Paper Session
Nov 11, 2021 02:00 PM - 02:50 PM(America/Chicago)
20211111T1400 20211111T1450 America/Chicago Recontextualizing the Vernacular AMS 2021
Hidden in Plain Sight and Sound: Noises of the Lost Cause in Mobile, Alabama’s Carnival
Individual Paper 02:00 PM - 02:50 PM (America/Chicago) 2021/11/11 20:00:00 UTC - 2021/11/11 20:50:00 UTC

U.S. Southern white supremacy does not just manifest in physical forms like Confederate flags, statues, and museums--it is also embedded in rituals like carnival parades. Some of Mobile's carnival parades have consistently been, in part, celebrations of the Lost Cause, which is a term that refers to the ways in which the Confederacy is remembered as a heroic, noble endeavor, downplaying the horrors of these slavers' actions in the process. Connections between Mobile Mardi Gras and the Confederacy are hidden in plain sight and sound by carnival gatekeepers, e.g., the organization of the Joe Cain Procession. This parade honors a man who, according to legend, revived carnival in 1868 during Union occupation of Mobile by leading a group called the Lost Cause Minstrel Band and playing "discordant music" in a parade. He supposedly led the band as a Chickasaw chief character named Slacabamorinico to signify his "resistance" since he could not get away with more overt Confederate dress; from the very beginning, Cain has been tied to hiding Confederate symbolism in plain sight and sound, redface in this case. In solidarity with those beginning to question the racism of Mobile Mardi Gras traditions, I will discuss the sonic resonances of Joe Cain's minstrelsy not confronted in Mobile Mardi Gras historiography. I describe Cain's sonic legacies as noise, building on musicologist Dale Cockrell's idea of minstrelsy's noise, as seen in the way some participants in the Cain parade today march in redface and chant their white masculinity. I show how Mobilians today celebrate Cain's carnivalesque stance against Union occupation and downplay the racist performances in the process. 

Presenters Emily Ruth Allen
Florida State University
Prison Songs in the Middle-Class Home: Incarceration, Morality, and Race in Early 20th-Century Folk Song Collections
Individual Paper 02:00 PM - 02:50 PM (America/Chicago) 2021/11/11 20:00:00 UTC - 2021/11/11 20:50:00 UTC

The songs of incarcerated Black men recorded by the folklorists John and Alan Lomax have had an indelible influence on the public's understanding of prison music. Beginning in 1934, published books containing transcriptions of the songs the Lomaxes' collected in prisons brought this music to a wide audience and encouraged members of this audience to sing it in their homes. Although scholars have given attention to folklorists who worked on prison music after the Lomaxes, the earlier context of audience encounters with prison music in the years during which the Lomaxes were active remains underexamined.

In this paper, I read the Lomaxes' early songbooks against contemporaneous volumes containing prison songs published by Howard Odum (1926), Carl Sandburg (1927), Lawrence Gellert (1936), and John Rosamond and James Weldon Johnson (1937). I argue that these songbooks show that the 1920s and 1930s were a pivotal moment, during which "prison music" underwent a series of shifts. Whereas earlier volumes framed prison songs as evidence of immorality and criminality, later on, such songs became prized objects of U.S. heritage to be conserved and analyzed by scholars. Finally, the genre of "prison music" became something that people sang in their homes. Thus, by the end of the 1930s, knowing prison music, owning folk song collections that contained it, and singing it at home was becoming part of a well-bred, educated, and moral middle-class identity. A complicating factor to this moral repositioning of prison music, however, is that many of the authors involved in publishing prison music, as well as the bulk of their audiences, were non-incarcerated and white, while much of the music they published was sung by Black prisoners. Therefore, in the final part of the paper, I consider the moral quandaries created by encouraging such audiences to sing the music of incarcerated people. All in all, my paper provides context for the ways that music publications from the 1920s and 1930s shaped understandings of incarceration that persist into the present.

Velia Ivanova
Struttin' in Golden Slippers: Ferko String Band, Mummers Parades, and Musical Legacy in the City of Brotherly Love
Individual Paper 02:00 PM - 02:50 PM (America/Chicago) 2021/11/11 20:00:00 UTC - 2021/11/11 20:50:00 UTC

When non-Philadelphians turn on their televisions on New Years Day, the Philadelphia Mummers Parade seems an oddity-a humorous, politically incorrect, and sometimes downright insulting cacophony of costumes, music, and dancing. For Philadelphians, the Mummers Parade is more than oddities and surface humor; it celebrates Philadelphia's early immigrant communities. The Mummers have their roots in the traditions of British and Scandinavian immigrants, who celebrated the week between Christmas and New Year's on the streets of Philadelphia in the mid 17th-century. Those celebrations turned into one of the oldest folk festivals in American history. Today, the parade is organized into four divisions, including the Comics, Fancies, and Fancy Brigades. However, it is the String Band division that serves as the soundtrack for this New Year's Day tradition. The modern-day Mummers Parades showcase a variety of performances that harken back to these early celebrations and customs; but where does this tradition fit in a 21st century world? What do the String Bands say about not only music, but the cultural legacy of the city of Philadelphia?

In this paper, I examine the most successful band in Mummers history, Ferko String Band, which exemplifies the Mummers string band tradition of award-winning musical talent, over-the-top performances, and roots in the immigrant communities of Philadelphia. Combining various musical styles such as jazz, bluegrass, and country, Ferko introduced this Philadelphia folk tradition into mainstream America in the 1940s and 1950s by producing top-selling albums and performing on radio and the burgeoning medium of television. Despite this prestige, and their importance to the city of Philadelphia, almost no scholarly work has examined String Band music. Using previously unseen archival material of Hilda Elsa Ingeborgh Lindh, whose brothers were original members of Ferko, this paper will examine how Ferko's String Band Music represents the cultural and musical legacy of Philadelphia, and how that legacy can bring greater understanding to the cultural traditions of the City of Brotherly Love.

Presenters Karen Uslin
Defiant Requiem Foundation, Stockton University
Defiant Requiem Foundation, Stockton University
Florida State University
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