In music, as in life, “authenticity” is a fraught notion. Music fans frequently base their aesthetic identities on the honesty and integrity of their favorite musicians, and whole genres of criticism and scholarship are premised on such assertions. The OA has often waded in these contested waters, though rarely so vigorously as in our recent issue devoted to the music of Louisiana.
In one essay
, subtitled “The Anxiety of Authenticity,” Duncan Murrell offered a personal meditation on the music of New Orleans and its representation in HBO’s Treme
—and he made some critical observations concerning the legacy of John and Alan Lomax, the folklorists who pioneered the documentation and preservation of American music in the first half of the twentieth century.
Murrell’s essay provoked a strong response from a number of readers. We thought the conversation was worth staging in public, so the OA asked several distinguished authorities on American music to contribute responses. We will post one new response every Friday, starting on May 24, 2013. We invite readers to join the discussion in the comments sections.
The Anxiety Of Authenticity
Writer in Residence at the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke
Author of It Still Moves: Lost Songs, Lost Highways,
and the Search for the Next American Music
Thomas Chatterton Williams
Author of Losing My Cool
Jazz musician and author of
That Devilin’ Tune and Really the Blues?
An interview with Lance Ledbetter
Founder of Dust-to-Digital records
Guitarist, curator of the Alan Lomax Archive