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Experience the Event
How Can I Keep From Singing? A Seeger Family Tribute at the Library of Congress

March 15-16, 2007, Library of Congress, Washington, DC


ABSTRACT: Neil Rosenberg -- Family Values Seeger Style. The Library of Congress hosts this event to honor the Seeger Family because for almost a century their musical and cultural activities have had a significant impact upon numerous communities of music and culture here and abroad. The impact has been felt in many ways. No single term can fully describe the project that grew around Charles Seeger and his family: musical performance, composition, transcription, analysis and theorizing; teaching and the creation of documentaries, advocacy for social and political causes--these are but a start. Though they share a common name, each family member has followed different paths. Exploring issues, taking personal stances and providing leadership, they have lived exemplary lives of creative invention and reinvention. In today's symposium an impressive slate of panelists will speak about the activities of the various Seegers. Do underlying forces, motifs, or themes recur in their musical and cultural lives? I believe so, hence my title. If there is a center to the wonderful Seeger enterprise, does it not lie in the values that have shaped and directed their actions? I address the question from two perspectives. One is my outsider's account of learning about and from them, the other an examination of the extensive literature by and about the various Seegers.

Neil V. Rosenberg was born in Washington State in 1939. In 1951 he moved to Berkeley, California with his family. He attended Oberlin College, (B.A., history, 1961) and subsequently studied folklore and ethnomusicology at Indiana University (M.A., 1964; Ph.D., 1970). In 1968, after two years on the staff of Indiana University's Folklore Institute, he moved to St. John's, Newfoundland, to join the Department of Folklore at Memorial University of Newfoundland. He retired in 2004. A Fellow of the American Folklore Society and 2001 recipient of the Folklore Studies Association of Canada's Marius Barbeau Award, he has published extensively on Canadian and American folk music topics. His books include Bluegrass: A History (Illinois, 1985) and Transforming Tradition: Folk Music Revivals Examined (Illinois, 1993). He won a Grammy in 1997 for his contribution to the album notes of the Anthology of American Folk Music (Smithsonian/Folkways). He has been a musician most of his life and today performs with the bluegrass band Crooked Stovepipe, jams regularly with the spontaneous collaborative improvisation group The Black Auks, and plays old-time music from Newfoundland and beyond with his wife Terri.

MODERATOR: Peggy Seeger will moderate the panel CHARLES SEEGER AND RUTH CRAWFORD SEEGER at the symposium and will perform in the evening concert with Pete and Mike Seeger.

Peggy Seeger is Pete Seeger's half-sister, Mike Seeger's sister and Ruth Crawford Seeger's daughter; her life partner was the English songwriter Ewan MacColl, who wrote "First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" for her and to whom she bore three children. Now she is sometimes thought of as the mother of Neill and Calum MacColl but is very much her own woman. She is probably best known for her feminist song "Gonna Be an Engineer" and for "The Ballad of Springhill," which is rapidly becoming regarded as a traditional song. After living 35 years in England, she returned to the USA in 1994 and after living in Asheville, North Carolina, for ten years, she now resides in Boston. She now tours extensively in the USA as a solo concert artist, singing and giving workshops. She has made 21 solo recordings and has participated in over a hundred recordings with other artists. Her 1998 CD, Period Pieces: Women's Songs for Men & Women, received major attention from Billboard. Other albums are (1) Love Will Linger On (romantic love songs, old and new) on Appleseed Recordings (APR 1039) and (2) Almost Commercially Viable (a re-issue of songs of love and politics, with Irene Scott) on Sliced Bread Records (SB71204). Her latest project is her Home Trilogy, three albums in which each disc contains one or two songs of her own composition and the rest, traditional USA songs. Volume 2, Love Call Me Home, is the latest in this series. She has also started a series entitled Timely Productions, contemporary songs released ... well, whenever she writes them. She has published 149 of her songs in The Peggy Seeger Songbook (Oak Publications,1998) as well as a companion volume of Ewan MacColl's songs, The Essential Ewan MacColl Songbook (Oak Publications, 2001).

ABSTRACT: Betty Auman -- Seeger Materials In The Library Of Congress Music Division. The Seeger Collection in the Music Division contains a rich mix of papers and music manuscripts that document the lives and careers of Charles Seeger and Ruth Crawford Seeger and their family. For both Charles and Ruth, the collection holds correspondence and other papers from family members, friends, and professional colleagues. Each is represented by holograph music manuscripts. Papers relating to Charles' musicological research include his melographs and transcriptions of "Barbara Allen," among other topics. Diaries, journals, and literary manuscripts offer wonderful glimpses into Ruth's girlhood, while her mature compositions, along with clippings, programs, and materials relating to Folksongs for Children, provide documentation of her professional career. The Music Division's Seeger Collection also holds materials relating to Pete, Mike, and, most especially, Peggy Seeger, who has donated a wide range of papers, music manuscripts, and memorabilia relating to her life as singer, songwriter, and activist.

Betty (Elizabeth) Auman has worked in the Library of Congress's Music Division for almost 37 years. Her focus for most of those years has been on acquisitions--especially those of special collections--multi-format materials representing the complete lives and works of those whose materials they are. Her tastes have been called everything from eclectic to bizarre, but certainly one of her earliest influences was crawling around stages and parking lots while her father played guitar to Chris Sanderson's fiddle in the 1940's. She has been on the faculty of The Catholic University of America, and (as a producer) has been nominated for two Grammy Awards.

ABSTRACT: Taylor Aitken Greer -- The Legacy Of Charles Seeger: DefyingAnd Defining Tradition. Following Charles Seeger's death in 1979, there has been a slow but persistent effort to come to terms with his legacy. Initially scholars focused on his disparate writings in performance, composition, theory, criticism, pedagogy, and musicology. Recently attention has turned to his unique partnership with Ruth Crawford and the projects they jointly undertook. In my talk I will briefly describe the musical and intellectual spirit found throughout his work-his twin passions for defying as well as defining our assumptions about musical experience-and suggest various ways in which others have inherited his passion and are renewing his spirit.

Taylor Aitken Greer received his Ph. D. in music theory from Yale University, and is presently an Associate Professor at the Pennsylvania State University. In 1998 he completed a book devoted to the thought of Charles L. Seeger, the twentieth-century American composer, theorist, and philosopher entitled A Question of Balance: Charles Seeger's Philosophy of Music (University of California Press). Greer also contributed an essay on Seeger's theory of criticism for the collection Understanding Charles Seeger: Pioneer in American Musicology, ed. Bell Yung and Helen Ries (University of Illinois Press, 1999). His article on Ruth Crawford Seeger's study of folk music entitled "Philosophical Counterpoint: A Comparison of Seeger's Composition Treatise and Crawford's Folksong Appendix" appeared in a collection entitled Ruth Crawford Seeger's Worlds: Innovation and Tradition in Twentieth-century American Music, ed. Ellie Hisama and Ray Allen (University of Rochester Press, 2007). In 2005 Prof. Greer served as Chair of the Program Committee for the Society for Music Theory Annual Meeting in Boston.

ABSTRACT: Judith Tick -- Ruth Crawford Seeger's Legacy. My remarks will address the legacy of Ruth Crawford Seeger through the memories of her family and friends. Without revealing who said what in this brief abstract, I list the phrases: "unexpected juxtapositions"; "gateways to magic"; "Nice and common"; "She told me 'Ruth Crawford was still there'"; " I couldn't recognize my mother in those sounds"; "There must be music for the many and music for the few -- quite a number of distinct musics for various fews." My presentation will also include playing examples of these "musics."

Judith Tick is a music historian who writes about American music, particularly early modernism, and women's history. Among her publications are books and articles about Aaron Copland, Charles Ives, and in particular, the biography of the American composer Ruth Crawford Seeger, A Composer's Search for American Music, which won the Irving R. Lowens award as "Best Book of the Year" from the Society for American Music in 1998 and an ASCAP Deems Taylor award. She is an Associate Editor for the journal Musical Quarterly. A member of the faculty at Northeastern University since 1986, she was named a Matthews Distinguished University Professor in 1999 and was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2004 as an "innovator in the field of musical biography." Her new book, Music in the U.S.A.: A Documentary Companion, with Paul Beaudoin, as Assistant Editor, is forthcoming from Oxford University Press.

MODERATOR: Michael Taft is the moderator for the panel entitled ANOTHER GENERATION OF SEEGERS: PETE, MIKE & PEGGY SEEGER.

Michael Taft is the Head of the Archive of Folk Culture at the American Folklife Center, Library of Congress. Taft has a Ph.D. in Folklore from Memorial University of Newfoundland (1977), a post-doctoral certificate in Folklore from Université Laval (1978), and a Masters in Library Science from the University of Alberta (1996). For over 25 years he conducted folklore fieldwork in Canada and the northern plains of the United States. During those years, he held research and teaching positions at Memorial University of Newfoundland, Saint Mary's University, Mount Saint Vincent University, University College of Cape Breton, University of Saskatchewan, and University of Regina. Since the early 1990s, Taft has become increasingly involved in ethnographic archiving. In 1993, he was a Laura Boulton Senior Research Fellow at the Archives of Traditional Music, Indiana University. Subsequently, he became curator of the Southern Folklife Collection at the University of North Carolina, and the archivist for the Vermont Folklife Center. He was also the university archivist and head of special collections at the University of Northern British Columbia. Among his academic responsibilities, Taft has been the president of the Folklore Studies Association of Canada, the head of the Folklore Section of the MLA International Bibliography, indexer of the Journal of American Folklore, and managing editor of Culture & Tradition. Taft has published over 100 articles, book chapters, and reviews, as well as authoring, co-authoring, or editing a number of books. Among them are The Blues Lyric Formula (2006), Talkin' to Myself: Blues Lyrics, 1921-1942 (2005), "Them Days": Memories of a Prairie Valley (1993), The Bard of Edam: Walter Farewell, Homesteader Poet (1992), The Centennial Index: One Hundred Years of the Journal of American Folklore (1988), Inside These Greystone Walls: An Anecdotal History of the University of Saskatchewan (1984), Blues Lyric Poetry: A Concordance (1984), Discovering Saskatchewan Folklore: Three Case Studies (1983), Tall Tales of British Columbia (1983), and A Regional Discography of Newfoundland and Labrador,1904-1972 (1975).

ABSTRACT: Todd Harvey -- Seeger Collections At The American Folklife Center Archive. Seeger family members have contributed or are documented in fifty-eight AFC Archive collections. These collections contain thousands of pages of manuscripts, and nearly 1100 sound recordings, photographs, and videos that reflect the family's long association with the Library of Congress, beginning in the 1930s and continuing today. This paper will describe Seeger family collections at the American Folklife Center and propose ways the materials can be utilized by researchers.

Todd Harvey is a collections specialist in Reference at the American Folklife Center, Library of Congress and curator the Pete and Toshi Seeger Film Collection. Todd and other curators at the Folklife Center coordinate a range of activities for collections that generate unusual public interest, from facilitating the processing and preservation of materials to fulfilling researcher requests for access and publication. Todd also curates the Folklife Center's Alan Lomax Collection and the International Storytelling Collection. Previously, Todd's research interest in the 1960's folk revival led to a post-doctoral fellowship at the Smithsonian Institution's Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage and the publication of the book, The Formative Dylan: Transmission and Stylistic Influences, 1961-1963 (Scarecrow Press, 2001). Todd holds a library science degree (MSLS) from the Catholic University of America as well as degrees in music composition (MM, DMA) from the Ohio State University.

ABSTRACT: Jeff Place -- Seeger Materials In The Smithsonian Folkways Collection. Jeff Place will discuss the recordings of the Seeger Family made by Moses Asch starting in 1942 on his Asch, Disc and Folkways labels. The Seeger family were the most prolific artists on Asch's labels, Pete himself having supplied over sixty recordings. Musical examples from various stages of the history of these recordings will be shared.

Jeff Place has been the archivist for the Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections at the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage since coming from the Library of Congress American Folklife Center in 1988. He has overseen the cataloging of the Center's collections. He has a master's in library science from the University of Maryland and specializes in sound archives. He is currently on the Preservation and Technology Committee for the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences and the advisory board for the Woody Guthrie Archives. He has been involved in the compilation and/or liner notes for 41 CDs primarily for Smithsonian Folkways including Woody Guthrie's Long Ways to Travel: The Unreleased Folkways Masters, which won him the 1994 Brenda McCallum Prize from the American Folklore Society, the Asch Recordings of Woody Guthrie, the Lead Belly Legacy Series, and the five-volume reissue of Pete Seeger's American Favorite Ballads series. Place has been nominated for four Grammy Awards and 10 Indie Awards, winning two Grammys and five Indies. He was one of the producers and writers of the acclaimed 1997 edition of the Anthology of American Folk Music and The Best of Broadside, 1962-1988 (2000). Place has overseen the recording of a number of regional folk festivals in addition to the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. He was a member of the curatorial team for the traveling Woody Guthrie exhibition, This Land Is Your Land, and the co-curator of the 2003 Appalachia program at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. He has been a collector of traditional music for over 35 years.

ABSTRACT: David Dunaway -- Documenting The Seegers. Pete Seeger's biographer, who has worked with the Library for several years on the Seegers' work and legacy, reads and plays excerpts from documents and interviews which he has uncovered over the last three decades: material from FBI files, obscure but prophetic articles, and other writings from his archive.

David Dunaway received the first Ph.D. in American Studies from Berkeley. He is the author of a half-dozen volumes of history and biography. Among his works are How Can I Keep From Singing: Pete Seeger, an unauthorized biography, which won the Deems Taylor Award from the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers. He teaches writing and broadcasting at the University of New Mexico; his oral history collections are included in the collections of the Huntington Library, the National Park Service, and the of American Folklife Center Archive. He's now revising the Seeger biography and producing a national radio series on Pete Seeger and the folk music revivals of the l930s and '60s.

MODERATOR: Ray Allen will moderate the panel entitled PERFORMING THE SEEGERS.

Ray Allen is professor of music and the director of the American Studies program at Brooklyn College, CUNY. He has recently co-edited Ruth Crawford Seeger's Worlds: Tradition and Innovation in Twentieth Century American Music (University of Rochester Press), and is currently working on a book on the New Lost City Ramblers.

ABSTRACT: Anthony Seeger -- “Something’s Coming That Stinks” (An Old American Folk Song?): Changing And Exchanging Songs With The Suyá Indians In Mato Grosso, Brazil. When Tony and Judy Seeger arrived in the Xingu Indigenous Park in 1971 to study the music and culture of the Suyá Indians, they were allowed only 60 kilos of supplies for 6 months to live in a place where there was no money and there were no stores. Fortunately, along with the standard ceramic beads, mirrors, fish-hooks, fish line, and other gifts they brought a banjo, a guitar, and a repertory of songs they had grown up with or learned at Tony's parents' summer camp, Killooleet. Instant hits in a land where there was no radio or television, they found the Indians in the region to be assiduous learners of songs and appreciators of stories. The Suyá, who already sang songs in six indigenous languages and also in French, were quick to incorporate them into their musical lives. This paper recounts, in a somewhat anecdotal way, how the Seegers all managed to music along after the beads, mirrors, fish line, and everything else was long gone, and describes expectations for a 2007 visit in May.

Anthony Seeger is a leading ethnomusicologist, currently teaching at UCLA. His numerous publications include articles and books on issues of land and human rights for Brazilian Indians, issues of archiving and intellectual property, and ethnomusicological theory and method. He is the author of Why Suyá Sing: A Musical Anthropology of an Amazonian People (Cambridge University Press, 1987). The monograph was recognized as the most distinguished book in musicology for the year with the 1988 Otto Kinkeldey Award from the American Musicological Society. He also wrote five half-hour shows on American Folk Music that were broadcast on the BBC in 1998. Anthony Seeger served as Director of Smithsonian Folkways Recordings at the Smithsonian Institution from 1988 to 2000.

ABSTRACT: James Durst (Work O' the Weavers) -- Performing Pete In Work O’ The Weavers. Work o' the Weavers is a musical group that presents a narrative history of the original Weavers, interspersed with all the songs The Weavers made famous. Within this group, singer/guitarist James Durst performs the voice of Pete Seeger and acts as one of the group's principal storytellers. Durst believes the message of The Weavers resonates particularly strongly "in these troubled times when an American's right - and indeed, responsibility - to dissent is once again being challenged." In his presentation, Durst will discuss the joys and challenges of playing in this unusual tribute band.

James Durst is one of four members of the group Work O' The Weavers, a performance and storytelling group. Work O' The Weavers adheres faithfully to the arrangements of the original Weavers, Pete Seeger's group from the 1940s and 50s. Work O' The Weavers seeks to recall the spirit of The Weavers, providing an echo of their music and some insight into their story. James has also distinguished himself as a solo singer/songwriter, having toured extensively since the mid-'60s in 48 states and 45 countries throughout the Americas, Europe, Scandinavia, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, in Russia, Azerbaijan, Japan and most recently, India and Israel. In addition to singing in more than two dozen languages, he has composed hundreds of songs, many of which have materialized on a dozen or so recordings. He has also starred in a pair of award-winning children's singalong videos, and has written an eco-musical play entitled Hue Manatee's Quest.

ABSTRACT: Mike Seeger w/ Ray Allen --   Integrating Documentation, Presentation and Performance. In this presentation, Mike Seeger will recount stories about his fieldwork experiences, and describe how they relate to his roles as a performer and presenter of old-time music. He will discuss the process of arranging folk tunes and songs and perform a piece. Ray Allen will interview Mike about his philosophy as a creative artist and will moderate questions from the audience.

Mike Seeger has devoted his life to singing and playing folk music of the American south on banjo, fiddle, guitar, trump (jaw harp), mouth harp (harmonica), quills (panpipes), lap dulcimer, mandolin and autoharp. Mike learned his first folk songs from his parents, and later learned from their collection of early documentary recordings. He began playing instruments in his late teens, learning first from nearby musicians such as his close friend Elizabeth Cotten, and later seeking out other master stylists like guitarist Maybelle Carter, banjoists Dock Boggs and Cousin Emmy, and autoharpist Kilby Snow. As a founding member of the New Lost City Ramblers, Mike helped revive interest in traditional folk music. Since his first recordings with the Ramblers in the late 1950s, Mike has gone on to record almost forty albums, both solo and with others, and has been honored with three Grammy nominations. [Mike Seeger passed away on August 7, 2009.]

MODERATOR: Joe Hickerson will moderate the panel POLITICS, THEORY & THE FOLK REVIVAL.

Joe Hickerson is a folksinger, folklorist, ethnomusicologist, archivist, and librarian. For thirty-five years (1963-1998) he was Librarian and Director of the Archive of Folk Song/Archive of Folk Culture at the Library of Congress. He lectures and writes on a variety of folk music topics, and is available for song and copyright researches. As a singer, Joe has performed over a thousand times throughout the U.S.A. and in Canada, Finland, and Ukraine; he has been doing it more than fifty years. His repertoire includes a vast array of folksongs and allied forms in the English language, many with choruses. Pete Seeger has called him "a great songleader." Joe calls himself a "vintage pre-plugged paleo-acoustic folksinger." In 1960 he wrote the 4th and 5th verses of "Where Have All the Flowers Gone." He has recordings on the Folk-Legacy and Folkways labels, ranging from 1957 to 2003. His concerts are guaranteed to "Drive Dull Care Away."

ABSTRACT: Bill Ivey -- Theorizing Folk and Country Music. In modern America, "folk" and "country" have different connotations. They refer to different artists, different styles, different radio stations, and often different listeners. Yet they have common roots. Their deepest ancestors are the British ballads that Peggy Seeger accompanied for much of her career. Their recent common ancestor is the old-time music that Mike Seeger has preserved and presented. And the epitome of one genre, folk, is found in the work of Pete Seeger. In this presentation, a folklorist who has worked in the world of country music will discuss the different ways these two vernacular musics have been theorized.

Bill Ivey is the Director of the Curb Center for Art, Enterprise, and Public Policy at Vanderbilt University, an arts policy research center with offices in Nashville, Tennessee and Washington, DC. He also directs the Center's Washington-based program for senior government career staff, the Arts Industries Policy Forum. Ivey serves as Senior Consultant to Leadership Music, a music industry professional development program, and is currently President of the American Folklore Society. He chairs the board of the National Recording Preservation Foundation, a federally chartered foundation affiliated with the Library of Congress, and is board chairman of WPLN, Nashville Public Radio. His book about cultural rights and America's cultural system will be published by the University of California Press in the spring of 2007. From May, 1998 through September, 2001, Ivey served as the seventh Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal cultural agency. Following years of controversy and significant reductions to the NEA budget, Ivey's leadership is credited with restoring Congressional confidence in the work of the NEA. Ivey's Challenge America Initiative, launched in 1999, has to date garnered more than $20 million in new Congressional appropriations for the Arts Endowment. Prior to government service, Ivey was director of the Country Music Foundation in Nashville, Tennessee. He was twice elected board chairman of the Los Angeles-based National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS). Ivey holds degrees in History, Folklore, and Ethnomusicology, as well as honorary doctorates from the University of Michigan, Michigan Technological University, Wayne State University, and Indiana University. He is a four-time Grammy Award nominee (Best Album Notes category), and is the author of numerous articles on US cultural policy and folk and popular music.

ABSTRACT: Robert Cantwell -- The Politics of Pete. After her mortifying visit to Leo Tolstoy, who thought she wore enough fabric in her plaited sleeves to sew a frock for a peasant girl and raised his eyebrows when he learned she lived in part from the rents from her ownership of some agricultural property, Jane Addams returned to Hull House determined to pacify her conscience by spending at least two hours a day baking bread. But the administrative and practical duties of Hull House, once she had returned to Chicago, overtook her. Could it all be pushed aside and "asked to wait while I saved my soul by two hours' work baking bread?" This is the challenge with which Pete Seeger confronts us in every song and every performance. What Addams wrote of Tolstoy might be said of Seeger, that his career embodies the "one supreme personal effort, one might almost say the one frantic personal effort, to put himself into the right relations with the humblest people," "to lift his life to the level of his conscience." Like Tolstoy's "short shelf of battered books and his scythe and spade leaning against the wall," Seeger's battered long-necked banjo, his immense repertoire of folk songs, his homely "basic-strum," all testify to that "sermon of the deed" to which tens of thousands fledgling banjo players paid the tribute of their imitation.

Robert Cantwell is the author of When We Were Good: The Folk Revival (Harvard University Press, 1996). He is Professor of English and American Studies at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

ABSTRACT: Millie Rahn -- The "It Changed My Life" Syndrome: The Folk Revival. Cambridge, Massachusetts, is crucial to the study of the folk revival, in part because 19th- and 20th-century cultural revivals there influenced developments of the late 1950s and 1960s music scene--and the city was also important to all the Seegers. Ethnographies of the Cambridge revival often include the phrase, "it changed my life." Whether discussing academic ballad studies, inspiring future banjo players, presenting performers who were among those recorded in the Golden Age collections that Harry Smith assembled, or encountering cultural contexts of blues and bluegrass and their practitioners, Cambridge often challenged -- and continues to challenge -- conventional opinions about the revival, particularly as today's popular culture regularly calls upon elders from the 1960s for its roots and continuity.

Millie Rahn is a professional folklorist who works with arts agencies and cultural organizations throughout New England to document and develop programs involving living cultural traditions. Ongoing projects include curating areas of folklife festivals in Lowell and New Bedford, Mass., and Bangor, Maine. She also serves as project folklorist and oral historian for Club Passim's New England Folk Music Archive Project. She has written and spoken extensively about the 1960s folk music revival and particularly about Club 47, the legendary coffeehouse in Harvard Square that also had a major role in the 1960s Newport Folk Festivals; and co-produced Follow Me Down: A Folk Reunion, a performance-documentary about Club 47, for WGBH-TV in Boston. In addition, she is on the adjunct faculty at Plymouth State University in New Hampshire, and serves on the board of the North American Folk Alliance.


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