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120Southern Cultures ton and his neighbors occurs in the film. In the numerous scenes of Sexton working in his corn field, he always appears alone. Johnson also includes in her documentary historical film footage of mountain people feeding chickens, making molasses, and hoeing in the fields. The images look archaic and reinforce the feeling that Sexton, who still strips kernels from ears of corn to save for garden seed, has outlived many of his generation. Similarly, music-making as a family tradition seems greatly changed. Sexton recalls singing with his sister Hettie when they were children, and serenading his wife, Virgi, before they were married. Throughout much of the film, however, we see Sexton as a solitary musician, playing and singing alone in his house on Bull Creek. At one point the filmmaker presents old family photographs of Morgan, Virgi, and four children. Why are these children not seen in the film? Do they still live in the community? If so, are they supportive of their father and his music-making? Or do they fit a pattern familiar to many traditional musicians of Sexton's generation in which their children and grandchildren lack a deep interest in many of the older cultural traditions of their forebears? A comparison with an older documentary film gives additional evidence for the increasing isolation of older music traditions in communities in Appalachia. In 1962, musician and filmmaker John Cohen released The High Lonesome Sound, a film that examined folk music traditions of southeastern Kentucky through the artistry of singer and banjo player, Roscoe Holcomb. In Cohen's film, Holcomb shares the screen with dancers, singers, and other musicians who work in the mines and attend church services in the local community. In the company of friends and family, Holcomb differs significantly from Morgan Sexton, who appears in the Appalshop film as a lone representative of a way of life that has now faded into the past. Cohen began his film by stating that music is not a reflection, but a "celebration of the hard life here in Kentucky. The home music and church singing are a way of holding on to the old dignity." Sexton also experienced his full share of hardships, and, like Holcomb and his neighbors, endures adversity without complaint. The music that he sings and plays is testimony to his acceptance of life, with all its joys and sorrows. Anne Johnson realizes that the older traditions that were once a vital part of cultural life in Appalachia have lost their vitality in local communities. Yet she also recognizes that their disappearance does not lessen their importance. At the conclusion of Sexton's last performance in the film, loud applause from an unseen audience lingers, continuing to be heard as the credits are viewed. It is a fitting tribute from the filmmaker, and from a younger generation, for an unselfish man and a master musician, and for the culture that shaped such a person. Homeplaces: The Social Use and Meaning of the Folk Dwelling in Southwestern North Carolina. By Michael Ann Williams. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1991. 202 pp. Cloth, $30.00. Reviewed by Chris Wilson, Professor at the University ofNew Mexico School ofArchitecture and Planning at Albuquerque. The study of the vernacular architecture of the United States flourished as never before during the 1970s and 1980s. The establishment of the National Register of Historic Places in 1966 and the subsequent funding of state historic building surveys unleashed architec- Reviews121 turai historians, cultural geographers, folklorists, and historic preservationists on cities, villages , and rural areas across the country. Academia responded simultaneously to the civil rights movement and the populist political climate by developing the New Social History, which focused on the often-overlooked everyday lives of common people, including their architecture. While early architectural surveys emphasized architectural style, materials, and construction techniques, by the late 1970s scholars had drawn attention to the floor plans of houses and had postulated a relationship between them and social use patterns. In the 1980s, scholars combed historic documents and turned to ethnographic observation to test this relationship. Michael Ann Williams's exhaustive use of oral history marks Homeplaces as a significant step in this maturation of...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-1488
Print ISSN
1068-8218
Pages
pp. 120-123
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
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