|Dust-to-Digital is proud to announce a forthcoming box set with the Rosenbaums.
Art of Field RecordingThe diverse talents of both Art and Margo Rosenbaum have allowed them to document music traditions in a way few others could have done. Art is a painter, muralist, and illustrator, as well as a collector and performer of traditional American folk music. Margo is a photographer that has captured many of Art's field recording encounters.
Art Rosenbaum likes his music to have roots. “As a kid I listened to labor union songs, Burl Ives, Pete Seeger and the Harry Smith Anthology of American Folk Music,” said the UGA art professor and self-taught folk musician. “Fairly early on I realized the most exciting music was that music developed in a style and passed on to the next generation.”
While living in New York City, he and a friend John Cohen, the filmmaker and Beat generation photographer, thought pop music “was kind of bland.” So they and their like-minded friends organized concerts of traditional and folk music. Rosenbaum and Cohen began collecting folk music in the field. In his home state of Indiana Rosenbaum rediscovered blues guitarist Scrapper Blackwell and recorded fiddler John W. Summers.
“We were talking about bringing these musicians we’d heard on the anthology to New York. We were coming to realize America had these voices that worked like great art, poetically and musically,” he said. “One old-time banjo player, Clarence Ashley, brought a group from North Carolina that included the then-unknown blind guitar player Doc Watson.”
Another concert Rosenbaum organized for Friends of Old-Time Music was a program of ethnic New York music with Puerto Rican, Yiddish, Galician Spanish and Irish singers and dancers.
Along the way, he learned a lot of good songs and unusual banjo tunings, recorded and performed at folk festivals and coffee houses in Europe and the States, and cultivated a deep appreciation of traditional folk heritage.
“It was like delving into culture but doing it in a hands-on way with an awareness of what we thought was exciting. And we’re still doing it. We’re still tinkering around with the same tunes we were tinkering around with 40 years ago,” he said.
Rosenbaum has written, illustrated and recorded a small slice of what he’s learned of folk music and culture in a number of books, sound recordings and concerts.
--Judy Bolyard Purdy
Shout Because You’re Free: The African American Ring Shout Tradition in Coastal Georgia, University of Georgia Press 1998 (photographs by Margo Newmark Rosenbaum)
The Art of the Mountain Banjo, Mel Bay Publications, revised edition, 1990
Folk Visions and Voices: Traditional Music and Song in North Georgia, with two companion Smithsonian Folkways cds (34161, 34162), University of Georgia Press, 1983 (photographs by Margo Newmark Rosenbaum; foreward by Pete Seeger)
Old-Time Mountain Banjo, An Instruction Method, Oak Publications, 1968 (still in print)
FIELD RECORDING ARCHIVES
Ballads, blues, spirituals, work songs and slave songs, religious singing, such as the African-American ring-shout, and other traditional folk music from Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, New York and Scotland performed with voices and stringed instruments such as banjo and fiddle.
- Rosenbaum Collection, Archives of Traditional Music, Indiana University
- Archive of American Folk Song and Archive of American Folklife Center, Library of Congress
- Georgia Folklore Society Archives, University of Georgia
SELECTED PERFORMANCES AND RECORDINGS
- Art Rosenbaum Georgia Banjo Blues, Global Village (compact disc 313), 2003
- Centennial Olympic Games performances, with the Skillet Lickers string band, 1996
- Down Yonder, three Georgia Public Television documentaries of Georgia folk music, produced with Clate Sanders
- Howard Finster, Man of Many Voices, recorded and produced for Folkway Recordings (F7471), 1985
- “In Concert” BBC London and the Kicking Mule Tour of England and France, 1976
- Newport Folk Festival, 1968
- Lalo Schiffrin’s score for the movie, Cool Hand Luke, Warner Brothers; 1966, featured banjo player
- Jean Ritchie’s Precious Memories recording, Folkways, 1964, banjo accompanist
While a High School student in the 1950’s, Art Rosenbaum won an art show and used the prize money to buy his first banjo. Later the self-taught banjoist played banjo for Lalo Schiffrin’s score for the move Cool Hand Luke. He also published a banjo-playing instruction book, which is still in print.
Photo by Karekin Goekjian