November 09, 2012

The Beautiful Music All Around Us: Field Recordings and the American Experience

In the 1930s and 1940s, the Library of Congress commissioned audio recordings of amateur singers and songwriters throughout the United States. These have come to be called "field recordings," and the recordists travelled the country in search of them. Musician, recording artist, and writer Stephen Wade tells the story of thirteen of these recordings made across the United States between 1934 and 1942 in locations reaching from Southern Appalachia to the Mississippi Delta and the Great Plains. Working 18 years on this project, Wade travelled the country, seeking out the original artists, their families or friends present at the recordings and interviewed more than 200 people for the book. Most of the original artists were amateur singers or musicians who were being recorded for the first and only time; many of their famililes were not even aware that the recordings were made. And yet many of the songs have enjoyed long afterlives, influencing musicians and featuring in films. 

Stephen Wade is a musician and writer whose latest album is Banjo Diary: Lessons from Tradition, out on Smithsonian Folkways Records.


July 03, 2012

The Statue of Liberty: A Transatlantic Story

The Statue of Liberty is one of America’s most powerful symbols, yet when it arrived in crates, no one could have imagined just how powerful it would become. We’ll get the story of the small group of French intellectuals who decided to offer a tribute to American liberty and of the uphill fight for American support. Our guest will be historian Edward Berenson, author of the new book "The Statue of Liberty: A Transatlantic Story."

This is a repeat broadcast from Friday, June 29, 2012, 11 am


July 02, 2012


Toi Derricotte, professor of English at the University of Pittsburgh, is the author of five books of poetry and has won a number of awards for her work, including two Pushcart Prizes. She is also the co-founder of Cave Canem, a workshop and retreat for African-American poets. We’ll talk about her memoir “The Black Notebooks” based on two decades of journal keeping and her most recent poetry collection “The Undertaker’s Daughter,” a book that looks back on her childhood in an abusive home. This interview was recorded on April 4, 2012

This is a repeat broadcast from Thursday, May 03, 2012, 10 am


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