Alan Lomax: The Man Who Recorded the World

On May 5, Yale University’s John Szwed will present and discuss his upcoming biography of Alan Lomax for the Benjamin Botkin Lecture Series at the American Folklife Center of the Library of Congress, from 12:00 noon – 1:00 pm. The lecture will be at the Mary Pickford Theater, 3rd Floor, James Madison Building, The Library of Congress. From the Library of Congress: “It seems odd that no biography of Alan Lomax was written before now, especially given that many of the folk music performers whom Lomax discovered have had biographies of their own. True, Lomax was not a well known performer like Pete Seeger. He never held an academic post or a high government position, nor did he receive international or even national awards for his work until the very end of his life. But he was arguably one of the most influential Americans of the twentieth century, a man who changed how everyone heard music and even how they viewed America. When he died, newspaper and TV news reporters pointed out that he had been a musicologist, archivist, singer, DJ, filmmaker, photographer, author of 19 books, producer of dozens of radio, TV, video, and concert programs and hundreds of recordings, in addition to being the world’s most famous folklorist. They might have added that he was also an anthropologist, political activist, lobbyist, and in his later years, something of a social theorist in the grand tradition of the nineteenth century.

John F. Szwed is the John M. Musser Professor of Anthropology and African American Studies, Emeritus at Yale University. His work includes studies of Newfoundland, the Georgia Sea Islands, and Trinidad. A member of the Yale faculty since 1982, Professor Szwed has been Director of Graduate Studies in Anthropology and Acting Chair of African and African-American Studies. His research interests include creolization in the arts, folk music, and film noir. Szwed is also a musician and record producer and is President of Brilliant Corners, a non-profit music production company based in New York City. His recent publications include Blues for New Orleans: Mardi Gras and America’s Soul (2005); Crossovers: Essays in Race, Music, and American Culture (2005); Doctor Jazz (2005), a book included with Jelly Roll Morton: The Complete Library of Congress Recordings with Alan Lomax (2005), for which he was awarded a 2005 Grammy; So What: The Life of Miles Davis (2004); and Space is the Place: The Lives and Times of Sun Ra (1998). He is currently Professor of Music and Jazz Studies at Columbia University.” Read the event listing at the Library of Congress here.

Originally posted: May 5, 2010