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The Old, Weird, America: Harry Smith's Anthology of American Folk Music

Date: Wednesday, August 15, 2007
Time: 7:30 p.m.
Location: Getty Center, Harold M. Williams Auditorium
Admission: Free; reservations required.

He collected paper airplanes, Seminole textiles, and Ukrainian Easter Eggs. He recorded Allen Ginsberg, The Fugs, and the peyote songs of the Kiowa Indians. He was "shaman in residence" at Naropa Institute and the world's leading authority on string figures. And this was only the tip of the dazzling intellectual iceberg that was Harry Smith (1923–1991)—painter, filmmaker, musicologist, anthropologist, linguist, translator, collector, occultist, and eccentric genius of the 20th-century underground.

Harry Smith

This new documentary by Rani Singh, director of the Harry Smith Archives and senior research associate in the Department of Contemporary Programs at the Getty Research Institute, tells the story of Smith's most astonishing achievement, his 1952 Anthology of American Folk Music. An 84-track compilation of folk, country, Cajun, and blues music recorded between 1927 and 1932, the Anthology helped launch the folk music revival of the 1950s and 1960s and continues to inspire musicians and music lovers. Learn how Smith drew on his collection of over 8,000 vinyl recordings to craft this fascinating musical portrait of the "old, weird America," which pulses with death, blood, betrayal, murder, intoxication, and every one of the seven deadly sins. See interviews, archival images, and performances by some of the most Smith-esque musicians of today, including Beck, Beth Orton, Sonic Youth, Lou Reed, Philip Glass, Emmylou Harris, Nick Cave, and Elvis Costello. Get ready for a wild ride through an amazing musical landscape.

About Rani Singh
Rani Singh was Harry Smith's assistant from 1989 until his death in 1991. She is senior research associate in the Department of Contemporary Programs and Research at the Getty Research Institute and director of the Harry Smith Archives, which is dedicated to the location, preservation, and presentation of Smith's work. Her research and programming focus is on the history, preservation, and presentation of alternative media and avant-garde film. The Old Weird America: Harry Smith's Anthology of American Folk Music is her first full-length feature documentary.

Harry Smith recording Native American music

How to Get Here
The Getty Center is located at 1200 Getty Center Drive in Los Angeles, California, approximately 12 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles. See Hours, Directions, Parking for maps and driving directions.

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