This Sacred Harp hymnal belonged to Clarence Ralph Jackson (1867-1929), grandfather of Letha Delores Jackson Grigsby.

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!

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