Monday, July 25, 2016

Lithuanian Americans

Members of the Alice Stephens Singers
Oil on paper, 12 x 9 inches, 2016
The most interesting traditional Lithuanian music I know of was recorded in the United States, in Gary, Indiana in 1949, to be precise. Folk traditions have vanished in many countries around the world, older traditions often kept alive only by immigrants, who, with a nostalgia for the old country are the only ones practicing the old ways. These displaced traditions too, now in the hands of second and third generation (or fourth or beyond) immigrants, are rapidly disappearing. Throughout the twentieth century American musicologists have recognized the importance of recording traditional music for prosperity, and have recorded a wealth of traditional music from peoples originating from all over the world. Baltic-Americans, Mexican-Americans, German-Americans, Scandinavian-Americans, Jewish and Irish immigrants, but also Native Americans living in the US, all had their traditions documented because of the zeal of a handful of enthusiasts with a mobile recording device. Moses Asch, the founder of Folkways Records, chiefly among them. As part of a small collection of Lithuanian music, I picked up the 1955 Folkways release Lithuanian Folk Songs in the United States, at a thrift store in Florida. Of the five records in the collection it's the only one with an authentic feel to it, the only one not orchestrated and not embellished for commercial gain. A tradition is not truly lost if it's documented.

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