Election 2016

The Elderly Bearers of a Folk-Music Tradition in Rural Tennessee – The New Yorker

newyorker.comThe critic Greil Marcus has written that “forgetting and disappearance” are the engines of the romance in American folk music. Folk players, at the same time, are inheritors and couriers of memory—partaking of a great archive of long-held recollections. The true story behind an American folk song may be elusive, and yet the musical tradition hands these tunes forward, not unlike the family watch.

Rachel Boillot has been photographing old-time musicians of the Cumberland Plateau, in rural, eastern Tennessee, for two years. First hired as a contract documentarian by a small, non-profit record label working to preserve the regional old-time tradition, she found herself enthralled by, and “tremendously welcome” among, the local players and their community—the people she calls the “elderly bearers of tradition.” Boillot now works as an assistant producer and designer for that label, Sandrock Recordings, and she seems keenly aware that in her photographs—of the artists, their homes, and their landscape—she is telling stories about storytellers. “The ballads, in particular … It’s a narrative medium,” she says, “a marriage of creative impulses to make, and to document and preserve one’s foothold in the world.” This documenting, as in her own photography, she told me, takes “mysterious liberties” in service of “delivering the most true cultural narrative we know.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s