Lomax Archives eBay Auction: 3/9/13

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2013_02.20_NYLOMAX_23091

edited from Tad Hendrickson, The Wall Street Journal:

Traffic has darkened the façade of the Hunter College-owned MFA Studio Building on 41st Street, between the Port Authority and the Lincoln Tunnel. The interior, a picture of institutional indifference, doesn’t look much better. But a climb to the sixth floor reveals a glittering treasure called the Association of Cultural Equity (ACE), a vast and remarkable assemblage of field recordings, instruments, books, posters and other artifacts collected by the legendary American archivist Alan Lomax over the better part of the 20th century.

In 1983, Lomax founded ACE in this building as a command post for his lifelong mission, to compile and disseminate the sights and sounds of cultures from around the globe, hoping to preserve them lest they be extinguished. Twenty-four years later, and 11 years since Lomax’s death, the building is being sold, and ACE is preparing to move into a smaller space at Hunter’s Brookdale campus, on 25th Street and First Avenue.

The ACE offices still flow with a trove of relics and heirlooms, so the company is preparing an eBay auction, to begin March 9, as it begins the move from its 2,500-square-foot space to a 1,500-square-foot space. Items for sale will include much of Lomax’s old recording equipment, video/film editing gear and other tools he used to build this archive, as well as odds and ends like his guitar and a few 78s from his personal record collection.

On Feb, 14, ACE issued its first release in 12 months, “United Sacred Harp Convention: The Alan Lomax Recordings, 1959.” Mississippi bluesman Sid Hemphill’s “The Devil’s Dream,” recorded in 1942, will come out Thursday. The light-footed archive, with its $300,000 budget, may focus on historical recordings, but it is anticipating the CD’s demise, releasing almost all of them on LP and as digital files. The nonprofit uses the proceeds to help cover operating costs, but also to honor Lomax’s original contracts and make sure that artist royalties still go to their descendants if they can be found.

“We do like to monetize, and we do a lot of licensing, and in the past it’s been very lucrative,” said Anna Lomax Wood, Lomax’s daughter and the president of ACE. (Bruce Springsteen, for example, used two Lomax-derived field samples on his recent “Wrecking Ball” album.) “But we’ve never been in it to make money. My father always said, ‘If you want to make money, don’t go into folk music.’”

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