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Play of a Fiddle: Traditional Music, Dance, and Folklore in West Virginia

by Gerald Milnes

Availablepaperback$30.00x 978-0-8131-9326-7
Out of Printcloth$40.00s 978-0-8131-2080-5
264 pages  Pubdate:   6 x 9  

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Play of a Fiddle gives voice to people who steadfastly hold to and build on the folk traditions of their ancestors. While encountering the influences of an increasingly overwhelming popular culture, the men and women in this book follow age-old patterns of folklife and custom, making their own music and dance in celebration of them. Shedding new light on a region that maintains ties to the cultural identities of its earliest European and African inhabitants, Gerald Milnes shows how folk music in West Virginia borrowed rhythmic, melodic, and vocal forms from the Celtic, Anglo, Germanic, and African traditions. These elements have come together to create a body of music tied more to place and circumstance than to ethnicity.

Milnes explores the legacies of the state's best-known performers and musical families. He discusses religious music, balladeering, the influence of black musicians and styles, dancing, banjo and dulcimer traditions, and the importance of old-time music as a cultural pillar of West Virginia life. A musician himself, Milnes has been collecting songs and stories in West Virginia for more than twenty-five years. The result is an enjoyable book filled with anecdotes, local history, and keen observations about musical lives.

Gerald Milnes is the Coordinator of Folklife Programs at the Augusta Heritage Center of Davis & Elkins College.

An excellent step toward giving West Virginia’s musical heritage its rightful place in American musical study. -- American Music

Has much to offer for the fiddler who would like to develop conceptual understanding of the fiddle’s place in history and society. -- American String Teacher

Goes a long way toward enlightening readers about traditional music in central West Virginia. . . . A fascinating look at the culture that enjoys, plays, preserves, and protects that music. -- Appalachian Journal

An enjoyable book filled with anecdotes, local history, and keen observations about musical lives. -- Appalachian Quarterly

Milnes has combined his passion for the subject and his abiding respect for the people of West Virginia with carefully researched material and his own field notes and recordings. -- Choice

Milnes counters many of the myths surrounding West Virginian folk culture. -- Ethnomusicology

Essential reading for anyone interested in mountain music. -- Goldenseal

A gem of a book. . . . Worth a great deal more than fiddler’s pay for those interested in traditional mountain music. -- Green Man Review

The information, particularly that on the dulcimer tradition, is exceedingly important to those of us who would try to understand the meaning of the legacy of old-time music making in the upland South. -- Jeff Todd Titon

Documents a thriving folk culture in West Virginia, one that has changed and evolved over this century. Using numerous interviews he has conducted over the past 20 years, Milnes shows how folk music is an ageless expression of deep feelings and how it reveals the values and identity of a mountain culture. -- McCormick (SC) Messenger

There is something for everyone: local histories and folkways, colorful expressions, rough and rowdy characters. No doubt it will stir the memories of many West Virginians, and hopefully inspire younger Mountaineers to keep the traditions going. -- West Virginia Gazette-Mail