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Field recording in the UK

Will Fly 02 Jul 13 - 05:29 AM
Jim Carroll 02 Jul 13 - 05:56 AM
Vic Smith 02 Jul 13 - 05:56 AM
Vic Smith 02 Jul 13 - 05:59 AM
Will Fly 02 Jul 13 - 08:40 AM
Vic Smith 02 Jul 13 - 08:56 AM
Mr Red 02 Jul 13 - 09:14 AM
treewind 02 Jul 13 - 09:35 AM
RTim 02 Jul 13 - 10:01 AM
GUEST,Hootenanny 02 Jul 13 - 10:40 AM
GUEST,Fred McCormick 02 Jul 13 - 11:33 AM
Will Fly 02 Jul 13 - 12:55 PM
Vic Smith 02 Jul 13 - 03:00 PM
Mr Red 08 Jul 13 - 05:34 AM
GUEST,Fred McCormick 08 Jul 13 - 08:04 AM
GUEST,Georgina Boyes 08 Jul 13 - 09:47 AM
Will Fly 08 Jul 13 - 10:05 AM
GUEST,Georgina Boyes 08 Jul 13 - 10:41 AM
Will Fly 08 Jul 13 - 10:47 AM
GUEST,Fred McCormick 08 Jul 13 - 11:39 AM
GUEST,Hootenanny 08 Jul 13 - 12:04 PM
treewind 08 Jul 13 - 01:27 PM
GUEST,Georgina Boyes 08 Jul 13 - 02:03 PM
Jim Carroll 09 Jul 13 - 02:09 AM
GUEST,Fred McCormick 09 Jul 13 - 06:29 AM
GUEST,Fred McCormick 09 Jul 13 - 06:38 AM
GUEST,Georgina Boyes 09 Jul 13 - 08:00 AM
GUEST,Mike Yates 09 Jul 13 - 10:36 AM
GUEST,Peter 09 Jul 13 - 01:53 PM
Jim Carroll 10 Jul 13 - 03:11 AM
Vic Smith 10 Jul 13 - 06:47 AM
GUEST,Mike Yates 10 Jul 13 - 07:05 AM
GUEST,Fred McCormick 10 Jul 13 - 08:45 AM
Jim Carroll 10 Jul 13 - 11:29 AM
Tradsinger 11 Jul 13 - 03:20 AM
Jim Carroll 11 Jul 13 - 08:08 AM
Tradsinger 11 Jul 13 - 10:09 AM
Jim Carroll 11 Jul 13 - 03:06 PM
Jim Carroll 11 Jul 13 - 03:12 PM
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Subject: Early field recording in the UK
From: Will Fly
Date: 02 Jul 13 - 05:29 AM

While listening yet again the other day to some material in the Harry Smith collection and early field recordings by Ralph Peer, I fell to wondering: was there a British equivalent to Peer at that period in time?

I'm aware of the work done by Peter Kennedy and colleagues, but am curious if anything earlier in the way of field recordings was carried out.


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Subject: RE: Field recording in the UK
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 02 Jul 13 - 05:56 AM

Percy Grainger was the first collector to seriously and systematically record traditional singers.
Probably the earliest large collection of field recordings was done by American James Madison Carpenter between 1929 and 1935. Largely manuscript, but numerous recordings of a few verses of the songs to capture the tunes.
It is being worked on at present and is one of the great untapped collections.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Field recording in the UK
From: Vic Smith
Date: 02 Jul 13 - 05:56 AM

The earliest, I believe, was Percy Grainger recording Joseph Taylor and others on wax cylinder in and around Brigg in Lincolnshire in April 1905 (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brigg_Fair ) but I could give you hundreds of examples between then and the recordings/videos made by Sam Lee, James McDonald and their mates in 2012.

How many examples do you want? I don't want to give you information overload.


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Subject: RE: Field recording in the UK
From: Vic Smith
Date: 02 Jul 13 - 05:59 AM

I wrote-
"How many examples do you want?


We could include the two people that have already cross-posted in this thread.


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Subject: RE: Field recording in the UK
From: Will Fly
Date: 02 Jul 13 - 08:40 AM

Thanks for the info - I was really thinking of early British equivalents to Ralph Peer - i.e. mainly, but not entirely, the 1920s.


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Subject: RE: Field recording in the UK
From: Vic Smith
Date: 02 Jul 13 - 08:56 AM

Mike wrote -
mainly, but not entirely, the 1920s.


... then, as Jim has said, James Madison Carpenter is your man. The amazing on-line catalogue of his vastly important bit under-rated work is at http://www.hrionline.ac.uk/carpenter/

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/wear/7683488.stm is also of interest.


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Subject: RE: Field recording in the UK
From: Mr Red
Date: 02 Jul 13 - 09:14 AM

Does a guy with a video camera documenting buskers in his town count? Latter day collecting? I gave our local museum 40 tracks on 2 DVD's of this and have far far more ready to process. Who knows what is in there that is well & truly "Folk".
eg - One day I heard this chanting and rush over, camera in hand, to witness a park full of people making merry. As I videoed I saw a coffin held high above the heads making its way through.
Luckily I chose the right people to ask. It turned out to be a local musician's funeral and as she had decreed it was to be a joyous occasion. She was in a local group (Lazy Suzan) I had videoed before - busking. I also got audio of the parents of her partner explaining some of the background.

If that ain't "Folk" I am prepared to resign my membership of the local Folk Club. It sure is "collecting".


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Subject: RE: Field recording in the UK
From: treewind
Date: 02 Jul 13 - 09:35 AM

Mr Red: David "Doc" Rowe has thousands of hours of video collected in the last few decades, so latter day collecting is certainly happening.

See http://www.docrowe.org.uk/


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Subject: RE: Field recording in the UK
From: RTim
Date: 02 Jul 13 - 10:01 AM

There were Cylinders recorded by Dr. George Gardiner and Vaughan Williams in Hampshire in 1908 at least. Some of these recording can be found on the EFDSS CD called Century of Sound. There are songs recorded from Frederick White, David Clements and one other unknown singer.
see http://folkshop.efdss.org/CDs/Century+of+Song.html

Tim Radford


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Subject: RE: Field recording in the UK
From: GUEST,Hootenanny
Date: 02 Jul 13 - 10:40 AM

I don't see anyone in the above posts who could be compared to Ralph Peer. I don't believe there is anybody.
Correct me if I am wrong but it appears to me that the UK collectors were working from a scholarly viewpoint as was John A Lomax in the States. Some with a view to using ideas from traditional material to be integrated into their own compositions. With Ralph Peer it was purely commercial. His deal with Victor records was that he got all the publishing rights on material that he recorded. The American labels thanks mainly to big sales of a recording by Georgia's Fiddling John Carson realized that there was a big demand for this rural music in the south and in areas of the industrial north which were a magnet to workers from the impoverished south.
Peer having the publishing rights encouraged the musicians that he recorded to use(supposedly)non copyrighted material or write their own material. Some of this turned out to be re-written/adapted older published material. It's therefore very largely due to Peer and his commercial ideas that such a large amount of old material was saved for our appreciation.

Hoot


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Subject: RE: Field recording in the UK
From: GUEST,Fred McCormick
Date: 02 Jul 13 - 11:33 AM

Hootenanny. You're right. there never was anyone comparable to Ralph Peer operating here in the UK. That's partly because commercial recording of traditional musicians happened on a smaller scale here than in the the USA. Mainly though, it's because the people Peer recorded mostly lived in remote parts of the American south. Therefore, for a musician to travel to Camden, New Jersey, where the Victor Record Company was based usually entailed a lengthy and prohibitively expensive journey.

Over here, on the other hand, for a commercial record company to record a traditional musician - and a remarkable number did end up on commercial records - merely entailed that musician travelling to London, Glasgow or Dublin, where the record companies were based.

What's more, Peer wasn't a field recorder as such. IE., unlike conventional folk music collectors, he didn't seek out musicians and record them in their own homes or wherever. Rather, he would pick a suitable location (EG., the Bristol Sessions of 1927 were conducted in a disused hat factory) and fit it up so that it was in effect a purpose built studio.


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Subject: RE: Field recording in the UK
From: Will Fly
Date: 02 Jul 13 - 12:55 PM

Hoot and Fred - you've touched on what I was wondering in my first post - and perhaps I should have made my question clearer. Peer was undoubtedly commercially-minded and motivated, whereas the UK people seem to have been, shall we say, more scholarly (for want of a better word).


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Subject: RE: Field recording in the UK
From: Vic Smith
Date: 02 Jul 13 - 03:00 PM

Fred wrote:-
"That's partly because commercial recording of traditional musicians happened on a smaller scale here than in the the USA."


In the USA in the first half of the 20th century, there were plenty of recording companies that were prepared to cater for the specialist ethnic markets. Sometimes, these were called "race" records but it was not just black music enthusiasts that were being targeted; there were, of course, many Irish, klezmer, Italian, Cajun etc. 78s being released often locally, often in small numbers. These releases were clearly aimed at immigrant communities' attempts at retaining some sort of cultural heritage.

Pressures for having such "ethnic" releases were obviously not so strong in the 'old country' but there were some British labels who were willing to tap such a market. The most prominent of these was probably Beltona and there is an excellent well-informed article of that label by Bill Dean-Myatt at http://www.mustrad.org.uk/articles/beltona.htm


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Subject: RE: Field recording in the UK
From: Mr Red
Date: 08 Jul 13 - 05:34 AM

thanks Treewind.

I forgot to add the 2 Pace egging songs that I collected from an old guy from Church & Oswoldtwistle (now greater Accrington) one of which has done the rounds of newspapers but "I got it wrong" according to some informants. They hadn't grasped the concept of versions but they weren't Folkies either. Joe refused to sing the songs but I did get one recording eventually from him. They are not at all religious.

The other was "Old England she Needs Soldiers" which I collected from a regular at another Folk Club who learned it from a lady he was billeted with (evacuated in WW2) and we reasoned was a Boer War recruiting song. I have video & audio of him singing it.

see cresby.com > collected bits

Gwillym Davies in our area of Gloucestershire has recorded Gyspies singing, but not much now - as he says "they mostly sing C&W or popular fare these days".


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Subject: RE: Field recording in the UK
From: GUEST,Fred McCormick
Date: 08 Jul 13 - 08:04 AM

I need to query your statement about local US companies recording Irish, klezmer, Italian, Cajun etc in the first half of the twentieth century. It's true a plethora of local labels recorded all kinds of minority stuff, but mostly only after the second world war, and only after the majors had lost interest in that particualr market.


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Subject: RE: Field recording in the UK
From: GUEST,Georgina Boyes
Date: 08 Jul 13 - 09:47 AM

Maud Karpeles collected folksongs and dances in England and the Welsh borders in the 1920's, '30's and later. She also made to major collecting trips to Newfoundland in 1929 and 1930 and collected dances in Continental Europe between the Wars.

The reason fieldwork in England was not continued by English collectors was that they believed there were no 'Folk' left to collect from.

Georgina


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Subject: RE: Field recording in the UK
From: Will Fly
Date: 08 Jul 13 - 10:05 AM

Hi Georgina - thanks for joining in on the comments. I was really trying to make a subtle distinction between the act of collecting a song and making a recording of it for quasi-commercial purposes, in the manner of Ralph Peer.

You could presumably go and buy Ralph Peer's output in a shop - but I doubt that any field recordings on acetates, etc. over here were available in that way. I suppose the nearest we might have got to it was for a company to record a "novelty" song which unwittingly had some origin in a folk song.


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Subject: RE: Field recording in the UK
From: GUEST,Georgina Boyes
Date: 08 Jul 13 - 10:41 AM

Thanks for the extra information Will. A few records were made for sale - Percy Grainger's pre-First War recordings of Joseph Tailor for example. But because of restrictive taxes other records were only available in small numbers and to 'clubs'. Maud Karpeles' recordings of Phil Tanner (1936)and 78s of George Tremain's tunes (1935) and the singer, Harry Cox, (1935)were released on Colombia but only available to EFDSS members. These were 'commercial' in the sense that you could buy them, but obviously the membership requirement restricted their availability.

Georgina


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Subject: RE: Field recording in the UK
From: Will Fly
Date: 08 Jul 13 - 10:47 AM

That's very interesting - thanks for the info.


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Subject: RE: Field recording in the UK
From: GUEST,Fred McCormick
Date: 08 Jul 13 - 11:39 AM

Hi Georgina,

You're right about the efforts of Percy Grainger, E J Moeran etc. But the fact of their being made available only to "enthusiasts" means that they were made for a different market than the down home stuff which Peer was recording.

A better comparison could be made between the recordings you mention and the commercial releases issued by the Library of Congress from its own holdings. Granted these weren't exempt from sales tax, as it would be called in the US, and the numbers pressed weren't limited accordingly. And of course they were available for anyone to buy. even so, the perceived market was scholars, enthusiasts etc, rather than Appalachian mountaineers and Mississippi sharecroppers.

Which begs the question; when did the LofC start issuing records? My head keeps saying 1943 but I've no idea whether that's right or wrong.


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Subject: RE: Field recording in the UK
From: GUEST,Hootenanny
Date: 08 Jul 13 - 12:04 PM

Georgina,

Are you seriously suggesting that no-one in the UK collected in the field after Maud Karpeles. because "there were no 'Folk' left to collect from".
I think that output from the Topic label alone proves you wrong. What were people like Mike Yates, Jim and Pat Carrol, Keith Summers, Doc Rowe, John and Katie Howson etc etc etc etc doing if they weren't collecting? Surely I am mis-reading you.

Hoot


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Subject: RE: Field recording in the UK
From: treewind
Date: 08 Jul 13 - 01:27 PM

And Sam Lee is collecting songs from travellers even now. See www.songcollectorscollective.co.uk/, though there's not much there yet (maybe more on FB?)


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Subject: RE: Field recording in the UK
From: GUEST,Georgina Boyes
Date: 08 Jul 13 - 02:03 PM

Hoot -

Yes, you are misreading me - as a longstanding collector myself I'm obviously not suggesting that there was no material to collect.

What I pointing out was that in the 1930's leading figures in the EFDSS believed that there was no one to collect from and that in any case, collecting "was unnecessary, since the ground had already been well covered and recent re-collections had been of no material value" (see exchanges in "English Folk Dance & Song Society Reports" for 1937 and 1938.

Georgina


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Subject: RE: Field recording in the UK
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 09 Jul 13 - 02:09 AM

"No one to collect from and that in any case, collecting "was unnecessary,"
I think it was sadly true that this attitude prevailed in the organisation that should have been taking the lead in gathering up what was still available - it took Alan Lomax, Brian George and Peter Kennedy to instigate the BBC's 'mopping-up' campaign in the 1950s.
In fairness, I do believe that, with a few exceptions, what was being collected then were songs being 'remembered being remembered' - 'survivals' rather than coming from an active, creative living tradition.
Walter Pardon described the singing tradition as virtually having gone from his part of Norfolk during his lifetime with the exception of family gatherings, which themselves died out when he was a youth (he was born in 1914).
The problem in judging all this of course is that we have virtually no information on how the tradition worked from the most important source - the singers themselves.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Field recording in the UK
From: GUEST,Fred McCormick
Date: 09 Jul 13 - 06:29 AM

It's worth pointing out that those limited number releases by EFDSS don't really bear comparison with what Peer and others were doing in the American south. The record companies which Peer and his peers represented (sorry, couldn't resist that one) were recording for a commercial market and their patterns of advertising, promotion etc were much the same as they would have been for records of Gigli or Al Jolson. The records which EFDSS released were for a very limited market of enthusiasts and revivalists, rather than for the people who traditionally sang the stuff.

A better comparison would be between EFDSS and the Library of Congress who also issued field recordings of traditional musicians and singers. These, so far as I know, were not exempt from sales tax, or issued in limited numbers. However, they were aimed, not at Mississippi sharecroppers or Appalachian mountaineers, but at revivalists and scholars and presumably libraries, schools and univeristies.

BTW. Does anybody know when the LofC started issuing records? I've got a feeling it was 1943, but can't find any written confirmation. Certainly, it must have ben well before Lps were invented, because a lot of their stuff was released in 78rpm albums.


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Subject: RE: Field recording in the UK
From: GUEST,Fred McCormick
Date: 09 Jul 13 - 06:38 AM

Sorry folks, but a lot of what I've just said appeared in a post of mine from yesterday. I wrote the earlier message and posted it but it didn't subsequently show up in the listing. It still wasn't there this morning, so I rewrote and re-posted. Immediately I hit the button, the number of contributions went not from 23 to 24, but from 23 to 25.

Dunno what went wrong, or whether 'catters in other parts of the world received the message when they should have done. But I'm wondering if we should ditch the Internet and rely on Sears-Roebuck instead.


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Subject: RE: Field recording in the UK
From: GUEST,Georgina Boyes
Date: 09 Jul 13 - 08:00 AM

To complete the discussion about EFDSS attitudes to collection in the 1930's, it's worth highlighting that Cecil Sharp, the founder of the EFDS and for decades the dominating influence on its approach to collection proposed that:

"the last generation of folk singers must have been born not later than sixty or seventy years ago - say 1840" English Folk -Song: Some Conclusions' (1907).

By the 1930's anyone born in 1840 would be well into their 90's. It's therefore clear why song collection was no longer a priority - or even possible from the EFDSS standpoint.

Obviously this view was incorrect, as later fieldwork has amply demonstrated. But it does explain the reason for the gap.

Georgina


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Subject: RE: Field recording in the UK
From: GUEST,Mike Yates
Date: 09 Jul 13 - 10:36 AM

I recall once being told that the reason why the Folk Song Society ceased was because the editor of the Journal was not receiving any "new" songs for publication, only variants of songs that had already been published. I think that Cecil Sharp felt the same way when he left the Appalachians for the last time in 1918. There is a diary entry for 24th September, 1918, which reads:

I am getting some splendid songs here, many of them well above average but of course I do nor now hear anything absolutely new. The number of duplicates is increasing very much so that I feel that with this year's work I shall have completed the major part of the work...There are no doubt still some good variants to be discovered but the labour in getting them would scarcely be worthwhile.


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Subject: RE: Field recording in the UK
From: GUEST,Peter
Date: 09 Jul 13 - 01:53 PM

Like Mike my recollection was hearing that this was already the view of the FSS prior to the merger.


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Subject: RE: Field recording in the UK
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 10 Jul 13 - 03:11 AM

"Obviously this view was incorrect, as later fieldwork has amply demonstrated."
I have to say that at one time I was a hyper-critic of Sharp and his generation; I think that my particular 'Road to Damascus' was prompted by the tsunami of unfair and unhelpful criticism and abuse that has taken place over the last few decades.
Back in the mid-eighties I was delighted when I heard that at last the work and ideas of the early collectors was to receive the critical attention it obviously needed - until I read Dave Harker's 'Fakesong'; I think I reached page 57 before I actually threw in the towel; it was a couple of years before I reached for the bottle of Imodium and tried again.
This wasn't the first time I'd encountered Harker's writing; I had previously read 'One For the Money' and knew from personal involvement that some of what he had written on the Revival was what I knew to be both inaccurate and misleading.
Of course some of what the early collectors did was open to criticism - they were Victorians, they were very much out of their depth class-wise, and most importantly, they were pioneers breaking new ground. That having been said, I believe they presented us with a body of song and a batch of ideas that have given me and no doubt, many others and a great deal of pleasure and a continuing interest for the best part of our lives; they certainly didn't deserve the literary and verbal kicking that their work (and sometimes they as individuals) received and is still being administered from some quarters - I still cringe when I remember the smugly supercilious tones in which I have heard their work discussed on air - from the safe refuge of hindsight, of course.
Sharp's work and 'Conclusions' are still very much in need of serious re-examination and adaptation based on what has been found since, but not in the way it has been carried out so far.
I worked in the building trade long enough to know that it is far easier to tear down something that somebody else had built than to put up something half-decent yourself.
I'm not an academic and am glad not to have been one, thought there are times I've wished we could have spent a bit more than just our leisure hours doing what we have been doing over the last forty years.
I have become very disturbed of late to discover how the 'baby-out-with-the bathwater' technique has been applied to what we know - or thought we knew about folksong.
Apart from some of the (undeserved I.M.O.) rubbishing of Sharp et al, foremost among my concerned is the way that suddenly we are being told that folksong is no longer considered the product of 'the folk' but rather, came from the pens of 'hacks' (bad poets) hoping to make a quick buck.
To me, this neither makes logical sense, nor does it tie up with what we learned from talking with traditional singers who, in some cases, were still making songs or at the very least, were around when they were being made.
The fact is, we have no idea whatever who made our folksongs, and probably never shall, yet the definitive, and often extremely arrogant terms in which these theories (that's what they are,) are presented leaves no room for discussion, let alone challenge.
There - got that lot off my chest - where's my breakfast?
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Field recording in the UK
From: Vic Smith
Date: 10 Jul 13 - 06:47 AM

Some very good points there, Jim. Sharp comes in far a lot of criticism, much of it valid, as for different reasons do Lomax and Kennedy. However, we do have to ask ourselves where would we be without the work of these three and their ilk.


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Subject: RE: Field recording in the UK
From: GUEST,Mike Yates
Date: 10 Jul 13 - 07:05 AM

I don't like plugging my own work, but I had a complete change of heart when it came to Cecil Sharp. This happened mainly because I was just so impressed with what he achieved under very difficulty conditions in the Appalachians. See the Musical Traditions article "Cecil Sharp In America" for details.


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Subject: RE: Field recording in the UK
From: GUEST,Fred McCormick
Date: 10 Jul 13 - 08:45 AM

Just to remind folks that volume 5 of Far in the Mountains, the Musical Traditions set which anthologises the recordings Mike made in the Southern Appalachians, has been available for (I think), a couple of months. It is bleep bleeping wonderful, as are the previous four discs.


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Subject: RE: Field recording in the UK
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 10 Jul 13 - 11:29 AM

"I don't like plugging my own work"
Plug away Mike - it's a great article.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Field recording in the UK
From: Tradsinger
Date: 11 Jul 13 - 03:20 AM

I am currently liaising with the British Library Sound Archive to put my field recordings on line. It is a lengthy process and I am working on securing permissions from the people I have recorded or their descendants, whilst the Sound Archive is working on matching the audio with the indexing. I hope that the recordings will go on line sometime later this year. There are recordings from mainly Hampshire, Devon, Gloucestershire and the USA. Watch this space.

BTW, I am still finding singers who have learnt their songs from sources other than the media or the revival, so the collection is still growing.

Tradsinger


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Subject: RE: Field recording in the UK
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 11 Jul 13 - 08:08 AM

Tradsinger;
"I am currently liaising with the British Library Sound Archive to put my field recordings on line."
We put ours there when Lucy Duran was running the show - it was the British Institute of Recorded Sound then (late 1970s).
Our having done so was the impetus for their expanding what was then a mainly international (largely Asian and African) archive into one that could also cater for British/Irish recordings.
Unfortunately they never got round to putting our recordings on-line. I understand that following the 'Bright Golden Store' project they ran out of money, so ours languishes in a vault somewhere - which is not why we made the effort.
I suggest that if this in not what you want to happen to yours, you discuss with them how accessible they are prepared to make it - I still get extremely frustrated with archives that are 'saved for posterity' rather than made fully available.
Good luck
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Field recording in the UK
From: Tradsinger
Date: 11 Jul 13 - 10:09 AM

Well, they have put up several collections recently including Roy Palmer and Bob & Jackie Paton, and their emails to me lead me to believe that my collection will go up as soon as possible.


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Subject: RE: Field recording in the UK
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 11 Jul 13 - 03:06 PM

Must be something I said!
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Field recording in the UK
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 11 Jul 13 - 03:12 PM

I don't know if it's available elsewhere, but our County Clare collection (around 250 tapes) is at present being processed for the Clare County Library (Ennis) website - should be completed by September we understand.
So far they have put up just musical items; no songs, but they've made a tremendous job of what they have already put up; tunes accompanied by musical transcripts.
A really impressive facility for the county.
Jim Carroll


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