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Cowboy Rounds (2016)

voice, piano, and live electronics, 30′

Cowboy Rounds is a song cycle for piano/vocalist and live electronic processing. This work “remixes” pre-existing source material culled from the John and Ruby Lomax 1939 Southern States Recording Trip, an ethnographic field collection hosted online by the Library of Congress.

Cowboy Rounds reexamines oral tradition and ownership through the lens of today’s internet-driven free culture movement. The folk recordings within the Lomax archive do not represent a final, unchangeable document, but rather a snapshot of each song, unique to its time, place, and performer. The lack of copyright in these field recordings invites current and future generations of musicians to continue developing the songs, either through digital manipulation of the recorded material itself or reconstructing elements of the recording through live performance. In that sense, Cowboy Rounds is a work deliberately caught between the ideological constructs of permanence and ephemera while building an intersection between new technologies and old traditions.

I. Christopher Columbo
II. Peafowl Holler
III. Worry Blues
IV. Down by the Rocky Mountains
V. The Dying Cowboy
VI. Ox Driving Song