In the field

Work, parenthood and the peregrinations of summer have left little time for blogging, but I have been listening to a lot of music. My beachcombings through the detritus of the internet have turned up some real treasures.

Folkcatalogue's blog is dedicated to the now defunct British Argo record label. During the fifties, sixties and seventies it not only released some of the major folk and early music artists of the time – Shirley Collins, Peter Bellamy, David Munrow – it also put out some real oddities: obscure folk acts like the Druids and their album 'Burnt Offering' (sadly, not as freaky as it sounds), recordings of Shakespeare, recordings of trains, and field recordings of world music made by the intrepid but poorly known Deben Bhattacharya. It's been a delight to discover his work, especially his recordings of folk music from Bulgaria, India and Iran. That he was able to travel as freely as he did at the height of the Cold War seems remarkable now. There's a biography I'd love to read.

There's more Deben Bhattacharya and more vintage field recordings at the World's Jukebox blog.

And finally, if obscure musical releases from the East float your boat, then check out Oriental Traditional Music from LPs & Cassettes. Where else can you hear classical masters of the Uzbekistan maqam system?

In this age of digital recording, where all natural 'imperfections' of pitch, timing and musicianship can be autotuned, quantised and comped away, there's something extremely refreshing about the realness of vintage and field recordings. As you listen to long dead musicians, recorded by long dead ethnomusicologists, you can't help but be reminded of the ephemeral nature of music; that so much of its power comes from its fleeting existence in the moment.


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