Folkways means that “everything occurring on the earth and in the contemporary time is being recorded. Folkways is a record company to describe the human race, the sound it makes, what it creates.

Moses Asch

Soundscapes of Nature, Science, Technology and Everyday Life

Folkways Records pioneered the recording of sonic environments as a source of both knowledge and experience. Whether they preserve the sounds of animals or those generated by technology, these albums are unique documents of the soundscapes of their era and of early sound recording technology and its visual representations. Soundscape cover art is highly effective in representing the diverse sources of these sounds and their associative, even nostalgic power.

 
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Sounds of the Office image1Sounds of the Office image2Sounds of the Office image3
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Sounds of the Office

FW06142
1964
Ronald Clyne
Unknown
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Manual Typewriter — n/a

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A manual typewriter dominates the cover, conjuring up the mechanically generated soundscape of a New York office. The shadowy, negative photographic image also uncannily suggests the impending transformation of this "epitome of everyday life" into an artifact of the past.

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Sounds of Insects image1Sounds of Insects image2Sounds of Insects image3
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Sounds of Insects

FW06178
1960
Ronald Clyne
Albro T. Gaul
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Suburban sounds (Crickets and temperature; Crickets chirp at slow speed)

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The cover photograph, a magnified negative image of the formidable hornet, visually reflects the sounds of the insects on the recording, which are greatly amplified and somewhat distorted. Entomologist, Albro T. Gaul produced the record based on his book The Wonderful World of Insects.

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Sounds of North American Frogs image1Sounds of North American Frogs image2Sounds of North American Frogs image3
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Sounds of North American Frogs

FW06166
1958
Ronald Clyne
Unknown
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Chorus of Barking Treefrogs (Hyla gratiosa) — Barking Treefrogs

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Once a bestseller, this album, produced in cooperation with The American Museum of Natural History, presents field recordings of the sounds of different species of North American frogs. These sounds are captured visually on the cover through a series of concentric ovals emanating like sound waves from the frog's mouth. The background, appropriately, is green.

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Sounds of Steam Locomotives, Vol. 5 image1Sounds of Steam Locomotives, Vol. 5 image2Sounds of Steam Locomotives, Vol. 5 image3
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Sounds of Steam Locomotives, Vol. 5

FW06156
1976
Unknown
Reginald Marsh
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Norfolk and Western 4-6-6-4 and 2-8-8-2 — n/a

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Inspired by the sight of locomotives struggling up the Kicking Horse Pass in the Canadian Rockies, Vinton Wight set out to preserve the sounds of the steam engine that would soon disappear. The 1929 etching by Marsh is historicizing, placing the steam engine visually into the past even when it was still functioning. Moses Asch likely selected this cover image, since it was from his collection.

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Cable Car Soundscapes

FW06129
1982, 1983
Ronald Clyne
Peter MxCandless
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Mettle of Metal — n/a

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This photograph was likely taken by the album's producer, Peter MxCandless. Its central placement and vertical format, together with the lines created by the tracks, transport the viewer into the scene, along for the cable car ride.

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Travelon Gamelon

FW06241
1982
Ronald Clyne
Michiel Hendryckx
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Concert Version — Richard Lerman

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Inspired by gamelan sounds, Richard Lerman's bicycle music consists of striking the spokes of the bicycles as the wheels are turned by hand (in concert) or by riding (in promenade). The cover photo shows him with a group of Belgian high school students on amplified bicycles about to set off for the promenade version of Travelon Gamelon in Ghent, 1981.