Field recordings are usually made with portable recording equipment in less than what anybody would consider ideal conditions, with the result being less than perfect recordings as far as sound quality is concerned. However, since the earliest days of recording music they have been invaluable tools for preserving the music of cultures all over the world. Music anthropologists in the 19th century used wax cylinders to record everything from Native American singers to Appalachian folk music.
Field recordings of African American blues and gospel music were often most white people's introductions to both genres. Even today, field recordings are playing an invaluable role in ensuring older artists' music is recorded and not forgotten. The Music Maker Relief Foundation has used field recordings to help bring the music of Southern blues artists, who otherwise might have been forgotten, into homes and concert halls around the world. However, field recordings aren't limited to North American music. The Centre for Traditional Music and Dance's archive of recordings is a treasure chest of music from around the world. One of their most interesting collections of recordings were those done in the Balkans during the 1960s and 1970s by Martin Koenig.
His Balkan Arts Centre (the forerunner of the Centre for Traditional Music and Dance) was formed to help keep the music and culture of that region alive. Koenig's original recordings were made into LPs and 45s, which he used to teach the folk dances of the region. However, they were never made available to the public. Now that's all changing. A box of the original vinyl records was found in the Centre and have now been restored. They are being released as a 13-part series of special edition vinyl EPs by Evergreene Music, with the first release being Balkan Arts 701: Bulgarian Folk Dances.
Now don't worry if you don't have a turntable as every EP comes with a code which not only allows you to download the four tracks from the recording, but also gives you access to liner notes, photos, and additional audio files including a recording of an interview with Koeing. In the interview he talks about his experiences recording the music in communist Eastern Europe and why it was important then, and remains important today, that these recordings exist.