Shawnee, Ohio (2019)
Shawnee, Ohio is a sonic portrait––past and present, real and imagined––of a small Appalachian town in the United States.
Performed with sampled archives, video, field recordings, and live musicians, Shawnee, Ohio critically engages ecology, energy, place, and personal history to ask: What are the stories of people from a rural town? What are their memories and thoughts of mining? Of fracking? What are the sounds of a town fighting to survive after a century of economic decline and environmental degradation? These sounds are used as compositional material reflecting layers of history in Appalachian Ohio. Shawnee’s history includes coal, gas, oil, and clay extraction, and the formation of early labor unions. The town’s downturn and partial restoration act as an ethos of the struggles and hopes of the larger region, now immersed in a controversial fracking boom. Shawnee, Ohio considers these histories, evokes place through sound, and listens to the present alongside traces of the past.
Together, the music, photos, and video focus on eleven aural portraits of local residents recounting their lives, work, friendships, and deeds. They talk and sing of mining, disasters, underground fires, murders, social life, protest, and hope. They include women and men; they are black and white; and they are across generations and centuries. I weave their voices together with my own experiences of visiting Shawnee, and recount the story of my grandfather Mordecai Williams as a young man living there. Past and present are tangled together through music, images, and words.
Shawnee, Ohio is co-commissioned by the Wexner Center for the Arts at The Ohio State University, Duke Performances at Duke University, and the Contemporary Arts Center (Cincinnati). Shawnee, Ohio is a project of Creative Capital, and also received funds from the Ohio Arts Council. Its premiere was at the Wexner Center on October 27 and 28, 2016.
October 27-8, 2016 (3 performances)
Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, Ohio
October 29, 2016
Tecumseh Theater, Shawnee, Ohio
October 31 - November 4, 2016
National Performance Network Residency and Performance
Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, Ohio
March 20, 2018
Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra's Liquid Music Series, Minnesota
March 30, 2018
Kenyon College, Gambier, Ohio
October 26-7, 2018 (2 performances)
Duke Performances, Durham, North Carolina
PART 1: TOWN AND PEOPLE
1. Jim : Remembers the people and buildings of Shawnee
2. Boy : Asks his grandmother about the "olden days"
3. Amanda : Sings a murder ballad from Gore, Ohio: "Terrill"
4. Lucy : Talks of playing music and social life
PART 2: MINING AND DISASTER
5. Judd : Recalls working as a miner and mine inspector
6. Sigmund : Describes the Millfield Mine explosion of 1930
7. Reuben : Sings of the New Straitsville Mine fires, 1884-present
8. Ina : Sings another murder ballad from Gore: "Pearl Bryan"
PART 3: PROTEST AND HOPE
9. Jack : Resists fracking in the Wayne National Forest, 2012
10. John : Listens to music and community in Rendville
11. Neva : Sings "My Station's Gonna Be Changed" in Murray City