Whitfield and the Lomaxes

John and Alan Lomax’s musical recordings of their trip to Southern Louisiana in 1934 gathering songs for the Archive of American Folk Song at the Library of Congress have recently been made available online. This is a fascinating website that is entertaining as well as a user-friendly research tool. The attractive database is searchable by song indexes, interactive maps, as well as by performers’ names and parishes.

While looking around in our collections for related material, I came across a volume written by Irènè Thérèse Whitfield who collaborated with the Lomaxes during their research in Southern Louisiana.

Louisiana French Folk Songs published in 1939 was Irènè Thérèse Whitfield master’s thesis while studying at LSU. In 1934 during Irene’s research, her dean informed her of the Lomaxes (Alan was only 18 at the time) project and in turn helped establish a reciprocal relationship that benefited everyone involved. This association significantly privileged Whitfield in the successful completion of her groundbreaking book through the use of the sound recordings Lomax had made on a 300-pound portable recorder during their expeditions. While Irene’s local knowledge aided the Lomaxes in their work.

Picture of the recording equipment in the trunk of John Lomax’s car.

Here are a few selections found on the www.lomax1923.com website as well as in Whitfield’s book (click on the link or the index card to have a listen).

Jolie Blonde, from page 81.

Madame Fardueil, from page 86

Je veux me marier, from page 87

J’ai passé devant ta porte, from page 88

There is also a film by Alan Lomax about the culture of the bayous of Louisiana that is available for viewing in its entirety on Folkstreams: A National Preserve of Documentary Films about American Roots Cultures called Cajun Country (1991).

Here is the trailer for Cajun Country via YouTube

A new study of the 1934 trip Traditional music in coastal Louisiana: the 1934 Lomax recordings by Joshua Clegg Caffery (who is also the author of www.lomax1934.com/find the time to watch the lecture at the bottom of the page – it’s fascinating) was recently published and will soon be available for checkout from the Monroe Library.

In the meantime, these other materials related to Lousiana music and folk culture are currently available at Monroe Library for further research:

Alan Lomax: selected writings, 1934-1997

Cajun and Creole music 1934 [sound recording]: the Lomax recordings

Acadian folk songs by Whitfield, Irène Thérèse

Accordions, fiddles, two step & swing: a Cajun music reader

Buying the wind: regional folklore in the United States

Louisiana French folk songs is available for research Monday – Friday, 9:00-4:30 at the Monroe Library Special Collections & Archives

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Additional online resources used:

Cajun Folklife, by Ryan Brasseaux

Lomax in Louisiana: Trials and Triumph, by Barry Jean Ancelet

A History of Folklife Research in Louisiana, by  Frank de Caro

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