Tuesday, January 31, 2012
By LARRY ROHTER
Published: January 30, 2012, The New York Times
The folklorist and ethnomusicologist Alan Lomax was a prodigious collector of traditional music from all over the world and a tireless missionary for that cause. Long before the Internet existed, he envisioned a “global jukebox” to disseminate and analyze the material he had gathered during decades of fieldwork.
Association for Cultural Equity
Alan Lomax/Association for Cultural Equity
Association for Cultural Equity
A decade after his death technology has finally caught up to Lomax’s imagination. Just as he dreamed, his vast archive — some 5,000 hours of sound recordings, 400,000 feet of film, 3,000 videotapes, 5,000 photographs and piles of manuscripts, much of it tucked away in forgotten or inaccessible corners — is being digitized so that the collection can be accessed online. About 17,000 music tracks will be available for free streaming by the end of February, and later some of that music may be for sale as CDs or digital downloads.
On Tuesday, to commemorate what would have been Lomax’s 97th birthday, the Global Jukebox label is releasing “The Alan Lomax Collection From the American Folklife Center,” a digital download sampler of 16 field recordings from different locales and stages of Lomax’s career.
“As an archivist you kind of think like Johnny Appleseed,” said Don Fleming, a musician and record producer who is executive director of the Association for Cultural Equity and involved in the project. “You ask yourself, ‘How do I get digital copies of this everywhere?’ ”
Starting in the mid-1930s, when he made his first field recordings in the South, Lomax was the foremost music folklorist in the United States. He was the first to record Muddy Waters and Woody Guthrie, and much of what Americans have learned about folk and traditional music stems from his efforts, which were also directly responsible for the folk music and skiffle booms in the United States and Britain that shaped the pop-music revolution of the 1960s and beyond.
Lomax worked both in academic and popular circles, and increased awareness of traditional music by doing radio and television programs, organizing concerts and festivals, and writing books, articles and essays prodigiously. At a time when there was a strict divide between high and low in American culture, and Afro-American and hillbilly music were especially scorned, Lomax argued that such vernacular styles were America’s greatest contribution to music.
“It would be difficult to overstate the importance of what Alan Lomax did over the course of his extraordinary career,” said the writer Tom Piazza, who has written an introductory essay for “The Southern Journey of Alan Lomax,” a book of about 200 of Lomax’s photographs that is to be published in the fall. “He 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.”
Lomax, a Texan by birth, devoted the last two decades of his life to the Global Jukebox project. Looking for commonalities among musical styles from all over the world, he early on began using personal computers to help develop criteria to identify and classify such similarities, in the process creating something very much like the algorithms used today by Pandora and other music streaming services.
“Alan was doubly utopian, in that he was imagining something like the Internet based on the fact he had all this data and a set of parameters he thought of as predictive,” said John Szwed, a Columbia University music professor and the author of “Alan Lomax: The Man Who Recorded the World,” a biography published in 2010. “But he was also saying that the whole world can have all this data too, and it can be done in such a way that you can take it home.”
That is one goal of the Association for Cultural Equity, which oversees Global Jukebox and other Lomax-related initiatives from modest offices at Hunter College in Manhattan, with a budget that was $250,000 last year. The music Lomax collected has been available in 45-second snippets on the Cultural Equity Web site for several years but is now being digitized in its entirety for streaming, a process scheduled to conclude next month; 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.
“This project has evolved as the technology has evolved,” said Lomax’s daughter, Anna Lomax Wood, who is president of the Association for Cultural Equity.
Lomax’s primary interest was music, and he recorded not just across the United States but also extensively in the Caribbean, Britain, Ireland, Spain, Italy and even the Soviet Union. That led to an interest in comparing global dance styles, and so the archive also has what Ms. Wood said was “the biggest private collection of dance film anywhere, and from everywhere,” much of which will be put online.
Even before digitization of the collection is complete, musicians, educators and others have been dipping into it. Bruce Springsteen’s new album, “Wrecking Ball,” due out in March, uses samples from the archive on two songs, and more than a decade ago Moby drew heavily on Lomax’s field recordings from the South for his hit album “Play,” as did the “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” movie and soundtrack.
“We go from the attitude that we just want everyone to use it, whatever their budget is,” Mr. Fleming said. “If it’s educational or for the press, it’s usually no charge, and when someone has a budget, well, then we just want to get roughly what other people are getting.”
Recently Google has come calling, with an interest in setting up a site to preserve endangered languages, Ms. Wood said. Though the recordings Lomax collected himself through fieldwork is enormous, the archive also contains material that he obtained from other researchers around the world, including spoken samples of languages that are now vanishing.
“Because he was so interested in so many different aspects of singing, dancing and speaking around the world, he gathered everything he could find, from disparate cultures,” said Todd Harvey, curator of the Alan Lomax Collection at the Library of Congress’s American Folklife Center, which holds much of Lomax’s work.
The Association for Cultural Equity also has what it calls a repatriation program, meant to make Lomax’s work available to the communities where it was obtained and to pay royalties to the heirs of those whose music was recorded. On Friday recordings, photographs, video and documents are to be donated to the public library in Como, Miss., where in September 1959 Lomax made the first recordings of the blues guitarist Fred McDowell, whose songs were later covered by the Rolling Stones, Aerosmith, Bonnie Raitt and Jack White of the White Stripes.
“My father always felt that part of his job was to give something back to the people whose culture it was,” Ms. Wood said. “It’s a way of saying, ‘What you do is worth something,’ and what we do is an extension of that.”
Ms. Wood has been immersed in her father’s music collection all her life, even accompanying him on some field trips when she was a child. But Mr. Fleming’s route was roundabout: originally a member of the punk band Velvet Monkeys, he has produced records by artists like Sonic Youth, Hole and Teenage Fanclub before succumbing to the beauty of the music Lomax collected and especially the ethos associated with it.
“Alan saw immeasurable worth in something off the radar that everyone else ignored or saw no worth in, and he was against that homogenized Top 40 world that most people live in,” Mr. Fleming said. “Just the idea of him out in the field with his Presto recorder, dusting the thing off as it’s running, it’s all kind of punk rock to me.”
Monday, January 30, 2012
Sunday, January 29, 2012
the guardian (U.K.)
Saturday, January 28, 2012
on the streets of Chicago
Some say : Chicago + Saul Alinsky + Barack Obama = BAD.
Pipe down & read:
Friday, January 27, 2012
JOE HILLSTROM by WOODY GUTHRIE
On January Tenth Nineteen Fourteen
Two men fixed some masks of red handkerchiefs
Walked into the Temple and South Street Store
Laid Morrison and his son dead on the floor.
Before he died Merlin Morrison
Reached under his counter and pulled his gun
The fellows tried to run back out the door again
Morrison put a bullet in one of the men.
Just three days later you arrested me
At the Eselius home on Seventeenth South Street
Just because I've got a fresh bullet hole
You claim that I killed the Morrisons in their store.
I was courting a woman and had a fight with a man
He fired a pistol that lodged in me
Old Prosecutor Leatherwood can beat out his brains
But I'm not going to tell you this lady's name.
Take away these attorneys you picked for me
My own lawyer now I'm going to be
It's because I'm a union organizer in the copper mines
You've got me on your killing floor to die.
My labor friends sent Judge Hilton and Christensen
To prove I did not kill the Morrisons
But I cannot drag my lady's honor down
I can't tell where I got my gunshot wound.
It was in June you convicted me
You said I was guilty in the worst degree
I don't want your pardon, but an honest trial,
If I can't get a fair trial I will die.
President Wilson wired the Governor Spry
Saying please don't let Joe Hillstrom die
Several thousand letters and telegrams
Piled up on the governor's desk from workers hands.
The governor wired to Wilson, Nothing I can do,
The Pardon Board and Supreme Court, too,
Both did uphold the frame up trial
They all want to see me walk my last long mile.
The death watch is set, it's November Eighteenth,
My comrades are marching up and down the streets
Of all of the cities and the towns around
They can sing Joe Hillstrom never let them down.
The Nineteenth Day of November is here
A frosty old morning with winter in the air
Two telegrams that I got to send
To Elizabeth Gurley Flynn and Bill Haywood.
It's a hundred miles to the Wyoming line
Could you arrange to have my body hauled
Past that old state line before you bury me at all
I just don't want to be found dead here in Utah.
Hey, Gurley Flynn, I wrote you a song
To the dove of peace. It's coming along.
I lived like a rebel, like a rebel I die.
Forget me. Organize these copper mines.
They march me now out to the baseball park
Tie me down in a chair, and the Doctor marks my heart
With a little white rag against this black robe
Goodbye Joe Hillstrom you done a pretty good job.
In May 1915, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn visited Joe Hill in jail for one hour; although this remained their only meeting, they corresponded frequently.
Just prior to his execution, Hill sent two telegrams to Elizabeth Gurley Flynn:
Composed new song last week, with music, dedicated to the 'Dove of Peace.' It's coming. And now, good-bye, Gurley dear, I have lived like a rebel and I shall die like a rebel.
Dear Friend Gurley:
I have been saying Goodbye so much now that it is becoming monotonous but I just cannot help to send you a few more lines because you have been more to me than a fellow worker. You have been an inspiration and when I composed the Rebel Girl you was right there and helped me all the time. As you furnished the idea I will now that I am gone give you all the credit for that song, and be sure to locate a few more Rebel Girls like yourself, because they are needed and needed badly.... With a warm handshake across the continent and a last fond Goodbye to all I remainYours as Ever
William D. "Big Bill" Haywood, an organizer for the Western Federation of Miners, chaired the sessions at the founding convention of the I. W. W. (June 27, 1905) and soon became one of the most colorful and forceful labor leaders in American history. As general secretary, Haywood was instrumental in raising money for Hill's appeal for a new trial and in organizing the protest against Hill's execution.
On Nov 18, 1915, Joe Hill sent the following telegram to Bill Haywood:Goodbye Bill: I die like a true rebel. Don't waste any time mourning -- organize!Haywood sent the following farewell telegram:
It is a hundred miles from here to Wyoming. Could you arrange to have my body hauled to the state line to be buried? I don't want to be found dead in Utah.Joe HillGoodbye Joe: You will live long in the hearts of the working class. Your songs will be sung wherever the workers toil, urging them to organize.W. D. Haywood
Joe Hill's body was transported to Chicago and cremated on Nov 26, 1915. His ashes (in accordance with his Last Will) were placed in envelopes and distributed to I. W. W. locals in every U.S. state but Utah, to South America, Europe, Asia, South Africa, New Zealand, and Australia. On May 1, 1916, the ashes were released to the wind.
(as reprinted in Gibbs M. Smith, Labor Martyr Joe Hill, New York, NY, 1969)
Thursday, January 26, 2012
Wednesday, January 25, 2012
She was born in the first hour of the third day of March, 1966, at St. John’s Hospital in Santa Monica. We were told that we could adopt her late the afternoon of the same day, March third, when Blake Watson, the obstetrician who delivered her, called the house at Portuguese Bend in which we then lived, forty-some miles down the coast from Santa Monica. I was taking a shower and burst into tears when John came into the bathroom to report what Blake Watson had said. “I have a beautiful baby girl at St. John’s,” is what he had said. “I need to know if you want her.” The baby’s mother, he had said, was from Tucson. She had been staying with relatives in California for the birth of the baby. An hour later we stood outside the window of the nursery at St. John’s looking at an infant with fierce dark hair and rosebud features. The beads on her wrist spelled out not her name but “N.I.,” for “No Information,” which was the hospital’s response to any questions that might be asked about a baby being placed for adoption. One of the nurses had tied a pink ribbon in the fierce dark hair. “Not that baby,” John would repeat to her again and again in the years that followed, reenacting the nursery scene, the recommended “choice” narrative, the moment when, of all the babies in the nursery, we picked her. “Not that baby . . . that baby. The baby with the ribbon.”
“Do that baby,” she would repeat in return, a gift to us, an endorsement of our wisdom in opting to follow the recommended choice narrative. The choice narrative is no longer universally favored by professionals of child care, but it was in 1966. “Do it again. Do the baby with the ribbon.”
And later: “Do the part about Dr. Watson calling.” Blake Watson was already a folk figure in this recital.
And then: “Tell the part about the shower.”
Even the shower had become part of the recommended choice narrative.
March 3, 1966.
After we left St. John’s that night we stopped in Beverly Hills to tell John’s brother Nick and his wife, Lenny. Lenny offered to meet me at Saks in the morning to buy a layette. She was taking ice from a crystal bucket, making celebratory drinks. Making celebratory drinks was what we did in our family to mark any unusual, or for that matter any usual, occasion. In retrospect we all drank more than we needed to drink but this did not occur to any of us in 1966. Only when I read my fiction, in which someone was always downstairs making a drink and singing “Big Noise blew in from Winnetka,” did I realize how much we all drank and how little thought we gave to it. Lenny added more ice to my glass and took the crystal bucket to the kitchen for a refill. “Saks because if you spend eighty dollars they throw in the bassinet,” she added as she went.
I took the glass and put it down.
I had not considered the need for a bassinet.
I had not considered the need for a layette.
The baby with the fierce dark hair stayed that night and the next two in the nursery at St. John's and at some point during each of those nights I woke in the house at Portuguese Bend to the same chill, hearing the surf break on the rocks below, dreaming that I had forgotten her, left her asleep in a drawer, gone into town for dinner or a movie and made no provision for the infant who could even then be waking alone and hungry in the drawer in Portuguese Bend.
Dreaming in other words that I had failed.
Been given a baby and failed to keep her safe.
When we think about adopting a child, or for that matter about having a child at all, we stress the “blessing” aspect.
We omit the instant of the sudden chill, the “wait-if,” the free fall into certain failure.
What if I fail to take care of this baby?
What if this baby fails to thrive, what if this baby fails to love me?
And worse yet, worse by far, so much worse as to be unthinkable, except I did think it, everyone who has ever waited to bring a baby home thinks it: what if I fail to love this baby?
from Blue Nights
Tuesday, January 24, 2012
President Barack Obama showed in his State of the Union speech tonight that he has the ability to be both the greater Democrat and greater Republican. Essentially nixing every Republican in the room, and most were sitting on their hands in childish defiance thinking not applauding sound and often conservative ideas was the proper response. It's amazing to watch what goodness applied by Obama, politicians on the Right just won't give back. It's schoolyard, it's petty, it's just the sort of leadership that will never work and is a sham. Only a gentleman like Obama would hold off reminding the seated group (both parties) they are the lowest of the low for public approval in our nation's history. Many of them should be yanked out of office as a bad warped board, bent nail, tapped out screw. With his dual carriage as a speaker in Democrat & Republican flair, President Obama emptied the room of dead souls and pretty much exposed what is running against him in the 2012 election: snake oil salesmen, fat cats, loud mouths, old fear and staged ideas. Plus a denial mean as war.
photo: doug mills, ny times
After Mt. Everest, the Bronx
Published: January 20, 2012
NAME Jinpa Sherpa
WHERE HE’S FROM Khumjung, Nepal
WHAT HE IS Mount Everest climbing guide and gas station attendant
TELLING DETAIL The Buddhist monastery in his home village proudly displays a scalp that, according to local lore, belonged to a yeti that befriended a local monk centuries ago.
JINPA SHERPA is unfailingly cheerful and helpful as he rings up your gas and coffee and lottery ticket at the Gulf station mini-mart on Leggett Avenue in the Hunts Point section of the Bronx.
And if you want to scale Mount Everest, he can help you with that, too.
“They are very different jobs; I realize this,” said Mr. Sherpa, 38, who, as his name implies, belongs to that renowned ethnic group of hearty mountain people from eastern Nepal known for their excellence as guides on Mount Everest and other Himalayan peaks.
In the mountains, Mr. Sherpa can spend months trekking over glaciers and negotiating ice falls and treacherous crevasses at nosebleed heights. His duties include scrambling ahead up snowy slopes, lugging heavy packs, setting ropes and tents, and heating hot noodles for climbers.
In the Bronx, he is a Sherpa of a different sort: furnishing fast food and daily necessities to truck drivers, warehouse workers and mechanics who seek sustenance from this base camp in the middle of a gritty industrial area.
Mr. Sherpa tends the dozen dispensers at the coffee island, replenishes the pizza under the heat lamp and straightens the shelves and condiment bins — all with the same dedication and care he employs on the mountain when checking his clients’ oxygen tanks and lifelines.
His mountain climber’s neck scarf bears the Tibetan and Nepali flags, and in his right ear is a small gold earring shaped like an ice climber’s pickax. Then there are his good cheer and compact build, for which the Sherpas are known, and the stocky legs that seem made for climbing.
Mr. Sherpa is one of the mountaineering world’s elite guides. He can carry loads at altitudes upward of 20,000 feet without collapsing from lack of oxygen. He has trekked up Mount Everest a dozen times and has reached the summit five times, putting him in rare company. But between guide jobs in the spring and fall, he often travels to the United States to find temporary work.
“For me, it is a way to learn about Western culture, and also make a little money to send my son to school in Katmandu,” he said. “Some of this is the same stuff I do on the mountain.”
Mr. Sherpa stays with Sherpa friends in Queens, where they gather in restaurants in Jackson Heights and enjoy spicy meals and butter tea. He rides three subway trains each morning to the gas station, where he works weekdays from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Yes, he says, it is a long way from the top of the world to the bottom of the employment food chain, as the new guy working for meager wages. Customers and co-workers know nothing of his climbing career. Back in Nepal, Mr. Sherpa said, he earns about $4,000 to take climbers on a two-month trip up Mount Everest. Reaching the summit can bring a $1,000 tip.
Mr. Sherpa brought his climbing equipment to the United States and spent a few weeks ice climbing with friends in Massachusetts, and gave free climbing workshops. On weekends, he does a bit of climbing on the rocky outcroppings in Central Park, he said, standing near the Slurpee machine on Wednesday.
He walked outside near the gas pumps and flipped through photographs on his smartphone of himself at snowy heights. Mr. Sherpa grew up in Khumjung, a village roughly 12,000 feet above sea level and not far from Mount Everest. It is known for its mountain guides and its Buddhist monastery. Mr. Sherpa’s father, Mingming Tsering Sherpa, was a professional guide who also made a living by renting the family’s four yaks as transport. Mr. Sherpa attended a school financed by the Sir Edmund Hillary Foundation.
Mr. Sherpa began climbing Everest at age 12 with his father, but beginning in his late teens, he took eight years away from climbing to study to be a monk. He returned to climbing, which can be a spiritual pursuit itself, he said.
“When I’m climbing, my mind is very clear and happy — it’s like meditation,” he said. “You have to be focused enough to grab a tiny crack in the rock and trust it with your life, or drive your ax into the hardest spot in the ice.”
Mr. Sherpa, who has a five-year work visa, says that when the mountain finally wears out his legs and back, he will hang up his crampons, put the yaks out to pasture and, he hopes, become a full-time New Yorker. Now, however, he has an expedition booked for March, and the Sherpa of Hunts Point will go back to the Himalayas.
photo : Julie Glassberg for The New York Times
Monday, January 23, 2012
The holiday tree, balsam, held its needles for three weeks in a cold room of the house (in the kitchen library where we keep it unheated through winter). The next two weeks we set the tree, with lights, out in the backyard, going strong. When the needles finally fall off the tough one, we'll then cut the tree up and burn it for warmth. For now it's a pretty warm light through the night.
photo © bob arnold
Sunday, January 22, 2012
next day ~ snow!
(cat on the trail behind me and true love)
Saturday, January 21, 2012
In Flash of Fire, Florida Loses Old FriendPublished: January 20, 2012, new york times
LONGWOOD, Fla. — Back, way back, before King Tut was born and Alexander the Great roamed his empire, the Senator sprouted in a swamp here in central Florida, one of thousands of its kind.
Steven D. Barnes/Orlando Sentinel, via Associated Press
Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel, via Associated Press
The 3,500-year-old cypress, the only one in Big Tree Park to catch fire,
was equipped with a lightning rod to protect it from the elements.
Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel, via Associated Press
In this 1920s image, two men gave an indication of the girth of the Senator,
named after Senator M. O. Overstreet, who donated land for a park in 1927.
Florida State Archives, via Orlando Sentinel, via Associated Press
“There is so little of this old history left,” said Lauren Wyckoff, 28, an environmental scientist and self-described tree hugger, who drove to Big Tree Park from nearby Orlando after work to pay her respects. “It’s not just some tree in your backyard. I mean, it’s 3,500 years old; I just picture everything it saw, everything it has been through.”
“I’m crying,” she said, with a laugh, as her eyes reddened. “When I first came here, I had no idea it would be as amazing as it was. No idea it would be as impactful.”
Investigators for the Division of Forestry are still trying to figure out how the tree burned down early Monday morning. Arson remains a possibility, although it had been initially discounted. Two other possible theories are being considered: the tree was struck by lightning long before Monday (maybe as long as two weeks) and slowly smoldered from the inside, or friction from the wind caused it to combust.
Around town, these last two theories were met with skepticism and a touch of derision. The Senator, which was the only tree in the small park to catch fire, was equipped with a lightning rod. And if the tree had been struck by lightning and smoldered for two weeks, residents said, somebody surely would have seen or smelled it. As for friction, that notion drew nothing but smirks.
“Of course, maybe a plane flew over and dropped an ember into the hole,” Rick Waters, 49, who runs Mel’s Family Diner in Sanford, a couple of miles from the tree’s resting place, said with a chuckle. “I think some moron started it, or threw a cigarette down. It’s sick to think somebody would destroy that.”
The revered tree wasn’t just old; it was huge. At nearly 18 feet in diameter, it was so large it would take a passel of children holding hands to surround it.
Named for Senator M. O. Overstreet, who donated the land to Seminole County to use as a park in 1927, the Senator has long been a landmark for Floridians. It survived the logging epidemic, which claimed many of the giant trees that once stood in the county. (The Senator may have been spared because it was hollow, a condition that occurred as the tree aged.) It endured centuries of nasty hurricanes, including one in 1925 that lopped off 40 feet from the top.
Back then, four decades before Disney World rose from swampland, the towering bald cypress was the star attraction in these parts. Visitors arrived on horse and buggy and then jumped from log to log to get a close-up glimpse of the tree.
“You could see it from pretty much everywhere around here” it was so tall, said Joseph R. Abel, the director of the Leisure Services Department in Seminole County.
Now children are brought here on field trips to gawk skyward and imagine what Florida was like back when it was nothing but forest and swamp and Indians were its only inhabitants. Families have always come to snap photos, and nature-lovers arrived on pilgrimages.
What remains now is a trunk, split in half, and a charred shard of wood that shoots 30 feet into the air. The remnants of the tree lie split, on their sides, black and sooty. Outside the gates of the park sits a little tribute of flowers with a sign reading “Rest in Peace Senator.” The park is closed for now as investigators determine what caused the fire.
But the new Florida had long been a too-quick walk away from the Senator. Traffic whizzes by in front of the park and fast-food joints sit right up the street. And though the tree was revered by some, competition from modern life had dwarfed its appeal a good while back.
There are not many awe-inspiring things left, Ms. Wyckoff said. “It was crazy, insane, you can’t imagine how large it was,” she said.
Yet only 40 feet from the Senator looms an understudy: Lady Liberty, now the park’s tallest cypress. It is 89 feet tall and not nearly as imposing, but in this time of transitory celebrity, its moment has arrived.