In the late 1920s, a state panel called the Vermont Commission on Country Life asked Helen Hartness Flanders, a well-connected socialite from Springfield, to document Vermont's traditional music. Like an Alan Lomax for the Green Mountains, Flanders traveled the state with a Model T full of recording equipment, calling on everyday Vermonters to sing into her microphone.
Flanders accumulated a cache of one-of-a-kind recordings that mainly captured the sounds of European settlers and their descendants. But she's just one of a long line of Vermonters who have dedicated themselves to preserving the sound of our state, believing that Vermont music tells us something about who we are.
In this podcast, we talk to Middlebury College special collections curator Rebekah Irwin and performer Linda Radtke about Flanders' collection. Plus, documentarian Mark Greenberg and Big Heavy World founder James Lockridge show that there's more to the history of Vermont music than English ballads.