NPR FOR THE DEAF: We Hear It Even When You Can’t

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FRESH AIR

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Alan Lomax spent more than a half-century recording folk music and customs around the world, and now he is the subject of a new book by John Szwed called Alan Lomax: The Man Who Recorded the World. In 1990, Lomax, who died in 2002, spoke to Fresh Air‘s Terry Gross about the decades he spent compiling sound recordings from around the world. In the 1930s and ’40s, Lomax and his father, John, were the first folklorists to travel around the American South documenting songs on portable recording machines. They both contributed thousands of field recordings to the Library of Congress’ Archive of American Folk Song, which John Lomax founded in 1941. The Lomax collection, which contains more than 5,000 hours of sound recordings and over 2,450 videotapes, contains the recordings Alan Lomax made on trips to the South, the Carribean, Britain, Scotland, Ireland, Spain and Italy. Alan Lomax was the first person to record Leadbelly, Muddy Waters and Woody Guthrie. He frowned on what he considered commercial music, but he recorded an important oral history with jazz pianist Jelly Roll Morton. MORE

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