Thursday, September 25, 2014

Week 6: Appalachia II / The British Ballads

Cecil Sharp and Maud Karpeles, Appalachia ca. 1918

This week we take up British ballad sources--antecedents to Appalachian songs like Banks of the Ohio and Will the Circle be Unbroken. Many were brought to America by the immigrants who first settled Appalachia. That mountain country being so isolated that the songs--and aspects of their Elizabethan language--were preserved relatively intact for some 200 years. Song collectors like Cecil Sharp (and Francis James Child before him) brought this material to a wider public through the collection and publication of the ballads. See notes below on their work. For our class, Cecil Sharp is the more important, because of his collecting trips in Appalachia in the early 20th century.

S&P Ballads download on box:  
Listen carefully to these songs--words and music. (Note that this is the same download we began with last week. It takes some repeated listening--this week with a focus on the relation between the British Ballads and their American counterparts.)

The download has examples of Child Ballads, sung in their American versions (see notes on Child Ballads, below):

Barbry Allen (Child 84)  Jean Ritchie
Black Jack Davey (Child 200) Carter Family--and one by Bob Dylan
The House Carpenter (Child 243) Clarence Ashley
Pretty Polly (Child 4)  Doc Boggs version, and one by Jean Ritchie and Doc Watson

And several distinctly American ballads from Appalachia (these have a different feel than the Child ballads--they reflect the American experience):

Omie Wise (G.B. Grayson)
Shady Grove  (Clarence Ashley and Doc Watson ( (Shady Grove includes some Child Ballad lines)
Sugar Baby (Doc Boggs)
The Wagoner's Lad (Buell Kazee)
John Henry (Doc Watson and Clarence Ashley)

There are also a selection of related songs--including more Carter Family material and two from the anthracite coal miners. Plus one beautiful English ballad, The Lowlands of Holland (pay attention to the story--and the experience it reflects).

Roscoe Hocomb's Hands, John Cohen photo (detail), 1959

Recall that some of these songs were included by Harry Smith on his 1952 Folkways Anthology of American Folk music, which brought them to the attention of the 1960s folk revival people. Examples include The Coo Coo (Clarence Ashley), Sugar Baby (Doc Boggs),  Omie Wise (G.B. Grayson), and The Wagoner's Lad  (Buell Kazee).

Make sure you've read carefully the Norm Cohen article in Reader pps. 33-56 (background on the folk revival).
Here's Mike Yates excellent and detailed article on Cecil Sharp. This is your main reading for the week. Here's the LINK:
For the adventurous, at some point: Nick Tosches in Reader, The Twisted Roots of Rock and Roll, pps. 187-204, which takes one song-- Gypsy Davey, and traces it's winding (and fascinating) history. (Here's a wild card: Woody Guthrie's version: Gypsy Davy - Woody Guthrie - YouTube

Three Songs for this week (you already have these in your S&P CD download and Tan Songsheets) KNOW THESE BY HEART! 

Barbara Allen   Barbara Allen (Jean Ritchie)
And here's Ollie Gilbert's version: Barbry Allen

Down by the Sally Garden   Down by the Salley Gardens (The lyrics are by William Butler Yates, from a traditional melody in the West of Ireland)

Comin' Thro' the Rye   Comin' Thro' the Rye  (Julie London, in a non-traditional version)

Topics and people to keep in mind:
Cecil Sharp and Maud Karpeles (Appalachian collecting trip, 1916-18)
Olive Dame Campbell, American folkorist and song collector)
Francis James Child  The English and Scottish Popular Ballads (1892-1898) (The Child Ballads)
Harry Smith, Anthology of American Folk Music (Folkways Records, 1952)
John Jacob Niles  (The Ballad Book of John Jacob Niles, 1960)

Sharp and Karpeles collecting, ca. 1918

Note on Cecil Sharp. Cecil Sharp was an English song collector who did work in Britian and America in the early part of the 20th Century. The old ballads were disappearing in the England of his day, so Sharp made a collecting trip to the Appalachian mountains, where (he reasoned) the songs in something of their original form had been preserved for 200 years by the descendents of the original immigrants. Sharp worked with Maud Karpeles, also from England--and collaborated with Olive Dame Campbell (the American song collector and folklorist). Read Mike Yates article on Cecil Sharp: Here's the link again:

Sharp recorded the the songs, in musical transcription. Karpeles recorded the words. (There was no way of doing field audio recordings at the time.) They both kept diaries, which present a picture of their journey and what they encountered. Here's a good BBC documentary on the recent online publication of the diraries:
* BBC News - Audio slideshow: Cecil Sharp's diaries

Sharp also made photographs, which can be found on this site:
* VWML Online :: Introduction to Cecil Sharp's diaries

Cecil Sharp photo, ca. 1918

Olive Dame Campbell. Another important figure in the early collecting of Appalachachian songs. Originally from Massachusetts, Campbell made a life working with Appalchian folklore. The songs she gathered, first with her husband, John Campbell, were published in Cecil Sharp's English Folk Songs from the Southern Appalachians. Campbell was also involved in educational reform, and founded the Southern Highlands Folk Guild--a model for early development of the American Folklore movement. The contemporary film, Songcatcher (2000) is based loosely on Campbell's work--and her connection with Cecil Sharp.

Note on Francis James Child. Child was also a ballad collector, an American scholar whose work preceeded Sharp. Child worked in the 19th century. He focused on the lyrics of the songs (not the music), studying the relationship between their historical variants in England, Scotland (and America). His collection was eventually organized and published (between 1882-1896) as The English and Scottish Popular Ballads. There are 305 in all, each one numbered (including variants). Child Ballad themes include "romance, supernatural experiences, historical events, morality, riddles, murder, and folk heroes." Many had their beginnings in medieval times--the legends of Robin Hood and the court of King Arthur.

Here are some Child Ballads lyrics: 
* The Elfin Knight (Child 2)   
* Lady Isabel and the Elf Knight  (Child 4)
and the song in a recent YouTube version:  Emilie Faiella - Lady Isabel and the Elf-Knight, a Medieval Ballad (with lyrics) - YouTube    
* The Bonnie Earl o' Moray (Child 181)
* The Gypsy Laddie  (Child 200)

Here's more of Jean Ritchie (there are numerous films of Jean Ritchie because she left Kentucky for New York, working in the Settlement House movement and presenting the songs she'd grown up with to a much wider audience. She also made many records of the Kentucky mountain songs--and their British precursors):
* Jean Ritchie--Barbry Allen - YouTube  (also on your S&P CD) (Child 84)
▶ Jean Ritchie - Shady Grove - Rainbow Quest 
▶ JEAN RITCHIE - MY DEAR COMPANION - Alan Lomax Footage - YouTube 
* House Carpenter Jean Ritchie (Child 243) - YouTube
* Jean Ritchie - O Love Is Teasin' - YouTube

Ollie Gilbert versions:
* Pretty Polly Come Go Along With Me - Max Hunter Folk Song Collection  Ollie Gilbert
* Barbry Allen - Max Hunter Folk Song Collection Ollie Gilbert
* House Carpenter - Max Hunter Folk Song Collection - Ollie Gilbert

Cecil Sharp photo, Appalachia, ca. 1918

As we saw in class, Sharp made photographs on his collecting trips in both England and America.  They offer an interesting contrast--consider this. Related to the difference between Child ballads in their European   form and American ballads like Omie Wise or The Wagoner's Lad. Or a later American song like Tom Dula.

Cecil Sharp photo, Devon, England

Child Ballads in British and European versions:
* Emilie Faiella - Lady Isabel and the Elf-Knight, a Medieval Ballad (with lyrics) - YouTube
* Steeleye Span - Lady Isobel And The Elf Knight. Live Video - YouTube
* Wearie's Well punk harp version - YouTube
* The Wife of Usher's Well (Child 79) - (Traditional Scottish) - YouTube
* King Orfeo / Skoven Årle Grön ( Child Ballad 19 ) - YouTube
* Child #2: The Elfin Knight - YouTube
* Elspeth Cowie - The Laird O' Elfin - YouTube

Note for class. This is a lot of material. For your project, work from one of the three songs for the  week, together with songs on Ballads download, comparing the Child Ballads with the songs of American origin. Read Mike Yates. The remainder (all worthwhile) you can return to over the next weeks.)

And finally, from the Carter Family--Wildwood Flower (this well-known song has English precedents as well--it's in your tan songsheets, p. 2).
* The Carter Family - Wildwood Flower - YouTube (An earlier filmed version) 
* Mother Maybelle Carter - Wildwood Flower - YouTube
(An older Maybelle Carter recalling their first recordings, Johnny Cash television show, 1969-71.

Maybelle Carter and Family, 1950s television


These two videos are examples of how the Appalachian songs reached a popular audience through the Grand Ole Opry and other radio (and later television) venues. We could compare Garrison Keeler's Prairie Home Companion of today (intended for a quite different popular audience, however).

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Week 5: Appalachia

For the coming two weeks we start with APPALACHIA, then look back to the BRITISH BALLADS and how they became part of the American tradition. The two songs for this week (to learn by heart!) are Banks of the Ohio and Will the Circle be Unbroken.  We may also do The Cuckoo. Key figures are Clarence Ashley (voice, banjo and fiddle) and Doc Watson (guitar, finger and flat picking, and singing as well). They're in the videos.  Compare Ollie Gilbert's "front porch" version and remember the distinction between front porch and performance. Using Appalachia as a search term in google, and perhaps the singers' names and birthplaces (look them up) and specific dates, see what images come up. Images of PLACE will give you a context for the songs.


Banks of the Ohio
  (Clarence Ashley and Doc Watson version) on your S&P download.
 Clarence Ashley with Doc Watson: The Banks of the Ohio (1961) - YouTube  (filmed by Alan Lomax, in New York, 1961)
 Banks of the Ohio - Bill Monroe & Doc Watson - YouTube  (This features Blue Grass mandolin of Bill Monroe, with Doc Watson.)
 Banks of the Ohio - Max Hunter Folk Song Collection - Missouri State University   Ollie Gilbert

Clarence Ashley and Doc Watson, early 1960s

Another of their songs (in your gray song sheets) is "The Cuckoo Bird. Clarence Ashley is the master. He tells his story--and sings the song--here. It's filmed in North Carolina... from the mid-1960s:
 Clarence Ashley performs "The Cuckoo" - YouTube

You might compare this 1970s version by Townes Van Zandt:
Townes Van Zandt - The Cuckoo - YouTube

For Will the Circle Be Unbroken, the recording is by the Carter Family. (Look them up--see Reader, pps. 240-243.) Compare the Carter Family's version to Clarence Ashley and Doc Watson (both on your original S&P download). The difference is essential. How would you characterize it?
I've included other versions, but concentrate on first one--the Carter Family original. The later ones are stagey, for reasons you can think about. Front porch versus performance.  Nevertheless, you'll find them interesting to watch. And don't miss Ollie Gilbert...she keeps us honest!

The Carter Family, Poor Valley, Virginia, 1929

Will the Circle Be Unbroken
Can the circle be unbroken - The Carter Family - YouTube   (The version on your S&P CD)
Ralph Stanley - Will The Circle Be Unbroken - YouTube
Will The Circle Be Unbroken Vol.2/Nitty Gritty Dirt Band/Johnny Cash/Ricky Skaggs - YouTube
Johnny Cash & Family - Will The Circle Be Unbroken - YouTube
Arlo Guthrie & Willie Nelson/Will The Circle be Unbroken - YouTube
Mavis Staples Will the circle be unbroken (studio version) - YouTube    (This is a very different tradition!)

Circle Be Unbroken - Max Hunter Folk Song Collection - Missouri State UniversityOllie Gilbert

Ollie Gilbert

Ollie Gilbert, Arkansas, 1960s
Also important in the Appalachian tradition: Jean Ritchie, who grew up in Viper, Kentucky (in the  Cumberland Mountains), where these songs were a part of her life. Jean Ritchie sang with a dulcimer, and later made dozens of recordings of both the Kentucky mountain songs and the older British ballads (Pretty Saro, Barbry Allen, House Carpenter, Gypsy Laddie--more on this next week).
Here's her version of the Cuckoo:
 ▶ Jean Ritchie sings the Cuckoo - YouTube

Jean Ritchie, 1950s?

READING. Norman Cohn's Folk Song America will give you background. Get a start on this--pps. 33-56 in the Reader. It's an excellent condensed history. For this week pay particular attention to what he says about Hillbilly and Race records. pps. 42-43. Also read section on The Carter Family, Reader pps. 240-243.

S&P Ballads (Appalachian and British)
(Note that these links will be posted on Box Download page as well--the full set. Be sure to include .xml file for track info on iTunes.)

Yes, this material is dense--and takes some concentration--but over time the layers will begin to make sense! It's a beautiful and crucial part of the American folk tradition.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Week 4: Students' Online Notebooks / LINKS

Photo by Eudora Welty, 1930s

Andjelija Janicijevic    
Ben Rowen                 
Zhan Zhan                                              
Ben Waldo                                              
Robby Leiter               
Stephanie Lin             
Justine Law                
Alisa Boyko                
Cristina Cabrera         
Josiah K. Mackey                          
Alejandra Hernandez   
Shahin  Ghaemian                Architectov's Blo
Andrew Hotz             

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Week 4: Spirituals II / Oh Mary Don't You Weep

Charles White, Love Letter II, 1971

READING. From last week, Leroi Jones' Blues People  still very much applies. Let's see some references to the reading in your Digital Notebook posts. And do take a closer look at W.E.B Du Bois, Souls of Black Folk, see Sorrow Songs (the last chapter). Online text: Souls of Black Folk.
The new reading for this week: Biblical references in folk songs, particularly the Spirituals. See the passages below for Mary Don't You Weep. Read and consider these biblical passages carefully. Especially the way they draw on both Old and New Testament sources. How did Black people in the South come to know these passages? Read DuBois. Also: the concordance, and question of biblical translations. Also see notes on writer James Baldwin, below.

SONGS: Continue with songs on Week 3 download (Work Songs / Spirituals / Gospel). Focus on Mary Don't You Weep.

PROJECT. For the coming week I want you to concentrate on Oh Mary Don't You Weep, especially the way verses from both the New Testament (the story of Mary and Martha) are merged with verses from the Old Testament (the Hebrew Bible)--and what this merging might have to do with the lives of Black people in the American South in the time of slavery.  

Versions of Mary Don't You Weep. There are different ways of singing this song--indeed, almost two different songs. You'll hear the Black church version in the Swan Silvertones (also on our S&P CD--and Bob Dylan's favorite) and in the beautiful rendition by Inez Andrews (watch her face as she sings.) Leadbelly takes another approach--which I'm assuming became the basis for the Lomax's version in their songbooks. (You can find this in our S&P TAN Songset.) In any  case, the Lomaxes  arranged the lyrics. Mississippi John Hurt (we'll hear more of him later!) basically does this one. It's a beautiful, gentle, lyrical way of singing the song. A classic "folkie" version is the one by Pete Seeger. Then, a couple of wild cards--including Justin Hinds in a Ska version from Jamaica and a local Indy band on an Oakland rooftop...

▶ Swan Silvertones - Mary Don't You Weep - YouTube
  This is the version on S&P CD. Listen carefully to how the lyrics.
▶ Inez Andrews and The Andrewettes -Mary Don't You Weep (LIVE) - YouTube 
▶ Leadbelly - Mary don't you weep - YouTube  (Last Sessions, Folkways Records) with Martha Promise. (Hear the spoons in the background too.)
Mississippi John Hurt - Oh Mary Don't You Weep.wmv - YouTube
John Hurt's versions are unmistakeable!
▶ Pete Seeger - "Oh Mary, Don't You Weep" - YouTube (Bruce Springsteen has covered this version,  more recently.)  This is a Pete Seeger classic, which influenced college kids your age all over the country in the 1960s...  

Here are some wild cards:
▶ Max Romeo - Don't You Weep - Pama Reggae - YouTube  (Kingston, Jamaica, 1971). Why does Max Romeo change the lyrics here--and how does this affect the meaning of the song?
The Gomorrans - Mary Don't you Weep - on a Rooftop in East Oakland - YouTube
What the feeling--and meaning--in this version?

And this one, Trinite 6:7 for a heartfelt contemporary church version:
(▶ Trinitee 5:7 - Oh Mary, Don't You Weep - YouTube)


James Baldwin

And finally, from a documentary on the writer James Baldwin, whose early book, Go Tell It On the Mountain (1953) is very much about the themes we're looking at--and listening to--this week:
▶ James Baldwin: the Price of the Ticket - YouTube
Also this, from 1965:
▶ James Baldwin vs. William F. Buckley - YouTube 
Ask yourself: have times changes?


Charles White, Mary Don't You Weep, 1930's

OH MARY DON'T YOU WEEP--Biblical sources for the lyrics:
Here are two key passages on Mary and Martha from the New Testament. Consider how they entered into the meanings of "Oh Mary Don't You Weep." To find additional biblical references to Mary, Martha and their brother Lazarus, make use of a concordance. Following, the verses from Exodus (Hebrew Bible) with the story of the Pharoah's Army at the Red Sea.

MARY & MARTHA.  "Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me." But the Lord answered her, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her" (Luke 10:38-42).

That's a modern translation. Here's the King James version:
 38 Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house.
39 And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus' feet, and heard his word.
40 But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.
41 And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things:
42 But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.

"Then, six days before the Passover, Jesus [and the disciples] came to Bethany, where Lazarus was who had been dead, whom He had raised from the dead. There they made Him a supper; and Martha served, but Lazarus was one of those who sat at the table with Him. Then Mary took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard, anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil" (John 12:1-3)

...and again, the King James version:

12 Then Jesus six days before the passover came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, which had been dead, whom he raised from the dead.
There they made him a supper; and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him.
Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment. 

PHAROAH'S ARMY at the RED SEA. Here's the source of "Pharoah's army got drownded...," from the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) in the  King James translation, EXODUS 14:20-3:

14:20 And it came between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel; and it was a cloud and darkness to them, but it gave light by night to these: so that the one came not near the other all the night. 14:21 And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the LORD caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided. 14:22 And the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea upon the dry ground: and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left. 14:23 And the Egyptians pursued, and went in after them to the midst of the sea, even all Pharaoh's horses, his chariots, and his horsemen. 14:24 And it came to pass, that in the morning watch the LORD looked unto the host of the Egyptians through the pillar of fire and of the cloud, and troubled the host of the Egyptians, 14:25 And took off their chariot wheels, that they drave them heavily: so that the Egyptians said, Let us flee from the face of Israel; for the LORD fighteth for them against the Egyptians. 14:26 And the LORD said unto Moses, Stretch out thine hand over the sea, that the waters may come again upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots, and upon their horsemen. 14:27 And Moses stretched forth his hand over the sea, and the sea returned to his strength when the morning appeared; and the Egyptians fled against it; and the LORD overthrew the Egyptians in the midst of the sea. 14:28 And the waters returned, and covered the chariots, and the horsemen, and all the host of Pharaoh that came into the sea after them; there remained not so much as one of them. 14:29 But the children of Israel walked upon dry land in the midst of the sea; and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left. 14:30 Thus the LORD saved Israel that day out of the hand of the Egyptians; and Israel saw the Egyptians dead upon the sea shore. 14:31 And Israel saw that great work which the LORD did upon the Egyptians: and the people feared the LORD, and believed the LORD, and his servant Moses.

Note: This is reprised very beautifully in The Song of the Sea  (Exodus 15: 1-18), attributed to Miriam, sister of Moses: Sus v'rochvo ramah bayam... "The horse and his Chariot he cast into the sea...") It's one of the "oldest" layers in the Biblical text... Consider this, too. 


And a note on the CONCORDANCE. A concordance is basically an elaborate index of biblical verses--one which allows you to look up key terms (names, places, particular words) and find the Biblical verses in which they occur. Before Google, the concordance was crucial to Biblical scholarship. For our purposes, it will help you understand the Biblical roots of many of the songs from the American Southern tradition--particularly those of the Black church--whether from reading the bible (as Mississippi John Hurt did, assiduously) or from hearing the verses repeated in a minister's sermons. Either way, they became a hidden but central part of people's lives. Also--we'll talk about how they work in "explanatory" terms... making meaning of peoples lives, both in the time of slavery and even today...

And remember the hapax legomenon--which is to say, each one of us! (Tony's interpretation.)

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Week 3: Spirituals, Worksongs and Gospel

Horace Pippin, Domino Players, oil on board, 1943


S&P Work Songs / Spirituals / Gospel:
These songs will be important for the rest of the semester and beyond.

Reading: Leroi Jones (Amiri Bakara): Blues People reader pps. 117-146.
You should also take a look at W.E.B Dubois, Souls of Black Folk, particularly what he writes about Sorrow Songs--and the Black American experience in general. Published in 1903.  This is an important book. Here's the online text: Souls of Black Folk.

Songs. For our S&P class, the songs themselves are the best introduction. Some are on your original S&P CD, some on the new download above. Listen up! Note that the lyrics are in your tan S&P songset.

Here are the songs I want to be able to sing together:

Mary Don't You Weep  (Swan Silvertone's version, on your S&P CD)
Lay My Burden Down  (Mississippi John Hurt's version, on your S&P CD)
Do Lord  (also on S&P CD)

and from your new download, above:

Balm in Gilead
Swing Low Sweet Chariot
Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child
Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen

Project. For Week 3, I want you to dive into the breadth of this material, as reflected music-wise on the download. (During Week 4, we'll concentrate on one song in particular--Mary Don't You Weep--where it comes from, in its many versions, and what it represents.) This week we go for range. Note: there are many wonderful songs on the download that you can choose to work from for your project, in addition to the ones above:

Look Down That Lonesome Road  (this is an amazing song, listen carefully to the call and response form, and the poignancy of the verses. Lomax recording, 1930s. )
John the Revelator (Blind Willie Davis version)
If You See My Saviour (the song is by the Reverend Thomas Dorsey, whose version is available on youtube, see below). Here sung by Alex Bradford. This is pure Gospel music.
Coming in on a Wing and a Prayer,  by John Spence, from Andros Island in the Bahamas... A World War II song recast by a powerful Caribbean guitar-playing musician...

YES, this is a lot of material.  I want you to begin to absorb it, and to keep on returning to it over the course of the term. These African American songs will be one of our key sources!


Here are some related YouTube videos:

 Negro spirituals - YouTube

Work songs:
 Work Songs in a Texas Prison - YouTube
 Gandy Dancers - YouTube

There are MANY gospel songs on youtube--it's a whole world. Look up the difference between "spirituals" and "gospel songs" and consider.

Let's start with a beautiful example by the Rev. Thomas Dorsey (one of the Gospel song originators) singing with Miss Sallie Martin. This is one of his classic songs, here sung very late in life, "Standing by the Bedside of a Neighbor" (also known as "If You See My Savior"). The video excerpt is from a documentary film, Say Amen, Somebody--you'll see their personalities shining through.

And a Rev. Thomas Dorsey's audio recording of the song: 
 Thomas Dorsey- If You See My Savior - YouTube

Here's another compelling gospel song by a young girl in the Adventist Church:  
 Four Days Late - YouTube   (Alisa) The Story of Jesus and Lazarus. Four Days Late has a backstory which I'll present in class. Also, it will figure again  in Week 4 when we look at Mary Don't You Weep.


plus one wild card (we may discuss this in class too!):
‫שניאור שיף צילום וידאו מקצועי 0525960011 ריקוד חסידי ‬‎ - YouTube  (Hassidic dance,  by contrast)

Friday, September 5, 2014

Week 2: Notes to the Class

Good class last night, the singing much more engaged, too. So keep listening to the downloads (corresponding to Tan and Gray Songbooks) and learning the songs. I was singing San Franscisco Bay Blues in the shower last night at about 12:30...

Digital Notebooks. (Your personal blogs). See my WEEK 1: Notes to the Class post, set this up  and send me your active URL. BY THE END OF THIS WEEKEND.  I will send out a set to the group, and post on class blog. I'll want you to post your work each week... starting with last night's project. With some writing. Ben's story last night (wonderful) set the bar pretty high--but this is Ben's medium. For many of you, I'd like to see thE writing as a kind of journal or commentary on how your work relates to the songs--including things you learn about thew songs per se (their history, performers, how they fit into the roots tradition. And how tghey relate to place. In other words, I want to see your intellectual journey reflected as well as your artwork. They go together.

And bring that small real notebook to class--the people and places and books mentioned will add up. Austerlitz, for example-- W.G. Sebald...

Ambition for the work. I think I mentioned the first night, water seeks its own level. The more ambitious everyone's projects, the more it encourages the rest to take leaps. Leaps of imagination, exploration. That's why I poured the water... So give them your all. An encouyragement!

Reading. I did manage to get you the readers, but we stopped just short of talking about them. Bring them next week and we'll start with that. For this week, read the Alan and John Lomax selections (pages 1-32). I commented on these in my week 2: You Are My Sunshine Post.

New Project. In case there's any confusion, the new song will generally be the focus of your new week's work. I didn't say that specifically last night, but I think you see how the class works. If I want to guide you more specifically, I'll do so on each week's new blog post. Okay?

Enjoy it ALL....!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Week 2: You Are My Sunshine

Louisiana Gov. Jimmie Davis

The song for this week--You Are My Sunshine. Listen to the version on S&P download--by Jimmy Davis, former governor of Louisiana, with prior a music career  (you can look into this). He sang the song on the campaign trail all over Louisiana in the year 1940. It soon became popular all over the country--and during the war. Bob Dylan at one point said that it was our best song...

Jimmy Davis
where from
when recorded
the history
precedents (heavenly sunshine, laura hinton--see American Song Archive) and poke around on this

black southern traditions
white southern traditions
their interweaving
learn by finding recordings as specific examples (by date)  

Look into precedents: Laura Henton's Heavenly Sunshine, for example, in which you can hear Will the Circle be Unbroken--but also the melody dynamics of You Are My Sunshine.) (You can find this on the American Song Archive, under Resources post on class blog.) Look for other earlier songs that may have influenced Jimmy Davis--that formed his world.

Also listen to Ollie Gilbert's "down home" version, on Max Hunter Archive (also on Resources post). What's the difference between Ollie's version and Jimmy Davis? Why? How will this influence your new project?
You Are My Sunshine - Max Hunter Folk Song Collection - Missouri State University

You Are My Sunshine is not precisely about place. Or is it? Where does it take you, place-wise?

Ollie Gilbert

Reading: Lomax selections in Reader, pps. 1-32. Read for tone as well as content. Look into the Lomax story (John Lomax and his son, Alan--both important--crucial--figures in American folk music.) Alan Lomax collection was published in 1960. John and Alan Lomax collection in 1947. See bibliography (on blog) for full details.

Other versions (from YouTube). This is just a smattering of what's out there. I've followed the 50-year rule, of course--which I want you to do as well:

▶ You Are My Sunshine by Gov Jimmie Davis, Scott Innes & Nelson Blanchard - LMHOF 2012 - YouTube 
▶ Gene Autry: You Are My Sunshine - YouTube
You Are My Sunshine by Mississippi John Hurt - YouTube

See also Jerry Lee Lewis' original version for Sun Records--a different kind of classic...