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AFS Review: News

Folklorist’s Field Recordings Named American Treasure

Friday, March 27, 2015   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Lorraine Cashman
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Radio coverage of FDR's funeral, The Doors, Radiohead, and field recordings by Jeff Todd Titon are among the American treasures inducted this week to the Library of Congress National Recording Registry.

Every year, the Library of Congress adds 25 recordings to the Registry that are "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" and are at least 10 years old. The recordings represent a wide range of styles and genres, including songs, albums, spoken word and theatrical recordings, and this year, a collection of 600 wax-cylinder recordings documenting turn of the 20th-century "snapshots" of everyday life.

"Old Regular Baptists: Lined-Out Hymnody from Southeastern Kentucky" (Smithsonian Folkways 40106) is a collection of hymns representing the oldest English-language religious music in oral tradition in North America. Titon, a current member of the AFS Executive Board, recorded the songs performed by Indian Bottom Association singers in 1992-3; the album was released in 1997.

With this honor, Titon joins less than a half-dozen other folklorists and ethnomusicologists who have received the same recognition for their research: among them are Frances Densmore, Franz Boas, George Herzog, Dave McAllester, and Alan Lomax.

Titon writes, "Beyond preservation in an archive, this recognition will help the Old Regular Baptists redouble their own efforts to continue their musical traditions in the face of cultural, economic, and environmental threats. For more than 150 years they have been successful in resisting change to their singing and other aspects of belief and practice, but today they face new threats because of the region’s dependence on a single, declining industry (coal mining), and because of that industry’s increasing reliance on mountaintop removal, which is causing floods, earthquakes, and wreaking havoc in the regional ecosystem.”

For the full story and list of honorees, see "News from the Library of Congress: National Recording Registry To 'Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive'” (March 25, 2015) at

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