Folkways Records - Smithsonian


The Smithsonian Institution Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage in Washington, D.C. acquired Asch's Folkways recordings and business files after his death in 1986. This acquisition was initiated by Ralph Rinzler, of the Smithsonian, before Asch's death and completed by the Asch Family to ensure the sounds and artists would be preserved for future generations. As a result, it was agreed to continue Asch's policy that all of the 2,168 titles would stay in print indefinitely regardless of market sales. The Smithsonian Folkways website uses the internet to make the recordings available as streaming samples, DRM-free digital downloads in MP3 and lossless FLAC format, and on CDs via mail order.

A complete set of the Folkways recordings was also donated to the University of Alberta where Michael Asch, Moe Asch's son, was an anthropology professor; FolkwaysAlive, a joint initiative between the University and the Smithsonian, is involved in digitization and archiving of the collection as well as maintaining a research center and sponsoring student research scholarships and an annual concert series.

Since acquiring Folkways, the Smithsonian has expanded Asch's collection by adding several other record labels, including Cook, Monitor, Fast Folk, Dyer-Bennet, and Paredon. They have also released over 300 new recordings.

The mission statement of Smithsonian Folkways states that their mission "is the legacy of Moses Asch, who founded Folkways Records in 1948 to document 'people's music.'" They "are dedicated to supporting cultural diversity and increased understanding among peoples through the documentation, preservation, and dissemination of sound", and that "musical and cultural diversity contributes to the vitality and quality of life throughout the world." By making these recordings available, they intend "strengthen people's engagement with their own cultural heritage and to enhance their awareness and appreciation of the cultural heritage of others."

Smithsonian Folkways has also produced or co-produced a number of radio series based on the Folkways collections. "The Folkways Collection" and "Sounds to Grow On" are co-produced with CKUA radio; "Tapestry of the Times" was co-produced by WYPR radio; and "Sound Sessions" was produced by the Smithsonian and broadcast on WAMU radio. "Sounds to Grow On" is hosted by Michael Asch, Professor Emeritus of Anthropology at the University of Alberta and the son of Moses Asch.

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