Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Cultural Equity

One of the stated goals of this site is to offer a place for readers interested in the american rural arts to learn more about the wealth of material--past and present--that's out there to explore. A site that's an essential part of that process of discovery for me has been Cultural Equity, the online presence for the Association for Cultural Equity. The ACE was founded in 1983 by the legendary musicologist Alan Lomax "as a center for the exploration and preservation of the world's expressive traditions" and has since expanded to become a fantastic online and digital resource. 

I'll include a brief selection from their mission statement, which can be read in full here. The concept of cultural equity is elaborated upon here.
ACE's mission is to facilitate cultural equity, the right of every culture to express and develop its distinctive heritage. Cultural equity is the end result of collecting, archiving, repatriating, and revitalizing the full range and diversity of the expressive traditions of the world's people — stories, music, dance, cooking, costume. Alan Lomax hoped that cultural equity would become one of the fundamental principles of human rights and made it the keystone of own career. He used an approach to research and public use he called cultural feedback, which is intended to provide equity for the people whose music and oral traditions were until recently unrecorded and unrecognized. ACE realizes its mission through a configuration of feedback projects that creatively use and expand upon Alan Lomax's collected works and research on music and other forms of expressive culture.
Simply put: the Cultural Equity site has more music, video and information that one single entry to The Art of The Rural could ever muster. It's an amazing and invaluable resource. Currently the site's front page is featuring the 1961-1962 recording sessions with Bessie Jones of the Georgia Sea Island Singers and a 1952 performance by blues legend Big Bill Broonzy in Paris.

Also, Cultural Equity is featuring audio and video selections from the 2009 box set Alan Lomax in Haiti which was released in conjunction with Harte Recordings. This lavish and comprehensive box set documents Lomax's 1936-1937 stay in Haiti and includes video transfers of Lomax's films, a transcribed copy of his journals and letters from the period and a hardback book of liner notes by Haitian scholar Gage Averill--plus 10 discs of music. The price of this set has been reduced so that Harte Recordings (and their internet vendor) can donate more money to the relief efforts in Haiti. I own a copy myself, and I can vouch both for its value and the inexhaustible beauty of its contents. Here's a streaming playlist, courtesy of Cultural Equity, that spans the 10 discs of the set.