William Tyler
Corduroy Roads

William Tyler

Corduroy Roads


For its 2014/2015 season, Duke Performances commissioned guitar virtuoso William Tyler — who occupies the musical intersection of John Fahey and Bill Frisell — to write a piece exploring the cultural legacy of the Civil War. The result was Corduroy Roads, a new music/film project created with filmmaker Steve Milligan and theater director Akiva Fox. The piece creates a narrative frame for the extraordinary photographs of the Civil War taken by George Barnard and Alexander Gardner, 150-year-old artifacts in the Duke University Libraries. Taking these fragile and beautiful images as his inspiration, Tyler, a Southerner from Tennessee and Mississippi who grew up fascinated by the war, examines questions of history, memory, and the ways in which the war haunts the South to this day.

Duke Performances presented the world premiere of this genre-crossing new project by Tyler, whose debut solo release Behold the Spirit was lauded by Pitchfork as “the most vital, energized album by an American solo guitarist in a decade or more.” Over the course of four days, audiences gathered to experience Corduroy Roads in the raw, intimate surroundings of The Fruit, a reclaimed performance space in downtown Durham that has since become a hub of the local arts community.

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Photos courtesy of the Archive of Documentary Arts at Duke University and Steve Milligan.


Made possible, in part, with support from the Archive of Documentary Arts at the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Duke University.

This presentation is part of Duke Performances’ From the Archives initiative.


  • INDY Week, Live: The world premiere of William Tyler’s stunning, stirring multimedia Civil War show
  • WUNC, Duke Performances: Setting Rare Civil War Photos To Music
  • Oz Arts Nashville, A New Multimedia Performance Work About The Lingering Legacy Of The Civil War, On April 16
  • Duke University Library Magazine, The Library as Artist’s Studio: Where Information Serves Inspiration


Steve Milligan project page