The Train Just Don’t Stop Here Anymore: Symposium on Music in Small Town America

Millikin University, Decatur, IL
April 2-5, 2009

In April I found myself in the Midwest listening to old time music and learning that the South is overrepresented in American music history and that “Peterson had it wrong” about country music – he couldn’t feel what the music meant to people. As a sociologist from the south (in fact originally a Yankee) I found myself a bit of an outlier, yet everyone offered me a warm welcome. They even laughed at my jokes about Cecil Sharpe and the Dave Matthews Band while I presented an updated version of “Local Music for Sale.” After two days of papers on folk music of rural and small town environments, I spoke about the indie corporation that makes Charlottesville, known for its bluegrass and roots music, tick.

This symposium was a wonderful chance to connect with folklorists, anthropologists and musicologists studying old time, country and bluegrass of the south and Midwest. Papers featured shape note singing, the architecture of bells, and the commodification of instruments in Sears catalogs. Special thanks to Travis Stimeling and Dean Barry Pearson for their hospitality and for organizing the symposium.

an impromptu old time jam session
an impromptu old time jam session
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