This week’s featured artist: folklorist and singer Derek Piotr

Derek Piotr is a US-based folklorist, performer and composer from New England. His work focuses primarily on the human voice and covers genres as diverse as folk, leftfield pop, classical, and dance but he has a particular interest in Appalachian versions
of traditional ballads. He has collaborated with a number of different artists including Thomas Brinkmann, Scott Solter, and Bradford Reed across various disciplines. Derek was nominated by the jury for Prix Ars Electronica in 2012, and has featured on UbuWeb and the BBC.

Derek Piotr’s CV includes an impressive ten solo albums to date in spite of only just hitting his 30s this year. I ask him about the latest Making and Then Unmaking which was released back in May.

Derek Piotr: “My tenth album, Making and Then Unmaking, is an extension of the folkloric work I’ve done in Western North Carolina, with a heavy emphasis on Appalachian ballad singing and folk and country instrumentation. Originally I was meant to work on this album in a studio in North Carolina, but due to Covid, I ended up recording 90% of the album remotely and putting the performances together via filesharing. Making and Then Unmaking features a much broader instrumental palette because of this workflow, with instruments appearing including bagpipes, clavichord, saxophone, harp, pedal steel guitar, viol da gamba, autoharp and dulcimer.”

Of particular interest to British folk enthusiasts who follow this blog is that Derek has been working in the UK all through the summer, carrying out fieldwork.

Derek Piotr: “My fieldwork in the UK has predominantly focused on collecting recordings of ‘non-singers’ in North Yorkshire. This is a direct continuity of my work in North Carolina documenting non-singers, in other words, informants who have no formal background in vocal performance but nevertheless have living knowledge of traditional song and can still sing or recite these ballads from memory. One of the informants I’ve met on my UK journey was 102…it has been a rich and valuable experience for me to collect ballads from their origin source; most of Child’s ballads were collected in Northumberland and Scotland.”

Making and Then Unmaking: released 14th May 2021

Visit Derek Piotr’s website visit here

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