Folksongs of Another America: Field Recordings from the Upper Midwest, 1937-1946

Overview

America's Upper Midwest is a distinctive region where many indigenous and immigrant peoples have maintained, merged, and modified their folk song traditions for more than two centuries. In the 1930s and 1940s, Sidney Robertson, Alan Lomax, and Helene Stratman-Thomas—with support from the Library of Congress and armed with bulky microphones, blank disks, spare needles, and cumbersome disk-cutting machines—recorded roughly 2,000 songs and tunes throughout Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. Spanning dance tunes, ...

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Overview

America's Upper Midwest is a distinctive region where many indigenous and immigrant peoples have maintained, merged, and modified their folk song traditions for more than two centuries. In the 1930s and 1940s, Sidney Robertson, Alan Lomax, and Helene Stratman-Thomas—with support from the Library of Congress and armed with bulky microphones, blank disks, spare needles, and cumbersome disk-cutting machines—recorded roughly 2,000 songs and tunes throughout Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. Spanning dance tunes, ballads, lyric songs, hymns, laments, versified taunts, political anthems, street cries, and recitations, these field recordings—made by people born before or shortly after 1900—were captured at a transformative moment when America was in the throes of the Great Depression, World War II was erupting, and market-driven mass entertainment media were expanding rapidly. Yet, except for a handful of Anglo-American performances, these remarkable field recordings in more than twenty-five languages have remained largely unknown, along with the lives of their mostly immigrant, indigenous, rural, and working-class performers.
            Since the 1970s, folklorist James P. Leary has worked steadily to bring the folk music of the Upper Midwest to a larger public. Folksongs of Another America presents 187 representative performances by more than 200 singers and musicians, carefully restored in digital form from deteriorating original formats. The accompanying book provides an introduction, full texts of all lyrics in the original languages and in English translation, extensive notes about each song and tune, biographical sketches and photographs of many of the performers, and details about Robertson, Lomax, and Stratman-Thomas and their fieldwork efforts as song collectors. These restored performances reveal with clarity and power a nearly lost sonic portrait of another America.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Folksongs of Another America is a groundbreaking work, covering musical and cultural ground woefully overlooked by American music scholars."—Kip Lornell, author of Exploring American Folk Music

"The astonishing range of music collected here reveals the deeply hued cultures of the Midwest before and after World War II, when these field recordings were made. Folksongs of Another America deftly combines dynamic media—CDs, a DVD, and a richly annotated book to go with them—to tell a multifaceted story. Though brimming with scholarship, the book's crisp, clear prose reveals the music and the people who made it."—Henry Sapoznik, author of Klezmer! Jewish Music from Old World to Our World

From the Publisher

"Folksongs of Another America is a groundbreaking work, covering musical and cultural ground woefully overlooked by American music scholars."—Kip Lornell, author of Exploring American Folk Music

"The astonishing range of music collected here reveals the deeply hued cultures of the Midwest before and after World War II, when these field recordings were made. Folksongs of Another America deftly combines dynamic media—CDs, a DVD, and a richly annotated book to go with them—to tell a multifaceted story. Though brimming with scholarship, the book's crisp, clear prose reveals the music and the people who made it."—Henry Sapoznik, author of Klezmer! Jewish Music from Old World to Our World

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Product Details

Meet the Author

James P. Leary is the Birgit Baldwin Professor of Scandinavian Studies, a professor in the Department of Comparative Literature and Folklore Studies, and a cofounder of the Center for the Study of Upper Midwestern Cultures at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. His documentary recordings and films include Accordions in the Cutover; Ach Ya! Traditional German-American Music from Wisconsin (with Philip Martin); Midwest Ramblin': The Goose Island Ramblers; Down Home Dairyland (with Richard March); and The Art of Ironworking. His books include Wisconsin Folklore,So Ole Says to Lena, and Polkabilly: How the Goose Island Ramblers Redefined American Folk Music (winner of the Chicago Folklore Prize). He is coeditor of the Journal of American Folklore.

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Table of Contents

Track List                   
Buckhorn Beginnings: A Preface                     
 
Folksongs of Another America: An Introduction                    
Pigtown Fling: The Sidney Robertson Recordings                    
The River in the Pines: The Wisconsin Lumberjacks Recordings                     
Harps and Accordions: The Alan Lomax Recordings               
Alan Lomax Goes North: "The Most Fertile Source"              
When the Dance Is Over: The Helene Stratman-Thomas Recordings, Part One                      
My Father Was a Dutchman: The Helene Stratman-Thomas Recordings, Part Two                
 
Sources            
Index

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