1- Shaken by a Low Sound: Tracing African American Roots in a North American Folk Cello Revival - Kiersten Fage, Memorial University of Newfoundland
10:30 AM, Friday 24 May 2019 (2 hours)
Lunch 12:30 PM to 01:30 PM (1 hour)
Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) - DS-1540
Christian Mayr’s 1838 painting “Kitchen Ball at White Sulphur Springs,” presents one of two Ante-bellum period portrayals of formal African American dances. The image shows a post wedding dance in a plantation kitchen, elaborately dressed slaves dancing to the music of a dance band of violin, flute and, perhaps most unusual, a cello. Most likely a product of extensive musical exchange between African Americans and Celtic Americans, for whom the cello was a common accompaniment instrument, the essentially black history of the cello in North American folk music represents a neglected area of folk music study. Cello players in African American string bands were highly visible as late as the 1920s and evidence including iconography and recordings are easily available. However, contemporary folk cello playing is often understood as a radical musical innovation and its larger history has been neglected or obscured. This paper presents a historical ethnomusicological study of the early evidence of folk cello playing in North America. It will present available historical evidence including iconography, historical documents and recordings, asking what this can reveal about the musical, social and cultural practices associated with early North American folk cello playing.