Part 1 - David McCormick
Free and enslaved Black musicians greatly enriched the musical culture of Virginia from the early days of slavery onward. The sounds of enslaved fiddlers were heard on Mulberry Row and in the great house at Monticello. Sally Hemings’ son with Thomas Jefferson, Eston Hemings, became a well-known fiddler upon moving to Chillicothe, Ohio and the band he led was part of a distinguished lineage of string bands in that region. Thomas Jefferson visited Jesse Scott, a free Black man and accomplished fiddler, often in his Main Street home in downtown Charlottesville. The Scott family would play their fiddles for Jefferson, and even provided the musical entertainment for Lafayette’s visit to Charlottesville in 1824. Other distinctive sounds of Black music during this time were the gourd banjo and jaw harp. Dozens of examples of the latter have been excavated in a variety of locations at Monticello.
Part 2 - Loren Ludwig
Black people, both enslaved and free, were active participants in nearly all aspects of music making in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Virginia. While there is something of a historiographic tradition of imagining certain musical activities as "white" (such as the aristocratic musical gatherings in Williamsburg and later Monticello that were so important to Jefferson), archival evidence suggests otherwise. Yet, as we know, patterns in the survival of evidence do not allow for an easy reconstruction of specific musical acts featuring Black people--musical recording technology would not emerge for nearly a century, much music was not notated, and few instruments have survived intact. This presents a historiographic and interpretive challenge: how do we tell the story of music making at Monticello and elsewhere in Virginia during the colonial and revolutionary periods that registers the complex and multivalent interactions between white and Black people? How do we avoid a reductive account of musical activities as "white" or "Black," while relying on written and material sources that often strategically silenced musical acts that involved Black people? Ludwig will discuss a range of eighteenth-century archival accounts (and a couple discoveries!) of Black participation in music making that suggest new historiographic approaches to the age old--and now somewhat urgent--challenge of recounting the racial complexity of American musical history.
Baroque violinist David McCormick is Artistic Director of Early Music Access Project (EMAP), a rotating group of musicians bringing a wide range of early music to Charlottesville and surrounding communities. In addition to his work with EMAP, David is a member of medieval ensemble Alkemie and Executive Director of Shenandoah Valley Bach Festival.
Loren Ludwig is a scholar/performer based in Baltimore, MD. He researches what he describes as "polyphonic intimacy," the idea that music in the Western tradition is constructed to foster social relationships among its performers and listeners. Loren is a co-founder of LeStrange Viols and Science Ficta and performs with ACRONYM, EMAP, and numerous ensembles in the US and abroad. He also serves as program coordinator for the program in the Arts, Humanities, & Health at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.