The 1952 release of Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music was a compilation bringing together a selection of Smith’s personal collection of 78rpm records. As such, it was effectively a bootleg and operated under the legal radar until it was digitised, re-mastered and fully licensed in 1997.
The recordings in the anthology are those from the early days of the record industry, a time which saw the establishment of a system that fixed collectively-authored folk lyrics and melodies to individual authors in an attempt to control the flow of this previously fluid cultural material.
The Parallel Anthology project aims to map the public/private territory of Smith’s anthology and to scrutinize different levels of access to the material – researching details of future dates when compositions will enter the public domain, sourcing alternative versions of recordings, and gathering together fragments of archive manuscripts and lyrics.
Parallel Anthology volume 1 begins the process of collecting together alternative versions of tracks and makes available a small selection of public domain versions not closed down by copyright. Future volumes will collect, publish and distribute recordings whose proprietary interests have expired, along with new versions and remixes of the material collected.
The project re-envisages Smith’s anthology as a series of nodes in a larger network and employs a kind of sonic virology – tracing songs across spatial and temporal distances.
A parallel collection is proposed: a new roots and future anthology, distributing rich material that remains open for use and reuse.
Uncle Rat Went Out To Ride (The Frog And The Mouse)
sung by Elizabeth Cronin
Recorded 7 August 1948 County Cork, Ireland
sung by Thomas Moran
Recorded december 1954 Mohill Leitrim, Ireland
The Devil (The Farmer’s Curst wife)
sung by Jimmy White
Recorded 9 june 1954 Whittingham, Northumberland, England
sung by Bill Westaway
Recorded 26 may 1952 Belstone Devon, England
What Shall I Wear To The Wedding John?
sung by Aunt Fanny Rumble/Albert Collins
Recorded 6 October 1954 Tilshead, Wiltshire, England
No Sir (Oh No John!)
sung by Emily Bishop
Recorded 13 October 1952 Bromsberrow Heath, Herefordshire, England
Parallel Anthology project is launched on the occasion of the 17th Biennale of Sydney
Researcher: Matthew White
Recordings gleaned from BBC gramophone collection: 11989, 17794, 18678, 20606, 21493, 22029