Heroes Series #2: Curation and Creation with Nathan Salsburg

Written By: 
Derek Piotr
Tags: 
Share:
  •  

Derek Piotr interviews Nathan Salsburg, musician and curator for the Alan Lomax Archive.

I was overjoyed to invite Nathan Salsburg to participate in this series; Nathan and I had some fundamental conversations when I began curating compilations of western North Carolina mountain singing, and his input was invaluable. Nathan is also a solo artist in his own right; his Landwerk series contains some of the most genius and inspiring guitar work I’ve ever heard – fractals of American Primitive layer like sheets of mica over hundred-year old recordings. That stands to reason: His day job is as curator for the Alan Lomax Archive at the Association for Cultural Equity. Nathan and I talked shop on both curation and creation in the conversation below.




Derek Piotr: It's always struck me that making albums for oneself is a fairly liberating experience; it frees one of certain internal pressures and allows one to indulge deeply in specific sounds or references. Archival work, by contrast, has always felt like hospice work to me: there's something eternally heavy, but nevertheless equally emotionally satisfying, about tending to the remnants of someone's memories of a particular time. Your recent work has married your own performances with recordings from the 1920s. Did this juncture affect the emotional flow of both musics? How do you see both states coexisting?

Nathan Salsburg: I’ll admit that your descriptions here don’t resonate with me. I don’t feel liberated making my own music – which isn’t at all to say that it’s a chore or a slog, but that it brings with it its own pressures and responsibilities, which I treasure as central to the practice. The only indulgence for me is temporal. As for archival work, my responsibilities to historical recordings, and the people/communities they came from, are much simpler, having nothing to do with me or my feelings or my needs: describe them, provide context, make them accessible, present them respectfully and as much on their own terms as possible. Don’t romanticize them. Don’t aggrandize my own involvement. 

The source material I used for the Landwerk volumes isn’t drawn from the Lomax field recordings I work with for a living, but from commercially released records in my own collection. As such, I felt less of a responsibility to adopt an “objective” approach to them. I felt they were more, to put it bluntly, exploitable for my purposes – creative, technical, emotional. Some samples are drawn from performances I adore, but the project originally took shape around a record that I didn’t have much interest in and that was on its way to the outbox. I was taken with the opening chord and was moved to, say, interact with it. 

Since then I’ve found that trying to work only with records I feel an affective attachment to isn’t a constructive approach; there are exciting musical fragments on the most mediocre records, which requires a more focused approach to listening – a practice I’d gotten lazy with. I include the discographical details in the LPs’ notes in deference to the source artists, the source media, and to the original contexts of the performances and their commercial exploitation. 




I find the term "commercial exploitation" an interesting one -- how do you feel about commercial releases of fragile, field-recorded music? Do you find curatorial efforts towards field-recorded "publicly owned" recordings (such as those made for the WPA) should only be distributed in such an open-source way? In other words, do commercial albums consisting of these kinds of recordings have a place in the commercial landscape of 2022? Is this process exploitative? If not, why?

When they’re done well, I’m a huge fan of commercial releases of field recordings and other non-commercial music. What would our lives be like without labels like Folkways, Topic, Ocora, Lyrichord? Or without all those tremendous LPs – labors of love and public money – devoted to site-specific traditional music, produced by various state folklife organizations and university presses in their heyday of the ‘70s and ‘80s? Of course, “commercial” is used in this sense only to denote that the records are made available for purchase; not that they make any money for the compilers. As a listener, I’m tremendously grateful there are still labels issuing beautiful, thoughtful physical-media releases of non-commercial music. As a compiler, I’m aware that these are – still – extreme labors of love, like those LPs of yore. The main difference between then and now is that there’s barely any public money to produce them.

Can you compare the process/sense of detachment/deeper listening in Landwerk to your work on Psalms, or are these albums completely distinct in scope?

The senses of detachment are similar, if I can invert that and say that the processes were attempts at reattachment, although to largely imagined worlds/experiences or spaces/places. Both grew out of a hunger for creative collaboration with the past, and a desire to – and I struggle to find the verb – submit myself to, or lose myself in, or construct for myself a simulation of the integrity of continuity. 





Derek Piotr is a folklorist, researcher and performer whose work focuses primarily on the human voice. His work covers practices including fieldwork, vocal performance, preservation and autoethnography; and is primarily concerned with tenderness, fragility, beauty and brutality. He has collaborated with artists including Scott Solter, Bobby McMillon and Thomas Brinkmann across various disciplines. His work has been supported by the North Carolina Folklife Institute, The Traditional Song Forum and The Danbury Cultural Commission, and has featured on Death Is Not The End and BBC.

Nathan Salsburg is a guitarist, composer, archivist and writer living in Kentucky. He is a frequent collaborator of songwriter-singer Joan Shelley, occasional guitar-duo partner of James Elkington, and has contributed to recordings by Bonnie “Prince” Billy, the Weather Station, and Jake Xerxes Fussell, among others. Salsburg is a historic preservationist who has now served as curator for the Alan Lomax Archive at the Association for Cultural Equity for over 20 years.

Related Articles

Sort By
12th Isle
2020
33rpm
45rpm
4AD
5 Selects
7"
99 Records
A&M
Abbey Lincoln
Aboriginal
Abstract
Ace Tone
Acid
Acid Archives
Acid Folk
Acid House
Acid Punk
Acoustic
Adrian Sherwood
Africa
African
Afro
Afro-Cuban
Afrobeat
Alan Ginsberg
Alan Greenberg
Alan Thicke
Albert Ayler
Alice Coltrane
All Genre
Altec
Amazon Music
Ambient
Amoeba Music
Amplifier
Analog
Anatolian Rock
Andy Warhol
Animation
AOR
Aquarium Drunkard
Archie Shepp
Archival
Art
Art & Design
Art Dudley
Art Film
Art Pop
Art Rock
Artform Radio
Arthur Russell
Article
Ash Ra Temple
Audiogon
Audiophile
Audiovisual
avant
Avant-Garde
Avant-pop
Avant-Rock
Avent-Garde
Balearic
Bali
Ballad
Bargain Bin
Baroque
Baroque Pop
Basquiat
Bass
Bauhaus
Bayou Funk
BBC
BBC Radiophonic
Beats
Beats in Space
Bebop
Belgium
Bennie Maupin
Berlin-school
Best of 2020
Beverly Glenn​-​Copeland
Bhutan Stamps
Big Band
Bill Laswell
Black Ark Studios
Black Jazz
Blaxsploitation
Blue Note
Blues
Blues Rock
Bob Marley
Bola Sete
Bollywood
Boogie
books
Boredoms
Bossa
Bossa Nova
Brazil
Brazilian Folk
Breakbeat
Breezy
Brian Eno
Bruce Weber
Bruton Music
Buddhism
Budget Audiophiler
Cabaret
Calypso
CAN
Canterbury
Cape Verde
Caribbean
Cartridges
Casio
Cassette
Cats
CD
Chamber Music
Channel One Studios
Chanson
Charles Lloyd
Charles Mingus
Chee Shimizu
Chet Baker
Chicago
Chillout
Choral
Christmas
City Pop
Classic Album Sundays
Classical
Classics
Clothing
Coctueau Twins
Coffee
Commercial
Community
Compass Point
Compilation
Concept Album
Condesa Electronics
Conny Plank
Contemporary Jazz
Cornelius
Cosmic
Cosmic Disco
Cosmic Folk
Country
Country-Rock
Covers
Cult Classic
Cumbia
Daft Punk
Dance
Dancehall
Dark
Dark Entries
David Bowie
David Byrne
Davida
Deep Dive
Deep House
Deep Listening
Delia Derbyshire
Demo
Dennis Bovell
Denon
Detroit
Devotional
Diasporic Disco
Dick Verdult
Diggin in the Mags
Disco
Discogs
DIY
DIY / Amateur
DJ
Documentary
Don Buchla
Don Cherry
Donald Byrd
Doom Metal
Downtempo
Dowtempo
Dr. John
Dream House
Dream Pop
Dreamy
Drone
Drum Break
Drum Machine
Drum n Bass
Drums
Dual
Dub
Dub Poetry
dublab
Dubwise
Durutti Column
Düsseldorf School
Eames
Earl King
Early Electronic
East African
Easy Listening
EBM
ECM
ecoustic
ecoustics
Electric Lady
Electro
Electronic
Electronica
Elegant Pop
Emahoy Tsegué-Maryam
Enossified
Environmental Music
EOY
Eric Dolphy
ESG
Esoteric
ESP Institute
Essential Listen
Essential Listening
Essential Listenning
Ethereal
Ethiopian Jazz
Ethnic
Event
Events
Exotica
Experimental
Factory Records
Fela Kuti
Festival
Field recording
Films
Fingertracks
Fingetracks
Fishing with John
Fleetwood Sound Company
Floating
Floating Points
Folk
Folk-Rock
Fonts
Fourth World
France
Free Improvisation
Free Jazz
Friends of ISC
Frippertronics
Fundraiser
Funk
Fusion
G.S. Schray
Gal Costa
Gamelan
Garage Rock
Garrard
Gems from the Dollar Bin
George Martin
Gifts
Gilberto Gil
Glam Rock
Gogo
Gospel
Grado
Graphic Novel
Grateful Dead
Group Sounds
Guide
Guitar
Hard Bop
Harold Budd
Harp
Harry Nilsson
Haruomi Hosono
Heavy Metal
Henry Lewy
Herbie Hancock
hi-fi
hi-NRG
Hidden Gem
Highlife
Hip Hop
Hiroshi Yoshimura
history
Holger Czukay
Holiday
Hollywood
Holy Grail
Home Listening
House
Hypnotic
Iasos
Ibiza
IDM
Illustration
Improvisation
Impulse!
In Conversation
India
Indian
Indian Classical
Indie
Indie Rock
Industrial
Ingmar Bergman
Installation
Instrumental
International
Interview
ISC Classic
ISC Collection
isc guide
ISC Record Store
ISC Selects
Island Records
Isolation
Italo Disco
Italy
Jackie McLean
Jamaica
James Baldwin
Japan
Japananese
Japanese
Jazz
jazz kissa
Jazz-funk
Jazz-rock
JBL
John Fahey
John Martyn
Jon Hassell
Joni Mitchell
Judee Sill
Jungle
K. Leimer
Kankyo Ongaku
Keith Haring
Keith Jarrett
Kid-Friendly
Kitty Records
Klaus Schulze
Klipsch
Kompakt
Kosmiche
Kosmische
KPM
Kraftwerk
Krautrock
L.Shankar
La Monte Young
Labels We Love
Lafawndah
Lagniappe Sessions
Laraaji
Larry Levan
Last Resort
Laswell
Latin
Latin Jazz
Laurel Canyon
Laurie Spiegel
Leaving Records
Lebanese
Lee Scratch Perry
Left-field
Leftfield
Lena Horne
Les Baxter
Lester Bowie
Library
Library Music
Liquid Liquid
Listening bar
Live Performance
Live Recording
Los Angeles
Lost & Sound
lost and sound
Louisiana Blues
Lounge
Lounge Lizards
Love Songs
Lovefingers
Lovely Music Ltd.
Lovers Rock
Luaka Bop
Mad Professor
Marantz
Marcel Duchamp
Marcos Valle
mbaqanga
McIntosh
Meditation
Meditative
Melancholic
Mellow
Melody As Truth
Meredith Monk
Metal
Michael Franks
Mid-Century
Miles Davis
Milford Graves
Mills College
Minako Yoshida
Minimal
Minneapolis Sound
Mixes
Mixtape
Mizell Brothers
Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs
Modal
Modern Classical
Modern Soul
Modular Synthesis
Moki Cherry
Mono
Mort Garson
Motown
MPB
MTV
Munich
Music Blog
Music from Memory
Music Interior
Music Therapy
Music Video
Mwandishi
Narrative
Neptunes
New Age
New Music
New Wave
New York
News
Nico
Nina Simone
No Wave
Noise
Non-Profit
Northern Soul
Now Sound
NTS
Nubian Pop
Nubian Soul
Numero Group
NYC
OBI
Obscure
Obscure Sound
On Screen
On-U Sound
online radio
Opera
Organic
Organic Music
Ornette Coleman
Ortofon
Oswalds Mill Audio
Outsider Pop
Overtone Singing
Painting
Painting with John
Pandit Pran Nath
Paradise Garage
Pastoral
Patrick Cowley
Paul Horn
Paul McCartney
Pauline Oliveros
PBS
Penguin Cafe Orchestra
Pensive
Percussion
Pharoah Sanders
Phillip Glass
Piano
Pioneer
Plantasia
Plants
playlist
Playlists
Plinth
Podcast
Political
Pop
Pop not Slop
Pop Rock
Popul Vuh
Post Bop
Post Rock
Post-Punk
Post-Rock
Power Pop
Premiere
Prince
Private Press
Producer
Productions
Professor Longhair
Prog Rock
Progressive
Progressive Rock
Prophet-5
Proto-techno
Psychedelic
Psychedelic Rock
Psyhedelic
Punk
Qobuz
Quadraphonic
QUARK
Quiet Storm
R&B
Radio
Raga
Rare Groove
rca victor
Receivers
Record Fair
Record Label
Record Stores
Record Stories
Reggae
Reggaeton
Reissue
Reissues
Releases
Religious
Remix
Retrospective
Rock
Rocksteady
Roland
Roland Kirk
Roller Skate
Room Recordings
Room Treatment
Roots Reggae
Rotary Mixers
Rough Trade
Rudy Van Gelder
Ryuichi Sakamoto
Ryuichi Sakmoto
Sacred
Sade
Sam Gendel
Samba
Samples
Sci-fi
Séance Centre
Seefeel
Sensual
Shamisen
share
Shibuya-kei
Shoegaze
Singer-Songwriter
Sisters with Transistors
Sly & Robbie
Smooth Jazz
Soft Rock
Solid State
Songwriting
Sonny Sharrock
Soul
Soul-jazz
Sound Collage
Sound Installation
Soundsystems
Soundtrack
South Africa
South African
South America
Space Rock
Speaker
speakers
Spiritual
Spiritual Jazz
Spoken Word
Staff Picks
Steely Dan
Stereolab
Stereophile
Steven Halpern
Stevie Wonder
Stoner Rock
stores we love
Stories
Streaming
Street Soul
Studio One
Sun Ra
Sunn O)))
Surround Sound
Susumu Yokota
Suzanne Cianni
Suzanne Kraft
Swamp Rock
SYNG
Synth
Synth Pop
Synth-pop
Synthesizer
Synthwave
Taarab
Takoma Records
Tangerine Dream
Tape
Tapes
TD-160
Techno
Techno Pop
Television
Terry Callier
Terry Riley
The Beatles
The Broad
The Loft
The Meters
The Mizell Brothers
The Music Center
The World Stage
Theater
Thelonious Monk
Third Side Music
Third Stream
This Mortal Coil
Thorens
Tim Sweeney
Too Pure Records
Total Luxury Spa
Traditional
Tribal
Trip-hop
Tropical
Tropicalia
Tuareg
Tube
Turntable
TV
UK
Underrated
Val Wilmer
Vandersteen
Vanity Fair
Velvet Underground
Vice
Video
Vince Guaraldi
Vintage
Vintage Gear
vinyl
Virginia Astley
Visible Cloaks
Visual Art
Vocal
Vocoder
Walearic
Wally Badarou
Water
Website
Werner Herzog
West Africa
West African
Windham Hill
World
Wrecking Crew
Yacht Rock
Yamaha
Yasuaki Shimizu
Yellow Magic Orchestra
Yma Sumac
YouTube
Zamrock
Zither
ISCHiFi ((ROOM RECORDING))
0:00 / 0:00
0:00
0:00