August 20, 2015
1. Songs of the Snake Handlers
Far Off Sounds is a platform which aims to connect the dots between different worlds of music through ethnographic documentary, music video and travelogue. The show’s hosts, Nick George and Jacob Hurwitz-Goodman, guide viewers through distant lands and hidden pockets close to home, exploring the beautiful, strange and varied ways that people use, play, and connect with music around the world.
The Attic talked to Nick and Jacob to find out insights from the making of each episode of the show.
Jacob: I was really into Appalachian music around the time we started brainstorming this first episode. I had an old LP on vinyl that I stole from my parents called Mountain Music of Kentucky, released in 1960 by our friends at Smithsonian Folkways, and I would just listen to this thing on loop. So naturally, the first question when we started thinking about filming musical subcultures was, where can we go see some mountain music? Is it even still around in any form?
Nick: I asked my friend Daniel Bachman if he knew of anything particularly interesting music-wise in Appalachia, and he suggested we look into the musical elements of the snake-handling churches. Most people tend to focus on their extreme and potentially lethal snake-handling activity but what I found most intriguing is the incredible music that fuels these ceremonies. Just from the bits of youtube footage scattered about from these hundreds of churches, the music is just so hypnotic, charged, fierce, and full of soul. Inspired by country, blues, Appalachian folk, southern, and classic rock; the music is played with the intention to entrance it’s participants. We must have spent hours with the Coots’ family watching past ceremonies while they shared their venison chili with us. One of my favorite episodes we filmed.
Jacob: This is really dangerous and intense stuff that they do out there. About two years after we shot this episode, Pastor Coots was bitten and killed by a snake he was handling. His policy was never to seek medical attention, because the whole point is that you're putting your life entirely into God's hands.