In this piece, a longtime Gram Parsons fan grows suspicious of the myths that surround the singer's life and music. A visit to Waycross, Georgia; interviews with people connected to Parsons's South Georgia childhood; and investigations of the area's musical, industrial, and socioeconomic histories reveal whose stories are heard and whose are silenced by such myths. The piece explores how one might hear the oppressive structures that echo in the music, such as the exploitation of Black laborers, the anti-Black violence of the region, the deforestation of South Georgia's longleaf grassland, and the impact of that ecological harm on Black and white family farmers.
The question is: How do I render sound visible? For me, the answer is ethnopoetics, a mode of presenting performance, ritual, and cultural expression through the tools of poetry. In its possibilities for mirroring moments, and reflecting the spaciousness and impact of tone and silence and sound, the form seeks freedom from the strictures of prose. This is an ethnopoetic journey that invites rhythmic reading—listening with the eyes.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, at the beginning of the stay-at-home orders, we asked our friend and singer-songwriter Skylar Gudasz to invite local musicians, many out of work and not touring for the unforeseeable future, to share performances based around the theme of comfort. Recorded in the early days of self-isolation, the theme takes on new meaning as Americans pour into the streets to protest for Black Lives Matter.
Stories and portraits from the Millennial Traditional Artists project, a collaboration between the North Carolina Arts Council and Duke University.