Table of Contents

Louisiana Folklife: An Introduction

Louisiana Folklife: An Introduction, Nicholas R. Spitzer

Ethnicity, Region, Occupation and Family

Documenting Tradition

Documenting Tradition: Louisiana Folklife and Media, Nicholas R. Spitzer
The Vietnamese Documentary Project, Mark Sindler
Recording Louisiana Folk Music for Arhoolie Records, Chris Strachwitz

Folklife and Public Policy

Public Sector Attention to Folklife in the United States, Archie Green
Folklife and Public Policy In Louisiana
A Folklife Plan for the State of Louisiana, F. A. de Caro
Folklife and Education, C. Paige Gutierrez
Folklife and the Department of Culture, Recreation, and Tourism
Office of Cultural Development: Division of the Arts, Louisiana Folklife Program, Division of Historic Preservation, Division of Archeology
Office of State Museum
Office of Tourism
Office of State Parks
Office of the State Library


1. Resources in Research, Preservation, and Presentation of Louisiana Folklife
2. Doctoral Dissertations/Masters Theses Relevant to Louisiana Folklife
3. Film and Video on Louisiana Folklife
4. Louisiana Folk Music on Sound Recordings
5. Louisiana Festivals -- Traditional and Otherwise
6. Louisiana State Documents Relevant to Folklife
7. Oral History and Folklife
8. Louisiana Folklife Legislation/Louisiana Folklife Commission
9. Louisiana Folklife Survey

Documenting Tradition: Louisiana Folklife and Media

This section is devoted to the relationships between traditional culture and documentary media forms. It will be seen that some media, such as the folk music LP of the current day or the film by Les Blank about Cajuns, are conscious attempts to record and present the producer's vision of folk culture to a broader audience. However, early 78-rpm recordings of blues and present-day Cajun music radio shows are, on the other hand, often unwitting but equally important documents of traditional arts forms. Efforts to document folk culture today may range from video recordings of a complex crafts process for use by a local Indian tribe to preserve their cultural heritage to the recording of an almost extinct music style such as Afro-French jurer singing for research into the roots of rural Creole music. From the most commercial film about Louisiana festivals to the most academic recording of ancient ballads, the documentary media can have a profound impact on the way the public thinks about folk communities and the way folk communities think about themselves.

This section is composed of two survey articles about the use of and impact of the media in relation to Louisiana Folk culture. Each overview article is accompanied by a shorter, more specific example of the work of a particular media documentor. Nicholas Spitzer's essay about the role of media in documenting folk culture is primarily devoted to photography, film, and video, though he does deal briefly with radio and records. This is followed by photographer Mark Sindler's summary of his work to date documenting Indo-Chinese populations in south Louisiana. Stephen Tucker's essay is a broad historical overview of how Louisiana folk music traditions have evolved over time, specifically in relation to the recording industry and local radio programming. It is followed by the comments of Chris Strachwitz of Arhoolie Records about his extensive experiences in recording and reissuing Louisiana folk music on records. Readers interested in listings of Louisiana folklife films and videotapes, and Louisiana folk music recordings should consult appendix 3 and 4 respectively.

In the opening essay that follows, frameworks for understanding the relationship between folk cultures and various media are examined. It is seen that the commercial broadcast media may have a tendency to oversimplify folk culture as when traditional life becomes a quaint "short" for the six o'clock news. However, a well-done TV report can also give important recognition for a folk performer of community. Commercial documentation of folk culture as a news feature is not necessarily bad, and a lengthy documentary film is not automatically good. Rather, there are good and bad ways to do either sort of work. A long work with serious pretentions but poor research or technical qualities can do more harm than good. Ideally any media document of folk culture involved the joining of people with media skills with those who know a culture and how to present it. The results should be product that meets broadcast or archival standards (depending on the use) and give an accurate, undamaging picture of a performer or community. Nichols R. Spitzer has worked with the Louisiana Folklife Program of the state's Division of the Arts since 1978. He has produced several LPs of Louisiana folk music, served as a field photographer and worked with National Public Radio in producing a 90-minute program, "Bon Cher Camarade: Cajun and Creole Music of Southwest Louisiana." A Ph.D. candidate in anthropology at the University of Texas, he recently completed a video about zydeco music.