REDMOND, Wash., Jan. 19, 2005 — An alliance announced today between MSN Music and Smithsonian Folkways Recordings will make tens of thousand of historic songs from legendary performers of folk, blues, jazz and world music available online for the first time, allowing music fans to discover a diverse world of music and sound. The Smithsonian Folkways catalog of nearly 35,000 tracks, which is only available for download through MSN
Music in the United States ( http://music.msn.com/smithsonian ), features legendary artists Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Lucinda Williams, Big Bill Broonzy, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Ella Jenkins and more. The archive also features nonmusical tracks including speeches, poetry and natural sounds from around the world.
“The music in the Smithsonian Folkways archive is a strong reminder of the incredible emotion in authentic roots music,” said Rob Bennett, senior director of MSN Entertainment at Microsoft Corp. “The music in this catalog has influenced countless artists — including Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Jerry Garcia and Kurt Cobain — yet it’s often almost impossible to find. We’re excited to bring these important artists and their work to a larger audience through MSN Music.”
“The success of our Anthology of American Folk Music, edited by Harry Smith, which won two GRAMMY Awards in 1997, showed us that there is a substantial audience for roots music,” said Dan Sheehy, director of Smithsonian Folkways Recordings. “The problem is that people can’t always find this music. It’s not on the radio, and many retailers don’t carry it. We’re thrilled to work with MSN Music to give people an easy way to hear music by artists they may have only read about and discover others they may have never heard of at all.”
The Smithsonian section of the MSN Music service is set up to make it easy for listeners to explore the archive and discover music that interests them. The section is divided into 10 genre pages, with each one containing historical music and artist information as well as recommended tracks to download. The genre pages are as follows:
American Folk Traditions. Comprising music predominantly from the 1940s to 1960s, the selection includes American bluegrass and folk singers; rural mountain ballads, hymns and melodies; musical traditions for labor, worship, lament and celebration; old-time square and contra dances of the South and Appalachia; and the first country music.
Blues. This page provides a springboard to a range of regional blues styles — Piedmont and New York blues, Texas, Mississippi Delta, Southwest, St. Louis and Chicago blues. Blues can be heard here as a form of emotional release, political vehicle, humor and medicine. The selections include vaudeville blues and contemporary reinventions, folk-revival blues, white mountain blues, boogie, jazz and barrelhouse blues, vocal harmony blues, and electric rock blues.
Latino Roots. The Smithsonian’s collection of Latino roots music includes nearly 2,000 tracks, with artists such as Nati Cano’s Los Camperos, Luiz Bonf, Cuarteto Patria and Compay Segundo. The listener can browse through the collection and find Latino roots music from the Caribbean to the Andes and from Brazil to the American Southwest.
World Traditions. This offers a selection of the world’s many ways of music, from Mbuti Pygmy rhythms to Tuvan throat singing, a Peruvian call to clear the waterways, Bahamian music, men singing as they work in Papua New Guinea, night music from Sumatra and much, much more.
Children’s. These are old songs, new songs, play-party games and poems, selected from among many hundreds of outstanding recordings for and by children. These materials include songs by legends such as Woody Guthrie; Mike, Peggy and Pete Seeger; and Suni Paz. This section also includes dozens of full albums from Ella Jenkins, Folkways’ all-time most popular and best-selling artist, who received a GRAMMY Association Lifetime Achievement Award in 2004.
Jazz/Avant-Garde. Folkways’ jazz selection includes James P. Johnson and Mary Lou Williams, piano solos, big bands, Latin, cool and bebop styles, to name a few. John Cage and David Tudor’s collaboration, “Indeterminacy,” a milestone in the history of instrumental and electronic music, is here as well.
Classical. The Folkways collection of classical music includes such wonders as Hyman Bress’ multiple volumes of violin and other string repertoire, and great performances from Soviet-era master musicians. Emory Cook’s label (Cook Records) adds a good number of fine classical music performances to demonstrate his superior audio reproduction technologies.
Spoken Word. Storytelling from nearly everywhere in the world is found here as part of an encyclopedia of the human experience of sound. Interviews, poetry spoken by fiery poets and read by passionate poetry lovers, public speeches by men and women (famous or forgotten), living history, lectures, language instruction, drama, isolated phonemes — the building blocks of language — are all here. Some of the most famous tracks include FDR’s inaugural speeches, excerpts from President Eisenhower’s campaign album and poetry from Langston Hughes.
Natural Sounds & More. There was a golden age of sound recording when sounds themselves, natural or manmade, were very much in style, first on the radio and later on the phonograph. These sounds provide us with accounts of everyday life, the history of technology and nature. Folkways contains many human-made sounds that aren’t heard these days: steam engines, typewriters and propeller airplanes, as well as sounds from the mid-20th century of a South African homestead, a children’s camp, New York streets and playgrounds, monkeys, and sounds made by water, frogs, birds and storms.
From the Nation’s Attic. This section includes a fascinating array of audio artifacts that don’t really fit anywhere else, including music from old sci-fi films, a lesson from Pete Seeger about how Lead Belly’s guitar music is notated, an old telephone ringing and a square dance.
To aid in catalog exploration, MSN Music will regularly feature articles from recording artists and music scholars that celebrate the wealth of diverse musical, verbal and natural sound content. “The catalog is so huge, we have the ability to continually add features and editorial content to help music fans explore and discover the many hidden gems and unique tracks that make this addition to MSN Music so special,” Bennett said.
Beyond the wide range of music, the archive also features an extensive collection of nonmusical content from the United States and around the world. The collected works include poetry and historical oratory, natural sound such as “Sounds of North American Frogs,” and
quirky tracks and audio documentaries such as “Speech After Removal of the Larynx” and “Sounds of the Office,” recorded in 1964.
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