TO WEB VERSION
Art Rosenbaum likes his music to have roots.
“As a kid I listened to labor union songs, Burl Ives, Pete Seeger and the Harry Smith Anthology of American Folk Music,” said the UGA art professor and self-taught folk musician. “Fairly early on I realized the most exciting music was that music developed in a style and passed on to the next generation,”
While living in New York City, he and friend John Cohen, the filmmaker and Beat generation photographer, thought pop music “was kind of bland.” So they and their like-minded friends organized concerts of traditional and folk music. Rosenbaum and Cohen began collecting folk music in the field. In his home state of Indiana Rosenbaum rediscovered blues guitarist Scrapper Blackwell and recorded fiddler John W. Summers.
“We were talking about bringing these musicians we’d heard on the anthology to New York. We were coming to realize America had these voices that worked like great art, poetically and musically,” he said. “One old-time banjo player, Clarence Ashley, brought a group from North Carolina that included the then-unknown blind guitar player Doc Watson.”
Another concert Rosenbaum organized for Friends of Old-Time Music was a program of ethnic New York music with Puerto Rican, Yiddish, Galician Spanish and Irish singers and dancers.
Along the way, he learned a lot of good songs and unusual banjo tunings, recorded and performed at folk festivals and coffee houses in Europe and the States, and cultivated a deep appreciation of traditional folk heritage.
“It was like delving into culture but doing it in a hands-on way with an awareness of what we thought was exciting. And we’re still doing it. We’re still tinkering around with the same tunes we were tinkering around with 40 years ago,” he said.
Rosenbaum has written, illustrated and recorded a small slice of what he’s learned of folk music and culture in a number of books, sound recordings and concerts.
Shout Because You’re Free: The African American Ring Shout Tradition in Coastal Georgia, University
of Georgia Press 1998 (photographs by Margo Newmark Rosenbaum)
Field Recording Archives
Selected Performances and Recordings
While a high school student in the 1950s, Art Rosenbaum won an art show and used the prize money to buy his first banjo. Later the self-taught banjoist played banjo for Lalo Schiffrin’s score for the movie Cool Hand Luke. He also published a banjo-playing instruction book, which is still in print.
THE UNIVERSITY OF GEORGIA RESEARCH MAGAZINE : www.researchmagazine.uga.edu