Art Rosenbaum’s Art of Field Recording

An American song catcher


| September-October, 2009



The Art of Field Recording

image by Georgia Museum of Art, University of Georgia

If you were strolling through an unfamiliar neighborhood and heard someone playing an old-fashioned song on a porch—maybe sawing on a fiddle or plunking out the blues on a guitar—would you pause for a while and listen? If so, you’ll take a shine to the 217 tracks that make up Art of Field Recording , a pair of four-disc box sets that capture this kind of off-the-cuff performance up close and personal.

 If you’d walk right up to that porch, chat with the musician for a couple of hours, and then whip out a recorder and ask if you could document their music, well, you’re a lot like Art Rosenbaum, the guy who put together Art of Field Recording.

Even if you’re not either of those types, you still might find yourself drawn in by Rosenbaum’s work. He says the collections have been attracting fans who don’t usually listen to this kind of raw, unadorned music.

 “There are people who say ‘This is really cool stuff’ who have not previously focused on this type of music or sound,” he says. “And that’s very gratifying.”

It’s a good guess that one reason Rosenbaum has managed to reach beyond an audience of grizzled folkies is the volumes’ beautiful packaging, featuring extensive notes about the musicians and songs; vibrant paintings of the musicians by Rosenbaum, an accomplished visual artist; and gripping black-and-white photographs of them by his wife, Margo Newmark Rosenbaum. Unlike some archival music releases, which can feel like a lesson, Art of Field Recording is more like a visit to the musicians’ homes.

You’ll hear the Eller family of Georgia sweetly harmonize on “Going to Georgia”; Kentucky banjo player Buell Kazee play and sing the Elizabethan-era British ballad “Barbara Allen”; and New Hampshire’s Riendeau brothers peel off the sprightly “Fred Rogers’ Reel” on fiddle and guitar. A few tracks even include snippets of banter and song introductions.

GERALD ESTES III
6/6/2013 2:01:13 AM

i really kinda like this report, made me wonder - thinking about removing the motive. the past year or so ive come across a blind fella, literally a one man band stand with all the simple stuff he employs, crooning out island folk songs a few nites a week ground zero freeport zone main gate...so i make a point of it as people walk past dropping an occasional coin into his collection container, to wait until he winds up the tune he's just belted out, thank him, and let him know, since he doesnt very often let go of his musical instruments, that ive left a 50 in there just for him...of course he didnt get there on his own - looking his amigoes prompts me to do it the way i've said. "look" "over there its..." "raining" "i'll get wet with ya" "we'll cross that bridge when we come to it", a throng of passer bys ambles along, video cell phones blipping out one long song "mick..." "the uplink codes long since gone" "i know".