As I talk about in my thesis, an autoethnography on the experimental music scene of Boone, North Carolina, I had no idea what I would study when I began my Master’s program in Appalachian Studies at Appalachian State University. I became interested in Appalachia and region studies through reading Wendell Berry books and essays. I entered the interdisciplinary program with the intention of pursuing the sustainable development interest. Well, the agricultural emphasis of this particular sustainable development program turned out not to interest me and I leaned more toward the sociocultural track and the anthropologist faculty members in the program.
I knew I wanted to write a thesis because I had deeply regretted not having the opportunity to do so as an English/English Education undergraduate. I just didn’t know what I could offer as an Appalachian outsider. Thankfully, the faculty were open to non-traditional research methods and, despite some warnings that it might not be a good idea, I decided I would try an autoethnographic project about my experience in a local experimental music community.
In This is How We Do: Living and Learning in an Appalachian Experimental Music Community, I succeeded in telling the story of a dynamic, often unseen, local music community that had emerged out of punk and evolved since the late 1970s into a more experimental community. I linked the culture of this community to theories about individuals becoming active, performing participants in making and remaking diverse figured worlds of music. This process intersected with experiences of cultural regional identity and sense of place.
One of the ways in which I did not succeed was making this work accessible to the community at large. I could have done this in a number of ways. I could have included more photos of individuals and artifacts in the actual thesis itself. I could have built a website with multimedia elements including photographs, videos, and audio edits of my interviews. Plenty of people have found and read at least parts of the thesis, though. Occasionally, I’ll still receive a random email from someone connected to the music communities I talk about in my thesis. Those surprise communications always surprise and bring me joy. Nevertheless, this is where I trace the beginning of my desire to communicate and teach using a more multimedia approach.
Fortunately, there are some videos pertaining to this evolving scene in Boone, NC: