Academic journal article Southern Cultures

Silent Ballad: Time Sings in the Cumberland Plateau

Academic journal article Southern Cultures

Silent Ballad: Time Sings in the Cumberland Plateau

Article excerpt

   Down in the valley,    Valley so low    Hangyour head over    Hear the wind blow     Down in the valley,    Walking between,    Telling our story    Here's what it sings.  --"Down in the Valley" ballad collected by Carl Sandburg, The American Songbag (1927) 

Reflective, mysterious moments of pause punctuate portraits of musicians and artists in the Cumberland Plateau, highlighting the vacuum of time and space that separates these songs as they ring out in a rural, mountainous landscape. Old Time music traditions, faith, storytelling, and mortality all inform this portrait of place.

These photographs were made along the serpentine mountain roads between Signal Mountain and Cumberland Gap, tracing the Cumberland Trail corridor in East Tennessee. They detail my own exploration of the region as I listened to its sounds and considered how they might translate to visual imagery. This journey began with a fellowship to work with the esteemed Bob Fulcher, who wears the hats of park ranger, folklorist, naturalist, and Old Time music specialist. After one summer working with Bobby as assistant producer at Sandrock Recordings, a field recordings project of the Cumberland Trail, I simply could not leave. I found these tunes infectious and became enamored with the region. I'm still out somewhere on one of those roads--and I'm still listening. …

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