"America is all around here": An ethnography of Bluegrass music in the contemporary Czech Republic

Bidgood, Lee Butler, Department of Music, University of Virginia
Will, Richard, Department of Music, University of Virginia
Kisliuk, Michelle, Department of Music, University of Virginia
Butler, Melvin

"America is all around here": An ethnography of Bluegrass music in the contemporary Czech Republic Lee Butler Bidgood Bluegrass is a country music subgenre with strong ethnic and regional associations in the U.S-and an extensive history and currency in the Czech Republic. Through the Czech twentieth century, a variety of musical "Americanisms" have provided a soundtrack to political and personal resistance, serving as a traditionalist stand-in for local folklore. This history informs the bluegrass sounds that resonate in the complex terrain of post-communism and the EU era. My ethnographic account of bluegrass music in the Czech Republic today highlights the efforts of Czechs whose "Americanist" musical projects lie in-between the local and the global., the past and the present, the familiar and the foreign. I present three case studies where I show how Czech "bluegrassers" create self and community through re-creation of Americanness: 1) I draw on my insight as a fiddler as I questions Czech fiddle players' articulations of the problems they face as music learners, comparing their performances of Americanness with my own socioaesthetic emplacement as a musician and researcher. 2) Much of Czech bluegrassers' immanent, vibrant, faithful, local activity is based in traffic with distant, transcendent ideals. In a chapter focusing on sacred repertory, I find that despite authenticity concerns and contradictions of language, place, and belief they confront, my Czech colleagues find ways to sing "gospel" truthfully and faithfully, and are transformed and transported through participatory virtuosity. 3) The global discourse of bluegrass includes travel, tourism, and trade. As with my research, this transnational music takes place at the iv level of the person. I examine three distinctive "microdiscourses" through which Czechs outline the space of their bluegrass projects: touring to perform in other European countries, the construction and sale of banjos, and bluegrass-oriented pilgrimages Czechs make (and do not make) to the United States. In this project I seek to present an academic equivalent (or at least an answer) to the "in-between" and yet powerfully satisfying performative work my Czech colleagues create in their bluegrass play.

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PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
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