Honey from the Lion: A Companion Soundscape

For Ecotone Magazine

Section Crew at William, W. Va., 1903 via WVU West Virginia & Regional History Center

Ecotone editor Anna Lena Phillips Bell gave me the dream assignment of compiling an annotated soundscape for Matthew Neill Null's stunning novel Honey from the Lion, about a union uprising at a turn of the century West Virginia logging company.

The novel is teeming with sonic description—of crows, trains, saws, African American hymns, Syrian prayers, and even a cameo by Greenbrier Valley fiddler Edden Hammons. All of those sounds are represented in the soundscape, along with labor songs from the 1902 UMWA anthracite miner strike in Pennsylvania, a play-party game ditty from Phyllis Marks, Melvin Wine's "Peg 'n Awl", recordings by John Harrod and Gerry Milnes, Mennonite Harmonia Sacra, and a field recording of a certain other wordly drainpipe in Thurmond, West Virginia.

Listen


Chasin’ That Neon Rainbow: Neon Sign Maker James Day

For West Virginia Public Broadcasting & The West Virginia Folklife Program

A profile of neon sign maker James L. Day of Day Sign Company in St. Albans, WV. These short audio and video documentaries were produced as part of a collaboration with the West Virginia Folklife Program and West Virginia Public Broadcasting.


Building A Broom By Feel: James Shaffer of Charleston Broom & Mop

For West Virginia Public Broadcasting & The West Virginia Folklife Program

A profile of Charleston Broom and Mop Company's James Shaffer, the last handmade commercial broom maker in West Virginia. This short documentary was produced as part of a collaboration with the West Virginia Folklife Program and West Virginia Public Broadcasting and screened at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress event “Reel Folk: Cultural Explorations on Film.”


Never Whack: George O’Neal of Lil’ Farm

For Scene on Radio

"Never Whack!," a profile of "punk farmer" George O'Neal of Lil' Farm in Timberlake, NC, was produced for John Biewen's "Intro to Audio Documentary Course" and the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke's "The Art of Farming" project. In 2016, the piece was featured on John Biewen's podcast "Scene on Radio" from the Center of Documentary Studies.

 


A Greenhouse Film for the Southern Foodways Alliance by Emily Hilliard and Ashley Melzer, The Wharf is a snapshot of the historic Maine Avenue Fish Market in Washington, DC.

The Maine Avenue Fish Market, or The Wharf, as it’s referred to by most locals, is not a place you are likely to stumble upon. It’s tucked away under the I-395 overpass and sits on floating docks on DC’s southwest waterfront. It wasn’t always so hidden.

Opening in 1805, the market is the oldest continuously operating fish market in the United States, and one of the only open-air fish markets on the East Coast. It has undergone several iterations in order to stay afloat, though. In the 1960s, it was relocated from its original location on the Washington Channel due to an urban renewal project on the waterfront. The threat of closure loomed, but vendors refused to leave, citing a clause in their lease which allowed them to stay for 99 years. Thus, the market was moved to its current location, tucked under an overpass.

As we interviewed customers and employees for this film, we learned of other changes in the local seafood industry that have affected the Wharf and contributed to its evolution. Many of the vendors we talked to are from nearby fishing communities: the Eastern Shore of Maryland and Virginia, as well as Smith Island. As seafood jobs have declined in their hometowns, they have found jobs at the Maine Avenue Fish Market. The pay is good, and it allows them to keep working in seafood.

The market has also changed in terms of what it offers. Though the two main companies there, Captain White’s and Jessie Taylor’s, still offer some local seafood—Virginia clams, Chincoteague Oysters, and some Maryland blue crab—they also import some products, such as tilapia and squid from national and international ports.

Customers and DC locals remain loyal to the Wharf. They cite its affordability, diversity, and history as assets to the city. As the waterfront is yet again on the brink of redevelopment, it’s unclear what changes that will bring to the market, but developers have stated that it will be renovated and preserved.

This film aims to be a snapshot of this historic DC fish market at a crucial moment in time.


The Billy And Bobby Show

"The Billy and Bobby Show," about a make-believe radio show my brother and I recorded as kids, was produced for "Recycled," a compilation of short audio documentaries produced by the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University. The piece has aired on KGNU Boulder, KZYX Mendocino, KXOT Tacoma, WNIJ Northern Illinois and Southern Wisconsin, WMBR Cambridge, and WRIR Richmond.