Folkways Fast Five: Anne Stickley
Fast Five is a five-question speed interview with members of the Smithsonian Folkways Recordings staff.
Hello, and welcome to Fast Five, where we at Smithsonian Folkways Recordings talk to a member of the staff about their favorite parts of the Folkways collection. I’m Hannah Judd, and I’m here today with Anne Stickley. Can you introduce yourself?
Hi, I’m Anne Stickley, I’m interning this summer with Atesh Sonneborn in Folkways, and I will be starting my master’s in musicology in just a few weeks now!
What was your first Folkways album?
Well, I’m not entirely sure what my first Folkways album was, but I can say for certain that the first Folkways artist I was exposed to was Christine Lavin, who appeared in a lot of the Fast Folk magazines and song collections. One of my favorites that is in the Folkways collection, that I remember very fondly when I was growing up, was “Biological Time Bomb” [from Fast Folk Musical Magazine (Vol. 2, No. 9) Women in Song], which I think I grasped onto a lot when I was a child because the background music isn’t really any instrument, it’s a stopwatch ticking sound. My mom would take me to her concerts, and I would always look forward to that one because it was always a little bit different than her other stuff.
What are some of your current favorite albums? Why?
One of my current favorites is from the Music of Central Asia Series, Volume 8, titled Rainbow, with the Kronos Quartet, also with Alim and Fargana Qasimov and Homayun Sakhi. One of the reasons I like it so much is that it’s a collaboration between two different music cultures that I think actually works very well together. It’s not just shoving two different musics together and hoping that something comes out, it’s actually really beautiful music, and the first time I heard it, I just remember being excited and engaged throughout the whole time I listened to it; I didn’t drift off at all. It was very thrilling to listen to, and I’m very excited to keep listening to it and getting more in depth with it.
Another one of my favorites currently is an album called [A Tribute to Gonzalo Asencio, “Tío Tom”]. It’s a lot of rumba, and I’ve started listening more and kind of trying to become a percussionist on the side, and there’s a lot of great Latin drumming, and a lot of percussion to listen to on that, which I love.
Another favorite of mine—I’m a trombone player, so I have to give a shout out to some trombone music for sure— is an album called [Saints' Paradise: Trombone Shout Bands from the United House of Prayer]. It’s recordings of trombone shout bands, which are part of the United House of Prayer. One of my friends in the studio I was in for my undergrad did his doctoral dissertation on trombone shout bands from the United House of Prayer, so I got introduced to that music through his research, and he ended up giving a recital/lecture on it, and I think the recording in our catalogue is a really good representation of the different bands in that community. As a brass player, there’s this gritty, awesome, soulful sound that they get out of the trombone that I wish I could replicate, but for now I’m just going to have to continue listening and being envious of it.
What are some hidden gems in the collection?
I think one of the hidden gems is an album called Bamboo-Tamboo, Bongo and Belairon Cook Records. What I find interesting about it is the bamboo-tamboo section, which, if you’re not familiar with what that is, it’s a tradition kind of like handbell ringing in the sense that everyone has their own instrument. Bamboo sticks are carved to different lengths, and they’re hit across the ground to make different pitches and then hit with a stick. I think there’s a lot of coordination and a lot of polyphony that goes into that. Also, at one point, parts of the instruments were sharpened into weapons, and rival gangs could use them. So I think that’s a very interesting music genre, and I think it’s actually used in part for teaching general music stuff now. Not actual bamboo, but it continues on in a certain way.
I think this is my favorite hidden gem of our collection: when I was a junior in undergrad, I decided to write a paper on revolutionary songs in America, and I ended up using a lot of Folkways albums that had to do with the American Revolutionary War, and my favorite album out of all of those was Arthur Schrader’s American Revolutionary War Songs to Cultivate the Sensations of Freedom. A lot of these albums were all released right around the bicentennial, when there was this idea of “maybe, hey, we should look back at our history now that we’re two hundred years old and see what we were doing.” I personally like that era for music because it shows that in America, even as we were beginning to become ourselves, music and politics were wrapped up together, and I don’t think have ever really separated after. Also, I think again that these songs can be used more as teaching tools than they have before.
What’s your favorite album art?
One of my favorite cover arts is from an album called The Organ in Symphony Hall, by Reginald Foort. The album cover itself is a black background with a gold imprint of a cathedral, and then there’s this really cool, mysterious, electric blue mist that goes around it. I think it was from the fifties—it spoke to me. Also what I found really cool about that is that there’s this golden sun on the front of the album cover, which doesn’t really make much sense, where it’s placed or why it’s there, but it ended up coming to the Smithsonian, so I think that was a little foreshadowing happening there.
Thanks so much, Anne.