobby legislators. In the US, it is the American Federation of Musicians (AFM)—and in Canada, the Canadian Federation of Musicians/Fédération canadienne des musiciens (CFM/FCM). The AFM is affiliated with AFL–CIO, the largest federation of Unions in the United States; and the Canadian Labour Congress, the federation of unions in Canada.
On August 1, 1942, the American Federation of Musicians, at the instigation of union president James Petrillo, began a strike against the major American recording companies because of disagreements over royalty payments. Beginning at midnight, July 31 1942, no union musician could make commercial recordings for any commercial record company. That meant that a union musician was allowed to participate on radio programs and other kinds of musical entertainment, but not in a recording session. The 1942–44 musicians' strike remains the longest strike in entertainment history.
Folkways Records released over 2,000 recordings between the years 1949 and 1987, spanning many genres, including jazz, folk, classical, avant-garde, and world music. Over the years of Folkways Records, Asch recorded some of the biggest names in music, including Woody Guthrie, Lead Belly, Pete Seeger, Duke Ellington, James P. Johnson, Dizzy Gillespie, John Cage, and Charles Ives. Reissues of the early blues and folk recordings from Folkways, such as Harry Smith's well-known Anthology of American Folk Music , fueled several generations of folk revivals, inspiring young musicians such as Dave van Ronk, Peter, Paul, and Mary, and Bob Dylan.
Folk music includes traditional folk music and the genre that evolved from it during the 20th-century folk revival. Some types of folk music may be called world music. Traditional folk music has been defined in several ways: as music transmitted orally, music with unknown composers, or music performed by custom over a long period of time. It has been contrasted with commercial and classical styles. The term originated in the 19th century, but folk music extends beyond that.
Classical music is art music produced or rooted in the traditions of Western culture, including both liturgical (religious) and secular music. While a more precise term is also used to refer to the period from 1750 to 1820, this article is about the broad span of time from before the 6th century AD to the present day, which includes the Classical period and various other periods. The central norms of this tradition became codified between 1550 and 1900, which is known as the common-practice period. The major time divisions of Western art music are as follows:
Avant-garde music is music that is considered to be at the forefront of experimentation or innovation in its field, with the term "avant-garde" implying a critique of existing aesthetic conventions, rejection of the status quo in favor of unique or original elements, and the idea of deliberately challenging or alienating audiences.
In 1984, looking for someone to continue the Folkways Records collection after him, Asch found Ralph Rinzler, who was then artistic director of the Smithsonian's annual Folklife Festival. Asch saw that the Smithsonian had the power to keep the collection alive and keep the sounds of the world in the people's hands.Asch stipulated one main condition: that every recording was to remain "in print" forever, regardless of its sales. It was the way that he began the label, and he felt that the people deserved to have the sounds of the world preserved. There was opposition to the transfer, with some members of the Smithsonian citing the Folkways collection's "uneven quality" and "balance of repertory." Despite these criticisms, Rinzler persevered, and negotiations with Asch continued. Asch died in 1986 before the deal was completed, but his family finished the passing of the Folkways Records to the Smithsonian in 1987.
The collection became known as the Moses and Frances Asch Collection, part of the Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections housed in the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage. The recordings on other labels, including Paredon Records, Cook, Collector, Dyer-Bennet, Fast Folk, Monitor, M.O.R.E. The Mickey Hart Collection, Arhoolie Records, and Bobby Susser Songs For Children have since been added to the collection.
After the creation of the collection in the Smithsonian Archives, only two full-time positions were funded. Rinzler recruited Anthony Seeger, well known in the ethnomusicology community as director of the Archives of Traditional Music at Indiana University, as director, and a full-time archivist, Jeff Place. The Smithsonian also stipulated a condition regarding the transfer: if they accepted the label, it would have to support itself through its sales. Seeger and Place had no experience running a record label, but took on the project. Though they could not retain all of Asch's business practices, they managed to preserve the essence of Folkways Records while creating the new label, Smithsonian Folkways. The label now relies on a small team of full-time staff, part-time staff, interns, and volunteers to continue the mission of Smithsonian Folkways.
Smithsonian Folkways is engaged in several projects dedicated to increasing the awareness and use of their recordings, as well as the preservation of them.
As part of their mission in spreading the sounds of the world, Smithsonian Folkways has made the recordings of their archives available digitally in various ways, in addition to retail distribution of CDs (some titles Manufactured on Demand) and LPs.
In February 2005, Smithsonian Folkways launched Smithsonian Global Sound, an online MP3 music store, similar to programs such as Apple's iTunes. The entire collection was made available online, at the cost of $0.99 per track. Smithsonian Folkways pays royalties to all the artists (and if the artists cannot be found, the money is put in escrow).The purpose of the brand name Smithsonian Global Sound has been altered to provide the entire collection online for streaming for subscribing institutions, such as universities, via the Smithsonian Global Sound for Libraries service, a co-production with Alexander Street Press.
Smithsonian Folkways now offers the entire Folkways collection for digital download through its website, at $0.99 for most songs and $9.99 for most albums, available in both MP3 and FLAC format. In addition, Smithsonian Folkways distributes digitally via outlets such as iTunes and eMusic.
In 2011 Smithsonian Folkways released a new Jazz anthology to update their previous release, the 1973 Smithsonian Collection of Classic Jazz. The anthology includes 111 tracks on six discs, held within a 200-page compilation of historical essays, musical analyses, and contemporary photographs of the musicians.
In 2012 Smithsonian Folkways released Woody At 100: The Woody Guthrie Centennial Collection , a 150-page large-format book with 3 CDs containing 57 tracks, including Woody Guthrie's most important recordings such as the complete version of "This Land Is Your Land," "Pretty Boy Floyd," "I Ain't Got No Home in This World Anymore," and "Riding in My Car."
folkwaysAlive! was a partnership between Smithsonian Folkways and the University of Alberta established in 2002–2003 by professors Regula Qureshi and Michael Frishkopf with support from then VP Research Gary Kachanoski, aiming to create a "national centre of musical and cultural excellence." Originally conceived as a part of the Canadian Centre for Ethnomusicology, folkwaysAlive! subsequently operated independently within the University of Alberta's Faculty of Arts. The mission was to create a research center for the music of the cultures of Alberta and western Canada, as well as cultures from around the world. The center invited local and visiting musicians and artists to present lectures and workshops. The partnership concluded December 31, 2016. As a consequence, folkwaysAlive! no longer exists at the University of Alberta, but has been superseded by a more broadly-conceived entity, the Sound Studies Initiative.
In 2003, Smithsonian Folkways, in conjunction with the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, began a project called "Save Our Sounds" that aims at preserving the sounds vital to our nation's history which are deteriorating, such as Thomas Edison's recordings made on wax cylinders and others done on acetate discs in the early 20th century.The Save America's Treasures program initiated by the White House Millennium Council awarded a matching grant of $750,000 for the project. The goal of the project is to expose the nation to the need for sound preservation, and to protect the most important and "priceless" records from the combined collections.
Smithsonian Folkways and its collection of labels have earned a variety of awards and honors including 7 Grammy Awards, one Latin Grammy award, 10 Grammy Lifetime Achievement Awards, and 19 Independent Music Awards.
Gilbert Vandine "Cisco" Houston was an American folk singer and songwriter who is closely associated with Woody Guthrie due to their extensive history of recording together.
Mike Seeger was an American folk musician and folklorist. He was a distinctive singer and an accomplished musician who played autoharp, banjo, fiddle, dulcimer, guitar, mouth harp, mandolin, dobro, jaw harp, and pan pipes. Seeger, a half-brother of Pete Seeger, produced more than 30 documentary recordings, and performed in more than 40 other recordings. He desired to make known the caretakers of culture that inspired and taught him.
Dust Bowl Ballads is an album by Woody Guthrie, recorded for Victor Records in Camden, New Jersey in 1940. It was Guthrie's first commercial recording and the most successful album he made. It is considered to be the first or one of the very first concept albums.
The Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections is housed in the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage in Washington, D.C., United States.
The Center for Folklife & Cultural Heritage (CFCH) is one of three cultural centers within the Smithsonian Institution. Its motto is "culture of, by, and for the people", and it is a steward and ambassador to cultures around the world. It does this by encouraging understanding and cultural sustainability through research, education, and community engagement. The CFCH differs in important aspects from the more conventional museums within the Smithsonian complex. It contains (numerically) the largest collection in the Smithsonian, but is not fully open to the public. Its budget comes primarily from grants, trust monies, federal appropriations, and gifts, with only a small percentage coming out the main Smithsonian budget.
Smithsonian Global Sound (SGS) is the digital archive project of the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage (SCFCH), launched in 2005 by Smithsonian Folkways, the nonprofit record label of the Smithsonian Institution. Its stated mission is to preserve and disseminate a wide range of the world's music. By making the archives of Smithsonian Folkways and its partner organizations available for online purchase and downloading, Smithsonian Global Sound brings the promotion and preservation of local traditions into the global digital age.
Woody Guthrie's published recordings are culled from a series of recording sessions in the 1940s and 1950s. At the time they were recorded they were not set down for a particular album, so are found over several albums not necessarily in chronological order. The more detailed section on recording sessions lists the song by recording date.
The Asch Recordings, recorded in 1944 and 1945, are possibly the most famous recordings of US folk musician Woody Guthrie. The record was conducted over a series of days by Moses "Moe" Asch in New York City. The songs recorded by Asch comprise the bulk of Guthrie's original material and several traditional songs. They were issued on a variety of labels over the years under the labels Asch, Asch-Stinson, Asch-Signature-Stinson, Disc, Folkways and Smithsonian Folkways. The tracks for Guthrie's Songs to Grow on for Mother and Child and Nursery Days were from this session.
Richard Kurin, an American cultural anthropologist, museum official and author, is the Acting Provost and Under Secretary for Museums and Research at the Smithsonian Institution. He is a key member of the senior team managing the world's largest museum and research complex with 6,500 employees and a $1.4 billion annual budget, caring for more than 139 million specimens, artifacts and artworks, working in 145 countries around the globe, hosting some 30 million visitors a year, and reaching hundreds of millions online and through the Smithsonian's educational programs and media outreach. Kurin is particularly responsible for all of the national museums, scholarly and scientific research centers, and programs spanning science, history, art and culture.
Jim Garland was a miner, songwriter, folksinger, and folk song collector from the coal mining country of eastern Kentucky, where he was involved with the communist-led National Miners Union (NMU) during the violent labor conflicts of the early 1930s called the Harlan County War.
The Union Boys was an American folk music group, formed impromptu in 1944, to record several songs on an album called Songs for Victory: Music for Political Action. Its "all-star leftist" members were Josh White, Sonny Terry, Brownie McGhee, Pete Seeger, Burl Ives, Tom Glazer.
Folkways Records was a record label founded by Moses Asch that documented folk, world, and children's music. It was acquired by the Smithsonian Institution in 1987 and is now part of Smithsonian Folkways.
Folkways: The Original Vision was released in 1989 and is the first album created by Folkways Records under new acquisition by the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage following the death of the record label's founder, Moses Asch. Funds were raised for the acquisition of the label to be established as a non-profit entity in conjunction with the Smithsonian Institution by the collaborative recording A Vision Shared: A Tribute to Woody Guthrie and Lead Belly by artists such as Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, and U2. Folkways: The Original Vision was digitally remastered and re-released in 2005 by Folkways Records.
Struggle is an album released by Folkways Records as a vinyl LP in 1976 and as a CD in 1990. It contains recordings by folk artist Woody Guthrie, accompanied on some of the tracks by Cisco Houston and Sonny Terry. Songs on this album are commonly referred to as protest music, songs that are associated with a movement for social change.
My Dusty Road is a 4 CD box set of Woody Guthrie music containing 54 tracks and a book. It is a collection of the newly discovered Stinson master discs. It was released by Rounder Records in 2009.
Stinson Records was an American record label formed by Herbert Harris and Irving Prosky in 1939, initially to market, in the US, recordings made in the Soviet Union. Between the 1940s and 1960s, it mainly issued recordings of American folk and blues musicians, including Woody Guthrie and Josh White.
Jeff Place is the Grammy-award winning Archivist and Curator at the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage. He and Anthony Seeger were the first two full-time employees hired in 1987 when the Smithsonian acquired Folkways Records from the estate of Folkways founder Moses Asch.
Negro Folk Songs of Alabama is a series of six records put out by Moses Asch and Harold Courlander on Folkways Records in the 1950s. The recordings include traditional African American music forms such as field calls and work songs. The recordings have subsequently been reissued. The Smithsonian Institution's Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage in Washington, D.C. acquired Asch's Folkways recordings and business files after his death in 1986.