Minnesota Historical Society

Folksongs of Another America: Field Recordings from the Upper Midwest, 1937-1946

$ 60.00

America’s Upper Midwest is a distinctive region where many indigenous and immigrant peoples have maintained, merged, and modified their folk song traditions for more than two centuries. In the 1930s and 1940s, Sidney Robertson, Alan Lomax, and Helene Stratman-Thomas—with support from the Library of Congress and armed with bulky microphones, blank disks, spare needles, and cumbersome disk-cutting machines—recorded roughly 2,000 songs and tunes throughout Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.

Spanning dance tunes, ballads, lyric songs, hymns, laments, versified taunts, political anthems, street cries, and recitations, these field recordings—made by people born before or shortly after 1900—were captured at a transformative moment when America was in the throes of the Great Depression, World War II was erupting, and market-driven mass entertainment media were expanding rapidly. Yet, except for a handful of Anglo-American performances, these remarkable field recordings in more than twenty-five languages have remained largely unknown, along with the lives of their mostly immigrant, indigenous, rural, and working-class performers.

Since the 1970s, folklorist James P. Leary has worked steadily to bring the folk music of the Upper Midwest to a larger public. Folksongs of Another America presents 187 representative performances by more than 200 singers and musicians, carefully restored in digital form from deteriorating original formats. The accompanying book provides an introduction, full texts of all lyrics in the original languages and in English translation, extensive notes about each song and tune, biographical sketches and photographs of many of the performers, and details about Robertson, Lomax, and Stratman-Thomas and their fieldwork efforts as song collectors. These restored performances reveal with clarity and power a nearly lost sonic portrait of another America.

  • Songs in more than 25 languages, with full original lyrics and English translations
  • More than 200 performers, with biographical notes and many photographs


Boxed Set Includes

  • Illustrated book Folksongs of Another America 300 pp. (est.), 94 black and white photographs and illustrations
  • CD 1 Pigtown Fling: The Sidney Robertson Recordings Recordings of lumberjack, Finnish, Scots Gaelic, and Serbian performers captured by fieldworker Sidney Robertson in Wisconsin and Minnesota in 1937.
  • CD 2 The River in the Pines: The Wisconsin Lumberjacks Recordings Performances of the acclaimed Wisconsin Lumberjacks band of Rice Lake, Wisconsin, recorded by both Sidney Robertson and Alan Lomax during National Folk Festivals in Chicago and Washington, D.C., in 1937 and 1938.
  • CD 3 Harps and Accordions: The Alan Lomax Recordings Alan Lomax’s 1938 Michigan field recordings of lumberjack, Finnish, French Canadian, German, Irish, Lithuanian, Ojibwe, Polish, and Swedish performers.
  • CD 4 When the Dance Is Over: Helene Stratman-Thomas Recordings, Part 1
  • CD 5 My Father Was a Dutchman: Helene Stratman-Thomas Recordings, Part 2Recordings made throughout Wisconsin in 1940, 1941, and 1946, not only of Finns, French Canadians, Germans, Irish, Lithuanians, Ojibwe, Poles, Scots, Serbs, and Swedes, but also African American, Austrian, Belgian, Cornish, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Ho-Chunk, Icelandic, Italian, Luxemburger, Norwegian, Oneida, Swiss, and Welsh performers.
  • DVD Alan Lomax Goes North This new documentary film combines digitally restored silent color film footage, related field recordings, voice-over readings from Lomax’s correspondence and field notes, and onscreen text to create an audiovisual narrative featuring the performers and scenes that captivated Alan Lomax during his 1938 Upper Midwestern foray.
  • Author: James P. Leary
  • University of Wisconsin Press
  • Boxed set:
  • 5 CDs, 1 DVD, hardcover book 
  • 94 b/w illus.

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