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Alan Lomax, Assistant in Charge

Alan Lomax, Assistant in Charge: The Library of Congress Letters, 1935-1945

Edited by Ronald D. Cohen
Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 480
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  • Book Info
    Alan Lomax, Assistant in Charge
    Book Description:

    Alan Lomax (1915-2002) began working for the Archive of American Folk Song at the Library of Congress in 1936, first as a special and temporary assistant, then as the permanent Assistant in Charge, starting in June 1937, until he left in late 1942. He recorded such important musicians as Woody Guthrie, Muddy Waters, Aunt Molly Jackson, and Jelly Roll Morton. A reading and examination of his letters from 1935 to 1945 reveal someone who led an extremely complex, fascinating, and creative life, mostly as a public employee.While Lomax is noted for his field recordings, these collected letters, many signed "Alan Lomax, Assistant in Charge," are a trove of information until now available only at the Library of Congress. They make it clear that Lomax was very interested in the commercial hillbilly, race, and even popular recordings of the 1920s and after. These letters serve as a way of understanding Lomax's public and private life during some of his most productive and significant years. Lomax was one of the most stimulating and influential cultural workers of the twentieth century. Here he speaks for himself through his voluminous correspondence.

    eISBN: 978-1-60473-801-8
    Subjects: Music

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. [Illustrations]
    (pp. viii-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. xi-1)

    Alan Lomax’s life spanned much of the twentieth century (1915–2002), and during most of this time he was an active folk song collector and scholar. He has been both praised and criticized. The Rounder Records Alan Lomax Collection, with at least 100 CDs, is only one example of his incredible musical output. He was not only active in making field recordings, he was also a prolific writer, as demonstrated in Ronald D. Cohen, ed.,Alan Lomax: Selected Writings 1934–1997(New York: Routledge, 2003), which also includes biographical information, analyses of his musical theories, and a complete bibliography. He...

  5. LETTERS, 1935–1938
    (pp. 3-114)

    In May 1933, at the tender age of eighteen already a fast learner, Alan began traveling and collecting folk songs through the South with his father, John A. Lomax; this was also the start of his connection with the Archive of American Folk Song at the Library of Congress.¹ John Lomax would become Honorary Conservator of the Archive in September 1933. Alan assisted his father with the publication of their pathbreaking compilationAmerican Ballads and Folk Songsin 1934, and the same year published his first article, “‘Sinful’ Songs of the Southern Negro,” in the winter 1934 issue of the...

  6. LETTERS, 1939–1940
    (pp. 115-198)

    I should like to suggest a project to you which I believe will be of interest and value to the Archive of American Folk Song in the Library of Congress. This project is one that I have thought over at considerable length and that I hold personally very dear. It is important to the adequate performance of my duties as assistant in the Archive of Folk Song that I have more systematic academic training in anthropology and in the anthropological approach to primitive and folk music. To this end I should like to spend the spring studying anthropology and musicology...

  7. LETTERS, 1941–1945
    (pp. 199-374)

    Would you have the hillbilly department try and locate for me Wade Mainer and his Mountaineers and send me their present address as soon as possible.[ALC]¹

    He also followed up with a note to Amelia Andrews in Black Mountain, North Carolina, on January 10:

    I should be delighted to have copies of the songs you mentioned and it’s pleasant to know that you are following the program. Under separate cover I’m sending you a copy of the American School of the Air Manual.[ALC]

    The next day, January 11, Alan responded to a query from Arthur Moore in Albany, Georgia:


  8. Notes
    (pp. 375-398)
  9. Index
    (pp. 399-414)