Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Spoken Word Mythology and Folklore Recordings

I still have the open-reel tape on which I dubbed this LP, borrowed from the Enfield Public Library, ca. 1974. We didn't yet have a cassette deck in the then-current stereo system.
I genuinely loved the mythology and folklore (as well as fiction/poetry-reading) spoken word (and sometimes music) albums I could find when very young, from such labels mentioned in the not-great but legible OCR'd NY Times article at the link. More of these should be available still than are...from such labels as Caedmon, Spoken Arts, CMS, Folkways, Miller-Brody Productions (which did the Newbery Award Records), and others cited. And certainly read the books by Harold Courlander and others as I found them...this NYT article being from 1977 so that cheerful references to "the Mysterious East" were still "A-OK"...


Spinning Around the World On Recorded Folk Tales

Folk tales have apparently existed ever since there were people to tell them to each other—”tales or stories,” as the dictionary puts it, “handed down by word of mouth, by the common people.” All literature has its roots in these oral origins, and it is surprising in how many guises and in different cultures the same basic situations turn up. Talking tortoises and frogs abound on every continent; Cinderella surfaces in Africa as Umusha Mwaice; the heron and crab who run their race along a Melanesian shore are surely distant relatives of Aesop's hare and tortoise. The foolish folk in the South American story who believe that the moon has drowned in local lake and must be fished out have their counterparts in Ireland's Hudden and Dudden, who leap into Brown Lake to retrieve the reflections of their lost sheep and cattle. The stock of plots is limited. Bruno Bettelheim has said that such stories are best conveyed to children in live readings, or better still recounted spontaneously by parents or patient uncles in their own words. That is not always possible, so the hundreds of, recordings available on tapes and disks would seem to be the next best thing, and the performances are likely to be a good deal more absorbing. Beginning our recorded journey close to home with America's own tall tales, we meet up with Paul Bunyan and his Southern counterpart Tony Beaver spinning hyperbolic yarns of their prodigious feats. The reader is Ennis Rees, the drawl echt Southern (The Song of Paul Bunyan and Tony Beaver, Spoken Arts SA 954). The late Ed Begley is a droll delight as he speaks gruffly and straightfacedly of the weeping Squonk, the enormous Moskittos that buzzed around Bunyan's lumber camp and the square eggs laid by the Gillygaloo bird, in two volumes of tall‐tale animal stories as set down by Adrien Stoutenberg (American Tall‐Tale Animal, Vol. 1 & 2, Caedmon TC 1317/8, cassette CDL 5137/8). J. Frank Dobie's tales of the Southwest get bucolic readings from their author (Southwestern Folk Tales, Spoken Arts SA 722, cassettes SAC 6127/8). Diane Wolkstein, in her level, honest, earnest way, reads California tales, some with Spanish roots, in prose supplied by Monica Sharon (Spoken Arts SA 1107, cassettes SAC Really native American folklore, of course, belongs to American Indians. They are well represented through bird tales recounted around their hogan fires by the Navajos, in legends that transform the sun into a youth at dawn and crimson swan at dusk, in numerous anecdotes about the cleverness of the coyote. Here Caedmon favors real Indian performers‐actor Arthur Junaluska, himself a full‐blooded Cherokee, reading Clah Chee's Navajo Bird Tales (TC 1375, cassette CDL 51375); Swift Eagle, a Pueblo Indian chief, telling the legends of Kuo‐Haya and other stories of his people in The Pueblo Indians (TC 1451, cassette CDL 51327); Jay Silverheels, another Indian actor, dealing authentically with The Fire Plume and other legends of the American Indians (TC 1451, cassette CDL 51451). • On Folkways, an Indian Princess named Nowedonah, born on a Shinnecock Indian reservation in Southampton, Long Island, reads a legend about the island in the days when its name was Paumanok, but the voice is nasal and dubbed‐in piano music doesn't help (The Enchanted Spring, Folkways FC 7753). Spoken Arts fares better with Diane Wolkstein, in tales that deal with an Indian boy's efforts to get hold of a hunting dog, Now the coyote learned his crying song and how he lost out to the rooster as official sunrise‐greeter in Tales of the Hopi Indians from Harold Courlander's collection (SA 1106, cassettes SAC 6121/2).

More at this link...

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