Place, Space, and Genre: Making Bluegrass Boundaries Czech

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Bluegrass music was formed, in part, to be part of the soundtrack of emigration from the American South to industrial centers. The texts of some widely enjoyed bluegrass songs express the losses in this transition, often in longing for far-off, idealized places. Through a decade of ethnographic research on bluegrass in the Czech Republic, I have found Czech bluegrass - related music makers articulate a more globally expanded experience of dislocation and desire. Czech fans and musicians alike (bluegrassers") have blurred some genre and style boundaries as they have adapted American forms for local usage. Infusing the European landscape with "far away" ideas and tropes, Czech bluegrassers create "country" spaces that have flourished and diversified through political and social changes since the introduction of the music in the 1950s. These idealized “real-imaginary” spaces allow participants to reinterpret and reshape their social and natural environments. Part of today¹s global bluegrass scene, Czech bluegrass projects also connect with local folk and folklore milieus, as well as Czech musical and political history. Balancing a sense of locality with cosmopolitan elements bluegrassers shape the particular ‘country’ in which their music resounds. Following Melinda Reidinger and Ruth Gruber in addressing questions of self-realization through "real-imaginary" recreation in the Czech lands, I describe how bluegrass-related music-making has persisted, flourishing, through political and social changes, affording participants a way of interpreting and reshaping their physical and social environments through the idealized soundscapes connected to American music."


Indianapolis, IN

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