Moses Asch
Guy Lochhead, 31/10/11
Polish-American founder of Folkways Records (or “The Folkways Records & Service Co.”) in 1948. Radically, he believed that “smash hits” were less important to a label than creating a “catalogue of folk expression” and thus collected and released music from all over the world. No catalogue item was or will ever be deleted. Thus, a super-popular Woody Guthrie record was treated the same as ‘Sounds And The Ultra-Sounds Of The Bottle-Nose Dolphin’ and ‘Cable Car Soundscapes’. All records came with extensive sleeve notes. The Folkways catalogue is huge and diverse and has been considered so important that, on Asch’s death, it was added to the collection of the Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C., becoming Smithsonian Folkways. A remarkable man who got his priorities right. As well as being a wonderful, sympathetic and enthusiastic cultural anthropologist, Asch seems like a Nice Guy with a great sense of humour that comes out in his essays and journalism. The Folkways catalogue is overwhelmingly beautiful and brilliant. I will get into specifics in other entries on various artists but here I would like to include ‘Worlds of Sound: The Story of Smithsonian Folkways’, a newish book on the label written in collaboration with the Smithsonian.

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