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The Look

the Listen


The Exhibition


Folkways Records’ founder and director, Moses (“Moe”) Asch emphasized the central importance of cover art and design by once describing it as a “marriage” between the visual and the sound. What appeared on the cover was an integral component of a complex whole, intended to support and enhance the sonic contents of each recording. While individual Folkways covers are often astonishing in their beauty, simplicity and originality, viewed as a collection, the prime design imperative emerges: to create a look to invite a listen. Viewed as a collection of images spanning over four decades, the covers tell a story of human creativity and experience that matches the vast and diverse sounds and music of Folkways Records.

Album Cover: The Asch Recordings 1939 - 1945, Vol. 2
Album Cover: Anthology of American Folk Music, Vol. 2: Social Music
Album Cover: John A. Lomax, Jr. Sings American Folk Songs
Album Cover: Negro Folk Songs for Young People

From a purely pragmatic standpoint, an album cover houses and protects the record. For Folkways, it was also an important marketing and communication tool. It served as the visual entry point for the recording and contributed to the identity of Folkways Records as a whole.

Album Cover: Niloh Service: Concluding Service for Yom Kippur
Album Cover
Album Cover

On yet another level, Folkways album covers facilitated the broad dissemination of art, photography, and design reflecting Asch's conviction that the artist's work, like that of the musician, needed to be preserved and made available to the public.

Album Cover: The History of Jazz
Album Cover: Gazette, Volume 1
Album Cover: Cowboy Ballads

The Folkways cover image, as well as the recording, was intended to both reach out to and be an expression of humanity. The covers succeeded in communicating visually, in stylistic range and thematic focus, a breathtaking diversity of the socially relevant, highly topical and, often, politically radical sounds within.

Album Cover: All the Homespun Days: A Narrative Poem
Album Cover: Eugene V. Debs
Album Cover: Statement: Lecture at Columbia University