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Dena Epstein - "Librarian & the Banjo" film

Stilly River Sage 23 Nov 15 - 10:18 AM
GUEST,leeneia 23 Nov 15 - 12:11 PM
Stilly River Sage 23 Nov 15 - 02:42 PM
GUEST,Hootenanny 24 Nov 15 - 11:27 AM
Stilly River Sage 24 Nov 15 - 12:59 PM
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Subject: Dena Epstein - "Librarian & the Banjo" film
From: Stilly River Sage
Date: 23 Nov 15 - 10:18 AM

I am listening to this documentary as I type. A search at Mudcat on the DT shows (as of today) 16 hits for "Dena Epstein," who, as the YouTube blurb says, "wrote the book on slave music, proving that Africans brought to the New World carried a rich musical culture, including an instrument that evolved into the banjo." The Super Search shows almost four screens of results that on several occasions refer to her book Sinful Tunes and Spirituals: black folk music to the Civil War.

This post is preaching to the choir as far as serious musicians who research the source of their songs or instruments. For everyone else, this is a "must see" documentary. Not only for musicians, for folk musicians, but for those researchers who wonder what they can contribute to important discourse. Epstein was a librarian who spent some years as a stay-home mom who was bored with the PTA and wanted to do something research-wise that was meaningful in her spare time. What she started then expanded to become a huge part of her life's work.

Art Thieme refers to her on a couple of occasions and I wouldn't be at all surprised to learn that they knew each other (does anyone know?)

This film was just added to YouTube on Nov. 13, 2015. The Librarian and the Banjo. Epstein wrote bibliographies, papers, and monographs in her fields of study. WorldCat search results. If that isn't a durable result, go to and enter her name.

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Subject: Re: Dena Epstein - "Librarian & the Banjo" film
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 23 Nov 15 - 12:11 PM

I tried watching it, I really tried.

But ya know, shortly after the American civil war, two Union officers published a collection to show that southern blacks had beautiful music. ("Rise Up Shepherd and Follow" was one of the beloved songs in it") So the documentarians' assumption that all white people think all black people are musically crude is not only irritating, it's uninformed.

And it takes them too long to get to the point - to start telling the story. You know how YouTube has a button that says "Skip Ad"?
I'd like a button that says "Skip Sermon."

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Subject: RE: Dena Epstein - "Librarian & the Banjo" film
From: Stilly River Sage
Date: 23 Nov 15 - 02:42 PM

I'm sorry you felt that way, Leenia. I found it fascinating from the very beginning. And since I didn't know about the one book you mention from the Civil War era, I had a lot to learn.

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Subject: RE: Dena Epstein - "Librarian & the Banjo" film
From: GUEST,Hootenanny
Date: 24 Nov 15 - 11:27 AM

An excellent film about a wonderful dedicated lady.

Leeneia, I suggest that you try again and watch the whole film.

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Subject: RE: Dena Epstein -
From: Stilly River Sage
Date: 24 Nov 15 - 12:59 PM

Epstein was a bibliographer, first and foremost. She tracked down many sources of information that shared this citation information, probably including the book Leenia mentioned. She played library detective to reveal these gems of information and its up to everyone else to do something with it - or not.

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