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Folklife Today Podcast
43 minutes | a month ago
Haunting Songs for Halloween 2020
Hosts John Fenn and Stephen Winick are joined by staff member Jennifer Cutting to discuss and play some of their favorite ballads and songs about ghosts, goblins, fairies, and elves—not to mention the Devil himself. Songs include “The Unquiet Grave” sung by Jean Ritchie; “Polly Vaughan” sung by Albert Lancaster “Bert” Lloyd; “The Three Babes” or “The Wife of Usher’s Well” sung by Isaac Garfield “Ike” Greer and accompanied by Willie Spainhour Greer on a mountain dulcimer; “Bolakins,” also known as “Lamkin” or “Long Lankin,” sung by Lena Bare Turbyfill; “The Stolen Bride” or “A Bhean Úd Thíos (The Woman Of The Fairy Mound)” sung by Séamus Ennis; and “Tom Devil” sung by James Carter, Ed Lewis, Henry Mason, Johnny Lee Moore. All the recordings are from the American Folklife Center archive at the Library of Congress, and the hosts and guests talk about the songs, the singers, and the archive.
10 minutes | 3 months ago
America Works, Episode 1 - Barbara Miller Byrd, Circus Owner. Hugo, Oklahoma
Barbara Miller Byrd, the third-generation owner of the Carson and Barnes Circus based in the small town of Hugo, Oklahoma, talks about growing up in the traveling circus founded by her grandparents more than 75 years ago. She shares great memories and stories and offers in-sights into the colorful and complex occupations that are needed to sustain a traveling circus in contemporary America.
40 minutes | 3 months ago
What’s Inspiring the American Folklife Center Staff During the Virus Crisis
Hosts John Fenn and Stephen Winick are joined by staff members Theadocia Austen and Jennifer Cutting to discuss two initiatives of the American Folklife Center during the COVID-19 pandemic. For the At-Home Archive Challenge, AFC has been encouraging people to learn or be inspired by material from the American Folklife Center archive at the Library of Congress and to share the results on social media with a tag. For the 2020 Homegrown Concert Series, the Center has moved to an online format with artists recording videos of themselves either at home or on location. The concerts also have an Archive Challenge aspect, as most of the artists have learned material from the AFC archive. The hosts and guests discuss both programs and play musical examples from the challenges and the Homegrown concerts, providing a beautiful cross-section of the music recorded by this year’s artists.
1 minutes | 3 months ago
America Works - Series Preview
New from the American Folklife Center in the Library of Congress: “America Works” features the voices of contemporary workers from throughout the United States talking about their lives, their workplaces, and their on-the-job experiences. Premieres September 3.
49 minutes | 6 months ago
What’s Inspiring the American Folklife Center Staff During the Virus Crisis
Hosts Stephen Winick and John Fenn interview American Folklife Center staff members about what inspires them about AFC collections while they are working from home during the stay-at-home orders imposed by the covid-19 virus crisis. Alda Allina Migoni speaks about Spanish-language collections from California recorded in 1939 by Sidney Robertson Cowell, including versions of “Cielito Lindo.” Michelle Stefano speaks about blues musicians interviewed as part of the Chicago Ethnic Arts Project survey in 1977. Stephen Winick speaks about recordings of Zora Neale Hurston made in 1939, including one of her singing the song “Uncle Bud.” Maya Lerman speaks about the John Cohen collection and the Blue Ridge Parkway Folklife Project Collection, including the old-time music in the collections and especially interviews with Tommy Jarrell. John Fenn speaks about the Juan B. Rael Collection of Hispano music and culture from New Mexico and Colorado. More information on the songs as well as full audio and videos of some of the performances, photos of some the singers, and links to all the archival sources, can be found at https://blogs.loc.gov/folklife.
57 minutes | 8 months ago
On the Road With Alan Lomax, a “By the People” Campaign from the Library of Congress
Hosts Stephen Winick and John Fenn discuss “On the Road with Alan Lomax” a campaign in the Library of Congress “By the People” program, which crowdsources transcriptions of Lomax’s field notes. Alan Lomax was a prominent folklorist who made iconic field recordings around the world. The hosts interview Victoria Van Hyning, Lauren Algee, and Todd Harvey of the Library of Congress, and play some of Lomax’s best recordings, including the earliest recordings of Muddy Waters and Honeyboy Edwards, interviews with Jelly Roll Morton, classic recordings of Vera Hall, Bessie Jones, Seamus Ennis, and The Copper Family, and music from Grenada, Haiti, Finland, and all over the U.S. More information on the songs as well as full audio and videos of some of the performances, photos of some the singers, and links to all the archival sources, can be found at https://blogs.loc.gov/folklife.
31 minutes | 9 months ago
Winter Songs Part 2
Hosts Stephen Winick and John Fenn, along with guests Stephanie Hall and Jennifer Cutting discuss and play their favorite songs of winter. Songs include “Footprints in the Snow,” “Ice Skating Song,” “Fair Charlotte,” “Young Charlotte,” “The Wind Blows High,” and “Time to Remember the Poor.” More information on the songs as well as videos of some of the performances, photos of some the singers, and links to all the archival sources, can be found at https://blogs.loc.gov/folklife.
31 minutes | 10 months ago
Winter Songs Part 1
Hosts Stephen Winick and John Fenn, along with guest Theadocia Austen, discuss and play their favorite songs of winter. Songs include an old-time love song by Virginian Hettie Swindel, an urban blues from Detroit songsters Sampson Pittman and Calvin Frazier, a Hardanger fiddle tune from Loretta Kelley, an example of rich vocal polyphony from the Republic of Georgia, and a lumberjack song by Carl Lathrop. More information on the songs as well as videos of some of the performances, photos of some the singers, and links to all the archival sources, can be found at https://blogs.loc.gov/folklife.
54 minutes | a year ago
“The Candidate’s a Dodger”: An American Folksong from Oral Tradition to Aaron Copland and Beyond
Hosts Stephen Winick and Thea Austen and guest Jennifer Cutting discuss the folksong “The Candidate’s a Dodger,” also known as “The Dodger.” They talk about the song’s meanings in oral tradition, its use by Aaron Copland as an art song, and its involvement in political controversy in the 1930s, when Charles Seeger first published it. They examine the song’s history and lay out brand-new evidence about its relationships to other folksongs and to a musical theater song from 1840s England. They also discuss the possibility that Charles Seeger, a founder of ethnomusicology and a pioneering federal folklorist, was himself a “dodger!” The episode includes performances by folksingers Pete Seeger, Mike Seeger, and Peggy Seeger, as well as baritone Thomas Hampson, and five field recordings from the Library of Congress. More information on “The Dodger,” as well as videos of some of the performances, photos of the singers, and links to all the archival sources, can be found at https://blogs.loc.gov/folklife.
30 minutes | a year ago
Scary Stories for Halloween 2019
Hosts John Fenn and Stephen Winick introduce three spooky stories to celebrate Halloween: Award-winning storyteller and author Jackie Torrence telling "The Golden Arm," groundbreaking folklorist Mary Celestia Parler telling "The Witch Who Kept a Hotel," and Connie Regan Blake, one of today's leading professional storytellers, telling "Mr. Fox." Much more about the storytellers and the tales can be found at the blog Folklife Today, https://blogs.loc.gov/folklife.
55 minutes | a year ago
Chicago Ethnic Arts Project Collection
Hosts John Fenn and Stephen Winick, and their guests Ann Hoog, Carl Fleischhauer, and Michelle Stefano, discuss the Chicago Ethnic Arts Project Collection, created as part of the American Folklife Center's first fieldwork project in 1977. The collection, featuring sound recordings, manuscripts, and photographs from 25 ethnic communities in Chicago, is online at loc.gov They discuss the challenges of getting the collection online and of making connections between the collection and the current Chicago community. They play excerpts of interviews with artists from the Greek American, Puerto Rican, African American, and Icelandic American communities, and music from the Greek American, African American, and Irish American communities.
39 minutes | a year ago
More Hidden Folklorists
Hosts John Fenn and Stephen Winick, and their guest Jennifer Cutting, introduce two more hidden folklorists, writer Charles J. Finger and filmmaker Nicholas Ray. Finger collected folklore for award-winning books such as "Tales from Silver Lands," "Sailor Chanties and Cowboy Songs," "Frontier Ballads," and "Robin Hood and his Merry Men." Ray was employed by the Works Progress Administration to collect folklore in 1938 and 1939, before embarking on a career as a filmmaker and directing "Rebel Without a Cause," "They Live by Night," "On Dangerous Ground," and "Johnny Guitar." Ray also directed the radio series "Back Where I Come From" with Alan Lomax. The episode includes four songs sung by Finger, identified by him as three chanties and a forecastle song, and three selections recorded by Ray, on one of which Ray himself sings.
37 minutes | a year ago
"Is 'Ring Around the Rosie' About the Plague?" A Look at Children's Songs.
Hosts John Fenn and Stephen Winick discuss children's songs, and in particular "Ring Around the Rosie." They interview Carolyn Bennett, the Library of Congress Teacher-in-Residence, and play versions of children's songs recorded in the field in 1939 and in 2019. They talk about the story that the origin of "Ring Around the Rosie" is related to plague symptoms in English history. They conclude that the plague story is folklore, and that specifically it is "metafolklore," meaning folklore about folklore. They also conclude that it's probably not true. Nevertheless it tells us interesting things about the way folklore is told, spread, and used by various kinds of people, including children.
57 minutes | a year ago
Hosts John Fenn and Stephen Winick discuss occupational folklife in general, and the American Folklife Center's Occupational Folklife Project in particular. Topics covered include occupational songs, labor scholar and activist Archie Green, and the Occupational Folklife Project's oral histories with American workers. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi provides a moving tribute to labor folklorist Archie Green. Other interviewees include American Folklife center director Betsy Peterson, who was a fieldworker on the Occupational Folklife Project, archivists who take care of the recordings, and the coordinator of the project, Nancy Groce. The program includes excerpts from three workers in the Port of Houston, and with one circus worker reminiscing about elephants. It also includes a mining song performed by Blind Jim Howard and two versions of the railroad song "Rock Island Line," one by Kelly Pace and the other by the popular singer-songwriter Billy Bragg.
40 minutes | a year ago
Agnes Vanderburg's Outdoor School for Traditional Indian Ways
Hosts John Fenn and Stephen Winick Discuss the work of Agnes Vanderburg, a Salish elder from Montana who began an outdoor school to teach traditional native American ways, including Salish language, food preparation, crafting with porcupine quills, making tipis, and traditional medicine. They interview Stephanie Hall, who researched Vanderburg for the Folklife Today blog, Trelani Duncan, who did further research for this podcast, Carl Fleischhauer, who knew and photographed Vanderburg in the 1970s, Judith Gray, who gives an overview of Native American field recordings in the Library of Congress, and Oscar-winning filmmaker Marjorie Hunt, who worked with Agnes Vanderburg in the 1980s. They play and discuss Kay Young's interviews from 1979 with Agnes Vanderburg and Vanderburg's student Rachel Bowers. Vanderburg stands out as an important example of the passing of traditions between generations and between members of different communities. Incidental music is provided by the fiddling of Mary Trotchie, also recorded in Montana in 1979.
46 minutes | 2 years ago
Hosts John Fenn and Stephen Winick, along with Library of Congress staff members Stephanie Hall, Michelle Stefano, and Muhannad Salhi, explore the work of "hidden folklorists," that is, people whose folklore work is sometimes overlooked because they came from marginalized communities and/or were more famous for other activities. This episode looks at four folklorists or folklore families. The famous 19th century detective Allan Pinkerton and his wife Joan compiled an early book of Scottish ballads, and were featured in a blog post by Stephen Winick. King David Kalakaua and his sister Queen Liliuokalani, last monarchs of Hawai'i, published and translated the sacred chants of their people, and were featured in blogs by Stephanie Hall. Sarah P. Jamali, an English professor and wife of an Iraqi prime minister, collected audio recordings of Iraqi folktales and published them in English translation, and was written about by Michelle Stefano; and Ralph Ellison, prominent novelist, whose Invisible Man was partly inspired by a story he collected in New York, as revealed by Stephen Winick.
26 minutes | 2 years ago
The Origin of All Folklore Everywhere
With the help of AFC staff, John Fenn and Stephen Winick will finally get to the bottom of the pesky question: what is the origin of folklore? They will also explore the infamous holiday of April Fools' Day. You'll learn about the history of April Fools' day along with the legends that accompany it. John, Stephen, and AFC staff will talk about the different tricks and pranks associated with the Fools' day, specifically the pranks that students played on their teachers in the early 20th century. You'll also learn about the intricate April Fools' pranks AFC staff play on each other at the Library, and hear a traditional Irish ballad associated with April Fools' Day.
54 minutes | 2 years ago
Civil Rights History Project
With the help of colleagues from the National Museum of African American History and Culture as well as AFC staff, Stephen Winick and John Fenn explore the collaborative collection known as the Civil Rights History Project. You’ll learn about the piece of Congressional legislation that mandated the project, as well as the various roles that the Smithsonian Institution and Library of Congress have played in generating and maintaining the collection. You’ll find out about some of the fieldwork behind the interviews, as well as the more technical concerns that run through a born-digital collection. And you’ll hear several interview clips from the collection, all chosen by guests on the episode. The Civil Rights History Project is a valuable and rich collection hosted on the Library’s website, and this episode will help you understand a bit about what goes on behind the scenes when it comes to making such a collection available to the public.
41 minutes | 2 years ago
Kumbaya: Stories of an African American Spiritual
With the help of AFC archivists, Stephen Winick and John Fenn reveal the history of a great work of African American folk creativity: the spiritual "Kumbaya" or "Come By Here." You'll hear how it was collected from oral tradition in Georgia and North Carolina in the 1920s, and hear it become the first State Historical Song of Georgia on the floor of the Georgia State Senate. You'll find out how the words "come by here," sung in a regional dialect, came to be spelled "Kumbaya" around the world. You'll hear how some people came to believe the song was written by a white evangelist from New York, while others thought it came to America from Angola. And you'll enjoy performances and commentary from Grammy-winning recording artists, expert archivists, and self-described library nerds. This is the story that got the Folklife Today blog covered by the New York Times!
29 minutes | 2 years ago
Christmas Songs from the American Folklife Center
This episode shares some of our favorite songs of the Christmas season. It includes songs derived from English and Spanish medieval mystery plays, children's songs, cumulative carols, and other fun songs of the season. There's even a performance by the American Folklife Center mummers, who sing and perform a Christmas play every year at the Library of Congress.
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