Arbiter of Cultural Traditions is a 401c3 non-profit arts organization founded in 2002 as a means to continue the work of the former Arbiter Recording Company by saving performances of musicians whose work embodies our classical music at its height. Our efforts are critical as the aging survivors of past  traditions are not long for this world and decaying media threatens to lose its sounds: our cultural heritage often hangs by a thread. Western classical musicians we have saved such as as Roman Totenberg, Mieczyslaw Horszowski and Ignace Tiegerman played at the highest musical level of their time, of any time. We spare no effort to locate such music-making wherever it survives.

World Arbiter seeks authentic traditional music from  cultures beyond Western European classical music. The late Teresa Sterne who created Nonesuch’s legendary Explorer series was our guiding light in the beginning. Sterne personally intervened to sharpen and define our methodology. Our vital examples document  traditions with scholarly texts to serve as a musical guide and reference work. Multimedia CD projects go beyond music with extensive PDF and video files when placed in a computer. Arbiter recently received a grant from the Mellon Foundation to restore and publish the entire known surviving recordings of Balinese music made in 1928. The resulting publication effected a repatriation of performances that had remained inaccessible since their release and subsequent destruction.

Many of our downloads contain bonus tracks, many of which were previously unpublished. All are available only as downloads; many CDs also have been completely remastered with new software provided to our studio through a grant. All discs and bonus tracks are listed below in the catalog. CD Orders within the United States are shipped gratis: foreign requests should email us for postage fees:

info /at/ arbiterrecords.org

Latest Arbiter Records Release

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Brahms: Recaptured by Pupils and Colleagues

  • 2 cd set. First publication of recently discovered & lost recordings from 1889-1959. For too long, Brahms has been damaged as a sacred cow mounted on a pedestal. Our newly discovered live and private performances allow all to closely approach Brahms, including a funky improvisation by the composer himself from 1889, to witness a style more Harlem than Habsburg. Nearly all the musicians heard here were in contact with Brahms and play his works as new music: jazzy, as if created on the spot. His lost language is fully revealed here for the first time through their sounds and words. Brahms’ pupil Carl Friedberg even taught Nina Simone, who carried on their tradition. Extensive recorded excerpts from Carl Friedberg’s lessons to Bruce Hungerford are accessible on our website.

Latest World Arbiter Release

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Japanese Traditional Music: Songs of People at Work and Play

  • First complete publication ever! The sounds and intensity of Volume Five's folk music surpasses anything heard in their classical music. With Japan's ongoing modernization and loss of its traditional music, our audio restoration removes artifacts from chronological chains to resonate in the eternal flow of sound that defies time and space to remain vital and always in the present.

Latest from the Blog

A Medicine Man from Faulkner’s world.

Before a country like ours became standardized to death, before mass media linked and limited our goals and souls, our new world was a frontier rife with wanderers, enigmatic stragglers who embezzled, seduced and abandoned, purveyed mysteries, enlightenment seasoned with fraud wherever they set up alongside genuine visionaries, practitioners of traditional customs.

Leadbelly1

Master chronicler Huddie Ledbetter, a.k.a. Leadbelly, brings forth a character haunting the societal landscape bequeathed by Mark Twain and Faulkner: the Medicine Man. His identity was captured in a 1930s Library of Congress recording.

Before singing his first note, Leadbelly’s twelve-string Stella guitar projects its melody within a restless narrative accompaniment that opens onto an unstable world of sudden arrivals and longed-for departures. His divine perspective that gazes downward onto a populace recounts their stories before targeting a detailed description of their actions and then giving voice to the protagonist himself, all anchored by a unique rhythm that supports the momentum of lyrics and their suave delivery.

 

The Medicine Man

Oh the Medicine Man,    [the?] Ba’,

He’s traveling through the land

Oh the Medicine Man,    [a’] Ba’,

He’s traveling through the land

 

Got the grip in his hand,    Baby,

And he’s doing the best he can

Got the grip in his hand,    Baby,

And he’s doing the best he can

 

That was a Doctor who used to sell medicine

And got to be a blind man

And he’s sitting on side the road begging all he can

And everybody come on and seen him that knowed him

And you know that he was a good doctor

And everybody in the Black [sic?*] started to do something for the good doctor

And he had his old medicine case in his hand

And everyone invited people to come on and go on and let him know who he was

 

Oh the Blind Man,    oh Babe,

He’s sitting on the road again

Oh the Blind Man,    Baby,

Sitting on the road again

 

Got the grip in his hand,    Baby,

Got the grip in his hand

Got the grip in his hand,    Baby. . .

 

I’m the Medicine Man,    Baby,

And I’m on the road again

I’m the Medicine Man,    Baby,

On the road again

 

Oh I declare,    Baby

I’m setting on the road somewhere

Baby I declare,    Baby

I’m setting on the road somewhere

 

With a grip in my hand,    loaded,

I’m doing the best I can

Got my grip in my hand,   loaded . . .

*hard to discern this crucial word. . .

 

Could this song be an evocation of something Leadbelly had witnessed or heard about? Nearby Choctaw Indians had medicine men in their lives and ex-Slaves would have sought after them and anyone else for the health care that they and their descendants are still denied.

Or is this mythic narration a risque blend of truth that also opens onto an allegory for a hand-held grip residing in a Medicine Man’s trousers? Either way, he would have been in demand and this irresistible song from a remote time etches its mantra-like ritornello into you for good!

©Allan Evans 2016