Alan Lomax (January 31, 1915 – July 19, 2002) was an important American folklorist and musicologist. He was one of the great field collectors of folk music of the 20th century, recording thousands of songs in the United States, Great Britain, the West Indies, Italy, and Spain.
Lomax was the son of pioneering musicologist and folklorist John Lomax, with whom he started his career by recording songs sung by prisoners in Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi. He attended The Choate School in Wallingford, Connecticut and then went on to earn a degree in philosophy from the University of Texas at Austin. He later worked on the oral history project for the Library of Congress. To some, he is best known for his theory of cantometrics.
Lomax worked with his father on the Archive of Folk Culture, a collection of more than ten thousand recordings for the Archive of American Folk Song at the Library of Congress.
Lomax assembled a highly regarded treasure trove of American and international culture, spending a lifetime collecting folk music from around the world, particularly from the American South. In 1959, accompanied by Shirley Collins and with support from Atlantic Records and the Ertegun Brothers, he embarked on a major recording trip in the Southern United States. Recordings were made of Delta blues guitarists, fife-and-drum ensembles, Sacred Harp singers, backwoods balladeers, and prison work gangs. Performers include Mrs. Sidney Carter, Vera Ward Hall, Sid and Rose Hemphill, Bessie Jones and the Georgia Sea Island Singers, Willie Jones, Mississippi Fred McDowell, Neil Morris, Almeda Riddle, Hobart Smith, and Ed Young. Selections from these recordings are available on CD in the Southern Journey series from Rounder Records.
Lomax recorded substantial interviews with many musicians, including Woody Guthrie, Lead Belly, Muddy Waters, Jelly Roll Morton, and Jeannie Robertson, and he produced radio shows, had a regular television series, and played an important role in both the American folk music revival and British folk revival of the 1950s.
- In March 2004, the American Folklife Center in the Library of Congress acquired the Alan Lomax Collection, which comprises the unparalleled ethnographic documentation collected by the legendary folklorist over a period of sixty years... The Alan Lomax Collection joins the material Alan Lomax collected during the 1930s and early 1940s for the Library's Archive of American Folk Song, and its acquisition brings the entire seventy years of Alan Lomax's work together under one roof at the Library of Congress, where it has found a permanent home.
- The Alan Lomax Database is a free multimedia catalog of the audio and video recordings and photographs made by Alan Lomax from 1946 to 1994, and by some of his colleagues, and of Lomax's comparative research on world music and dance. It will also include one or two older collections of audio recordings made by Lomax on behalf of the Library of Congress, which have been transferred and remastered using current technology. The Database is designed to be a complete record of Lomax's documentation of music and the spoken word and thus includes imperfect and incomplete items. Every audio recording in the catalog can be heard in samples of forty seconds to two minutes.
- The Association for Cultural Equity (ACE), located on the Fine Arts Campus of New York City’s Hunter College, was chartered by the State of New York in 1983 to preserve, study, and disseminate folk performance traditions from around the world, and to oversee Alan Lomax’s collected works and recordings. ACE serves audiences through a virtual archive of media holdings on the internet; a large catalog of publications; and through assistance to researchers, media projects, and members of the public. We actively reach out to other archives and libraries, and to artists and their communities.