From 1912 until his death Duke English professor and folklorist Frank Clyde Brown made it his mission to collect and preserve folk music, stories, games and traditions from all over North Carolina. In spring of 2017, I participated in the NC Jukebox course (History390S-01) at Duke University. NC Jukebox aims to illuminate Appalachian folk culture and explore how traditions of balladry remain alive today. In this course, I was able to spend the semester researching the history of folk music and become acquainted with Professor Brown’s extensive collection.
Over the semester, I fell in love with a particular set of singers from the collection. Nathan and Rena Hicks and their family were recorded by Professor Brown on July 28th, 1939 on Beech Mountain, North Carolina. The Hicks family are of English descent and likely settled in the Appalachian Mountains in the late eighteenth century. Due to their cultural and geographic isolation in the mountains, it is families like these that are largely responsible for the preservation and transmission of unique forms of cultural expression rooted in English (and early-American) traditions of ballad singing.
The songs in the Frank Clyde Brown Collection were originally recorded on wax cylinders and were only recently made available in an mp3 format. As a potential computer science major and music minor, I found the idea of digitizing the humanities extremely appealing. This inspired me to further explore this disciplinary intersection by creating a website for my research.
My goal for this site, ‘My NC Folk Journey’, is to create a digital space in which I can consider the ongoing preservation and evolution of folk culture in Western North Carolina. I also wanted to build an accessible resource, which could reach beyond the academic realm. To best navigate the site, I would recommend going through the menu in order.
With the help of Bass Connections Follow-on Funding, I was able to continue my research over the summer of 2017, spending more time with Professor Brown’s collection and making a visit to western North Carolina. The page, posts refers to several blog posts I wrote to keep track of my research progress and ideas.