Reading: Alan Lomax by John Szwed

It turns out that Alan Lomax was not only a devoted and wide-ranging collector of folk music and other folklore forms, but the possessor of a Big Idea. As John Szwed puts it, Lomax was convinced that “folk music can become a historical touchstone like the radioactive substances studied by geologists.” In pursuit of this idea, in order to give scientific rigor to folklore studies and allow them to be both diagnostic and productive, he spent years assembling teams to record, review, code and analyze folk music (“cantometrics,”) dance (“choreometrics”), and even speech. (See Alan Lomax: The Man Who Recorded the World, John Szwed.)


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