Thursday, July 9, 2020

Folkways eye candy

designs (all, I think) by Ronald Clyne

bonus sleeves from Disc, the precursor label to Folkways 

further reading - essay on Ronald Clyne by Andrew W. Hurley

"The front “cover” consisted of a paper wrapper glued over a plain sleeve, the black cardboard textured like aged leather. The wrapper only reached about one-third of the way around the back of the album, and a list of the tracks to be heard within sometimes was printed on the back to give you a clue of what you were buying. Inside the sleeve, a heavy piece of cardboard was inserted to create two pockets. In one, a booklet of notes was inserted, sometimes as little as four pages, but more often expanding to thirty or more pages of background notes, photographs, and song lyrics; in the other pocket the record was placed, somewhat heavier than a typical vinyl album. Folkways albums were decidedly different; difficult to find in record stores outside of major cities, priced higher than normal albums, treasured and passed eagerly from listener to listener, their very obscurity making them that much more desirable" - Richard Carlin, Worlds of Sound

"Ronald Clyne, who designed an estimated 500 covers for Folkways Records, contributed to the distinctive “otherness” of its recordings. The physical alterity of a Folkways record was not the end of the matter. The label also had a special philosophy, and Clyne’s design complemented it well...
A modernist by inclination.... There was also some overlap between his own interest in tribal, or what he called “world” art, and the label’s large “Ethnic Folkways” sub-catalogue.

"The look with which Clyne’s designs are associated was partly a result of aesthetic choices, and partly one of material realities. To the latter must be reckoned the low budget of Folkways Records. Whilst Clyne typically worked with two-colour printing—and made a virtue out of it—occasionally only one colour was available. The use of cheaper matte printing stock also contributed to the Folkways look. This, together with Clyne’s frequent predilection for autumn tones, contributed to an “earthiness,” which could easily be rhymed with the homespun, “authentic” nature of the music that the records contained.

".... Clyne’s most typical (and effective) designs used type in a very “clean” manner. These exhibit a great typographic economy, especially when using sans serif fonts, which is very much in key with Clyne’s overall design precepts.

"The other salient aspect is Clyne’s use of photography... Clyne was an accomplished painter, yet his Folkways designs almost never featured his paintings. An exception here is his early cover for Sounds of New Music (1958), a collection of modern compositions by John Cage, Henry Cowell, and others.... There was also a deeper association between photography and the documentary impulse behind Folkways. In many ways photography and Folkways shared the same ideology of transparency. If photography did not lie, then Folkways was also interested in “truth” and authenticity (not just in terms of the music and sounds that it sought to document, but also in terms of its “flat” recording philosophy). Beyond this, one can co-locate documentary photography and Folkways’ sonic documentation within the same progressive political context. As Robert Coles has indicated in his book, Doing Documentary Work (1997), many documentarians in mid-twentieth century America had a progressive politics in mind when they sought to take and publish their photographs and reportages...."

-- Andrew W. Hurley.