8th March, Friday
Bluegrass Music and Boundaries: Local, Global, and In-Between
Bluegrass music is a form of country music that was shaped to address the paradoxes of the post-WWII United States. The bluegrass approach to country sounds emphasizes acoustic instruments, but is amplified through onstage technology, radio, and records. In addition, this form has putative roots in a specific rural local—and yet within 3 decades of its emergence, there were institutions formed for celebrating and recreating the music all over the world. Folklorist and music historian Neil Rosenberg has shown how bluegrass can serve the affective needs of different sorts of audiences; ethnomusicologist and performance studies scholar Michelle Kisliuk has moved on from his work to show how bluegrass affords participants particular ways of self-realization through musical and social interaction. This presentation builds on their work to illustrate the mechanisms by which people outside the United States have accessed and claimed this musical form and its objects, practices, and sensibilities, and adapted it to their local circumstances, emphasizing the ways that this kind of re-created musical practice can help define locality and boundaries.
9th March, Saturday morning
[Documentary + discussion]
Banjo Romantika: Bluegrass Music and the Czech Imagination
Banjo Romantika shares the story of Czech musicians who play a unique version of American Bluegrass, melding their political past and present into a lively musical tradition. Czechs first heard bluegrass during World War II, when the Armed Forces Network broadcast American music for soldiers. For many Czechs living in Communist-era Czechoslovakia, bluegrass was an outlet of creative expression, offering a sense of freedom and possibility long associated with the West. These days, the music is given new meanings, even as some of the older ones are maintained. In this feature-length documentary film, ethnomusicologist Lee Bidgood explores the genre’s history through interviews with musicians in the Czech Republic, visits jams, concerts, and festivals, and performs Czech bluegrass songs at renowned venue, The Down Home, in Johnson City, Tennessee. The film offers audiences insight into the lives of Czech bluegrassers, raising questions about where and to whom music belongs. In addition, as a collaborative project of ethnomusicologist Lee Bidgood and filmmaker Shara Lange, the project provides a model for interdisciplinary research and artistic work.
9th March, Saturday afternoon
Square Dance Workshop
Square dancing is a form of community dance that emerged, among other places, on the American frontier, where the multicultural mix and lack of resources called for a form of social dance that was open to participation by people with no previous knowledge of the form. Come and learn about the history of this dance practice, and learn some of the movement, steps, and calls. Suitable for children, families, and people of all ages who would like to participate. Bring an instrument and be part of the community band, or just come ready to dance.
Emily Bidgood is a musician, dancer, and dance caller who grew up in the state of Virginia. She became interested in square dancing and percussive solo dance that are a part of the regional traditions of the southeastern United States, and was a part of the Apple Chill Cloggers dance group from 2007-2009, performing at regional events and touring internationally. To develop her square dance calling, in 2013 Emily began attending the Dare To Be Square training events held in West Virginia. She currently organizes dance workshops and events in Tennessee, and the Czech Republic. Lee Bidgood started playing old time fiddle music in Florida, and then was a part of the string band scenes in central Virginia, North Carolina, and East Tennessee. He has been playing for contra, square, and clogging dance events for over ten years, and has also served as a community band coordinator, teaching string band musicians how to effectively accompany dancing.
10th March, Sunday
Roots and Branches: Duets from Here and There
Lee and Emily Bidgood both had musical upbringings in the southeastern United States, with early instruction on the violin; both then moved on to learn about vernacular string band music, and started playing the fiddle. As a duo they perform a variety of vocal, instrumental, and dance forms, including old time fiddle tunes, gospel songs, and rave-up breakdowns.
This program focuses on the duet as a framework for interaction, elaboration, and reflection. The pared-down format of the duet has an important role in U.S. string band music, with important models like the Monroe Brothers, the Blue Sky Boys, and the Louvin Brothers. This program includes songs from these artists as well as material from their home in East Tennessee (where Lee is a professor in the Bluegrass, Old Time, and Country Music Studies program), as well as from their long-term home-away-from-home, the Czech Republic.