Worlds of Sound

Worlds of Sound

The Story of Smithsonian Folkways

Book - 2008
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Baker & Taylor
Traces Folkway Records' efforts to capture auditory records of cultural and musical history, providing anecdotal stories about such events as recording sessions with folk musicians, civil rights sit-ins, and poetry readings by Langston Hughes.


A man, a microphone, and a dream

When he opened his tiny recording studio in New York in 1940, Moses Asch had a larger-than-life dream: To document and record all the sounds of his time. He created Folkways Records to achieve his goal, not just a record label but a statement that all sounds are equal and every voice deserves to be heard. The Folkways catalog grew to include a myriad of voices, from world- and roots-music to political speeches; the voices of contemporary poets and steam engines; folk singers Lead Belly and Woody Guthrie and jazz pianists Mary Lou Williams and James P. Johnson; Haitian vodoun singers and Javanese court musicians; deep-sea sounds and sounds from the outer ring of Earth's atmosphere. Until his death in 1986, Asch—with the help of collaborators ranging from the eccentric visionary Harry Smith to academic musicologists—created more than 2000 albums, a sound-scape of the contemporary world still unequalled in breadth and scope. Worlds of Sound documents this improbable journey. Along the way you'll meet:

A young Pete Seeger, revolutionizing the world with his five-string banjo
The amazing vocal ensembles of the Ituri Pygmies
North American tree frogs
Ella Jenkins's children's music
Lead Belly singing "The Midnight Special"
The nueva canción of Suni Paz.

Folkways became a part of the Smithsonian Institution's collections shortly after Asch's death. Today Smithsonian Folkways continues to make the "worlds of sound" Moe Asch first dreamed of 60 years ago available to all. The Folkways vision is expansive and all-inclusive, and Worlds of Sound advances its rich and lively spirit.

Book News
This volume chronicles the story of Folkways Records, recounting how Moses Asch started the label in 1948 and collaborated with others to produce about 2,200 recordings of all types (folk, blues, jazz, world, music, poetry and speeches, children's songs, nature sounds, and others), including Harry Smith's Anthology of American Folk Music. It also describes the relationships he had with artists he recorded, the influence of the label, and how it became part of the Smithsonian Institution's collections after his death. Carlin draws from interviews, correspondence, and other documents to tell the story, and incorporates photos, facsimiles, and lists of recordings. No bibliography is provided. Carlin, who worked for Folkways Records as an independent producer in the 1970s, is the author and editor of books on folk, country, and traditional music. Annotation ©2009 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (

& Taylor

A former producer and founder of Folkways Records traces the Smithsonian's efforts to capture auditory records of cultural history, sharing anecdotal stories about his work during civil rights sit-ins, the Watergate hearings, poetry readings by Langston Hughes, and more. 20,000 first printing.
A history of the record label Smithsonian Folkways.

Publisher: New York : Smithsonian Books, 2008
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9780061563553
Branch Call Number: 781.62 CARLI
Characteristics: xviii, 283 pages : illustrations (some color) ; 27 cm


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