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2014 Botkin Lectures

Online Archive of Past Benjamin A. Botkin Folklife Lectures

All of the materials from the Botkin Lectures are available to visitors in the Folklife Reading Room. Links to webcasts and selected materials will be made available online as digital versions become available.

Corsican Language and Expressive Culture, presented by Alexandra Jaffe, California State University, Long Beach

Alexandra Jaffe
Alexandra Jaffe.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014
12:00 Noon to 1:00 pm
Montpelier Room, Sixth Floor, James Madison Building

Read an essay about this talk

View the webcast Running Time 01:19:50

And on Library of Congress YouTube

Since the mid-20th century, a variety of social, economic and political factors have affected the cultural practices and conceptions of identity on the Mediterranean island of Corsica. In this presentation, linguistic anthropologist Alexandra Jaffe focuses on the Corsican language and Corsican expressive culture.  She addresses both the island’s shift towards the French language and the Corsican language revitalization movement that began in the early 1970s. Drawing on ethnographic data, Dr. Jaffe  offers examples of continued use of the Corsican language in traditional cultural forms, such as the paghjella musical tradition, and poetic jousts called chjam' è rispondi as well as in the use of Corsican in newer media and artistic genres  such as novels, plays, bilingual radio, television, and  advertising. The talk focuses on cultural continuity and change in response to changing political and economic circumstances.

The 78 Project: Documenting Historic Sound in the Contemporary World

Lavinia Jones Wright and Alex Steyermark
Lavinia Jones Wright and Alex Steyermark with a 1930s Presto disc recorder.


Friday, September 5, 2014
2:00-4:30 pm
Mumford Room, Sixth Floor, James Madison Building

View the webcast

And on Library of Congress YouTube

Since August 2011, Alex Steyermark and Lavinia Jones Wright, The 78 Project’s creators, have been traveling across the United States, recording contemporary musicians on a 1930s Presto disc recorder, and filming their journey for an ongoing web series and a recently completed feature film. During this event they will screen the film, The 78 Project Movie, answer questions about the project and their experiences, and demonstrate their process as they cut a record and film the recording live with special guest musicians from the Library of Congress.

Folk Music, Archives, and Performing:  Experiences, Adventures, and Great Stories, presented by Joseph C. Hickerson

Joseph C. Hickerson playing guitar
Joseph C. Hickerson.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014
12:00 Noon to 1:00 pm
Mumford Room, Sixth Floor, James Madison Building

View the webcast Running time 01:16:10

And on Library of Congress YouTube

Joe Hickerson is widely known as a folklorist, ethnomusicologist, archivist, librarian and folksinger. During his thirty-five years at the Library of Congress, he served as Reference Librarian of the Archive of Folk Song (1963-74), and as Head of the Archive of Folk Song and Archive of Folk Culture (1974-1998). (This is the archive currently known as the American Folklife Center Archive.) His long and varied career began in New Haven, Connecticut, as a fledgling folksinger (1950-1953); continued at Oberlin College during a crucial period of growth of folk music activity (1953-1957); and led him to Indiana University, where he studied folklore, ethnomusicology, and anthropology under such legendary scholars as Richard M. Dorson and George Herzog. His credits also include co-writing "Where Have all the Flowers Gone" with Pete Seeger. For this event in the Benjamin Botkin Folklife Lecture Series, Hickerson will be interviewed by American Folklife Center Ethnomusicologist/Folklorist Jennifer Cutting, who will ask about his career as an archivist, researcher, singer, and songwriter.

Homeplace Mississippi: a Cultural Journey, presented by Documentarian Michael Ford, Yellow Cat Productions, Washington, DC

Filmmaker Michael Ford
Michael Ford.

Thursday, June 5, 2014
12:00 Noon to 1:00 pm
West Dining Room, Sixth Floor, James Madison Building

View the Webcast running time 01:07:55

And on Library of Congress YouTube

During the early 1970s, filmmaker Michael Ford lived in and documented traditional music, farming practices, blacksmithing, molasses-making, and other aspects of community life in La Fayette, Marshall, Tate, and Panola Counties, Mississippi. Portions of his material were published in his documentary film Homeplace (1975). Recently, Ford's important collection of films and photographs documenting grassroots community life in northern Mississippi was acquired by the American Folklife Center archive. To celebrate this recent acquisition and to discuss his experiences in the 1970s as well as talk about his on-going work documenting life and culture in contemporary Mississippi, Mr. Ford joins American Folklife Center archivist Todd Harvey for a program highlighting his work.

American Roots: Hairdressers and Beauty Shop Culture in America, presented by Candacy Taylor

Candacy Taylor
Candacy Taylor.

Thursday, May 1, 2014
12:00 Noon to 1:00 pm
Whitthall Pavilion, Thomas Jefferson Building

View the Webcast Running time 01:03:57

And on Library of Congress YouTube

An award-winning author and photographer and an Archie Green Fellow, Candacy Taylor traveled over 20,000 miles throughout the US interviewing hair stylists who serve African American, Appalachian, Cajun, Dominican, Gullah Geechee, Jamaican, Japanese, Jewish (Orthodox), Lumbee Indian, Pakistani and LGBT communities. Although the practice of styling hair may appear to be based in vanity, hairdressing traditions and styling practices reflect our belief systems about race, class and cultural production. From the hills of San Francisco to the hills of the Appalachian Mountains; from the tip of Provincetown, Massachusetts to the tip of the Gullah Geechee Islands in South Carolina; and from the Lumbee Indians, who were here before there was an America, to Pakistanis who just arrived in Queens, this multimedia presentation gives unprecedented access into the intimate space of the salon. Come and learn what Taylor discovered about hair, culture and identity in America.

Candacy Taylor's work has been featured in The New Yorker, USA Today, The Wall St. Journal, The Los Angeles Times, The San Francisco Chronicle (Cover), AARP, Ms. Magazine, Photographer's Forum (cover), Library Journal, and on PRI’s To the Best of Our Knowledge. Her book and exhibit "Counter Culture: The American Coffee Shop Waitress" made Southwest Airlines’ top ten list of things to see in the US and a television pilot was developed by ABC. Taylor owns the company Taylor Made Culture.

Coffeehouses: Folk Music, Culture, and Counterculture

Musicians performing in Club 47
Musicians performing at Club 47 in the 1960s. Photo by Stephen H. Fenerjian.
Friday, April 11, 2014, 1:00 – 5:45 pm
Montpelier Room, James Madison Building, Library of Congress

Read or print the program [PDF, 2 pp., 472KB]

View the webcast Running time 1:57:24

And on Library of Congress YouTube

Since the 1950s, the history of the American folk music revival has been intertwined with the rise of coffeehouses and coffeehouse culture. Coffeehouses have been popular in America since Colonial times, but Italian-style coffeehouses arose in 20th-century Italian immigrant neighborhoods such as New York's Greenwich Village, Boston's North End, and San Francisco's North Beach. They brought with them an intimacy, informaity, and slightly edgy atmosphere that allowed them to become sites of progressive political discourse. In the years following WWII, this proved an ideal match for the guitar-playing soloists, idealistic singer-songwriters, and unamplified rural- and ethnic-inspired ensembles of the early folk music revival. By the late 1950s, Italian-style coffeehouses featuring American folk and folk revival musicians had proliferated throughout the United States.

Notable performers such as Joan Baez and Bob Dylan, who began their careers on the coffeehouse circuit, and tradition bearers such as Mississippi John Hurt and Doc Watson, whose appearances at coffeehouses reignited their careers and permitted them to reach new, largely middle-class urban audiences, have been studied extensively. However, the individuals who made and continue to make folk music coffeehouses work have received far less attention.

This forum, produced by the Library of Congress's American Folklife Center, brings together notable coffeehouse producer Betsy Siggins from Boston's legendary Club 47, Caffè Lena History Project founder and producer Jocelyn Arem, filmmaker and documentarian Todd Kwait, and Baltimore-based performer and "open mic" organizer Rob Hinkal to explore folk music coffeehouses, both then and now. They discuss the important role these distinctive venues played in the development, maintenance, and expansion of American folk music; how coffeehouses introduced grass-roots rural performers to urban Americans; coffeehouses' contributions to the rise of singer-songwriters; and how coffeehouse "folk clubs" created a circuit of establishments that supported the rise of contemporary American folk music. The forum concluded with a screening of For the Love of the Music, Todd Kwait’s recently released documentary on Club 47 and the New England folk scene.

Schedule (tentative)

1:00-1:10 Welcome – Betsy Peterson, Director, American Folklife Center
1:10-1:30 General introduction to Coffeehouses – Nancy Groce, American Folklife Center
1:30-1:50 "Documenting Caffè Lena - From Buried Treasure to Books," Jocelyn Arem, Folklorist and Multimedia Producer
2:00-2:20 "Club 47 & The New England Folk Music Scene," Betsy Siggins, New England Folk Music Archives
2:30-2:50 "Open Mics and Evolution," Rob Hinkal, ilyAIMY, Rob's Open Mics, and House of Musical Traditions
3:00-3:40 Roundtable discussion on historic and contemporary coffeehouses
3:45-4:00 For the Love of the Music, Todd Kwait, Filmmaker
4:00-5:45 Film Screening: For the Love of the Music: The Club 47 Folk Revival (105 minutes)


Jocelyn Arem is a folklorist, producer, Library of Congress Parsons Award-recipient and musician. Her research has been featured in the New York Times, American Airlines Magazine, The Association for Recorded Sound Collections Journal, the American Folklife Center News and during GRAMMY Week in Los Angeles. Her eleven-year multimedia project to document Caffè Lena, America's oldest folk music coffeehouse, resulted in the Caffè Lena Archive, which has been made accessible via a book, CD box set, exhibition, website, and searchable digital database. The Caffè Lena Archive was recently acquired by the American Folklife Center.

Rob Hinkal is a Baltimore-based musician and a host of several popular "open mic" events in the Washington-Baltimore area.  His band, ilyAIMY (an acronym for "I love you and I miss you"), is an award-winning rock-folk act that tours throughout the United States. He has been performing for twelve years and he has appeared at hundreds of coffeehouses, colleges, bars, theatres, bait shops, campgrounds, festivals, and resorts. Hinkal received a degree in Illustration from the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore. In addition to his career as a performer, he freelances as an illustrator and designer, talent buyer and promoter, and works part-time in Takoma Park, Maryland at the House of Musical Traditions.

Todd Kwait is a lawyer and businessman with a lifelong passion for film. For the Love of the Music is his third motion picture. Previously, he wrote, produced and directed Chasin' Gus' Ghost, which traces the history of jug band music and won the Best Music Documentary awards at the Bare Bones Film Festival and the New York Film & Video Festival. Vagabonda, his second film project, explores the career of singer-songwriter Vince Martin. Kwait's recording company, Kingwood Records, recently released Snow Shadows: Songs of Vince Martin by Alana Amrgam & The Rough Gems, and Sankota's The Uptown Strut. Kwait met Rob Stegman, co-producer/co-director of For the Love of the Music, as a freshman at Boston University in the late 1970s.

Betsy Siggins, the founder/director of the New England Folk Music Archives (NEFMA), has been a central figure in the Cambridge, Massachusetts folk music community since she happened on the coffeehouse scene as a college freshman in 1958. She was a founding member of Club 47, where fellow Boston University students Joan Baez, Jim Kweskin, and Eric Von Schmidt helped to launch the New England folk revival. She returned to Club 47's successor, the Passim Folk Music Center, as executive director for twelve years before founding NEFMA in 2009. Among other accomplishments, she assisted folklorist Ralph Rinzler with the early Smithsonian Festival of American Folklife in Washington, DC.

For the Love of the Music: The Club 47 Folk Music Revival. Co-produced and co-directed by Todd Kwait and Rob Stegman, this documentary explores the history of Club 47 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Narrated by Peter Coyote, the film features interviews with such folk music legends as Joan Baez, Taj Mahal, Judy Collins, Tom Rush, Maria Muldaur, Jim Kweskin, Jackie Washington, Jim Rooney, Peter Rowan, and many more. Previously unreleased material featuring Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, and Eric Von Schmidt is interspersed with newly filmed performances by Club 47 luminaries performing with today's emerging folk performers and insightful commentary by music historians Elijah Wald and Scott Alarik to contextualize the story of Club 47 within broader historical and cultural contexts. (105 minutes)

Open Mic: A Conversation with David Bromberg

Co-Sponsored with the Music Division

David Bromberg
David Bromberg.
Monday, March 31, 2014, 12:00 noon - 1:00 pm
Whittall Pavilion
Ground Floor, Thomas Jefferson Building

View the webcast Running time 01:08:15

And on Library of Congress YouTube

David Bromberg, the renowned multi-instrumentalist, singer, songwriter, violin authority, and storyteller, launches the American Folklife Center’s new interview series, "Open Mic: Conversations About Tradition and Inspiration."  Bromberg’s genre-defying performance style and eclectic repertoire make him a great example of an outstanding artist who draws upon both tradition and personal creativity to captivate contemporary audiences. His second and equally successful career as a luthier (violin maker) and musical instrument expert will also be an important part of the conversation.

With this new public interview series, the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress invites the public to listen in on an open archival interview session as leading contemporary musicians, performers, authors, and composers explore their folk roots and discuss how traditions and traditional material have helped shape their careers.  

Many of today's most influential artists have been inspired by traditional songs, ballads, tunes, tales, and traditional knowledge collected by folklorists and preserved in the archives of the American Folklife Center and other folklife repositories throughout the world.

Recording archival interviews with artists has long been an important part of the American Folklife Center's mission.  Folklorist and former staff member Alan Lomax's 1938 interview with jazz musician Jelly Roll Morton is one of the first extended oral histories in recorded sound, and sets the standard for this series.  Join us as we continue to document today's artists reflecting on yesterday's artists for tomorrow's audiences.

"This Ain't No Mouse Music!" The Story of Chris Strachwitz and Arhoolie RecordsDiscussion and Screening of clips from upcoming film premiere with filmmakers Chris Simon and Maureen Gosling

Mance Lipscom and Chris Strachwitz
Texas bluesman Mance Lipscomb and Arhoolie Records founder, Chris Strachwitz, in 1964.

Friday, February 21, 2014
12:00 noon - 1:30 pm
Whittall Pavilion, Ground Floor, Jefferson Building

Roots music icon Chris Strachwitz is a detective of deep American music - music that’s the antithesis of the corporate "mouse music" dominating pop culture. Since 1960, he has been the guiding force behind legendary Arhoolie Records, bringing Cajun music out of Louisiana, Tex-Mex out of Texas, blues out of the country – and into the living rooms of Middle America. American music has never been the same. Born a German count, Strachwitz fled his homeland after WWII at sixteen.  In the US, he discovered, and shared, a musical landscape that most Americans missed.  He takes us on a hip-shaking stomp from Texas to New Orleans, Cajun country to Appalachia, as he continues his passionate quest for the musical soul of America.

Chris Simon & Maureen Gosling
Director/Producers Chris Simon and Maureen Gosling met over thirty years ago while working with world-renowned documentarian Les Blank. Each struck out on her own after twenty years with Blank. Maureen directed and produced Blossoms of Fire, a feature documentary on the Isthmus Zapotecs of southern Oaxaca. Chris Simon produced and directed four independent documentaries including the prizewinning Down an Old Road and My Canyonlands. Chris and Maureen have come together for this project because of their love for the music and cultures that Chris Strachwitz brought out to the world – and to share the vision of their longtime friend and colleague.

Lloyd A. Pinchback
Lloyd A. Pinchback.

The Birth and Evolution of Go Go, featuring Lloyd A. Pinchback

Co-Sponsored with Blacks In Government

Wednesday, February 19, 2014, 12:00 noon -1:00 p.m.
Montpelier Room
6th Floor, James Madison Building

The Library of Congress Chapter of Blacks In Government, in partnership with the American Folklife Center, presents an interview and panel discussion with musician and author Lloyd A. Pinchback and several other original members of Washington, D.C.'s legendary Go Go band The Soul Searchers.  Mr. Pinchback will discuss his recently released autobiography “The Soul Searchers 1968-1978: A Decade of Memories,” an earthy chronological look at the birth and evolution of Go Go music and culture.

Ian Russell
Ian Russell.

The "Hidden" Carols: A Christmas Singing Tradition in the English Pennines, presented by Ian Russell, Director of The Elphinstone Institute, University of Aberdeen

Tuesday, January 7, 2014, 12:00 noon - 1:00 pm
Mary Pickford Theater
3rd Floor, James Madison Building

Read the flyer essay [PDF, 2 pp., 256K]

View the webcast Running time 01:21:33

And on Library of Congress YouTube

For well over two and a half centuries, the performance of distinctive carols has been a feature of the seasonal holiday of Christmas in villages in many parts of England, especially in the West Country and in the region of South Yorkshire and Derbyshire around Sheffield, on the eastern edge of the Pennine hills. The latter region comprises some fifty or more significant settlements and associated communities, many of which maintain a vernacular carolling tradition, which will be the focus of this lecture. In contrast to the monodic examples of solo performers recorded by folksong collectors in the early part of the twentieth century in England, these carols and their manner of performance are wholly dependent on group interaction, characterized by part-singing and often by complex instrumental accompaniment. In his lecture, Ian Russell explores the development of this tradition in terms of musicality, group structure, style, and repertoire. He analyzes the dynamics of performance that characterize these groups, including the roles of singers and the performance milieux — currently most singing groups focus their activities in the village pub rather than the church or chapel. These carols differ in both style and content from the standard repertoire broadcast by the media and promoted by churches and choral institutions. They are performed without formal musical direction by ad hoc groups, largely comprising untrained singers, rather than by choirs and conductors. Russell discusses the overall sound ideal created by such carolling and the dynamic soundscape that identifies this form of cultural expression, drawing on the ethnographic fieldwork he has undertaken during the past forty years.

Additional 2014 Lectures and Forums

The following links go directly to the webcasts

"Breaking the Silence: Our Military Stories," a panel discussion focused on topics surrounding LGBT equality in the U.S. military. Speakers included Kristin Beck, Tammy Smith, Eric Perez and Joanna Eyles. June 2, 2014.

"Documenting the Freedom Struggle in Southwest Georgia," with Glen Pearcy and David Cline. A presentation in the program series, "Many Paths to Freedom: Looking Back, Looking Ahead at the Long Civil Rights Movement." February 27, 2014.

"Locality & Nation: Civil Rights & Voting Rights in the Deep South, 1963-1966," with Thomas Jackson and Hasan Kwame Jeffries. A presentation in the program series, "Many Paths to Freedom: Looking Back, Looking Ahead at the Long Civil Rights Movement." April 17, 2014.

"This Nonviolent Stuff'll Get You Killed: How Guns Made the Civil Rights Movement Possible," presented by Charles Cobb, Jr. followed by a discussion with Rex Ellis. May 20, 2014.


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