Early Field Recordings of Utah & Mormon Music

By November 13, 2008

Early Field Recordings of Utah & Mormon Music

USU Press sent me a description of this title which reads as follows:

In the late 1930s, Austin Fife, a native of Idaho’s “Mormon country” and a graduate student at Stanford University, and Utah native Alta Stevens Fife, his wife and equal research partner for decades to come, began making trips to Utah to collect songs and stories. The work of collecting, organizing, and writing about Mormon and western folk materials continued throughout the rest of the Fifes’ lives. While teaching at Occidental College in Los Angeles, Austin and Alta traveled extensively in Utah, collecting more folk songs and stories. It was during this time that most of the recordings on this CD were made. The Fifes documented each session to the best of their ability, and their notes, along with copies of the recordings themselves and transcripts of words and melodies can be found in Special Collections & Archives (as part of the Fife Folklore Archives holdings) at Utah State University’s Merrill-Cazier Library. Many of the songs on this disc can be attributed to known writers. This is often not the case with folk music, but the European settlement of Utah has such a short history, and the society that settled the area was so literate, that we have diaries and other documents that help us identify the sources of some songs. People often asked these writers to pen something to commemorate a particular event, or the writers themselves felt moved by happenings around them and then wrote songs or poems. The singers that the Fifes recorded were mostly elderly in the late 1940s, born between the mid-1850s and the 1880s. This is one of the most exciting parts of listening to this music- it allows us to leap back several generations to hear a bit of the sound environment of the past. Thus, our ear is truly as old as our grandfather’s voice. This new CD is made in an effort to bring the songs of the Fife Collection to a wider audience. The disk is being released on the occasion of the fi ftieth anniversary of the Folklore Society of Utah, which held its fi rst meeting June 30, 1958. Austin Fife delivered an illustrated presentation, on “The Material Culture of the Utah Pioneers,” at that meeting.

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