My keynote address, "Music, Mediation, Sustainability: A Case Study on the Banjo," for the folklore and ethnomusicology conference held at Indiana University in March of 2011, is now freely available for viewing and reading on the Internet, as published in the on-line journal Folklore Forum:
I described this innovative conference, and my participation in it, on this blog in the entry for May 20, 2011. The conference theme was "Mediation," so I took the opportunity to juxtapose two mediation-related topics that I'd been thinking about for several years: one, how a banjo-player learns a tune aurally, on hearing it for the first time, in an old-time music jam, and in so doing mediates between fiddle and guitar; and two, the unwitting documentation of the Black-white vernacular music exchange involving fiddle, banjo, and dancers in the 19th century U.S. Here is the abstract: "The banjo mediates structurally, culturally and historically, and experientially. Structurally, it resists taxonomic classification. Culturally and historically, it is a mediator among African and European American cultures. For that, I interpret evidence of the Black-white vernacular music exchanges in the 19th-century sketches and genre paintings of the American artist, William Sidney Mount. Experientially, the banjo mediates in the old-time string band session as the banjo player creates melody and rhythm interactively with the other musicians. For this, I offer a phenomenological account of what goes through a player's mind/body when learning and performing a previously unfamiliar tune at normal tempo in a jam session. This constructive, creative, and integrative faculty is expressive culture's principal act of resilience, and it may be its main contribution to sustaining life on planet Earth." Internet publication allowed Folklore Forum, a publication of The Folklore Institute, at Indiana University, to show the Mount paintings of musicians in color.