Type of Document Dissertation Author Fry , Robert Webb Author's Email Address firstname.lastname@example.org URN etd-04082010-163356 Title "We Are the Blues: Individual and Communal Performances of the King Biscuit Tradition" Degree Doctor of Philosophy Department Music, College of Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title Frank D. Gunderson Committee Chair Denise Von Glahn Committee Member Michael B. Bakan Committee Member Leigh H. Edwards University Representative Keywords
- Fan Culture
Date of Defense 2010-03-29 Availability unrestricted AbstractThe rapid decline of regional American identity throughout the twentieth and twenty-first centuries and a subsequently increasing recognition and interest in America’s cultural past have resulted in the promotion of small-town America as a tourist destination. Local communities throughout the country exhibit local culture and present their homes as theatrical spaces where tourists are permitted and encouraged to experience the “real” America, believed by many to be disappearing in an increasingly homogeneous society.
In this dissertation, I present an ethnography that explores the formation and continuance of Helena, Arkansas, as a tourist destination and as a music place. I illustrate that Helena’s adopted blues identity emerged and has evolved through a history of complex socio-musical interactions between host and guest cultures and between individuals and institutions. More importantly, I explore the larger issue of the blues as a signifier of “tradition,” arguing that, for many attendants, the blues serve as a soundtrack while the city serves as a performative space that permits the creation, performance, and remembrance of newly formed social traditions occurring within the festival space and larger musical tradition.
This dissertation provides insight into the role of the fan, both local and visitor, in the establishment and realization of a music place. Through the theatrics of tourism, both Helena and its connection to the blues tradition is revitalized each October, resulting in a presentation of Helena that meets the desires of both host and guest communities. While the city during the festival is promoted as an “authentic” portrayal of the Delta and the historic blues tradition, I suggest that the personal experiences and newly formed social traditions that occur during the time and space of the festival result in the realization of an authentic tourist and local experience.
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