Academic journal article American Studies

THE BEAUTIFUL MUSIC ALL AROUND US: Field Recordings and the American Experience

Academic journal article American Studies

THE BEAUTIFUL MUSIC ALL AROUND US: Field Recordings and the American Experience

Article excerpt

THE BEAUTIFUL MUSIC ALL AROUND US: Field Recordings and the American Experience. By Stephen Wade. Urbana, Chicago: University of Illinois Press. 2012.

The text is a collection of twelve case studies that explore how the vernacular creativity of performers and instrumentalists functions on traditional forms of music. Wade selected thirteen representative tracks from his 1997, thirty-track CD. Those recordings are from the legendary Library of Congress Archive of Folk Culture (AFC) collection, 1933-1946. Each of the thirteen tracks is a performance by one of the subjects, two by Ora Dell Graham. In their excitement, the reader might proceed directly to the case studies to get up-close to the lives of the subjects. This would be a mistake. Wade makes excellent use of the preface and introduction to give readers a panoramic view of this work that will heighten their appreciation for the text. There, we get a glimpse into the author's early interactions with vernacular performers and gain an understanding of his commitment to folk music. For the "reservoirs of culture thrive not only in institutionally sanctioned preserves such as museums and concert halls, but also in the streets and marketplaces" (x). Wade does not attempt to move vernacular music into the ivory tower, but to position the "peasant fiddler" as equally worthy of an acknowledged place in the human experience "as the symphony violinist" (25).

Wade conducted in-person and telephone interviews; corresponded via personal notes and emails; and consulted numerous books, journal and newspaper articles, and AFC files to produce the case studies. The rigor of Wade's scholarship is matched by the book's literary allure. His writing is fresh and full of imagery, which contributes to this work being a multimedia experience between two covers. …

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