Song Collector

by Andrew Conklin

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Listen/ Able 06:55
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Like a Motor 04:02
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Shady, NY 03:41

about

Song Collector is the second in a cycle of large-scale compositions that engage with the work of the California ethnomusicologist Sidney Robertson Cowell. In 1938, Cowell secured a Works Projects Administration grant for the Northern California Folk Song Project, an undertaking that eventually produced two hundred acetate discs filled with thirty-five hours of field recordings in twelve different languages. These recordings present a remarkably rich depiction of Northern California at a pivotal time in American history.


The first piece to grow out of my fascination with Cowell's work was Field Reports (2016), a chamber septet that weaves together re-imaginations of several folk songs from Cowell’s ambitious California Folk Song Project. Yet the project felt incomplete without including the perspective of the documenter in addition to the documented, especially considering the extent to which Cowell's ambitions and ideals so deeply influenced her exhaustive ethnographic study. Cowell sometimes referred to herself as a "song collector," and I began to wonder about the life of this song collector — about the sometimes lonely and frustrating process of "chasing songs" that Cowell describes in some of her correspondences. Song Collector imagines the story of this remarkable act of preservation from Sidney Robertson Cowell's perspective.

credits

released October 9, 2020

Composed, arranged, and produced by Andrew Conklin
Recorded by Michael Coleman at Figure 8 Studios in Brooklyn, NY; Emery Barter at New, Improved Recording in Oakland, CA; and Andrew Conklin at Millay Colony for the Arts in Austerlitz, NY
Mixed by Emery Barter at New, Improved Recording in Oakland, CA
Mastered by Mark Allen-Piccolo
Album Design by Melissa Weiss
The cover image – a photograph of a cimbalom – is from the Library of Congress digital collection, California Gold: Northern California Folk Music from the Thirties Collected by Sidney Robertson Cowell

Andrew Conklin: composer, vocals, guitar, piano, percussion, bass
Johnny Butler: tenor saxophone, baritone saxophone
Evan Francis: clarinet, tenor saxophone
Michael Coleman: recording engineer, piano, Wurlitzer, synthesizer
Kurt Kotheimer: bass
Austin Vaughn: drums
Emery Barter: recording engineer, mixing engineer, synth bass

“Shady, NY” samples a recorded performance of “Barbara Allen” by Virginia Meade, which is housed in the Library of Congress digital collection, California Gold: Northern California Folk Music from the Thirties Collected by Sidney Robertson Cowell

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Andrew Conklin Stockton, California

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