Crankie? You Bet!

Crankie. That’s a word that describes Ellen Gozion. Oh sure, she sings with a translucent voice as she shares Appalachian songs, folk hymns, ballads and more, and spins spidery webs of 5-string banjo accompaniment around her lyrics, her tunes. Ellen’s enchanting performances include commentary. The listener steps into the setting of each song.

Ellen Gozion

Ellen Gozion

But is she crankie? Oh yes! Ellen’s revival of an ancient form of picture-story performance is called a crankie. It’s a panoramic scene, rolled up inside a box, then hand-cranked so that it scrolls across a viewing frame. A painted “powerpointless” presentation, the crankie illustrates the story Ellen tells in song.

Picture-story recitation in its earliest form involved the display of representational paintings accompanied by sung narration. Ancient forms of this practice in India, Indonesia, China, and Japan were carried to the Middle East and Europe. Eventually instrumental music and puppets augmented printed, painted, embroidered, or otherwise decorated narrative images. Mid-19th century advances in technology led to moving panoramas, which preceded cinema. A recent revival of interest in picture-story performance among artists, puppeteers and activists in the West will be represented at our next Music Department concert through Ellen’s  handmade crankies.

Join us Sunday afternoon at the Main Library for this month’s Sounds Upstairs concert. Ellen will sing and play, and tell us about her forays into the Music Department’s folk song collection to mine new/old material. She’ll also get crankie.

Sounds Upstairs: The Music Department’s Collection Comes to Life!
Sunday, November 3
3:30 — 4:30 PM
CLP – Main, International Poetry Room (second floor)

–Julie

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