chapter  4
19 Pages

Who Stole the Folk’s Music?

In 1940 and 1941 the Library of Congress sent two young amateur folklorists to California to record the music of the Okies and other farm migrants, on the assumption that they could gather the remnants of the Appalachian folksong tradition before they disappeared forever in the chaotic uprooting of the migrant communities. No enterprise better encapsulates the relationship between the country poor and the progressive intellectuals who sought to understand and assist their depressed condition. The unquestioned assumptions about the process of cultural transmission that underlay their mission, particularly their conviction that traditional Okie music was engaged in a last-ditch battle against commercial dilution, reveal today as much about the researchers as about the subjects of their investigation.