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A Mixed-Methods Study of Affective Difference in the Old-Time Music Revival in Appalachian Virginia and North Carolina


This dissertation examines differences in affective response to music among players of Appalachian old-time music, primarily in Appalachian Virginia and North Carolina. While a small number of musicians with family or community links to previous generations of old-time musicians in this area still play the music today, the majority of contemporary old-time musicians come to old-time as cultural outsiders. Cultural, socio-economic, and political differences are easily observed when these two types of musicians come in contact with one another, but significant differences also exist in the domains of musical behavior and experience between insiders and outsiders. These differences likely serve as a catalyst for the animosity that some insider musicians have towards certain outsider musicians, yet they have been mostly unaddressed in the extant research on the old-time revival. Under ideal conditions, and usually in jam sessions, some old-time musicians (usually outsiders) claim to experience altered states of consciousness that can be variously understood as “flow,” “trance,” or “strong experiences with music.” Other musicians (usually insiders) deny ever having such experiences, yet they are heavily invested in this music and derive great pleasure from their involvement with it. The sound and structure of the music in these jam sessions seems to be more important to outsiders in facilitating these altered states than are extra-musical factors (e.g., the historical significance of a tune), which tend to be more important to insiders’ experiences. To investigate these observations in a more systematic way participant-observation and semi-structured interviews were combined with empirical survey data on personality and demographic factors, musical preferences, and affective response to music in order to examine relationships between these factors. These data together suggest that there are significant and widespread differences in the way that certain subgroups experience old-time music and that, for my participants, Openness to Experience and related constructs correlate strongly with differences in musical behavior and experience. The dissertation concludes with suggestions for how this mixed method approach could be used to investigate other phenomena of interest to both ethnomusicologists and music psychologists, such as the parallel revival tradition of Sacred Harp singing.
Thesis (Ph.D. -- Brown University (2015)

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Wood, David H., "A Mixed-Methods Study of Affective Difference in the Old-Time Music Revival in Appalachian Virginia and North Carolina" (2015). Ethnomusicology Theses and Dissertations. Brown Digital Repository. Brown University Library.