Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

Joel Sweeney's Role in the Northern Migration of the Southern Black Banjo: An HGIS Approach

This is a selection, or part, of my thesis I just completed at Appalachian State University in Boone, NC. As I may publish it within the coming year, I have only posted some of it. If a year goes by and it is not published, it will be posted here. Hopefully, the selected pages and maps will be enough to offer some sort of clarity and cohesion to my project, but we will see.

Enjoy!

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Lucas,

This is outstanding. Thank you for posting what you have. Let us know when you get published!
Thank you for sharing Lucas!!!!

For those who wish to see Lucas reprise his presentation, come to the Society for Ethnomusicology conference in L.A. in November (see this document: http://www.indiana.edu/~semhome/2010/pdf/SEM%202010%20Preliminary%2...)

In fact, both Lucas and I will be presenting content on two banjo-focused panels along with several other researchers and musicians--see pages 8-9 and the bottom of page 10!

Ring Ring the Banjo!
Well, I really appreciate yall's interest and enthusiasm; it is nice. I was glad to get to tell some of the folks at the EBG about it and have them seem so interested too. To run with Greg's announcements, this paper will also be presented October 15th at 8am for the American Folklore Society's Conference in Nashville--if you cannot make it all the way to Los Angeles.

This whole site has been a great help in shaping my understanding of the banjo's history in the Western Hemisphere. So, I am sad I cannot reveal the whole thing just now.

Anyway, thank yall. Everyone I read about and met has contributed a good deal to this work themselves, just latently.
Congratulations, Lucas. I've downloaded it and will read it today. I think we need more of this kind of thing, and I think that what you and Greg are doing should be applauded. And it is not dry academic research either, you guys can play as well. The banjo world is lucky to have you, so keep up the good work!

Rob
Greg Adams said:
come to the Society for Ethnomusicology conference in L.A. in November

Wow, looking at that program, and Lucas' thesis excerpt, reminded me why I like the goings-on in the Pry Barn better. Back in the day, when we wanted to be taken seriously, we had to say it in Greek, German or French (in descending order, pretty much); now at least it's a kind of English -- but it seems to me, people are pretty much making up their own. Not meaning to make fun of your work -- it's seriously good work -- but, the way academics find it necessary to talk to each other is such a game.

Hybridity and doubleness... is that kind of like truthiness? And HGIS -- at least Lucas tells us (on p. 5) what it is. Back when I sort of hung out with cultural geographers (Wilbur Zelinsky, Milton Newton, Terry Jordan et al), they talked about "dottable data;" seems like much the same thing. Is there still a SNACS, and a Scratch Atlas -- or did that segue into this NHGIS of which you speak?

Is a "lifeworld" kind of a Sitz im Leben; or is it more of a Weltanschauung?

It all makes me feel like a part-man. Sort of. I think I'll go have a tall mug of gesunkenes Kulturgut, and, I dunno -- play a banjo? Or something beginning with a b.
Yes, Razyn, the language of academia is very confusing and each discipline seems to have its own term for the same set of ideas or principles, which you must learn if you wish to communicate with them. These different jargons are the very product of specialization that I talk about.

I have no idea what SNACS is (I looked into it a little bit). I have also never heard of scratch atlases. But "dottable data" sounds like it could be any social statistic you can attribute to place, such as Sweeney's performances and the types of jobs people worked.

Lifeworld is actually called Lebenswelt in German and was introduced by that name in 1936 by Edmund Husserl. And where it seems worldviews focus more on the experience of a particular group of people, lifeworlds focus more on the common experienced produced by space and proximity. Whereas worldview could be used to describe, say, the beliefs of the Ainu of Hokkiado in relation to the world, lifeworld would be used more to describe the connective or dissconnective experience of the Ainu with other Japanese, or Americans. It appears worldview aims more at uncovering similar cultural ideas produced through sharing language, whereas lifeworlds get more at similar cultural experiences produced through sharing space.

What my project was trying to show was how the banjo, while appearing across almost all of the Americas by the time of 1840, largely remained in Southern black hands, and to that lifeworld--one consumed more with agricultural and bi-racial experiences. By1840, Sweeney modified the Southern black banjo into an instrument more appealing to modernizing whites, Southern or Northern. Because of the North's larger almost exclusively white population that was more infused with the knowledge and experience of a more modern world focusing on living the specialized urban life, Sweeney, like many other performers before him, took his act to the big northern cities, and entered a more modern white lifeworld--transporting the banjo across social and geographic space.

No one can truly be Campbell's "whole man." There are simply too many aspects of our lives that we cannot learn to do for ourselves before we die. And if we did, it likely would no longer represent the culture the rest of us live in.

Hopefully, that added some more clarity, and if not, ask me more questions. It helps me round my thoughts about these issues too ;D
Lucas Bowman said:
By1840, Sweeney modified the Southern black banjo into an instrument more appealing to modernizing whites, Southern or Northern.

I still suspect this is an ex nihilo argument, and people in Boston and New York have more reason to want to believe it than I do. But, whatever. Your research can be right, post 1840, even if the premise (about what probably didn't exist before 1840, because you haven't seen it, or didn't believe your eyes when you did see it) is a house built upon the sand. If the scratch atlas (of North American Culture) of SNACS (Society for the North American Cultural Survey) had a pre-1840 banjo distribution map, I'd zap it to you. But I'm pretty sure it doesn't.

Hopefully, that added some more clarity, and if not, ask me more questions.

Heaven forfend.

Lebenswelt is a good one, though. I like the ones that don't require special fonts for the umlauts, Greek letters, &c.

On another thread, I wondered whether the right hand (in Sharpsburg, or maybe Keedysville) knew what the left hand was doing (in Shepherdstown) about CW research, specifically into music. Then about a day later I noticed that Lucas went to Shepherd U. A step in the right direction.

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