Support Hyperallergic’s independent arts journalism.
OAKLAND, Calif. — I’m remembering a quote from television producer David Simon (The Wire) who when producing his at-the-time new show on post-Katrina New Orleans, Treme, argued for music — not movies — being the United States of America’s most distinct art form.
“If America disappeared off the face of the Earth today, the greatest single cultural loss would be blues, jazz, hip-hop, R&B, rock-and-roll,” he noted in The Progressive while specifically addressing the fact that many of this country’s music traditions come from African-American communities. “If you go into a bar or a shebeen or a tavern anywhere in the world, Timbuktu, London, Ouagadougou, Johannesburg, anywhere you go, if they have a jukebox there will be American music.”
And while American music is so often associated with commercialism and media empires, its roots in folk traditions are worth celebrating and noting. Which is why I was excited to learn about Alan Lomax’s collection of music ethnography, which is available online for anyone to download and enjoy. The collection went online last year, but a recent Dangerous Minds post drew attention to it once more.
The archive, hosted on Cultural Equity’s online research center, contains over 17,400 files of both sound and video, thus offering an incredibly rich view into the instruments and playing techniques of the musicians Lomax interviewed. It spans the 1970s and 80s, from east Texas straight on through the Mississippi Delta and Louisiana and up through the Carolinas and Virginias and into Massachusetts and New York.
What’s remarkable, in the midst of a debate about Robin Thicke and Marvin Gaye, is how much of America’s more famous musical traditions and acts emerged from people playing on porches, in churches and on city streets. Yes, the collection misses most of the country west of the Mississippi, but it sets a clear bar for what a thorough folk music archive should look like. These rich collections and interviews aren’t just a window into American music; they’re a window into the cultural heritage of the United States as a whole.
The new generation of artists and curators is eager to explore alternative organizations and to tackle current social inequalities and issues.
Her female nudes were extraordinary for the time because she portrayed female sexual desire. Her subjects defied conventional ideals of femininity.
No Vacancy, curated by Jody Graf, will be on view from October 26 through November 8 at the school’s Kellen Gallery in New York City.
Francis made over 10,000 artworks, starred in more than 100 solo exhibitions, and, in the late 1950s to mid-1960s, commanded the highest prices of any living painter.
Brian Blomerth’s Mycelium Wassonii deploys amazing graphic storytelling to share his own exploration of mushroom history
Over a century after Wright designed a workplace that borrowed features from the home, designers are at it again, but who does a homey office really serve?
Art by Athena LaTocha, Wendy Red Star, Marianne Nicolson, Anita Fields, Jaune Quick-to-See Smith & Neal Ambrose-Smith, and more is on view through January 2022.
This week, the National Gallery of Art finally acquired a major work by Faith Ringgold, the director of The Velvet Underground talks film, North America’s Hindu Nationalist problem, canceling legacy admissions, and more.
Sculptures of Oaxacan alebrijes, envisioned as guardians of the nation’s immigrant community, and catrinas, Day of the Dead skeletons, are now at Rockefeller Center.