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Benjamin A. Botkin head and shoulders portrait
Folklorist Benjamin A. Botkin, 1926. Photo courtesy of the Botkin family.
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Benjamin A. Botkin Folklife Lecture Series

Through the Benjamin A. Botkin Folklife Lecture Series, the American Folklife Center (AFC) presents distinguished experts speaking about their research and current issues and best practices in folklore, folklife, ethnomusicology, and related fields. Lectures are recorded for the AFC archive and posted on the Library's website. (See below for list of speakers and topics.) The series honors Benjamin A. Botkin (1901-1975), a pioneering folklorist who headed the Library's Archive of American Folksong from 1942-1945.


2017 Botkin Lectures

 

Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera’s Celebratory Event “Speak the People/the Spark/el Poema”

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Juan Felipe Herrera
Juan Felipe Herrera
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April 26, 2017
7:00 PM - 10:00 PM
(Tickets required)
Coolidge Auditorium
Thomas Jefferson Building

Read the press release

Read about the event in this article by Anastasia Nikolis in Folklife Today

Juan Felipe Herrera will conclude his second term as the 21st Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry at the Library of Congress with a day-long celebration titled "Speak the People/the Spark/el Poema" on April 26. The celebration will feature a choral performance, a moderated panel discussion, and a concert by Grammy® award-winning band Quetzal.

The celebration, presented by the Library's Poetry and Literature Center, American Folklife Center, Music Division, and Hispanic Division, will start with a choral performance by the Fresno State Chamber Singers at noon in Room 119, Thomas Jefferson Building. The Chamber Singers, who hail from Herrera’s hometown, will perform newly commissioned pieces developed in collaboration with Herrera (no tickets required).

Evening event (free, tickets required):

At 7 p.m. in the Coolidge Auditorium on the ground floor of the Thomas Jefferson Building, Juan Felipe Herrera will join musician Martha González of Quetzal, Radio Bilingüe Founder and Executive Director Hugo Morales, and musician Louie Pérez of Los Lobos in a discussion moderated by UCLA English professor Rafael Pérez-Torres. The discussion will focus on the continuing emergence of Latinx culture through the sounds of the fields and the barrios, as it shapes and enriches our country.

Juan Felipe Herrera is the author of 30 books of poetry, novels for young adults and collections for children, most recently Portraits of Hispanic American Heroes (2014), a picture book showcasing inspiring Hispanic and Latino Americans. His most recent book of poems is Notes from the Assemblage (2015). For his poetry, Herrera has received two Latino Hall of Fame Poetry Awards, the PEN Oakland/Josephine Miles Award and a PEN/Beyond Margins Award. He has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference and the Stanford University Chicano Fellows. In 2016, Herrera was awarded the Robert Kirsch Award for lifetime achievement at the 36th L.A. Times Book Prizes.

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Quetzal group portrait
Quetzal
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Following the panel there will be a concert by Quetzal, a Grammy® award-winning Chicano/a rock group, now celebrating its 20-year anniversary. Quetzal is the collaborative project of Quetzal Flores (guitar), Martha González (lead vocals, percussion), Tylana Enomoto (violin), Juan Pérez (bass), Peter Jacobson (cello), and Alberto Lopez (percussion). Quetzal has made considerable impact in the Chicano music scene, especially in their native Los Angeles. The musical ensemble is influenced by an East LA rock soundscape composed of Mexican ranchera, cumbia, salsa, rock, R&B, folk, and fusions of international musics

This event is co-sponsored by the Poetry and Literature Center, American Folklife Center, The Hispanic Division, and The Music Division at the Library of Congress. Made possible in part with generous support from National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures (NALAC).

All events are free and open to the public, but tickets are required for admission as seats are limited. Check back for the link to get tickets. The event will also be live-streamed on the Library’s YouTube site at youtube.com/libraryofcongress.

Request ADA accommodations five days in advance at 202-707-6362 or [email protected]

Open Mic with Jayme Stone and Todd Harvey

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Jayme Stone holding a banjo
Jayme Stone
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May 4, 2017, 2:30-3:30pm
Whittall Pavilion, Ground floor
Thomas Jefferson Building

Banjoist and composer Jayme Stone is a long-time researcher at the American Folklife Center. During the Open Mic talk, Alan Lomax Collection curator Todd Harvey will ask Jayme to talk about his discoveries in the AFC archive. He will focus on Jayme’s re-imagining of archival recordings, specifically Alan Lomax recordings. Todd will then turn to Jayme’s performing career in general and how the Lomax Project  has impacted his career trajectory.

Two-time Juno-winning banjoist, composer, and instigator Jayme Stone makes music inspired by sounds from around the world—bridging folk, jazz and chamber music. His award-winning albums both defy and honor the banjo's long role in the world's music, turning historical connections into compelling sounds. He will perform at the Library of Congress on May 4, 2017 at noon in the Coolidge Auditorium, Jayme Stone's Lomax Project.

Request ADA accommodations five days in advance at 202-707-6362 or [email protected]

Open Mic with Mark Moss, Editor:  Sing Out! Magazine: Folk Music, the Folk Revival and Folk Music Journalism

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Sing Out! Magazine cover featuring Pete Seeger's back and a banjo under his arm, with Pete Seeger's signature.
Sing Out! Magazine (cover)
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May 10, 2017, noon-1:00 pm
Whittall Pavilion, Ground floor
Thomas Jefferson Building

In the mid-20th century, North America experienced an explosion of public interest in both traditional music and politically- and socially-oriented topical songs performed with traditional instruments or in traditional style. This movement, commonly called the "folk revival" was led, shaped, and followed by myriad folk music newsletters, magazines, and journals. Of these, none was more important, innovative, or influential than Sing Out! MagazineSing Out! grew out of People’s Songs, the monthly bulletin of an organization founded after World War II by a group of prominent artists including Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, Lee Hays, Paul Robeson, Alan Lomax, Irwin Silber, and Earl Robinson. Over the years, Sing Out! evolved to reflect a changing world, while devotedly documenting a dynamic artistic community. Join us as Sing Out! executive director and editor Mark Moss discusses the history of Sing Out! and the significance and challenges of folk music journalism over the past six decades.

Request ADA accommodations five days in advance at 202-707-6362 or [email protected]

Film screening and discussion: Mill Stories: Remembering Sparrows Point Steel Mill with co-producers William Shewbridge (University of Maryland, Baltimore County) and Michelle Stefano (American Folklife Center)

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Steel mill in the sunset
Mill Stories: Remembering Sparrows Point Steel Mill
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May 11, 2017, Noon to 1:00
Pickford Theater, 3rd Floor, James Madison Building
Library of Congress

Mill Stories: Remembering Sparrows Point Steel Mill (35 mins) spotlights the memories and stories of former workers of the Sparrows Point Steel Mill that was, until recently, located on the water outside Baltimore, Maryland. Created by the Pennsylvania Steel Company in 1887, and taken over by Bethlehem Steel in 1916, the mill became the world’s largest center for producing steel – evident in the girders of the Golden Gate, George Washington, and Bay Bridges – and for shipbuilding. As a key production site during both World Wars, Sparrows Point peaked during the 1960s and saw a gradual decline in the decades that followed. For 125 years, tens of thousands of steel workers and associated personnel have known the mill not only as a place of employment, but as the center of community life.

In 2012, the mill was shuttered forever, devastating its workers – both active and retired – their families, and surrounding communities. Nonetheless, this is a story that lives on in their hearts and minds. As part of the larger Mill Stories project, the film aims to safeguard and promote the living cultural heritage of the recently closed mill, and to help amplify the voices of those who knew it best.

This event is co-sponsored by the Library of Congress Professional Guild AFSCME Local 2910 and the American Folklife Center.

Request ADA accommodations five days in advance at 202-707-6362 or [email protected]

Cultural Integrity and Local Music: Cape Breton Fiddle, New Orleans Funk
Burt Feintuch, Director, Center for the Humanities and Professor Folklore and English, University of New Hampshire

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Burt Feintuch
Burt Feintuch
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June 7, 2017, Noon-1:00 p.m.
Whittall Pavilion, Ground floor
Thomas Jefferson Building

Two seemingly very different places, Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia and New Orleans, Louisiana, turn out to have much in common. In both, there is broad recognition that something special is going on culturally; something that has produced noteworthy musical distinctiveness. Both are "creative hotspots," places where people are lucky enough to be able to dance to their own music. People in both communities care deeply about their music and also worry about its sustainability. Based on Feintuch's fieldwork, this talk develops the idea of "cultural integrity" and explores local desires and anxieties about the role distinctive local music plays in a good and satisfying life.

Burt Feintuch is a folklorist at the University of New Hampshire, where he directs the Center for the Humanities. A former editor of the Journal of American Folklore and a member of the National Recording Preservation Board, he has done field research in traditional music communities in the U.K., Canada, and the U.S.

Request ADA accommodations five days in advance at 202-707-6362 or [email protected]

Film Screening and Discussion: Shake 'Em On Down, a documentary on the legendary bluesman Mississippi Fred McDowell
Scott Baretta, University of Mississippi

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Two African American men, one playing the banjo and the other playing a harmonica
A still from Shake 'Em On Down. Mississippi Fred McDowell, left, with Johnny Woods playing harmonica. Photo by George Mitchell, 1967
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June 13, 2017, 4:00 pm-5:30pm
Pickford Theater, 3rd Floor, James Madison Building
Library of Congress

Shake 'em On Down is the story of Fred McDowell, the godfather of the North Mississippi style of blues. Through interviews and never-before-seen footage, the film chronicles the transformation of McDowell’s life following his "discovery" by Alan Lomax and Shirley Collins in 1959 and his influence on the music of artists including RL Burnside, Bonnie Raitt and the Rolling Stones. Featuring interviews with Collins, Raitt, Taj Mahal, Luther Dickinson, Chris Strachwitz and William Ferris.

Scott Barretta is a producer of Shake 'em on Down, a sociology instructor at the University of Mississippi, a writer/researcher for the Mississippi Blues Trail, and the host of the Mississippi Public Broadcasting show Highway 61. He is a recipient of the Mississippi Governor's Award for Excellence in the Arts, and the Library of Congress’ Gerald E. and Corrine L. Parsons Fund for Ethnography Award for his research on McDowell.

Flowing Tides: Musical Memory, History and Global Culture in County Clare, Ireland
Gearóid Ó hAllmhuráin, Concordia University, Montreal

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Gearóid Ó hAllmhuráin playing a concertina
Gearóid Ó hAllmhuráin
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July 11, 2017m, Noon-1:00 p.m.
Whittall Pavilion, Ground floor
Thomas Jefferson Building

Despite its isolation on the western edge of Europe, Ireland occupies vast amounts of space on the music maps of the world. Although deeply rooted in time and place, Irish songs, dances and instrumental traditions have a history of global travel that span the centuries. Whether carried by exiles or distributed by commercial networks, Irish traditional music is one of the most popular World Music genres, and Clare, on Ireland's Atlantic seaboard, enjoys unrivaled status as a "Home of the Music," a mecca for tourists and aficionados eager to enjoy the authentic sounds of Ireland.  Musician and ethnomusicologist Gearóid Ó hAllmhuráin discusses Clare as a site of musical pilgrimage that has absorbed the impact of global cultural flows for centuries while simultaneously facilitating outflows of musical change to the world beyond. Placing the testimony of music and music makers at the center of Irish cultural history and working from a palette of disciplines, he explores an Irish soundscape undergoing radical change in the period from the Napoleonic Wars to the Great Famine and from the birth of the nation state to the meteoric rise-and fall-of the Celtic Tiger.

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Book cover, Flowing Tides: History and Memory in an Irish Soundscape
Cover: Flowing Tides: History and Memory in an Irish Soundscape
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Professor Gearóid Ó hAllmhuráin is an award-winning Irish musician, ethnomusicologist, and cultural historian. Formerly Jefferson Smurfit Professor of Irish Studies and Professor of Music at the University of Missouri–St. Louis, he holds the bilingual Johnson Chair in Quebec and Canadian Irish Studies at Concordia University, Montreal. A native of Clare, he has performed, broadcast, adjudicated and lectured on Irish music throughout Europe and North America. He is the author of A Pocket History of Irish Traditional Music, as well as numerous recordings, chapters, and articles on Irish music and culture. His book Flowing Tides: History and Memory in an Irish Soundscape was published by Oxford University Press in 2016.

Request ADA accommodations five days in advance at 202-707-6362 or [email protected]

 

Billy Bragg talks about his book:
Roots, Radicals and Rockers: How Skiffle Changed the World

Billy Bragg, singer-songwriter and activist

July 21, 2017, 7:00-9:00 p.m.
Mumford Room, 6th Floor, James Madison Building
Library of Congress

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Book cover with a photo of young men in a band playing guitars and a washboard.
Cover of Roots Radicals and Rockers:How Skiffle Changed the World
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"Skiffle" is a catchy name for a do-it-yourself music craze that swept Britain in the 1950s, primarily influenced by American jazz, blues, folk, and roots music. Like punk rock, which would flourish two decades later, Skiffle was homemade music: all you needed were three guitar chords and you could form a group, with mates playing tea-chest bass and washboard as a rhythm section. Emerging from the trad-jazz clubs of the early '50s, skiffle was adopted by the first generation of British "teenagers": working class kids who grew up during the dreary, post-war rationing years. Before skiffle, the pop culture was dominated by crooners and mediated by a stuffy BBC. Lonnie Donegan hit the charts in 1956 with a version of "Rock Island Line" (a song first recorded as a field recording and then by Lead Belly for the American Folklife Center archive) and soon sales of guitars rocketed from 5,000 to 250,000 a year.

The story of skiffle is a tale of jazz pilgrims and blues blowers, Teddy boys and beatnik girls, coffee-bar bohemians and refugees from the McCarthy­ite witch hunts. Skiffle is the main reason the guitar came to the forefront of music in the UK, and in this sense led directly to both the UK folk scene and British rock and roll, including the British Invasion of the US charts in the 1960s. The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, The Faces, The Rolling Stones, The Who, The Kinks, and David Bowie—not to mention Martin Carthy, John Renbourn, and the Watersons—all got their start playing skiffle.

Roots, Radicals and Rockers is the first book to explore the skiffle phenomenon in depth. Billy Bragg's meticulously researched and joyous account shows how skiffle sparked a revolution that shaped pop music as we have come to know it.

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Billy Bragg
Billy Bragg. Photo by Andy Whale.
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Billy Bragg is an English singer-songwriter and political activist. His music blends elements of folk, punk, and protest songs, with lyrics that mostly treat political or romantic themes. In addition to his own acclaimed recordings, many of his songs, such as "A New England," "Between the Wars," and "Valentine’s Day Is Over," have been covered by others, including Kirsty MacColl, The Watchmen, and June Tabor. In the late 1990s, Billy Bragg and the band Wilco were asked to set some of Woody Guthrie’s unrecorded lyrics to mu­sic. The results were three albums known as The Mermaid Avenue Sessions, as well as the film documentary Man in the Sand, which made Billy Bragg an integral part of the Woody Guthrie story. Bragg's most recent album is Shine a Light, recorded with Joe Henry. For the album, Bragg and Henry traveled across the U.S. by train, and recorded classic railroad songs in train stations along the way. The album features several songs, including "Rock Island Line," which were integral to the skiffle movement, and which were originally known from field recordings in the American Folklife Center archive. Bragg has spent several years researching and writing about skiffle in this exciting new book.


Botkin Lecture Series Past Events Archive

Includes descriptions of each lecture, photos, and informational essays from the event flyers. Links to webcasts of lectures are included as available.

2016 Lecture Series

2015 Lecture Series

2014 Lecture Series

2013 Lecture Series

2012 Lecture Series

2011 Lecture Series

2010 Lecture Series

2009 Lecture Series

2008 Lecture Series

2007 Lecture Series

2006 Lecture Series

2005 Lecture Series

2004 Lecture Series

 

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   April 26, 2017
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