Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award

2013

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

M.A. in Southern Studies

Department

Southern Studies

First Advisor

David Wharton

Second Advisor

Charles R. Wilson

Third Advisor

Kathryn McKee

Relational Format

dissertation/thesis

Abstract

This thesis traces the various physical and metaphorical journeys south of Chicago musician Andrew Bird. Using what historical record is publicly available, I examine Bird's formal musical training. I then explore the years between 1995 and 2001, or what I call Bird's period of apprenticeship. Next is an exploration of the canonical narratives surrounding the blues of the Mississippi Delta, especially the music of Charley Patton. When Andrew Bird encountered a canon, or dominant histories and meanings of southern music that influence how musicians play and how audiences interpret that music, he began to react against that canon in his own compositions and performances. Next I investigate this notion of a canon of southern music with particular attention paid to Bird's album Armchair Apocrypha (2007) - apocrypha being narratives that exist alongside a canon. I also address certain technological shifts in Bird's performance methodologies in this time period that further the reach of bird's apocrypha. I look at Bird's recent engagement with gospel music, where Charley Patton raises his head again, and argue that Bird adopts a gospel-inflected performance model that invites an invisible third, or a ghost, into the relationship between performer and audience. Using the work of Avery Gordon and Joseph Roach, I argue that bird has taken on a condition of haunting in his recent recordings and performances, that his performances are spaces for his audiences to take on a similar condition of haunting, and that his performances are about, among other things, encountering and learning to live with the deep, unspeakable trauma of the colonization of the new world. I end with a forecast, looking at bird's recent work in light of these patterns of haunting, and suggesting some themes to keep track of in Bird's work - including Bird's symbolic return to Chicago in light of his journeys south.

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