Seeing The World of Sound: the Cover Art of Folkways Records

The goal for the first gallery exhibition of the cover art of Folkways Records was to capture and convey the visual richness of the complete Folkways collection; to bring to the foreground some of the compelling images contained in this extraordinary catalogue of over 2,000 recordings. Initially, each member of the cover art exhibition team selected a group of covers based, primarily, on personal attraction to the images. The final selections, however, involved a number of other considerations such as the variety of styles and methods of production; the decades during which the covers were produced; the genres and categories as they appeared in the Folkways catalogue; and the artists, photographers and designers who worked with Moses Asch. This process resulted in the selection of 209 images for the exhibition, a mere one-tenth of the entire Folkways catalogue.

The exhibition Seeing the World of Sound: The Cover Art of Folkways Records took place at the Fine Arts Building Gallery on the campus of the University of Alberta in Edmonton Canada. A collaboration between folkwaysAlive!, the university’s partnership with Smithsonian Folkways Recordings (2003 - 2016), the exhibition was open to the public from November 22 through December 17, 2005. Programming for the exhibition included an Exhibition Opening Reception on Wednesday November 30, 2005 featuring an Opening Address - Images for the Ear: The Multimedia Achievement of Folkways Records - delivered by Dr. Anthony Seeger (UCLA), Founding Director of Smithsonian Folkways, and a series of Roundtable discussions on Thursday, December 1, 2005.

 
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Selknam Chants of Tierra del Fuego image1Selknam Chants of Tierra del Fuego image2
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Selk'nam Chants of Tierra del Fuego

FW04176
1972
Ronald Clyne
Anne Chapman
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Shaman Chant No. 4 — Lola Kiepja

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The cover presents a memorable close-up photograph of Lola Kiepja taken by the album's producer, ethnologist Anne Chapman. According to Chapman, Lola Kiepja was the last person to speak the language of her people.

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Mary Lou Williams Presents Black Christ of the Andes image1Mary Lou Williams Presents Black Christ of the Andes image2
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Mary Lou Williams Presents Black Christ of the Andes

SFW40816
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St. Martin de Porres — Mary Lou Williams

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Negro Folk Songs for Young People image1Negro Folk Songs for Young People image2Negro Folk Songs for Young People image3
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Negro Folk Songs for Young People

FW07533
1967
Ronald Clyne
Frederick Ramsey Jr.
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We're in the Same Boat, Brother — Lead Belly

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The grainy photograph conveys the honesty and integrity of the legendary Lead Belly (Huddie Ledbetter), wearing his customary suit and tie, performing for a young audience. A powerful singer and guitar player, Lead Belly possessed vast knowledge of African American music with a repertoire ranging from children's play-party games to prison songs. Moe Asch allowed him to record anything he wished, resulting in a canon that continues to influence musicians worldwide.

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The Asch Recordings 1939 - 1945, Vol. 2 image1The Asch Recordings 1939 - 1945, Vol. 2 image2
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The Asch Recordings 1939 - 1945, Vol. 2

FW00AA3/4
1939, 1967
Irwin Rosenhouse
Irwin Rosenhouse
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Cowboy Waltz — Woody Guthrie and Cisco Houston

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Issued in 1967, this album is a compilation of material that first appeared on Asch and Disc Recordings, predecessor labels to Folkways. The cover design features the lively, hand-generated type for which Rosenhouse became known. The two-colour design makes use of overprinting to create a third colour and reversal to render the typographic elements at the top in white.

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Classic Canadian Songs from Smithsonian Folkways image1Classic Canadian Songs from Smithsonian Folkways image2
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Classic Canadian Songs from Smithsonian Folkways

SFW40539
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Les fraises et les framboises / Le festin de campagne / Ah! Si mon moine voulait danser — Jean Carignan and Friends

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Hazel Dickens & Alice Gerrard: Pioneering Women of Bluegrass image1Hazel Dickens & Alice Gerrard: Pioneering Women of Bluegrass image2
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Hazel Dickens & Alice Gerrard: Pioneering Women of Bluegrass

SFW40065
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T.B. Blues (They're at Rest Together) — Hazel Dickens and Alice Gerrard

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Anthology of American Folk Music, Vol. 2: Social Music image1Anthology of American Folk Music, Vol. 2: Social Music image2Anthology of American Folk Music, Vol. 2: Social Music image3
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Anthology of American Folk Music, Vol. 2: Social Music

FW02952
1967
Ronald Clyne
Ben Shahn
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John the Revelator — Blind Willie Johnson

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The condensed, serif type and Ben Shahn's photograph are rendered in two colours: the brown superimposed on a pale tint of orange, gives a warm, earthy, rural sensibility to the overall design. The three-volume Anthology of American Folk Music by Harry Smith is considered one of the most important recordings in the Folkways catalogue.

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Elizabeth Mitchell: You Are My Little Bird image1Elizabeth Mitchell: You Are My Little Bird image2
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Elizabeth Mitchell: You Are My Little Bird

SFW45063
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Little Liza Jane — Elizabeth Mitchell

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John A. Lomax, Jr. Sings American Folk Songs image1John A. Lomax, Jr. Sings American Folk Songs image2John A. Lomax, Jr. Sings American Folk Songs image3
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John A. Lomax, Jr. Sings American Folk Songs

FW03508
1956
Ronald Clyne
Unknown
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Whoopie Ti-Yi-Yo, Get Along Little Dogies — John Lomax, Jr.

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The structure of the cover, using cropping, a low horizontal image format, and type set along the top edge, suggests the open expanse of the western landscape. In 1925 Moe Asch purchased a copy of Cowboy Songs and Frontier Ballads by John A. Lomax, Sr., beginning his lifelong passion for American folksongs. The renowned folklorist's son sings this collection of songs.