A Little Night of Georgia Music

About three months ago I mentioned that we were having a concert filmed for public television in our venue. We recently got word that it will make its broadcast debut on Georgia Public Broadcasting on July 4. After that, it will be available to stations around the country on their schedule. (So hint, hint, you should nudge your local stations to air it.)

The show is comprised of music by Georgia musicians including, R.E.M., Ray Charles, The Allman Brothers, Outkast, Ray Charles, and B-52s.  The show is a project by Mike Mills of R.E.M., classical violinist Robert McDuffie, and Chuck Leavell formerly of The Allman Brothers and currently keyboardist for Rolling Stones.

The show features Concerto for Violin, Rock Band and String Orchestra composed by Mills. The string orchestra performing in the recording comes from the McDuffie Center for Strings at Mercer University.

A little bit of a preview below. I am sure there is more video to come.

Curiosity Satisfied By A Strange Answer

I am not sure how I came across the article, but this Fall I came across an interview on The First Peoples Fund website with master traditional folk artist Kevin Locke. In the course of the conversation, Locke notes that what is widely known as the Native American flute is a pretty recent invention that wasn’t really part of the traditional cultural practices. The bolded section is the interviewer’s question. I don’t seem to see the interviewer identified.

In 1983 or 1982, a German American named Michael Graham Allen invented the Native American flute. It’s based on the Japanese wind instrument called a shakuhachi. I asked Allen why he did that. He said he made an original Indigenous flute but he didn’t know how to market it. He came upon this tuning system based on the Japanese shakuhachi and renamed it as a Native American flute….Pretty soon, everybody all over the world got interested in this instrument. But it’s not an Indigenous North American musical aesthetic. It’s basically Japanese. But the beautiful thing about it — and I’m not knocking it, I’m just saying people need to be aware where this instrument comes from…

And the instrument sounds so good! There are thousands of Native American flute music recordings that are just improvisational. I don’t want to discredit the music. I think it’s a great thing, but it has nothing to do with Indigenous tradition.

That in itself is a problem because the original genre associated with the Indigenous flute is a classic poetic or literary style that comes from the woodlands in the Great Lakes area, Northern Plains, and Southern Plains. And it existed for so many generations because the genre has characteristics that are uniform across most of North America. It’s a formulaic compositional pattern, even though the songs are diverse within themselves.

That’s so wild. First, I didn’t know the history of the Native American flute. Initially I had mixed feelings about its non-Indigenous origins. But what I’m hearing is that this musical instrument lifts your creativity. Is that accurate? 


I don’t know exactly how to process this since it pretty much seems like a type of cultural exploitation. Though I don’t know if the article provides enough information to determine that either if it was an Indigenous instrument that had Japanese tuning and was marketed as a Native American flute.  The situation is confusing and  Locke frames it in a very gracious way and seems to indicate that it has been a medium through which other Native artists have found success. It seems like it might have been invented in the name of Indigenous peoples but they also have primary ownership of it.

It does, however, clarify my previous general sense that Japanese and Indigenous cultures developed a similar musical instrument independently of each other. Not so much I guess.  I thought it worth following Locke’s suggestion about raising awareness of the instrument’s origins and posting about it.

On Hiatus

Apologies to my readers. The departure of some staff and absence of others has placed me in a situation where I can no longer post regularly. Hopefully this will resolve itself soon and I can return to my regular schedule. Until then, I hope you will continue to remain subscribed so you will receive notifications when my posts begin again.

I appreciate everyone’s support over the years.

Thank you

When You Actually Want Your Sidewalk To Fall To Disrepair

More great stories of artists being part of infrastructure projects, this time from a Next City article that came out last week. I have written about these type of projects before and one of my favorite go-to examples is the Green Line project in St. Paul, MN which employed artists to help mitigate the impact light rail construction on nearby businesses.

This recent Next City piece discusses a similar effort in the small town of Grand Marais, MN that was also seeing the impact of construction:

She began by interviewing village residents about detours in their lives and turned their stories into a playful scavenger hunt of signage that reframed the construction as an exploration of unexpected life shifts. Detour signs sharing personal life stories are now installed throughout the village. With artist collaboration, this infrastructure project became an opportunity to turn road detour signs into messages of community joy.

In the article they talk about artist-in-residence programs in cities, both large and small, and the impact the artists have had on planning and design. However, what really caught my eye was another project in St. Paul, MN – Sidewalk Poetry.

“In St. Paul, Minnesota, artist Marcus Young turned common sidewalks into atlases of community stories by inviting residents to share poems printed in the concrete. City residents are invited annually to submit their poems for consideration to be printed into sidewalks as they are scheduled for replacement across the city by the public works department. Young saw this system-based work as a re-imagining of the city’s annual sidewalk maintenance program in which the city replaces 10 miles of sidewalk a year, a way to enhance a civic system to give it a new sense of relevance and appreciation.”

In the article linked in the quoted section above, they emphasize the fact that only sidewalks slated for replacement are part of the program, “never in new development, ensuring that the poems are able to be found across the entire city.” The project solicited poems in the languages of groups with high representation in St. Paul, including English, Spanish, Hmong, Somali and Dakota.

The project involves an interesting mix of priorities. While some people will request that a poem not appear in front of their home or business, the city is not able to fulfill all the requests they receive to place a poem in a specific place because they strive to balance where the poems are placed and because not every patch of sidewalk requires repair.