Birth draws on fieldwork he conducted in one of Trinidad’s ethnically diverse rural villages to explore the relationship between music and social and political consciousness on the island. He describes how Trinidadians use the affective power of music and the physiological experience of performance to express and work through issues related to identity, ethnicity, and politics. He looks at how the performers and audience members relate to different musical traditions. Turning explicitly to politics, Birth recounts how Trinidadians used music as a means of making sense of the attempted coup d’état in 1990 and the 1995 parliamentary election, which resulted in a tie between the two major political parties. Bacchanalian Sentiments is an innovative ethnographic analysis of the significance of music, and particular musical forms, in the everyday lives of rural Trinidadians.
Kevin K. Birth is Associate Professor of Anthropology at Queens College, City University of New York. He is the author of “Any Time Is Trinidad Time”: Social Meanings and Temporal Consciousness.
Where previous collections of folk music, both printed and recorded, had privileged field recordings and oral transmission, Smith purposefully shaped his collection from previously released commercial records, pointedly blurring established racial boundaries in his selection and organisation of performances. Indeed, more than just a ground-breaking collection of old recordings, the Anthology was itself a kind of performance on the part of its creator.
Over the six decades of its existence, however, it has continued to exert considerable influence on generations of musicians, artists, and writers. It has been credited with inspiring the North American folk revival—"The Anthology was our bible", asserted Dave Van Ronk in 1991, "We all knew every word of every song on it"—and with profoundly influencing Bob Dylan. After its 1997 release on CD by Smithsonian Folkways, it came to be closely associated with the so-called Americana and Alt-Country movements of the late 1990s and early 2000s. Following its sixtieth birthday, and now available as a digital download and rereleased on vinyl, it is once again a prominent icon in numerous musical currents and popular culture more generally.
This is the first book devoted to such a vital piece of the large and complex story of American music and its enduring value in American life. Reflecting the intrinsic interdisciplinarity of Smith’s original project, this collection contains a variety of new perspectives on all aspects of the Anthology.
"If you go to Antigua as a tourist, this is what you will see. If you come by aeroplane, you will land at the V. C. Bird International Airport. Vere Cornwall (V. C.) Bird is the Prime Minister of Antigua. You may be the sort of tourist who would wonder why a Prime Minister would want an airport named after him--why not a school, why not a hospital, why not some great public monument. You are a tourist and you have not yet seen . . ."
So begins Jamaica Kincaid's expansive essay, which shows us what we have not yet seen of the ten-by-twelve-mile island in the British West Indies where she grew up.
Lyrical, sardonic, and forthright by turns, in a Swiftian mode, A Small Place cannot help but amplify our vision of one small place and all that it signifies.