Music, Mediation, Sustainability: A Case Study on the Banjo

Music, Mediation, Sustainability: A Case Study on the Banjo

Jeff Todd Titon
Brown University

The banjo mediates structurally, culturally and historically, and experientially. Structurally, it resists taxonomic classification. Culturally and historically, it is a mediator among African and European American cultures. For that, I interpret evidence of the Black-white vernacular music exchanges in the 19th-century sketches and genre paintings of the American artist, William Sidney Mount. Experientially, the banjo mediates in the old-time string band session as the banjo player creates melody and rhythm interactively with the other musicians. For this, I offer a phenomenological account of what goes through a player’s mind/body when learning and performing a previously unfamiliar tune at normal tempo in a jam session. This constructive, creative, and integrative faculty is expressive culture’s principal act of resilience, and it may be its main contribution to sustaining life on planet Earth.

Continue reading “Music, Mediation, Sustainability: A Case Study on the Banjo”

Biscuit Revivalism: Salvaging Southern Foodways in the Family and Beyond

Biscuit Revivalism: Salvaging Southern Foodways in the Family and Beyond

Whitney Brown
University of North Carolina

Abstract:

The field of folklore has been preoccupied historically with  authenticity.  But what happens to authenticity when real life  necessitates practical changes to tradition?  Through the material  culture and memories of the kitchen and table, “Biscuit Revivalism”  traces the evolution of Southern foodways across three generations of  one family.  Their lifestyle and dietary changes give rise to many  questions about tradition and its continuity (or obliteration), and  their particular story is emblematic of a larger one transpiring  across the modern-day South.  This paper considers the influence of  memory, nostalgia, class, education, travel, feminism, politics, and  health as it explores the process by which individuals negotiate the  traditions of family and region.  A meditation on tradition, “Biscuit  Revivalism” demonstrates that not only genes, but also stories,  recipes, and skillets tie the twenty-first century Southern woman to  the her Depression-era counterparts.  While by turns it is  romanticized, hybridized, or cast aside completely, tradition, in  fact, finds its strength in change. Continue reading “Biscuit Revivalism: Salvaging Southern Foodways in the Family and Beyond”

Kenneth L. Untiedt, ed. Folklore: In All of Us, In All We Do.

Kenneth L. Untiedt, ed. Folklore: In All of Us, In All We Do. Denton, TX: University of North Texas Press, 2006. Pp.xi+298, photos, illustrations, index. $34.95 cloth.

B. Grantham Aldred
Kendall College

At first blush, Folklore: In All of Us, In All We Do appears to be a straightforward collection of Texan folklore, a gathering of diverse materials under a regional banner.  And indeed, it serves well in this capacity.  However, the collection goes deeper than that and examines a more compelling question using these texts: the relationship between folklore and history.  Collected into five thematic sections, Folklore: In All of Us, In All We Do gives insight into the rich tapestry of Texas folklife from the eyes of its various contributors. Continue reading “Kenneth L. Untiedt, ed. Folklore: In All of Us, In All We Do.”