The Beautiful Music All Around Us weaves together field recordings with original research, period photos and footage, and first-person accounts. It highlights a dozen traditional musicians and singers, chiefly from three regions: Southern Appalachia, the Mississippi Delta, and the Great Plains.
The film explores the nature of folk creativity through these performers’ lives. It shows how these artists, drawing from songs, tunes, and stories passed across time and generations, molded intensely personal statements. Known by their signature sounds, one by one, they have made a difference.
Telling their stories
The film tells the life, times, and creative contributions of gifted musicians — Alabama-raised spiritual singer Vera Hall, Texas ranch-dance fiddler Jess Morris, and Kiowa flute maker and player Belo Cozad of Oklahoma.
Christine and Katherine Shipp, members of a Mississippi family band, transmitted a song that has since gone across the world, heard in the hushed tones of these two school-age sisters singing “Sea Lion Woman.”
Coal miner and carpenter Pete Steele, a banjoist from eastern Kentucky who came to live in southern Ohio, opened his home to countless youngsters seeking how he played the “Coal Creek March.”
Investigating folk creativity
These performers and others — inheritors and creators of their art — formed gospel quartets, carried forward Old World ballads, played banjo and fiddle music, and sang field hollers and blues. Whether they danced as children in their schoolyards or sang hushabies to lull their babies asleep, they illuminate the creativity all around us. Listening to these voices is to encounter a nation engaged in art.
Paul Wagner starts film production.