There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
OCTOBER 24 & 25
“I felt social changes would result from it,” said Harry Smith in 1968 of his landmark Anthology of American Folk Music. “I’d been reading Plato’s Republic. He’s jabbering on about music, how you have to be careful about changing the music because it might upset or destroy the government. Everybody gets out of step.” By ’68, Smith’s bootleg collection of murder ballads, fiddle tunes, blues, and stomps had done its damage by spurring not only the folk and blues revivals but the rock revolution as well. Records were just part of Smith’s bottomless grab-bag of obsessions, which included avant-garde animated films, string games, and Seminole textiles. But it is his collection of old 78s salvaged during the war years that has made him legendary. Unlike globe-trotting Alan Lomax, who poked his mike in every hut and hollow from here to Malaysia, Smith was a cranky connoisseur and urban recluse who favored hillbilly and race records made in the South during late ’20s and early ’30s. Smith organized a selection of 84 long-out-of-print recordings, which was released in 1952. The Anthology was a revelation for generations of musicians from Bob Dylan to Beck and became a subversive document of underground culture that replaced icons such as mom, church, and apple pie with Stagger Lee, train wrecks, and drunken sprees. In presenting his musical democracy, Smith slyly omitted references to race. “It took years before anybody discovered that Mississippi John Hurt wasn’t a hillbilly,” Smith later snickered. After decades as a scratched-up vinyl talisman in many a public library, the Anthology has been reissued by Smithsonian Folkways in a six-CD set that preserves Smith’s eccentric annotations. This weekend’s program features two concerts and a seminar. See Music and Events listings for the lineup at 7:30 p.m. Friday & Saturday at the Barns of Wolf Trap, 1624 Trap Rd., Vienna. $22. (703) 938-2404; and the seminar from 9:30 a.m.-5:15 p.m. Saturday at the Museum of Natural History’s Hall of Musical Instruments, 14th & Constitution Ave. NW. $15. For reservations call (202) 287-3543. (Eddie Dean)