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Dust-to-Digital CENSORS Harry Smith B-Sides (Anthology of Am. Folk Music)

Oct 19, 2020 - 11:15:59 AM
231 posts since 8/11/2007

LINK to video. 

 

Is censorship the best way to handle America's musical heritage?

Dust-to-Digital was kind enough to mail me a complimentary copy of their latest box set, "The Harry Smith B-Sides," a newly-remastered compilation of music omitted from Smith's famous Anthology of American Folk Music.

"Leaving the censor out of the equation allows a more honest view of the music of the past and the musicians we've admired, for better or worse." - Pete Ross, The Harry Smith B-Sides (p. 127)

Oct 19, 2020 - 2:11:08 PM
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Bill Rogers (Moderator)

USA

24064 posts since 6/25/2005

My career was teaching U.S. history. Concealing distasteful or “non-PC” information is Inexcusable and ahistorical. It is the stuff of totalitarian dictatorships, and has no place in this country.

Oct 19, 2020 - 2:12:16 PM
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Texasbanjo (Moderator)

USA

25101 posts since 8/3/2003

I don't think it is. I understand why the wording of some songs has changed, but I don't agree with it. Back when the song was first sung, that's the way the world was. Why erase history? I still sing the old songs the way they were sung back when. I don't censor, I don't change the wording. I do not mean to upset anyone, but I'm singing, so it's my decision what the words will be. And there's certain songs I would not sing to certain audiences.

Oct 19, 2020 - 2:42:56 PM
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10340 posts since 2/22/2007

Mark Twain books are now considered racist so what can we expect?

Oct 19, 2020 - 2:45:30 PM
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Players Union Member

DC5

USA

14463 posts since 6/30/2015

I have not watched it all yet, but my answer is a resounding NO!. Censorship is never the right way to handle anything - with the possible exception of certain material presented to minors. Let the viewer/listener decide what they wish to see/hear.

I learned way too much whitewashed history in school, and now I'm greatly disappointed that nothing was the way I thought.

You have the right to say, write, sing whatever you want. I have the right to not listen or read. I DO NOT have the right to tell anyone else what they can listen to or read.

Oct 19, 2020 - 2:49:17 PM
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Players Union Member

DC5

USA

14463 posts since 6/30/2015

quote:
Originally posted by banjo bill-e

Mark Twain books are now considered racist so what can we expect?


Ironically, Mark Twain was raised to be a racist, as were most people at that time.  He learned in his young adult life the folly of racism.  Huckleberry Finn was supposed to be a treatease on the folly of racism.  Funny that today they want to edit it to remove a certain word. 

BTW, this is why I don't like ebooks.  They can be edited on the fly, even while you are in the middle of reading something.  Makes Winston Smith's job much easier. 

Oct 19, 2020 - 3:15:46 PM
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10340 posts since 2/22/2007

^^^same with online dictionaries, words can change meanings overnight. Last week "sexual preference" went from accepted common usage to a hateful slur in the twinkling of an eye.

Oct 19, 2020 - 3:53:50 PM
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Owen

Canada

6802 posts since 6/5/2011
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...did the publication involve any public/tax/government money  or subsidy?

Oct 20, 2020 - 2:09:55 AM
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3009 posts since 4/29/2012

I agree that this is a historical document rather than a promotion of outdated attitudes so to hide and distort history by censoring is ludicrous. My main objection is that it costs far more to get the B sides than it does to get the A sides.

Oct 20, 2020 - 11:16:15 AM
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231 posts since 8/11/2007

quote:
Originally posted by Owen

...did the publication involve any public/tax/government money  or subsidy?


Dust-to-Digital is a "nonprofit," so it is very possible that they used federal grant money somewhere in this project... 

Oct 20, 2020 - 12:19:42 PM
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5708 posts since 9/21/2007
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Here is an article where they discuss their decision.

latimes.com/entertainment-arts...t-content

I have been outspoken against monuments that romanticize a particular slant on history.

I also regularly "censor" the titles of classic era banjo instrumentals when I play them.

There is a difference.  The monuments are not honest and leave out the harsh reality of history. 

The printed banjo solos are now in the public domain.  I don't alter the printed page-- when I post scans to the Internet Archive they are always 100%.  The living music that it becomes when I take the printed page and convert it into music with my banjo is mine to do what I please.  If I want to call my music something else I can. Changing the titles to suit the musician also has a long tradition. There are no lyrics to change.

The document is historical, and I will not alter that.

That said, this box set presents a "historical anthology" of music.  It is literally the history book.  As such it should present history as it was.  It also provides an opportunity for a conversation.   The producers could have included editorials and scholarly discussions in the included book.  That conversation is a good thing.  It is one we should be having.  A box set of "period" recordings will be controversial.  We should be up front about historical wrongs.

Now, they might have a point if this project was just a pile of old records, put together for fun and entertainment.  But this is a themed project with a specific goal.  By excluding these tracks they have failed as the project is incomplete.


With all that said, they have us talking about a box set printed on obsolete media. They are getting major news coverage. Perhaps this was all just carefully planned marketing?


The fact of the matter is that most of the people who buy this will load it onto some type of digital device. Then that person may remove any track they do not want to hear. Problem solved without redacting history.

Oct 20, 2020 - 4:34:55 PM
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hoodoo

Canada

741 posts since 10/6/2017

The songs still exist and are very easy to find online. Nothing has been censored.

Oct 20, 2020 - 4:37:11 PM
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3023 posts since 10/17/2009

Historical? Maybe not so much.

I thought the project was a little questionable, for a few reasons. The other sides have no significance to them... other than just what was on the other side of what Harry Smith selected for his project. This new collection I think misses much of the point of the the original; is not the same intent... so distorts the original concept as out of place. I see Dust to Digital mostly as a commercial product.

if this project was just a pile of old records, put together for fun and entertainment. 

I think it's important to note what the original was. The intent wasn't creating an unbiased history document. NOT a historian publication. Indeed it was a bit more ART, a collage of recordings, that is an artistic way of looking at culture. The 84 songs were not chosen as any more historically  important or significant the any other recordings, or have anything to do with A side vs B side. Rather intentionally selected and assembled because they fit into universal theme(s) Harry was creating. along with his own biases.  Should note he intentionally  diminished focus of racial aspects; that these themes have nothing to do with race.

Art projects, collages can give somewhat glimpse of history, different angle... but using only something like the Harry Smith Anthology collection would give you a limited and perhaps skewed view of history. But the Dust to Digital B side collection is  out of context; doesn''t even preserve that artisitic vision... or themes; so doesn't even serve that pupose.

--------------

Interesting side thought; when Harry Smith first started the project was in 1947, these recordings were less than 20 years old. Imagine a similar art project today, reissues of recordings from 1998-2002.

---------------

The fact of the matter is that most of the people who buy this will load it onto some type of digital device. Then that person may remove any track they do not want to hear.

Agree. Original recordings have not been erased, or destroyed... these days not particularly hard to find and listen to, including in digital format. it's is not difficult to make a collection yourself. (If you want to hear the omitted tracks you can. I believe they are Bill & Belle Reed "We Shall Be Free"; Uncle Dave Macon "I'm the Child to Fight" and Bentley Boys "Henhouse Blues").

These produced compilations are often commercial, and producers like Mose Asch need to consider audience in selection (as well as the financial). Part of the point of music reissue collection is appeal, entertainment, listening pleasure; and what might be offensive (not just racial). In that vain...they are always biases; but it follows free market idea... producers can simply do whatever they want. Others can produce compilations that includes what materiel they want, for what they deem important.  And many, many other commercial compelation reissues have been made since. Can't please everyone. If you don't agree with the producer... you don't have to buy the recording. Free market at work.

Like art projects, commercial products (esp in popular books or film) can give somewhat glimpse of history, but are often biased; might give you a limited and perhaps skewed view of history.  Pure historic presentations can be complex, need to go through disciplined analysis to be of great historic value.

Oct 21, 2020 - 7:08:33 AM
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5708 posts since 9/21/2007
Online Now

banjoak It is true that the Harry Smith set was just a random assemblage of recordings put together in 1952 for entertainment. But considering the people who have claimed inspiration from it-- it is now a historical work.

As such, a themed project that seeks to base itself on that historical work should follow through.

As it stands it should be titled "The Harry Smith B-Sides*"

(*does not include all the B sides).

Here are the excluded tracks (***warning... do not listen to these tracks).

archive.org/details/BillBelleR...allBeFree

youtube.com/watch?v=yVhwGesKT5A

youtube.com/watch?v=xH6x32oTqBs

I still can't help but think this was a way to get some free publicity for outdated media. After all, it is only three songs excluded.

Oct 21, 2020 - 7:31:09 AM

3009 posts since 4/29/2012

Thanks for posting that Joel. (Sorry - I did listen. I'm the Child to fight is great if you ignore some of the lyrics )
I haven't played my Harry Smith cds for some time - And have probably never played all of all 6. Would any of the tracks on the original compilation not pass muster nowadays ?
I don't know why they didn't just out a sticker on the box with the now common warning "this material contains words and attitudes now considered unacceptable" or similar. It's a standard warning on the UK television channel "Talking Pictures", which plays old British films and TV programs.

Oct 21, 2020 - 8:46:30 AM
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1879 posts since 3/29/2008

I always think its pretty patronising when a big record producer decides to do something like this under the guise of "political correctness"... like suddenly this group of rich white folks gets to decide what is offensive to black people.

This sort of censorship is again just another form of whitewashing history... and it feels like its not for the benefit of inclusivity for black people, but rather to make guilt-ridden white people feel better about themselves.

I really enjoyed the video though! I thought it was very fair, and interesting!

Oct 21, 2020 - 9:56:41 AM

231 posts since 8/11/2007

Dust-to-Digital, New York Times Make False Claim Against Bill & Belle Reed - They Did NOT Sing About "Lynching"

Nobody is defending the use of racial slurs. The false statement, however, that the Reeds "jubilantly harmonized about a lynching," is completely indefensible. The verse in question refers to the prized "red ear" of corn used in courting rituals during corn shucking parties. When found, the red ear would be held over the head or actually "tied around his neck." Supposedly, one of the females present would then kiss or dance with the young man who'd found the red roasting ear: https://forgottenstories.net/.../02/looking-for-a-red-ear/

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