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The Beautiful Music All Around Us: Field Recordings & the American Experience

Stephen Wade presents a talk related to the research for his recent book, The Beautiful Music All Around Us: Field Recordings and the American Experience, which takes as its starting point 13 iconic performances captured on Library of Congress field recordings between 1934 and 1942 in locations reaching from Southern Appalachia to the Mississippi Delta and onto the Great Plains. Through decades of research and detective work, musician Stephen Wade tracked down surviving performers and their families, fellow musicians, and community members. Weaving together loving and expert profiles of these performers with the histories of these songs and tunes, Wade brings to life largely unheralded individuals — farm laborers, state prisoners, school children, cowboys, housewives and mothers, loggers and miners — whose music has become part of the wider American musical soundscape. By exploring how these singers and instrumentalists exerted their own creativity on inherited forms, "amplifying tradition's gifts," Wade shows how a single artist can make a difference.

Speaker Biography: Stephen Wade is an American folk musician, writer and researcher. Growing up in Chicago in the 1950s and '60s, Wade was exposed to a number of vernacular musicians who had moved north to the city from the Mississippi Delta and the Southern Appalachians.

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