Melody of Need: The rise of community and music in western Appalachia
This essay was written as part of Kincentricity, a collection of woodblock prints and writing which explores the relational archetypes present between humans and the ecosystems which surround us.
The unraveling folds of the Appalachian mountains birthed legends for their easy secrets, for the amoebic spread of seeds and ideas, for the mystery which pervades their every molecule. The mountain dulcimer was birthed in similar fashion, arising like mist from the slopes of many regions at once. The instrument itself shifts like the region’s smoke that is not a smoke — with many names, shapes, designs, and sounds.
The slender body of the zither embodies a surprisingly full narrative, singing a modest hymn of intimacy. Instruments of all types of wood have been found, though a single dulcimer was usually crafted from a single species of wood.
Self-taught luthiers claimed whichever nearby tree was straightest, using carpentry staples for frets. It was never meant to play grand halls — its modest sound is right at home on back porches, where the chorded drone fills the spaces made by other instruments.
I wonder, did the living trees respond to this new song sung by the body of one of their brethren? Could the forest sense a need for celebration and community, offering up its blessings in order to connect newcomers to its depths?
Like Skywoman recently fallen to Turtle Island, settlers received a gift from the earth and offered song and dance in return. At some point, this balance shifted. The splinters of old growth forest are testament to the waning gratitude of those who claimed these lands.
The more we receive, the more blinded we become to the true gift being made to us. What is reciprocity in a world that values consumption over connection?