Hootenanny TV Show

Winter 2016 Course: Digitizing Folk Music History

Hootenanny TV Show

Digitizing Folk Music History

Dr. Michael J. Kramer

History & American Studies, Northwestern University

Course Number

Hist 395-0-33/Amer St 310-0-23/Hum 325-04-01

Time

Tu-Th 3:30 pm – 4:50 pm

Location

1801 Hinman, Room 2225

Websites

Canvas: https://canvas.northwestern.edu/courses/32442

WordPress: http://curricula.mmlc.northwestern.edu/bfmf/winter2016

Overview

The United States folk music revival is typically thought of as an antimodern movement of Luddites. Acoustic guitars, camp fires, overly sincere singers, and “Kumbaya” politics are the clichés many call to mind. To study the revival through digital means, however, reveals important connections between the history of the revival and issues of technology, culture, and politics in the modern world. In this research seminar, we examine the history of the US folk music revival through readings, audio listening, documentary films, seminar discussions, and, most of all, extensive digital analysis to investigate these connections. Working in platforms such as Omeka and WordPress, with tools ranging from Audacity sound editing software to mapping, annotation, and timeline programs, we use the archives of the Berkeley Folk Music Festival (in Northwestern’s Special Collections and online), the Old Town School of Folk Music (in Chicago and online), the Alan Lomax Collection (online), and other digital (and non-digital) archives to probe what was at stake in the folk revival in relation to American culture and politics; questions of race, class, gender, age, and region; and the strange workings of music-making, memory, and power.

As we do so, we ask how digital technologies might help us to interpret history more meaningfully; simultaneously, we explore how both the folk revival itself and the methods of historical study might be crucial to understanding our contemporary digital moment more effectively. Each student will be evaluated based on class participation, digital mini-project experiments, presentations, and a final interpretive digital history audio podcast project that is the multimedia equivalent of a 15-20 page analytic essay based on original research. No previous digital or musical training is required for the course. For students with advanced digital media/programming skills or musical training, the course presents an opportunity to connect that background to deep historical study; for students interested in acquiring digital or musical skills, the seminar offers an excellent introductory pathway to these areas of knowledge.

Instructor

Dr. Michael J. Kramer

History & American Studies

email: mjk@northwestern.edu

Office hours: Tu/Th, 2-3pm or by appointment.

Office location: 212 Harris Hall

Course Objectives

  • Deepen understanding of the folk revival as a lens on modern US history.
  • Sharpen historical research skills (wielding primary sources to produce convincing, fresh, compelling interpretations in conversation with past historical arguments, evidence, and methods).
  • Improve digital literacy and multimedia skills.
  • Develop a sense of cultural history methods.
  • Investigate the emerging digital history methods.

Required Materials

(books available at NU Norris Bookstore, on 1-day reserve at NU Library Reserves desk, or through Interlibrary Loan at the NU Library)

  • Robert Cantwell, When We Were Good: The Folk Revival (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1996) ISBN-13: 978-0674951327
  • Ronald D. Cohen, Rainbow Quest: The Folk Music Revival and American Society, 1940-1970 (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2002) ISBN-13: 978-1558493483
  • Bob Dylan, Chronicles, Volume One (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2005) ISBN-13: 978-0743244589
  • Benjamin Filene, Romancing the Folk: Public Memory and American Roots Music (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1999) ISBN-13: 978-0807848623
  • Materials (readings, films, audio recordings) on course website.

Evaluation

  • 8 assignment posts, 5% each = 40%
    • Original post. Usually due on Mondays by midnight.
  • 8 assignment responses, 1% each = 8%
    • At least one substantive and thoughtful comment on a fellow classmate’s post. Be critical, ask questions, respond meaningfully, but do so constructively and supportively. Usually due on Wednesdays by midnight.
  • 8 assignment follow-up posts, 1% each = 8%
    • One follow-up comment on your post in which you reflect on the mini-project in hindsight. What worked and did not work? What did the mini-project make you think about in terms of history, the folk revival, and using the digital to study the past? Usually due on Fridays by midnight.
  • Final interpretive digital history podcast project = 24%
  • Class participation and discussion = 20% (Please come to seminar meetings prepared to discuss the following: What is the most important point you learned from today’s materials? What is the most important question you have about today’s materials? Each student will receive a midterm evaluation, evaluation of final project, and final term evaluation in the course.)

You will receive a midterm evaluation from the instructor before the drop deadline and a final evaluation at the end of the course.

Assignments: Students must complete all assignments to pass the course. These are designed to be fun, but they are also demanding—and perhaps for some, frustrating. Please be aware that historical analysis and musical analysis are not a science in the strict sense of the term. There is no purely objective, machine-like way to develop interpretation within the traditions of historical or musical meaning-making (even though we are using computers). This means there is not some perfectly standardized way to evaluate your work. There is, however, a craft to this mode of thinking, writing, and reasoning. It is that craft that we will use evaluations to help you access, participate in, and through which you can improve your capabilities. Your task is to develop effective and compelling evidence-based arguments informed by historical awareness and thinking.

Rubric: Your essays (when called for in assignments) must be well written in order to communicate a convincing, compelling, and precise argument that is driven by our description of and analysis of meaning in materials drawn from the course (and other sources if needed). Evaluation is based on the following rubric: (1) presence of an articulated argument, (2) presence of evidence, (3) compelling and precise connection of evidence to argument by comparing and contrasting details and their significance, (4) logical flow and grace of prose: an effective opening introduction; the presence of clear topic sentences; the presence of effective transitions from one part of the assignment to the next; a compelling conclusion, (5) effective use of multimedia and digital elements (more weight given to experimentation and innovation).

Your final interpretive podcast project will have its own rubric.

Late/Extension Policy: Please communicate with your instructor ahead of time if you require an extension for an essay. Reasonable, occasional requests will be granted, but may involve a slight deduction in points to be fair to students who complete work on time. Late assignments without extensions granted will lose 1/4 point per day.

Notes on Using a WordPress Course Blog

We will be using a password-protected WordPress blog as the main arena for writing, conversation, and digital research and publication beyond classroom meetings. The blog url is http://curricula.mmlc.northwestern.edu. Log in using your Northwestern Net ID and password at https://curricula.mmlc.northwestern.edu/wp-login.php. WordPress is very simple blogging software, but it can be stretched and expanded in productive ways. For basic instructions on using WordPress, see: http://codex.wordpress.org. But I suggest simply diving in and using it as the platform is fairly intuitive.

Please note that by enrolling in the course, you agree that it is acceptable to share your classroom work as part of the Digital Berkeley Folk Music Festival Project. If you have any concerns—technical, personal, ethical—about public uses of your course blog entries, please feel absolutely free to confer with me to make arrangements. Generally, I advocate what has become known as “open access” in digital work, but there can also be very important and worthy exceptions to this philosophy. If you are curious, here is more on the ethics of public blogs for classroom use here: http://hastac.org/blogs/superadmin/2012/11/30/guidelines-public-student-class-blogs-ethics-legalities-ferpa-and-more.

Academic Integrity

All Weinberg College and Northwestern policies concerning plagiarism and academic dishonesty are strictly enforced in this course. See http://www.wcas.northwestern.edu/advising/integrity for more details. In addition, because we are using potentially copyrighted materials in digital form, you will be asked by the Northwestern library to sign a waiver form that you will not violate any copyright laws. If you do so, this also constitutes academic dishonesty. If you have any question as to what constitutes plagiarism or academic dishonesty or copyright violation, please feel free to contact the instructor. Please note that under WCAS and Northwestern policy, the instructor is required to report any suspected instances of academic dishonesty. The instructor also reserves the right to assign a failing grade for the course if a student is found to have violated college or university policy concerning academic integrity.

In taking this course, students agree to the stipulations of the Northwestern University Library’s researcher agreement in use of the Berkeley Folk Music Festival Collection and agree to gift their coursework to the Northwestern University Library’s archive in perpetuity and that their coursework may be used as part of the Berkeley Folk Music Festival Project (unless alternative arrangements are made).

Special Needs

Students with special needs and disabilities that have been declared and documented through the Northwestern Office of Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) should meet with the instructor to discuss any specific accommodations. For further information, see the Office of Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) website: http://www.northwestern.edu/disability.

Schedule

WEEK 1                                      INTRODUCTIONS  
Tu 1/5 What the folk?
Th 1/7 What the folk? Introduction. READING:

·      Alan Lomax, “The ‘Folkniks’—and the Songs They Sing,” Sing Out! 9 (1959): 30-31, reprinted in Alan Lomax, Selected Writings, 1934-1997, ed. Ronald D. Cohen.

·      John Cohen, “In Defense of City Folksingers,” Sing Out! 9 (1959): 33-34.

·      Ellen J. Skekert, “Cents and Nonsense in the Urban Folksong Movement: 1930-1966,” in Transforming Tradition: Folk Music Revivals Examined, pp.  84-106.

·      N.A., “Folk Singing: Sibyl With Guitar,” Time, 23 November 1963.

·      Amanda Petrusich, “The Discovery of Roscoe Holcomb and the ‘High Lonesome Sound’,” New Yorker, 17 December 2015, http://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/the-discovery-of-roscoe-holcomb-and-the-high-lonesome-sound.

LISTENING:

·      Folk Introduction Mix

·      The Lives of a Song Mix: John Henry, Tom Dooley, House of the Rising Son

WEEK 2 WHAT WAS THE FOLK REVIVAL?
Mo 1/11, midnight. Assignment 01 Set up WordPress account, test WordPress. Write an introductory 1-2 paragraph essay. Here are a few prompts to use: what do you know about the folk revival now? What questions do you have about the folk revival? What questions do you have about digital approaches to historical research? Mo 1/11, midnight.
Tu 1/12 Getting to the roots: what was the folk revival? READING:

·      Filene, Romancing the Folk, pp. 1-75.

VIEWING:

·      American Roots Music, dir. Jim Brown (2001), Part 1.

LISTENING:

·      Filene Mix.

We 1/13, midnight. Assignment comment due.
Th 1/14 Getting to the roots: what was the folk revival? READING:

·      Filene, pp. 76-132.

·      Michael J. Kramer, “Writing on the Past, Literally (Actually, Virtually),” http://www.michaeljkramer.net/cr/writing-on-the-past-literally-actually-virtually/.

·      Michael J. Kramer, “What Does Digital Humanities Bring to the Table?,” http://www.michaeljkramer.net/cr/what-does-digital-humanities-bring-to-the-table/.

VIEWING:

·      ARM doc film, Part 2.

LISTENING:

 

·      Filene Mix.

Fr 1/15, midnight. Assignment follow-up comment due.
WEEK 3 WHAT WAS THE FOLK REVIVAL?
Mo 1/18, midnight. Assignment 02:
“Slow down, you move too fast”: annotation/database bulding for close reading.
Tu 1/19 Getting to the roots: what was the folk revival? READING:

·      Filene, 133-182.

VIEWING:

·      ARM doc film, Part 3.

LISTENING:

·      Filene mix.

ARCHIVES:

·      Explore Berkeley Folk Music Festival Archive (Google docs and/or Omeka, http://webhost1.mmlc.northwestern.edu/bffsite/omeka/admin/); Alan Lomax Archive at the Association for Cultural Equity, http://research.culturalequity.org; Berea College Alan Lomax Kentucky Collections, http://digital.berea.edu; Old Town School of Folk Music Resouce Center, https://www.oldtownschool.org/resourcecenter/; Various online archives of the Southern Folklife Collection, http://library.unc.edu/wilson/sfc/; Caffe Lena Archive, http://history.caffelena.org/welcome. What interests you? Take notes!!

We 1/20, midnight. Assignment comment due.
Th 1/21 NO CLASS.  ARCHIVES:

·      Explore Berkeley Folk Music Festival Archive (Google docs and/or Omeka, http://webhost1.mmlc.northwestern.edu/bffsite/omeka/admin/); Alan Lomax Archive at the Association for Cultural Equity, http://research.culturalequity.org; Berea College Alan Lomax Kentucky Collections, http://digital.berea.edu; Old Town School of Folk Music Resouce Center, https://www.oldtownschool.org/resourcecenter/; Various online archives of the Southern Folklife Collection, http://library.unc.edu/wilson/sfc/; Caffe Lena Archive, http://history.caffelena.org/welcome. What interests you? Take notes!!

Fr 1/22, midnight. Assignment follow-up comment due.
WEEK 4 DEEPER INTO THE REVIVAL
Tu 1/26 Getting to the roots: what was the folk revival? READING

·      Filene, 183-236.

VIEWING

·      ARM doc film, Part 4.

LISTENING:

·      Filene mix.

Th 1/28 Deeper into the revival. READING:

·      Cantwell, 1-79.

·      Susan Montgomery, “The Folk Furor,” Madamoiselle, December 1960, pp. 98-99, 118.

LISTENING:

·      Cantwell mix.

WEEK 5 DEEPER INTO THE REVIVAL
Mo 2/1 Assignment 03: final project explorations.
Tu 2/2 Deeper into the revival. READING:

·      Cantwell, 80-238.

LISTENING:

·      Anthology of American Folk Music.

We 2/3 Assignment comment due.
Th 2/4 Deeper into the revival. READING:

·      Cantwell, 240-381.

·      Michael J. Kramer, “There Is a Timeline, Turn, Turn, Turn,” http://www.michaeljkramer.net/cr/there-is-a-timeline-turn-turn-turn/.

LISTENING:

·      Cantwell mix.

Fr 2/5 Assignment follow-up comment due.
WEEK 6 DYLANOLOGY
Mo, 2/8 Assignment 04: organizing a macro-narrative: timeline assignment.
Tu 2/9 Dylan up close: postwar bohemianism and the folk revival. READING:

·      Dylan, Chronicles, pp. 1-100.

VIEWING:

·      No Direction Home: Bob Dylan,  Martin Scorsese, Part 1 (2005)

·      Optional: I’m Not There, dir. Todd Haynes (2007)

We 2/10, midnight. Assignment comment due.
Th 2/11 Dylan in context: race and rebellion in the folk revival. READING:.

·      Grace Elizabeth Hale, “Black as Folk: The Folk Music Revival, the Civil Rights Movement, and Bob Dylan,” in A Nation of Outsiders: How the White Middle Class Fell in Love with Rebellion in Postwar America, pp. 84-131.

OPTIONAL:
·      Barry Shank, “‘That Wild Mercury Sound’: Bob Dylan and the Illusion of American Culture,” boundary 29, 1 (Spring 2002), pp. 97-123, available on Course Reserves.
·      Dave Byrne, “Ground Down to Molasses: The Making of an American Folk Song,” Boston Review, 2 July 2014 (Links to an external site.).

VIEWING:

·      No Direction Home: Bob Dylan,  Martin Scorsese, Part 2 (2005)

·      Optional: I’m Not There, dir. Todd Haynes (2007)

Fr 2/12, midnight. Assignment follow-up comment due.
WEEK 7 DIGITAL HISTORY
Mo 2/15 Assignment 05: final podcast project proposal and outline.
Tu 2/16 Digital history. READING:

·      Tara McPherson, “Introduction: Media Studies and the Digital Humanities,” Cinema Journal 48, 2 (Winter 2009): 119-123.

·      Trevor Owens, “Glitching Files for Understanding: Avoiding Screen Essentialism in Three Easy Steps,” The Signal: Digital Preservation Assignment, Library of Congress, http://Assignments.loc.gov/digitalpreservation/2012/11/glitching-files-for-understanding-avoiding-screen-essentialism-in-three-easy-steps/.

LISTENING:

We 2/17 Assignment comment due.
Th 2/18 Podcast workshop @ MMLC, Basement NU Library. LISTENING:

Fr 2/19 Assignment follow-up comment due.
WEEK 8 MORE PERSPECTIVES ON THE FOLK REVIVAL/BERKELEY AND BEYOND
Mo 2/22, midnight. Assignment 06: Deformance experiments.
Tu 2/23 What’s so funny about the folk revival? VIEWING:

·      Festival, dir. Murray Lerner (1967)

·      A Mighty Wind, dir. Christopher Guest (2003)

·      Optional: O Brother, Where Art Thou?, dirs. Ethan and Joel Coen (2000)

·      Optional: Songcatcher, dir. David Mansfield (2000)

·      Optional: Inside Llewyn Davis, dir.  Ethan and Joel Coen (2013)

 

We 2/24, midnight. Assignment comment due.
Th 2/25 Special Guest: Dr. Neil V. Rosenberg, Berkeley and beyond. READING:

ON FOLK REVIVAL STUDIES:

·      Neil V. Rosenberg, “Introduction,” Transforming Tradition: Folk Music Revivals Examined, ed. Neil V. Rosenberg (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1993), pp. 1-25.

·      Neil V. Rosenberg, “A Folklorist’s Exploration of the Revival Metaphor.” In The Oxford Handbook of Music Revival, ed. Caroline Bithell and Juniper Hill (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014), pp. 92-113.

·      “Neil V. Rosenberg,” in “Wasn’t That A Time!”: Firsthand Accounts of the Folk Music Revival, ed. Ronald D. Cohen (Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1995), 71-78.

ON BERKELEY:

·      Ann M. Pescatello, “Europe, Constance, and the University of California, 1908-1918,” in Charles Seeger: A Life in American Music (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1992), pp. 41-76.

·      Debora Kodish, “‘One cog in a big machine’: Berkeley and Adventure 1918-24,” in Good Friends and Bad Enemies: Robert Winslow Gordon and the Study of American Folklore (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1986), pp. 28-55.

·      Paul O. Jenkins, Richard Dyer-Bennett: The Last Minstrel (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2010), pp. 14-20.

·      Neil Rosenberg, “Sam Eskin and ‘Shule Aroo,'” http://maynesmith.com/pieces.html

·      Shirley Collins, “California to New York,” America Over The Water (London: SAF, 2005), pp. 48-60.

·      Neil Rosenberg, “The Redwood Canyon Ramblers: A Brief History,” http://maynesmith.com/redwood.htm

·      Rita Weill [Bixbe] Brochure, 12 pp, to Folkways FA 2436, Berkeley Farms: Oldtime and Country Style Music of Berkeley (12″ 33 1/3 rpm disc; NY, 1972. Available as Smithsonian-Folkways FW 02436)

 

Fr 2/26, midnight. Assignment follow-up comment due.
WEEK 9 CONCLUSIONS
Mo 2/29 Assignment 07: interpretive podcast script draft.
Tu 3/1 Final projects workshop.
We 3/2, midnight. Assignment comment due.
Th 3/3 Conclusions.
Fr 3/4, midnight. Assignment follow-up comment due.
Mo 3/7, midnight. Assignment 08 Podcast experiments and script draft update.
Th 3/17, midnight. FINAL INTERPRETIVE DIGITAL HISTORY PODCAST PROJECT DUE.

 

Assignments

Assignment 01 – Of folk music and folksonomies: introductions.

Set up and test WordPress on our Digitizing Folk Music History WordPress Blog. Test out the platform. Write an introductory 1-2 paragraph essay.

Here are a few prompts to use: what do you know about the folk revival now? What questions do you have about the folk revival? What questions do you have about digital approaches to historical research? About WordPress as a platform?

You might draw upon (sorry, bad pun) your sketch or in the Media Library in WordPress) as a starting point (try embedding it in your post). You can look through a few other posts about “What Is Folk Music?” on the WordPress blog. You might incorporate our discussion of songs in class or something you heard in your own listening or something you noticed in our initial readings.

You can embed a video or audio link or experiment with trying to do so. Or think creatively about what WordPress can (and cannot) do as you briefly start to map out your sense of folk music after our initial dive into the topic. What are the issues in folk music? What history do you wonder about but perhaps not quite have a sense of? Or think of other issues or questions you have based on your initial reading and listening in the first week of class or prior to our course.

Assignment 02 – “Slow down, you move too fast”: annotation/database building for close reading.

Often, digital technologies receive attention for how they can speed up processes, but in this assignment, we use the digital to slow down. The goal is to use annotation and table building techniques to develop closer, more detailed, and compelling interpretations of specific documents and artifacts. Since digital documents can be annotated—directly written “on”—without damaging them, there is an opportunity to “read” them more carefully. Since these annotations can then be lifted “off” the digital document in the form of a list, you can transfer them to a table. Since the table—a spreadsheet or database—is in many ways the building block of digital publishing, you can then begin to assemble your “data” (your annotations) into various orders to consider different patterns that they might reveal. All this can set you up to write a more convincing and effective narrative interpretation of the past, grounded in your close readings of specific details in the documentary evidence you are using to generate your analysis. Annotation and table building thus allow you to use the digital to both slow down and to “remix” your observations to seek out the narrative possibilities lurking within them as a collection of observations about a specific document or artifact.

ANNOTATION.

  • Download one of our readings thus far in class or a particular item in the Berkeley Folk Music Festival digital collection Stick to text or images for now, we can work on time-based media such as songs and video later in the quarter).
  • Open up the document in Adobe Acrobat Reader DC (available here for free download: https://get.adobe.com/reader/ (Links to an external site.)
). You may use Adobe Acrobat Pro if you have a copy, or Apple Preview if you wish. But the instructions here are for Adobe Acrobat Reader DC.
  • Select the Comments feature from the View menu in Adobe Acrobat Pro or Reader.
  • Make your annotations and markups. Begin by making observations and writing descriptions. Answer this deceptively simple question: what do you see? You might make between 5-10 annotations. You should use comment boxes primarily for your annotations. You might also experiment with drawing on the document, adding a text box, highlighting, attaching a file, making a sound clip if you are feeling adventurous. Feel free to explore what annotation can do for your close reading of an artifact. What kind of annotation method works for you?
  • Save your ANNOTATED PDF file with your last name and a title, something like “Kramer Lomax Folkniks Annotation.” You will eventually upload your annotated file to the Media Library in WordPress and embed it in your Assignment blog post.
  • Log in to WordPress and create a blank new post.
  • Select Add Media button and upload your Annotated PDF file and your Content Summary PDF file.
  • The “Vanilla PDF Embed” will automatically display your PDFs using the URL for the attachment pages in your post on its own line. These should automatically be put in when you use the add media function. Or you can cut and paste the URL from the PDFs page in the Media Library.

“SIGNIFICANCE” TABLE

  • Open up your Annotation PDF. You will now cut and paste each comment into the WP-Table Reloaded in WordPress.
  • To do so, return to your WordPress dashboard and select Tools from the sidebar menu of your WordPress dashboard.
  • Select WP-Table Reloaded.
  • Scroll pointer over **COPY THE TEMPLATE** Annotation Template **COPY THE TEMPLATE**.
  • Select the option to copy the template. REMEMBER TO COPY THE TEMPLATE.
  • Click on your copy and give it a Table name that begins with your last name, as in “Kramer Test Annotation.”
  • Add in your information (Detail, Description get cut and paste) then add in Significance and your Citation.
  • Once you have completed your table, copy the shortcode [table id=<ID> /] and paste it into the corresponding place in your blog post editor, below your embedded PDF files. You will find the shortcode in the sentence above Table Information, so for instance “Kramer Test Annotation” uses the shortcode [table id=2 /].
  • Now you can (finally!) write your essay. Use your table of annotations as a resource for inserting description and significance into your essay effectively.

ESSAY

  • Once you have completed your annotations and table, use them to structure a short essay (500-1000 words) about the document you have investigated. Refer to the expectations section on the syllabus for details about how to structure a successful essay. Think about incorporating your annotations from the table into your essay (you need not use them word for word, but you might draw upon them for your essay).

“Curse you, Professor Kramer,” you might be saying at this point, “are you making me do all this?!” Here is why. We’re doing the opposite of what computers are typically used for, which is automation and speeding up. Instead, the goal here is to slow down and use annotation and a table to connect evidence to argument, description of detail to detail’s significance to a larger point you wish to make. The shift to digital tools here helps you move through this process more slowly, thinking about the shift from reading details of an artifact or document to what you are making of these details. We use the digital to slow down, not move so fast, to get ourselves to do better close reading.

Assignment 03 – Final project explorations.

The final project in our course asks you to develop and produce an “interpretive digital history” audio podcast based on original research. What does this mean, exactly? The goal of the final assignment is to develop an argument grounded in careful description and analysis of primary source material that expresses an interpretation in relation to secondary sources (the “historiography,” or what other historians have had to say about a topic).

In a non-digital history class, you might develop this kind of project as an essay. In this course, we move to a digital platform, in particular the podcast, which as audio (or a video podcast if you wish to explore that option, or an audio podcast and accompanying blog post of additional multimedia material is an option too). This shift of form will require that you shape your argument suitably to it. But the overall goal is the same. To scrutinize a set of primary sources carefully to tell us something new that we can understand about a topic from the folk revival in relation to how other historians, scholars, folk participants have interpreted the topic.

To start out, you might begin by identifying a topic (or topics at this point) of interest: it could be a particular musician, a song, a genre, a time period, an instrument, a concept, a theme, an existing argument…something that interests you (since you will be spending a lot of time thinking about it and working on this topic).

In this assignment, write a paragraph or two in which you:

  • start to identify what you wish to focus on for your final project;
  • start to identify potential primary sources (from existing digital archives or a local collection or some other place–it could be from one of the digital archives we are using; it could be from a local archive; it could be that you will conduct research to assemble your own archive from digital and other sources;
  • start to identify secondary sources (what is the most important existing relevant scholarship?)
  • do you have a research question? Begin to develop one. It will change in the coming weeks as it comes into focus and you sharpen your sense of what you want to ask about your material, but start now with a question. What is important about your topic? What do you want to understand about it? Why?
  • what kind of audio narrative, use of sound might work to express your argument, share your evidence, explain existing interpretations of others, and tell a good story?
  • Any other questions, concerns, ideas, etc.

Here are some ideas for audio podcast projects:

  • A study of one performer or participant in the folk revival.
  • A study of one song or set of songs, investigating and analyzing its history, circulation, music and text, and significance.
  • A study of a particular “roots” genre or boundaries between or among genres.
  • A study of an event, or aspect of an event, such as the Berkeley Folk Music Festival.
  • A study of politics or some issue of cultural politics.
  • A study of change (and/or continuity) over time of a performer, event, or theme.
  • The notion of a folk “revival”—revival of what, exactly?
  • The concepts of authenticity, sincerity, irony, and other modalities or sensibilities and values at BFMF.
  • Concepts of the audience and of participation in the folk revival.
  • Folk music as educational.
  • An exploration of the meaning of one artifact: a photograph, a document, an album cover, an essay, etc.
  • A study of uses of publicity and public relations in the BFMF.
  • An investigation of copyright issues in relation to BFMF.
  • A study of some aspect of the BFMF in relation to concepts of “tradition.”
  • A study of some aspect of the BFMF in relation to race or ethnicity.
  • A study of some aspect of the BFMF in relation to gender.
  • A study of some aspect of the BFMF in relation to generational identity.
  • A study of some aspect of the BFMF in relation to regional identities.
  • A study of some aspect of the BFMF in relation to class formations, identities.
  • A study of some aspect of the BFMF in relation to technology.
  • A study of some aspect of the BFMF in relation to concepts of Americanness.
  • Use your intuition and imagination to formulate your own topic!

Assignment 04 – Organizing a macro-narrative: timeline assignment.

The goal of this assignment is to explore how assembling a digital timeline can help you to conceptualize and frame a “macro-narrative” or a “master narrative” for the folk revival. We will use the tool Timeline.js, which was created at Medill, right here at Northwestern.

  • Go to the Timeline JS (Links to an external site.)
website, read the “About” section (particularly the “tips and tricks”) and browse and play around with some of the example timelines.
  • At the top of the page, click on “File Formats” and then select “Google Doc Template.”
  • In Google Docs, use this template to create your timeline data. First, retitle the document as “Last Name – BFMF Timeline.” In the document, follow the template format but update the data provided to include information on at least 10 events you wish to portray in your timeline.
  • When your spreadsheet is complete, follow the instructions from the “File Formats” page on Timeline JS website.
  • In Timeline JS, go to the “Embed Generator” and paste in the link to your Google Doc spreadsheet. (You don’t need to worry about any of the settings, but feel free to play around with the font choices if you’d like.)
  • Click “Preview” to make sure everything looks the way you want it.
  • Copy the embed code.
  • In WordPress, create a new post.
  • Select the HTML “text” tab and paste the embed code.
  • In Google Docs, choose File > Download as > Open Document Format (.ods) and upload/insert that file into your blog post.
  • Compose your post and click the big blue “Publish” button when you are finished.
  • Develop a short essay (1-3 paragraphs) that reflects on the experience of developing a timeline for the folk revival. What was difficult? How did you choose certain names, dates? Using what you learned from the decisions you made for constructing your timeline, what observations do you now have about the history of the folk revival in the US? What observations do you have about the entire concept of constructing a historical timeline and thinking of history in a linear chronological manner?
  • Choose blog category.
  • Be sure to add tags (keywords) to your post.

Assignment 05 – Final podcast project proposal and outline.

Develop a podcast project proposal and outline. Your proposal should include:

  • Your research topic.
  • Your research question.
  • Your hypothesis: what is your argument going to be?
  • The primary sources you plan to use.
  • The secondary sources you plan to use.
  • What those secondary sources have to say about your topic.
  • The beginning of a narrative structure for your podcast. How will it start, end? What is the concept for its tone and approach and style?

Assignment 06 – Deformance experiments.

  • In the BFMF Digital Archiveor another digital archive, browse and select an image that interests you to download.
  • Read all of “Glitching Files for Understanding: Avoiding Screen Essentialism in Three Easy Steps” by Trevor Owens.
  • How to change a file extension (on a Mac):
  • Go back and follow the steps he took in the “Edit an Image with a Text editor” section using the image you downloaded from the digital archive. Make sure to save each version of the file as you follow the instructions. When you are done you should have (1) the original .jpg file, (2) the post-cut up .jpg file, and (3) the .jpg file after you pasted new information in.
  • Do:Feel free to try this on your own computer, but each operating system will react differently to this process. If you have any issues, try visiting the MMLC’s classroom (check to see if it’s available first) and using their computers (we’ve tested this on Mac OS X 10.9.1 and it works).
  • Don’t: Do not delete or edit any of the first lines of code in the .txt file (nothing bad will happen, but the experiment won’t work). Scroll down a bit and try deleting, adding, and editing some of the code deeper in the file.
  • On the web, go js, select one of the examples, play around and then select “source in the upper right hand of the screen.” Try and read the code, look for numbers in blue, and experiment by inserting new numbers. Click “run” in the upper right hand corner of the screen and see what’s changed. Feel free to repeat/go crazy.
  • In WordPress, create a new post and upload/insert each of your 3 images.
  • Write a one-two paragraph reflection: Might the unlikely concept of “deforming” evidence lead to new historical insights or not? Did you notice anything new or surprising about the object by “deforming” it? What was your experience of playing with javascript in paper.js? What does code allow you to do with objects? Did this make you think about the archival material in a new way?
  • Choose blog category.
  • Add tags (keywords) to your post.
  • Examples of assignment here: http://curricula.mmlc.northwestern.edu/bfmf/spring2013/category/blog-4/.

Assignment 07 – Interpretive podcast script draft.

Develop your first draft of your script or outline for your podcast. It should be written out in your blog post or developed in a document that you upload to your blog post. The script/outline need not be complete, but should be a solid first draft with notes and annotations on aspects that still need further work, issues you are facing, technical hurdles to overcome, and any other issues. You might revisit your research question: is it still accurate and productive? And you might think about stating the overarching thesis of your podcast: what are you arguing and how are you making a claim? What prior positions are you expanding or revising, enhancing or disagreeing with? What primary sources are you using and how are you planning to analyze them? What is the narrative structure for your podcast? How is the form relating to the content of the argument and evidence?

Assignment 08 – Podcast experiments and script draft update.

Post experiments with sections of your podcast as mp3 files in your blog post. Explain what you are attempting to do, what is or is not working to your ear, and what you still wish to revise or develop further.

Provide an updated script/outline draft with annotations and comments about sections that are still in progress.

Final – Interpretive digital history audio podcast.

The final project in our course asks you to develop and produce an “interpretive digital history” audio podcast based on original research. What does this mean, exactly? The goal of the final assignment is to develop an argument grounded in careful description and analysis of primary source material that expresses an interpretation in relation to secondary sources (the “historiography,” or what other historians have had to say about a topic).

In a non-digital history class, you might develop this kind of project as an essay. In this course, we move to a digital platform, in particular the podcast, which as audio (or a video podcast if you wish to explore that option, or an audio podcast and accompanying blog post of additional multimedia material is an option too). This shift of form will require that you shape your argument suitably to it. But the overall goal is the same. To scrutinize a set of primary sources carefully to tell us something new that we can understand about a topic from the folk revival in relation to how other historians, scholars, folk participants have interpreted the topic.

Your audio or audio/visual or audio and blog post podcast project should be between 10-30 minutes. Consider how you might use audio effectively to make an argument and tell a story: how does “telling” an argument and a story based on evidence and in dialogue with previous interpretations and stories differ from writing one? What kind of tone do you wish to strike with your spoken segments? What kind of tone might other sounds create or evoke? Do you have any musical audio you can use? How might you creatively translate non-sonic material into the audio format? Do you want to interview anyone, bring in more than just your voice, or adopt another strategy of creating interpretation and narrating the story of your topic?

Your final project will include:

  • Audio podcast or audio-visual podcast or audio podcast with accompanying blog of multimedia.
  • Script written in word processing document or as pdf.

For technical assistance and consultation, please use the resources of the Multimedia Learning Center in the basement of the NU Library. They know about our course and are ready to help with hardware (microphones, etc.), spaces to record, software assistance, and other technical needs. The MMLC can be reached for appointments at http://web.mmlc.northwestern.edu.

Here are some ideas for audio podcast projects:

  • A study of one performer or participant in the folk revival.
  • A study of one song or set of songs, investigating and analyzing its history, circulation, music and text, and significance.
  • A study of a particular “roots” genre or boundaries between or among genres.
  • A study of an event, or aspect of an event, such as the Berkeley Folk Music Festival.
  • A study of politics or some issue of cultural politics.
  • A study of change (and/or continuity) over time of a performer, event, or theme.
  • The notion of a folk “revival”—revival of what, exactly?
  • The concepts of authenticity, sincerity, irony, and other modalities or sensibilities and values at BFMF.
  • Concepts of the audience and of participation in the folk revival.
  • Folk music as educational.
  • An exploration of the meaning of one artifact: a photograph, a document, an album cover, an essay, etc.
  • A study of uses of publicity and public relations in the BFMF.
  • An investigation of copyright issues in relation to BFMF.
  • A study of some aspect of the BFMF in relation to concepts of “tradition.”
  • A study of some aspect of the BFMF in relation to race or ethnicity.
  • A study of some aspect of the BFMF in relation to gender.
  • A study of some aspect of the BFMF in relation to generational identity.
  • A study of some aspect of the BFMF in relation to regional identities.
  • A study of some aspect of the BFMF in relation to class formations, identities.
  • A study of some aspect of the BFMF in relation to technology.
  • A study of some aspect of the BFMF in relation to concepts of Americanness.
  • Use your intuition and imagination to formulate your own topic!

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