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  • Folkways Mourns the Passing of Pete Reiniger

    Smithsonian Folkways is in mourning. Last week we lost our friend and colleague Pete Reiniger, the label's longtime audio engineer and sound supervisor. When you listen to nearly any recording released by Smithsonian Folkways Recordings over the past quarter-century, you are listening to Pete’s work. If he was a stickler for anything, it was crafting pristine, transparent, balanced, and gorgeous sound using his discerning ear and the tools of his trade. He always favored the “real thing” over artificial processing that could be used to gloss over imperfections or detract from the beauty inherent in the source of the sounds. Pete labored hand-in-hand with artists, producers, and other engineers to ensure the highest possible quality of sound. With more than 200 credits for his Folkways efforts, he earned multiple Grammys and other industry awards - though the joy in his work didn't rely on external recognition. He was an artist and craftsman of the first order.

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    Pete Reiniger was more than a consummate professional — he was a fun-loving and trusted friend to countless artists. His admiration and caring for the music makers as much as the music were inherent in all his work and processes. The artists loved him back. Within hours of the news of his passing, expressions of shock, sympathy, praise, and affection flooded social media networks, texts, emails, and telephone networks. Music was his world, and music makers mourn along with us.


    Video: Big Bill Broonzy Vinyl Audio Restoration by Pete Reiniger

    Pete had a gift. Many engineers work with big sound systems and bands, but Pete was a pro recording traditional music and many types of instruments from around the world. In addition to recording, he did sound at festivals and live events around the country. He worked for decades at the Smithsonian Folklife Festivals and for many years on national tours with the National Council for the Traditional Arts. He also toured internationally with USIA, bringing our music to others abroad.

    No one out there had the breadth of knowledge and skills to work with traditional music like he did. With heavy hearts, cherished memories, and a lasting legacy in sound, we invite you to join us in lamenting Pete’s passing and in celebrating his inestimable contributions to a major chapter in Folkways history. We offer our deepest condolences to his life partner Arlene, his son Eliot, and his wonderful family, and we thank them for sharing Pete with all of us over the past decades of his life.

    Dan Sheehy and Jeff Place

    Folkways Mourns the Passing of Pete Reiniger | Smithsonian Folkways Recordings