The NYTimes published the Ballad of Geeshie and Elvie about a little over a week ago and it made its way across my laptop screen, as articles like that tend to do.
It’s about “lost” musical recordings, gorgeous recordings, and a narrative of various writers and researchers tracking down information on female blues singers through their descendents, families and hoarders of information and recordings. It’s an interesting read, and beautifully written, but I found the beauty painful in a way I couldn’t articulate. There’s a lot of strands of thought about silence and visibility, about choices to step into, and out of, different kinds of limelight. I was reading it, listening to the music and weeping by the end, without being able to untangle why.
Luckily, I have smart friends: I’nasah and Sydette who write about music, technology & culture on weclapblack.tumblr.com and on Twitter (as @so_treu and @blackamazon). In their discussion via twitter, archived on Storify, they raise up the beauty of the music and the tangled violence of erasure and exposure… They bring in other music, raise questions. They remind us of Zorah Neale Hurston, a counterpoint to white anthropologists and journalists (which in turn reminds me of Daphne Brooks’ mesmerizing presentation at EMP Pop Conference about Black women in cars as symbols of more than bourgeois individualism, but of interdependence, freedom, and risk “Up All Night: Toward A Black Feminist Sublime Mobility “). So much to untangle, and really I couldn’t say it any better than they do: