Ten years after his death Alan Lomax‚Äôs massive archive of 5,000 hours of sound recordings, 400,000 feet of film, 3,000 videotapes, 5,000 photographs and piles of manuscripts is being digitised so that the collection can be accessed on the Web.
Reports are that 17,000 music tracks will be available for free streaming by the end of February, and some of them may be for sale on CDs or digital downloads.
To coincide with what would have been Lomax‚Äôs 97th birthday, the Global Jukebox label is releasing ‚ÄėThe Alan Lomax Collection From the American Folklife Center‚Äô, a digital download sampler of 16 field recordings from different regions and stages of Lomax‚Äôs career.
Starting in the mid-1930s, when he made his first field recordings in the South Alan Lomax was the first to record Muddy Waters and Woody Guthrie.
Alan Lomax increased awareness of American traditional music by doing radio and television programmes, organising concerts and festivals, and writing books, articles and essays.
‚ÄúIt would be difficult to overstate the importance of what Alan Lomax did over the course of his extraordinary career,‚ÄĚ said the writer Tom Piazza, who has written an introductory essay for ‚ÄėThe Southern Journey of Alan Lomax,‚Äô a book of around 200 of Lomax‚Äôs photographs that is to be published later this year. ‚ÄúHe was an epic figure in and of himself, with a musical appetite that was omnivorous and really awe inspiring, who used the new recording technology to go and document musical expression at its most local and least commercial.‚ÄĚ
Lomax, devoted the last two decades of his life to the Global Jukebox project.
¬†The music Lomax collected has been available in 45-second snippets on the Cultural Equity Web site for several years but is now being digitised in its entirety for streaming, a process scheduled to conclude during February; a similar process is under way for his radio shows, lectures and interviews. Some music is also being sold in formats ranging from iTunes and CDs to vinyl LPs. A small proportion of the Lomax material has been made available on commercial labels like Rounder and Atlantic.
Global Jukebox’s first releases¬†commemorate the 50th anniversary of Lomax’s ‘Southern Journey’¬†the first stereo field recordings made of traditional music. Compiled and annotated by¬†Nathan Salsburg, the albums draw on new transfers of the original tapes, and include previously unreleased material and extensive booklets of photos and notes.
Forthcoming releases will include Lomax’s debut recordings of Mississippi Fred McDowell; a companion album to the new John Szwed biography ‘Alan Lomax: The Man Who Recorded the World’; a hardback book and two-CD set dedicated toLomax’s trip through Asturias, Spain¬†– “the land at the end of everything” and the launch of¬†a series of artist-curated compilations, for which guest musicians ‘Play the Global Jukebox’, including an exclusive recording of their own.
Bruce Springsteen‚Äôs new album, ‚ÄėWrecking Ball‚Äô will also have samples from the archive on two songs.