When I asked my mom if she knew of any recordings of music at East Armuchee Baptist Church she at first told me no. Then, almost as if I had willed it into existence, a few days later my mother–rummaging through some old junk–found a bag of old cassette tapes. She wasn’t sure where the tapes had come from but decided they were probably from her mother (my Grannie). One of the tapes was labeled Singing Sermon. David Pruett, the pastor at East Armuchee since 1981, often sang for the congregation. Usually, he sang one song after the congregational singing was finished. But sometimes, on Sunday evenings, he did several songs in lieu of a sermon, dubbing them “singing sermons.”Read More
If you were to ask me what are the most important things to me, music would certainly be one of the top items on that list. Looking back as far back as I can remember music has always played an important role in my life. If you’ve been reading this blog, you know music has even played its part in my family history research.
Not long ago I asked my mother, “Do you think you have any audio tapes of music from East Armuchee back in the day?”
“No,” she responded. “I don’t think we ever recorded anything like that.”
I was disappointed but told her to ask around to see if anyone might have a recording. I wanted more than anything to redisocver the sound of that rural country church from my childhood. She didn’t think anyone would have anything, though.
I have so many music memories from that church. It wasn’t a particularly learned environment for music. There were no professional musicians and no formal choir… just like Scared Harp. It was a “do-it-yourself” sort of aesthetic, and I think that influenced me a lot in life in ways far beyond music.
For most of my childhood, East Armuchee used the Christian Praise hymnal, published in 1964 by Broadman Press. Christian Praise is a shaped note hymnal and relates to the Sacred Harp in that way. But out of 471 pieces, it contains only a couple of songs actually from The Sacred Harp hymnal. We always referred to this book as “the red hymnal.” These books contain bookplates at the front indicating who donated money for that hymnal, and to whose memory it was dedicated.Read More
Way back before Jordan’s Journey came out, I was doing all kinds of work, not only writing, photographing, and designing the book but also figuring out how this website was going to work, what I wanted to do for the book trailer, and of course the research itself. Almost everything I do as an artist has some purpose or meaning behind it. This sense of aesthetic plays an important role in what sets Jordan’s Journey apart from any other genealogy book I’ve ever seen.
The book trailer has its roots back in early 2011. It started with the poem that became the script for the trailer. And after that I just let it sit for a while. Creative ideas need time to incubate. By the time I visited the homeland in September 2011, things were ready to hatch. I filmed the principal photography for the trailer early one morning on the family farm. Editing didn’t happen for at least a few weeks but by the time I did start the work, I pretty much had it all laid out in my head… down to the music I wanted to use!
The music is from the album White Spirituals From The Sacred Harp and contains field recordings of the Alabama Sacred Harp Convention made by Alan Lomax in 1959. Sacred Harp is one of my favorite types of music.
I first encountered Sacred Harp in its proper form while studying music in New York City. When Professor Andrew Tomasello first dropped the needle and introduced us to the genre, it must have sounded completely foreign to my NYC-bred classmates. But it sounded instantly familiar for me and evoked images of my childhood. Though I did not grow up with Sacred Harp music proper, the music of the East Armuchee Baptist Church of my childhood was certainly influenced by this uniquely American style. We even used a shape note hymnal. I’ve always kept a copy of that Christian Praise hymnal and showed it to my music professor one day. He was intrigued by this artifact of Southern musical culture. Connecting that emotional part of my past to my new academic interests was the icing on the cake… as if fate had led me to New York in the first place. This is only one example of how creating Jordan’s Journey would not have been possible without moving away and studying art in the big city!Read More