Ph.D Candidate Shares Ideas, Music of Woody Guthrie in New Recording, Talk

Posted 09/17/07
Though music by singer-songwriter Woody Guthrie still influences American songwriters to this day, a Wesleyan Ph.D candidate in ethnomusicology is hoping to draw attention to the influence of Guthrie’s tunes and ideas world-wide.

On Sept. 28, Jorge Arévalo Mateus, left, will present “Global Woody,” a public program that focuses on Woody Guthrie’s enduring musical and cultural legacy as it spreads internationally. Arévalo Mateus is curator of the Woody Guthrie Archives in New York, N.Y.

“Guthrie’s American folk songs have long had the capacity to resonate with audiences beyond the U.S., however his international re-emergence seems to have taken on larger proportions in recent years,” Arévalo Mateus explains. “We’re working to recast the image of Guthrie beyond the classic American folk musician, so that Guthrie’s songs and ideas, many heretofore unknown, extend beyond national boundaries.”

Global Woody will examine Guthrie’s continuing influence through a multimedia presentation that contains music, film and rare archival material. Included in the presentation will be a live musical performance by Tao Rodriguez Seeger. Arévalo Mateus will also speak about the process of producing a historical recording of Woody Guthrie released Sept. 6.

Titled “The Live Wire: Woody Guthrie in Performance 1949,” the 18-track recording features more than 74 minutes of restored songs, stories and conversation. The concert, which took place in Newark, N.J. in December 1949, was initially recorded onto two spools of delicate wire, and transferred to digital audio.

The re-mastered recording is packaged with a 72-page book that includes rare and newly discovered photographs of Woody and Marjorie Guthrie, insightful contributions by Nora Guthrie, historical text on the performance and songs by Arévalo Mateus, and technical notes on the audio restoration process by the participating engineers. Song lyrics and a transcript of the performance are included on the CD.

“This recording is unique because the quality of performance and sound, and the overall content is excellent and highly illuminating, due in part to Guthrie’s interaction with his audience, which has never been captured before,” Arévalo Mateus says, “This provides the opportunity to actually experience the spontaneous reactions between Guthrie and his audience, giving a glimpse of why his storytelling and intensely personal connection has served as a model for countless folk musicians that followed.”

As a professional archivist he developed an interested in preserving the results of creative thought and ideas, and the working lives to which those ideas are applied. And as a music lover, he features Colombian tunes on a Tuesday evening WESU 88.1 show, “La Pipa de la Paz.”

“Whether an iconic individual, such as Louis Armstrong, Tito Puente, or Woody Guthrie, the documentation of their art is of primary significance to our collective culture,” he explains. “Woody’s level of communication is unique: sincere and clear yet poetic, honest with his values, and committed to pointing out what he saw and felt was wrong. That’s something I really admire about his music and ideas.”

Global Woody will take place at the Green Street Arts Center, 51 Green Street in Middletown, at 8 p.m. Sept. 28. Admission is $5. The program was developed by the Woody Guthrie Foundation.

For further information, contact Jorge Arévalo Mateus at For more information on the event, or recording, visit

By Olivia Drake, Wesleyan Connection editor. Photo by Sylvia Hoke.