Mississippi Music

"Mississippi Fiddle Tunes and Songs  from the 1930's" 
by Harry Bolick and Stephen T. Austin

 

While in the Mississippi State Archives tracking down Abbot Ferris's beautiful photographic portraits of musicians from 1939, author Harry Bolick discovered, to his amazement, a treasure trove of earlier fiddle tunes in manuscript form. Since then he has worked to understand how this collection came to exist and be set aside. With Stephen T. Austin, Bolick has transcribed the subsequent 1939 audio recordings. Mississippi Fiddle Tunes and Songs from the 1930s presents the history of the collecting work, with over three hundred of the tunes and songs and a beautiful selection of period photographs.

In the summer of 1936, over one hundred fiddle tunes, many of them unique, along with thousands of songs, were collected and notated throughout a large part of Mississippi. Roughly 130 novice field workers captured beautiful tunes and tantalizing fragments. As a body of work, it is an unparalleled and fascinating snapshot of vernacular music as heard in Mississippi in the early part of the recorded era. However, this music was unpublished and forgotten.

In 1939, building on the contacts made three years earlier, Herbert Halpert led one of the last and best executed of the WPA folklore projects which recorded audio performances in Mississippi. Some, but not all, of those distinctive fiddle tune recordings have been published. Additionally through cassette tape copies passed hand to hand, some of these distinctive tunes have regained currency and popularity among contemporary fiddlers. In Mississippi Fiddle Tunes and Songs from the 1930s, this great music is at last widely available.

 

Featuring over 300 tunes collected as sheet music in 1936 and transcribed from the 1939 WPA field recordings along with beautiful photos and bios for most of the 1939 sources. Including a tantalizing number of tunes collected from African-Americans playing in the Anglo Southern fiddle style. Also included is an in-depth essay on the history of the WPA collecting in MIssissippi.

 

View Video Introduction/Book Trailer.

 

Reviews:

"This is an important book, grand in scope and scale, and grand in its impact. Documenting a region's musical genre is no easy task in American traditional music., but it has been successfully and skillfully done, albeit seeming once in a decade. Harry Bolick, with the assistance of transcriber Stephen Austin, easily captures the honors for "the" book on regional old time music for the second decade of this century……

 

Mississippi Fiddle Tunes is a must-have for anyone interested in American old time music. Messrs. Bolick and Austin have done a superb job with the material, and the book has a deserved place on my "top shelf" of favorites in my library" - Andrew Kuntz, Fiddler Magazine, Spring 2016

Interviews:

Get up in the Cool July 13/2016 podcast

Mississippi Public Broadcasting, Conversations with Marshal Ramsey, recorded May 2016 but aired in September, 2016

 

Hear the tunes in the book:

1. Tunes from the Book - my latest cd, Order a CD , or download from Bandcamp

2. The 3-CD-set from Document Records of the complete 1939 recordings. Which are transcribed in our book.

3. Sound files from the sheet music for the1936 manuscripts. 180 tunes plus 4 from 1970's field recordings:

Set 01Set 02Set 03Set 04Set 05Set 06Set 07Set 08Set 09

 

Video

Video Introduction/Book Trailer.

Full book presentation at the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, May 2016, music starts 15 min into the video.

Two versions of Fisher's hornpipe from Good Coffee House concert, March 6, 2016

Flirting Song from a house concert in Hamden Ct, March 26, 2016

Woves a Howling from Good Coffee House concert, March 6, 2016

 

Two 1936 tunes from the book performed with Brian Slattery and Nathan Bontrager.

Harry at 2012 Great Big Yam Taters festival, Mississippi playing Allen Alsop's "Throw the Soapsuds Over the Fence"

Harry with Brian, 2014 lecture-demonstration-jam session ran in conjunction with the regional meetings of the Society for Ethnomusicology and the American Musicological Society. More about the event.

Video of a workshop with Harry at the Brandywine 2015 festival, section onesection twosection three.

 

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Please include your town and state so that I may let you know when I am in your area doing book signings, workshops or concerts.

 

Upcoming Related Cd projects:

- Field Recorders Collective- Summer 2017- Alvis Massengale 1970s field recordings!