Thursday, February 28th, 2019 Phonographic Visions of America: Harry Smith and Woody Guthrie

Thursday, February 28, 20193:00PM - 4:30PM208N, North House, 1 Devonshire Place


CSUS Graduate Student Workshop


What is a phonographic recording? A copy, inseparable from an original sonic event? Or a representation, a ritual re-enactment, that requires the listener’s participation?

With these questions in mind, this talk will examine two sets of recordings: Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music, compiled in the summer of 1952, and Woody Guthrie’s March 1940 recordings for the Library of Congress. Although these sets employ different representational strategies — with Guthrie using his own voice, Smith the voices and rhythms of various other people — both artists use the phonographic medium to construct a sonic “vision” of America. This talk will explore the nature of these representations and how they might lead us to re-consider phonography and its place within the cultural nexus of American modernism.


Ryan Stafford
PhD Candidate Department of English University of Toronto

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