Voices Journal Volume 2011: 1-2

Edited by Eileen Condon

Articles In This Volume

A Family History Quilt

I was raised in a small community called West Mountain, in the southern Adirondacks of New York. Family and friends all lived near one another, giving me a great out-of-the-way place to grow up. I am a third-generation quilter and fourth-generation seamstress. My grandmother, Viola White LaPier, taught me at a very early age how to make crazy quilts. I remember at age five or six going to my uncles’ lumber camp. While she cooked meals for the lumbermen, I would sit next to the wood stove stringing quilt triangles that she had cut out of old, worn wool pants. My great grandmother, Fanny Newton White, made the family’s clothing by hand, without the aid of a modern-day pattern. She could cut out and construct a dress just by looking at another one. I’m fortunate to have inherited some of those skills.

Annual Conference Roundup

The New York Folklore Society decided to blend these traditions at the 2010 conference with a new element: student presenters. In collaboration with New York University’s Latino studies and Latin American studies programs, we invited graduate students to present their work on the theme of Latino Folk Culture and Expressive Traditions on Saturday, November 20, at NYU.

Bagels and Genres

Conversations about bagels have something to teach us about the nature of genres and the study of material culture. I realized this a few years ago as I was sitting in an Einstein’s Bagels in Las Vegas that was decorated with standardized murals imitating 1930s Bauhaus design. I remembered a conversation with a friend a decade earlier about the authenticity of modern-day bagels—or lack thereof. But as I glanced at the “traditional” preparation with lox and capers alongside the sun-dried tomato variants, it occurred to me that it might be a false competition.

Bringing Old-Time Fiddling into the Twenty-First Century

The North American Fiddlers’ Hall of Fame and Museum is located in the township of Osceola, New York, in the Tug Hill region of northern New York. The hall of fame and museum was born along with its sister, the New York State Old Tyme Fiddlers’ Association, in 1976.... My grandmother, Alice Clemens—three times New York State ladies’ fiddling champion—was a cofounder of the museum and association. She thought it was important to document not only the lives of the hall of fame inductees, but also the lives and music of other fiddlers. She also worried that some of the older fiddlers might soon pass away without teaching anyone the tunes they played.

Downstate: Place Moments

“Unwittingly,” writes New York Times reporter Somini Sengupta, “I have turned into a student of light. The August light that envelops the beaten-down old streets of Red Hook, I have learned, is more melancholy than the morning light during lilac season in the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. The sun sparkling on the crown of the Chrysler building is whimsical, 'like a woman dressed for a party at high noon.'”

First Person: Never-Ending Pursuit of Rhythm

My name is Julissa Vale, a native New Yorker born of Puerto Rican emigrants. I do not remember a time in my life when the sound of music was not present. I was raised on Spanish ballads, salsa, and the Jíbaro music typical of rural Puerto Rico. During the holidays, bomba and plena were also played at home. The songs played in my household weren’t just from Puerto Rico, but from all over Latin America.

From Central Park Rumba with Love

Central Park Rumba is an internationally known music event. I first heard about it in Mexico City in 1980, described in great detail by Cesar Sandoval, a drummer who had lived in New York and frequented the rumba circle in the 1970s ...When traveling to Havana to visit my family in the 1990s, rumberos (rumba drummers) and other musicians asked me if I knew their rumba friends from Union City, the Bronx, and Central Park. I arrived at my first CP Rumba the second week of September 1994, my first week living in the city. There in Central Park, I was told that rumba was addictive. I got hooked! I became a regular to the scene.

From the Director

Folklorists can offer important insights on a community as tourism site. Drawing upon knowledge gained through ethnographic fieldwork, folklorists are able to provide interpretive frameworks for a better understanding of a community’s traditions and cultural arts and may have a broader vantage point on a community’s cultural assets.

From the Editor

The Spring–Summer 2011 issue of Voices brings readers another tasty mix of story, ethnography, and analysis of New York traditions, upstate and downstate. We open with SUNY–Oneonta English professor Jonathan Sadow’s “Bagels and Genres,” an insightful and witty musing on what—in critical theory, as in life—makes a bagel a bagel, from Vegas to Montreal to New York.

From the Waterfront: Fishing Perspectives

Since the nineteenth century, a tradition of sport fishing has existed alongside the centuries-old traditions of harvesting fish for subsistence and commercial purposes. Local commercial harvesters worked as fishing guides, earning extra income by taking paying guests—typically from New York City—to historically productive fishing areas on Long Island and in the Catskills, the Finger Lakes region, and the Adirondacks.

Good Spirits: Ghosts of the ICU

It was late at night, and the ICU’s waiting room looked dark and shadowy. On cots, chairs, and couches slept other patients’ family members. One kind nurse handed me two sheets; another gave me a list of nearby restaurants. Someone who had been resting in one of the chairs helped me transform a small couch into a bed.

Petanque in New York

First practiced in New York City in the 1930s (Pilate 2005, 109–10), the bowling game petanque has become visible in the public spaces of Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens, next to frisbee, badminton, volleyball, and tai chi. Today, this urban game is played by players of French origin (binational and expatriate), French-speaking immigrants of African origin, and increasingly numerous English-speaking players. This article uses ethnographic data I collected in 2009 and 2011 to describe petanque play in New York City, including different playing areas, the history of local petanque clubs, the hot moments of the annual calendar, ordinary practice, and the personal journeys and motivations of the players.

Play: Way Down upon the Hudson River

We have been singing his songs for more than 150 years—“Camptown Races,” “Oh! Susanna,”and “Old Folks at Home,” the one we called “Swanee”—with not much thought about who created them, for they seem to have sprung into life spontaneously, like folk songs. Those of us who thought we knew a thing or two about Stephen Collins Foster (1826–64) regarded him as a beautiful dreamer, an untutored country boy with a lucky gift for melody, an unworldy songster who permitted publishers to pirate his songs and others to take credit for their composition, a spendthrift alcoholic who died with thirty-eight cents to his name, a racist or at least a highly effective publicist for the South’s peculiar institution. All of these elements of the folk tradition prove upon examination to possess elements of truth without being true, and thus leave us no better prepared to understand Foster’s life as an artist.

Reviews: Review of Italian Folk: Vernacular Culture in Italian-American Lives

Masterfully arranged by the editor, the articles in this book comprise a sterling collection of Italian American folklore research. The organization of the work provides seamless transitions from essays on foodways to material culture, cultural landscape to explicit art forms, and largescale ceremonial events to religious belief, all situated in diverse locales from New York to California.

Songs: New York on the Half Shell

Over an average twelve-month period, the restaurant [Grand Central Oyster Bar] serves between fifty and seventy-five varieties of oysters. Each is somewhat different in appearance and taste, but nearly all are variants of the eastern oyster or Crassostrea virginica, the species native to the Atlantic and Gulf seaboards.

Still Going Strong: Milliner

The earliest head coverings were probably animal skins and were used primarily for warmth, rather than style. Over the millennia, however, women’s hats have reflected contemporary fashions, as well as the hairdos that were in vogue. During Greek and Roman times, women’s headwear included headdresses made of metal and ribbons intertwined in elaborate coiffeurs. In more modern times, women’s hats have gone in and out of style, but there has always remained a niche for milliners to create and modify women’s hats.

Upstate: Summertime ... and the Eating is Easy!

Summer really begins in the North Country on the Fourth of July. It ends on Labor Day. Cruel as that may seem to someone living south of here, most of us have learned to adapt....Summer is precious to us, so we cram lots of fun things into a few weeks. Some of the special things of summer for me are food treats we can’t get any other time of year. I’ll share some of my favorites.

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