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PostPosted: Fri Feb 01, 2019 2:40 am 
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JS wrote:
There's a very enjoyable live recording of music and talking about music from Alan Jabbour and Stephen Wade, "Americana Concert" (it's on Spotify). Lots of the tunes are from Henry Reed, who Jabbour knew and whose tunes he recorded and transcribed (they're on the LIbrary of Congress website). Speaking of one of Reed's mentors, Quince Dillon, Jabbour points out that Dillon was a military fifer as well as a fiddler, and that often the fifer and the fiddler were the same person. Could it be that the fiddle seemed more appropriate for dance music, as the fife was more effective for military purposes? For one thing, the fiddle can play drones and double stops, which adds to the possibilities for a solo player whose job is to keep the dancers moving.

Glad to see the mention of Othar Turner and the African-American fife and drum tradition. You can hear his granddaughter, Sharde Thomas, carrying it on and knocking it out of the park on the North Mississippi Allstars' "World Boogie is Coming."




But in the Appalachian region there's both the specific focus of playing for dancers and, for want of a better description, the 'banjo song' tradition. Song is a main focus of the latter. Given the accessibility and common vernacular connection I'm curious how - we're led to believe - flute never found it's way into either form when it is suitable as dance accompaniment and sensitive accompaniment for a singer. It seems evident that banjo and fiddle were/are the mainstays of rural American vernacular music, and they certainly are in OT circles now. I wonder if non-A440 pitch of early simple flutes is a possible reason for their apparently not being taken up in that context? My curiosity is heightened because on the rare occasions we've had a flute player turn up at our OT sessions it was noticeable by all of us other musicians that it is a very nice sound-fit.


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 01, 2019 5:43 am 
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Somewhere along the way Appalachian music and Old Time music have merged in this thread. To my ears, they are different things entirely.

Just an observation and opinion.

Eric


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 01, 2019 5:48 am 
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mendipman wrote:


But in the Appalachian region there's both the specific focus of playing for dancers and, for want of a better description, the 'banjo song' tradition. Song is a main focus of the latter. Given the accessibility and common vernacular connection I'm curious how - we're led to believe - flute never found it's way into either form when it is suitable as dance accompaniment and sensitive accompaniment for a singer. It seems evident that banjo and fiddle were/are the mainstays of rural American vernacular music, and they certainly are in OT circles now. I wonder if non-A440 pitch of early simple flutes is a possible reason for their apparently not being taken up in that context? My curiosity is heightened because on the rare occasions we've had a flute player turn up at our OT sessions it was noticeable by all of us other musicians that it is a very nice sound-fit.


Banjo is weird. It's universally said to have originated in Africa, and in pre-civil war written descriptions or visual art only slaves play banjos. It's overwhelmingly an African and African American instrument.

White people get into the banjo via the minstrel show, the deeply racist and entirely pervasive tradition of "blacking up." Minstrel show posters always involved a guy in blackface playing a banjo: the banjo was one of the signs that he was imitating black people. It was a symbol of "blackness." When you see white people depicted with Banjos before the 1920s they are almost invariably in blackface.

Then in the 1920s banjo moves from being the sign of blackness to being the sign of whiteness, or white rural authenticity. It's one of the most remarkable transitions in musical history.

So I'm skeptical that banjos were part of the musical culture of the Appalachians before the 20th century. If they were, it wasn't from slaves, who didn't tend to get up into the hills all the often, it was probably from touring minstrel shows or local minstrel shows. During the Civil War, both Union and Confederate soldiers would put on minstrel shows in camp. I guess that makes them part of vernacular culture, maybe, but the banjo is played as mockery of black people.

There's a great memoir by Danny Barker, an African American musician from New Orleans who grows up playing the banjo. Barker tells an amazing story about playing a gig in Mississippi and spots a white man staring at him playing the banjo. The man invites Barker out to play for his father, who loves the banjo. Pappy turns out to live on a farm where he raises bloodhounds for tracking escaped convicts. It's a remarkable tale. Barker moves to NYC in the 1920s and basically, he says, puts the banjo down and forgets about it in favor of the guitar. Barker's story is all about how vicious racism co-exists with fascination; bit the point of this is that in the early 20th century, in rural Mississippi, banjos are still a "black" thing.

In Philly, my hometown, there's a tradition called the Mummer's parade, on New Year's day. Mummers dress in extremely elaborate costumes and they play "string band music" which is basically 20 banjos and twenty saxes playing minstrel show tunes. In the 19th and early 20th century black and white Philadelphians marched in the parade, but after that it became an all white thing. It used to involve lots and lots of blackface, but by the 1950s the blackface was gone but the banjos remain. It's a VERY big deal in Philly to this day.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mummers_Parade


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 01, 2019 6:15 am 
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As there was no tradition of flute playing amongst the immigrants that took up residence in the Appalachian mountains why would you expect them to desire to play an instrument that was unavailable in the Appalachian mountains? There would be no more reason for them to start making music on the flute than there would be for them to start playing the oboe.

I believe simple system flutes started to be used in Irish traditional music during the 1840's and became more common as the boehm system, and silver flute became the modern standard. Irish Catholic flute players would probably not been welcome in the Appalachian mountains as the people that live there are not renowned for their broadmindedness.

Another possible reason for the dearth of flutes in Appalachian music could also be the sheer poverty that existed in the mountains, resulting in the loss of teeth due to lack of dental hygiene, and lack of money needed to purchase false teeth? I believe Willie Clancy stopped playing the flute when his teeth deteroriated.


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 01, 2019 6:26 am 
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Steampacket wrote:
As there was no tradition of flute playing amongst the immigrants that took up residence in the Appalachian mountains why would you expect them to desire to play an instrument that was unavailable in the Appalachian mountains? There would be no more reason for them to start making music on the flute than there would be for them to start playing the oboe.



I already posted about this--music historians say the flute was extremely common in the colonial US, which was settled by mostly English, Irish, and German immigrants, and flute playing was common in Ulster and the northern irish counties Appalachian settlers tended to come from. So it's not at all clear that there was "no tradition of flute playing" among those immigrants.


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 01, 2019 6:37 am 
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Then in the 1920s banjo moves from being the sign of blackness to being the sign of whiteness, or white rural authenticity. It's one of the most remarkable transitions in musical history. So I'm skeptical that banjos were part of the musical culture of the Appalachians before the 20th century. If they were, it wasn't from slaves, who didn't tend to get up into the hills all the often, it was probably from touring minstrel shows or local minstrel shows. pb+j


No, you are wrong pb+j. "One of the most iconic symbols of Appalachian culture— the banjo— was brought to the region by African-American slaves in the 18th century. Black banjo players were performing in Appalachia as early as 1798, when their presence was documented in Knoxville, Tennessee." Wikipedia

"African-American blues, which spread through the region in the early 20th century, brought harmonic (such as the third and seventh blue notes, and sliding tones) and verbal dexterity to Appalachian music, and many early Appalachian musicians, such as Dock Boggs and Hobart Smith, recalled being greatly influenced by watching black musicians perform" Wikipedia. These were blues musicians that influenced Doggs and Smith, not minstrel artists


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 01, 2019 7:23 am 
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 01, 2019 7:23 am 
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 01, 2019 7:23 am 
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[quote="Steampacket"]As there was no tradition of flute playing amongst the immigrants that took up residence in the Appalachian mountains why would you expect them to desire to play an instrument that was unavailable in the Appalachian mountains? There would be no more reason for them to start making music on the flute than there would be for them to start playing the oboe.



There may be no evidence of a 'tradition', and I'm certainly not suggesting that flute playing was commonplace. But equally if we're being open-minded and questioning, it is hard to credit the idea that some among the immigrants from the British Isles would not have brought the flute as it is such an easily portable - and personally valued - possession. The evidence of the common occurrence of the flute in the areas those immigrants travelled from would make that fact more not less likely. My personal instinct is that over the broad span of immigration there were a diverse hotch-potch of musical instrument combinations (including flute) that gradually altered and adapted as preference and indigenous local musical culture developed and asserted influence. What is clear from research in an English context is that the vernacular was barely documented at all in written media that were dominated and controlled by people of a different social position and outlook. The vernacular was viewed with disdain by people who felt themselves 'superior'. That negative filtering effect makes fact very difficult to ascertain. And where fact is lacking myth tends to fill the vacuum.


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 01, 2019 7:23 am 
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 01, 2019 7:25 am 
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Hobart Smith was an old time musician born in 1867...the original Appalachian tradition is a much older music. We are crossing genres again.

I find the question about Appalachian music more interesting than old time music, which is a younger offshoot and uses tons of banjo which did come about because of African American players.

Appalachian music and Ozarks music are closely related...both highly isolated areas and the music from both areas does not sound any more similar to old time music than bluegrass does in my opinion. A friend who grew up in the deep Ozarks of southern Missouri had an uncle who played hill music (as she called it), and her uncle's best friend was an Irishman who immigrated...played flutes with them all the time but it was noted to be unusual.

I still think it goes back to flute being an upper crust instrument when Appalachia was settled...so there was both a cost and a snob factor to playing flute. Plus, the equipment to make a flute is more specialized than to make a string instrument so locals couldn't make them like they could fiddles and mountain dulcimers.

Eric


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 01, 2019 9:00 am 
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Hobart Smith was an old time musician born in 1867...the original Appalachian tradition is a much older music. We are crossing genres again.

I find the question about Appalachian music more interesting than old time music, which is a younger offshoot and uses tons of banjo which did come about because of African American players.

Appalachian music and Ozarks music are closely related...both highly isolated areas and the music from both areas does not sound any more similar to old time music than bluegrass does in my opinion. A friend who grew up in the deep Ozarks of southern Missouri had an uncle who played hill music (as she called it), and her uncle's best friend was an Irishman who immigrated...played flutes with them all the time but it was noted to be unusual.

I still think it goes back to flute being an upper crust instrument when Appalachia was settled...so there was both a cost and a snob factor to playing flute. Plus, the equipment to make a flute is more specialized than to make a string instrument so locals couldn't make them like they could fiddles and mountain dulcimers. Jayhawk


Yes Jayhawk, now this makes more sense. Isn't it so though that when Appalachia was settled it was by Scottish-Irish protestants and Anglo Irish protestants from Ulster, Englishmen, and perhaps some German immigrants?


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 01, 2019 9:15 am 
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You are correct Steampacket. My family on both sides is from the Ozarks...similar population (many moved west from Appalachia when it got too crowded and the Ozarks hills and mountains are rather similar to the Appalachian range). There was non-Ulster Irish immigration to both areas as well, but mostly later after the mid-1800s and the famine...land was cheap in the hills, but most Catholic Irish immigrants ended up in the cities.

Many fewer Germans in these areas, though...they tended to settle along the large rivers. You can follow their path across the US by watching where breweries and wineries spring up in the 1800s!

Eric


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 01, 2019 9:55 am 
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Apologies for the multiple duplicate posts above - no idea how that happened and I don't appear to have a delete option. All I can do is edit them down.

Eric, what are you referring to when you differentiate 'original Appalachian tradition' from the more-or-less linear development of a music culture that declined and then underwent mid-20th century folk-revival as 'old-time'?

Are you referring to the ballad tradition that arrived and persisted in the mountains with immigrants from the British Isles and elsewhere in Europe? Isn't that just one of the musical influences that still persist in old-time? Other than that and the African-American forms that it combined with what is a distinctly separate 'original Appalachian tradition'? I can think of nothing that is not in some direct way derivative of one or other of those two cultural source-lines. Unless of course you are referring to the true geographic original: native American music?


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 01, 2019 10:28 am 
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Steampacket wrote:
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Then in the 1920s banjo moves from being the sign of blackness to being the sign of whiteness, or white rural authenticity. It's one of the most remarkable transitions in musical history. So I'm skeptical that banjos were part of the musical culture of the Appalachians before the 20th century. If they were, it wasn't from slaves, who didn't tend to get up into the hills all the often, it was probably from touring minstrel shows or local minstrel shows. pb+j


No, you are wrong pb+j. "One of the most iconic symbols of Appalachian culture— the banjo— was brought to the region by African-American slaves in the 18th century. Black banjo players were performing in Appalachia as early as 1798, when their presence was documented in Knoxville, Tennessee." Wikipedia

"African-American blues, which spread through the region in the early 20th century, brought harmonic (such as the third and seventh blue notes, and sliding tones) and verbal dexterity to Appalachian music, and many early Appalachian musicians, such as Dock Boggs and Hobart Smith, recalled being greatly influenced by watching black musicians perform" Wikipedia. These were blues musicians that influenced Doggs and Smith, not minstrel artists



I don't doubt there were some African Americans in the hills, but the Appalachia region is and was overwhelmingly white. Land for market farming in the south goes to slavery. Slaves are found in the low country, where the land is good for slave crops. Low country counties are often around 50% African American. Freee black stay in the low country, to be near family and working as artisans and laborers in the cities and towns. Landless whites are driven to the west (missouri, Kansas) and to the hills, where cash cropping and particularly slave crops aren't viable. Free black people are extremely unlikely to be able to find land in the upcountry: it's already taken for the most part, early, and the white folks in the hills are no more kindly disposed toward African Americans than anybody else. . This is why Virginia splits into two states in the Civil War: there are virtually no black people in the western part of the state and no reason to fight for slavery.

And again while I'm sure there would have been some contact between white folks in the hills and African American banjo players, the overwhelming influence of the minstrel show in American life is impossible to overstate. It's the most popular form of entertainment in the US, north and south, till the early 1900s. It's everywhere: city, country, army camps, naval ships, sheet music; everywhere. Mark Twain loves it, Lincoln loves it, Harriet Beecher Stowe loves it, Jefferson Davis loves it. In the hills you are far more likely to encounter the banjo as apart of a traveling minstrel show or a show in town. A good recent source is Laurent DuBois, The Banjo, America's African instrument.


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