This track considers the twin legacies of folk forms as both sophisticated musical systems and romanticized props of American colonization and imperialism. This piece centers on a heavily processed and resampled blues guitar chord progression from Candy Man Blues by Mississippi John Hurt and the vocals of “Creek Lullaby” a lullaby sung by a young Creek Indian woman from a Lawrence, Kansas Indian Boarding School; she is credited simply as “Margret.” “Creek Lullaby” was recorded by Professor Willard Rhodes in 1940 for the Library of Congress as an addition to their massive archive of “native” and “worldly” musics. While the context of the recording as ethnographic research differs somewhat from Hurt’s blues recordings, the relationships to documentation and extinction are related.
The history of the recording of the blues extends from, yet strains against a culture of white surveillance and documentation. The recording of the Prison Blues and the Delta Blues by ethnographers like the Lomaxes arose from a tradition of documenting and archiving black musics and the musics of Others that were “in danger of extinction.” Indigenous peoples’ musics in particular were described as perpetually “vanishing.” Yet, if not for the violent and protracted documentation, collection and archiving of indigenous cultures that accompanied their subjugation, American Anthropology would have gone extinct. One culture’s prosperity ensured or required another culture’s romanticized extinction. Often the archived objects of indigenous cultures we might encounter in museums, libraries and universities under glass, attest to the living death of American colonization. This piece asks questions of this history in relation to the formal process of archiving/death.