Michael Church’s Musics Lost and Found is a compulsively readable survey of song collectors.

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Review of Michael Church’s Musics Lost and Found: a compulsively readable survey of song collectors

Michael Church brings together the stories of famous and lesser-known heroes who fought – and continue to fight – to save folk song traditions all over the world in this ambitious survey.

“All folk musics will have been swept away,” Bela Bartók wrote in 1940. For decades, the Hungarian composer and ethnomusicologist had been a central figure in a musical movement unlike any other, collecting and chronicling folksong, the indigenous, deep-rooted music of a people in its homeland.

Michael Church’s ambitious survey weaves together the stories of a diverse range of collectors, from past giants (such as Bartók himself) to those with immediate contemporary relevance in Korea, Afghanistan, and China.

The majority of the collectors were concerned that the rapidly encroaching modern world would destroy those rural communities, as well as their music, and that their mission was to preserve it.

This movement is generally thought to have started in the late 1800s and continued until the outbreak of World War I, when it came to a premature halt.

But, of course, it has lasted for centuries and continues to do so today.

It’s long past time for a central repository of information on this unique artistic endeavor.

Such a book could easily come across as dry or preachy, but it is neither.

Church’s volume, a follow-up to the award-winning collection of explorations that he edited, The Other Classical Musics, is addictively readable.

Its mixture of informed yet approachable prose and, most importantly, a cavalcade of extraordinary characters ensures that it is not limited to musically literate readers.

Alice C Fletcher, one of the few female ethnomusicologists, was one of the first to explore the Native American communities of Omaha in the late 1800s and was the first to champion their music.

Then there was Percy Grainger, the incomparable Australian pianist, composer, and collector, whose bizarre sexual proclivities and heinous views on race did not prevent him from making a significant contribution to folk music research from Indonesia to Lincolnshire.

There is also tragedy, such as the case of revered Armenian composer Komitas, who survived the genocide against his people only to go insane afterwards.

Church, a classical music critic who has been around for a long time.

News summary from Infosurhoy in the United Kingdom.

Michael Church’s Musics Lost and Found, a compulsively readable survey of song collectors, gets a positive review.

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Musics Lost and Found, by Michael Church, review: a compulsively readable survey of song collectors

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Musics Lost and Found, by Michael Church, review: a compulsively readable survey of song collectors

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