Syllabus: Digitizing Folk Music History, Winter Quarter 2017

syllabus for digitizing folk music history, 2017 edition.

Hootenanny TV Show

Dr. Michael J. Kramer

History & American Studies, Northwestern University

Overview

Acoustic guitars, camp fires, overly sincere singers, and “Kumbaya” politics—these are the clichés of the American folk revival. It is typically thought of as an antimodern movement of Luddites. 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. It puts the folk back in folksonomies (user-generated tagging system of classification and categorization).

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 on a WordPress platform, with occasional use of Google Docs, WordPress plugins, Garageband, Audacity, and other tools and software that allows us to annotate, map, build timelines, create recordings, and pursue other digital approaches to history, students investigate the US folk revival and undertake their own multimedia projects based on original research. We probe what was at stake in the folk revival in relation to American culture and politics; questions of race, class, gender, age, and region; the strange workings of music-making, memory, and power; the interactions of ideas of tradition with new technologies of mediation.

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. In this upper-level undergraduate research seminar, all students read primary and secondary sources, listen to music, and view films extensively (both documentaries and fictional representations of folk music and the revival milieu); we meet for intensive face-to-face seminar discussion as students complete eight digital “mini-assignments” on the way to a final multimedia project based on original archival research.

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.

Schedule

WEEK 1                                    Introduction  
Th 01/05 What the Folk? LISTENING

  • Folk Introduction Mix
WEEK 2 What Was the Folk Revival?
Mo 01/09, midnight. Assignment 01: Getting Familiar with WordPress

(See assignments section)

Tu 01/10 The “Great Folk Scare,” 1 READING

  • Millie Rahm, “The Folk Revival: Beyond Child’s Canon and Sharp’s Song Catching,” in American Popular Music: New Approaches to the Twentieth Century, eds. Rachel Rubin and Jeffrey Melnick (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2001), 193-210
  • Robert Cantwell, “When We Were Good: Class and Culture in the Folk Revival,” in Transforming Tradition: Folk Music Revivals Examined, ed. Neil Rosenberg, 35-60
  • Susan Montgomery, “The Folk Furor,” Madamoiselle, December 1960, 98-100, 117-119
  • N.A., “Folk Singing: Sibyl With Guitar,” Time, 23 November 1963

Optional:

LISTENING

  • Folk Introduction Mix
Th 01/12 The “Great Folk Scare,” 2 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. Stekert, “Cents and Nonsense in the Urban Folksong Movement: 1930-1966,” in Transforming Tradition, 84-106
  • Hugh Barker and Yuval Taylor, “Nobody’s Dirty Business,” in Faking It: The Quest for Authenticity in Popular Music (New York: W.W. Norton, 2007), 29-99
  • 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

VIEWING

  • Festival, dir. Murray Lerner (1967)
WEEK 3 Deeper Into the Revival
Mo 01/16, midnight. Assignment 02:
“Slow down, you move too fast”: annotation/database building for close reading.
READING

Tu 01/17 Creating Heritage READING

  • Filene, Romancing the Folk, 1-75

VIEWING

  • American Roots Music, dir. Jim Brown (2001), Part 1-2

Optional:

  • Songcatcher, dir. David Mansfield (2000)

LISTENING

  • Filene Mix
Th 01/19 Folk vs. Roots vs. Vernacular vs. Tradition READING

  • Filene, 76-182
  • Archie Green, “Vernacular Music: A Naming Compass,” Musical Quarterly 77, 1 (Spring 1993), 35-46
  • Ron Eyerman and Andrew Jamison, “Taking traditions seriously,” in Music and Social Movements: Mobilizing Traditions in the Twentieth Century (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 26-47

VIEWING

  • ARM doc film, Part 3-4

LISTENING

  • Filene Mix
WEEK 4 Folk in Reds and Blues
Tu 01/24 Reds READING

  • Ron Eyerman and Scott Barretta. “From the 30s to the 60s: The Folk Music Revival in the United States,” Theory and Society 25, 4 (August 1996), 501-543
  • Rachel Clare Donaldson, I Hear America Singing”: Folk Music and National Identity (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2014), 1-75

VIEWING

  • Pete Seeger, Pete Seeger: The Power of Song, dir. Jim Brown (2007)
Th 01/26 Blues READING

  • Elijah Wald, Introduction and “What Is the Blues?,” in Escaping the Delta: Robert Johnson and the Invention of the Blues (New York: Amistad, 2004), xiii-13
  • Marybeth Hamilton, “The Real Negro Blues,” in In Search of the Blues (New York: Basic Books, 2008), 201-246
  • Jeff Todd Titon, “Reconstructing the Blues: Reflections on the 1960s Blues Revival,” in Transforming Tradition, 220-240
  • John Jeremiah Sullivan, “The Ballad of Elvie and Geeshie,” New York Times, 13 April 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/04/13/magazine/blues.html
  • Charles Keil, “Blues Styles: An Historical Sketch” and “Fattening Frogs for Snakes?,” in Urban Blues (University of Chicago Press, 1966), 50-95
  • William Barlow, “‘I Been ‘Buked and I Been Scorned’: The Folk Roots of the Blues,” in Looking Up at Down: The Emergence of the Blues (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1989), 7-24

Optional:

VIEWING

  • Honeydripper, dir. John Sayles (2007)

Optional:

  • Cadillac Records, dir. Darnell Martin (2008)
  • Who Do You Love?, dir. Jerry Zaks (2008)

LISTENING

  • Blues mix
WEEK 5 Rambles to New Lost Cities
Mo 01/30 Assignment 03: Time and Space, Timeline and Mapping READING

Tu 01/31 Folk Revival Death Match: New Lost City Ramblers vs. Kingston Trio READING

  • Ray Allen, “In Pursuit of Authenticity: The New Lost City Ramblers and the Postwar Folk Music Revival,” Journal of the Society for American Music 4, 3 (August 2010), 277–305
  • Brian Jones, ” Finding the Avant-Garde in the Old-Time: John Cohen in the American Folk Revival,” American Music 28, 4 (Winter 2010), 402-435
  • Warren Bareiss, “Middlebrow Knowingness in 1950s San Francisco: The Kingston Trio, Beat Counterculture, and the Production of ‘Authenticity,'” Popular Music and Society, 33, 1 (February 2010), 9–33

VIEWING

  • The New Lost City Ramblers: Always Been a Rambler, dir. Yasha Aginsky (2009)

 

LISTENING

  • NLCR Covers vs. Originals Listening Mix
Th 02/02 The Bay Area Scene READING

  • Larry Kelp, “The Berkeley Renaissance,” Berkeley Insider, 1, 10 (November 1993): 15-23
  • Barry Olivier, “Folk Music at Berkeley: 1956-1970,” Berkeley Folk Music Festival Collection, Special Collections, Northwestern University Library, manuscript written circa 1973
  • Barry Olivier, “A Personal Beginning,” Berkeley Folk Music Festival Collection, Special Collections, Northwestern University Library, manuscript written circa 1973
  • Michael J. Kramer, “When Mississippi John Hurt’s Head Moved,” Issues In Digital History, 26 June 2016, http://www.michaeljkramer.net/cr/when-mississippi-john-hurts-head-moved/
  • Michael J. Kramer, “This Land Is…Not As It Seems,” Issues in Digital History, 28 July 2016, http://www.michaeljkramer.net/cr/this-land-is-not-as-it-seems/

VIEWING

  • Berkeley In the 60s, dir. Mark Kitchell (1990)
WEEK 6 Folk Audiologies
Tu 02/07 Harry Smith’s Memory Theater READING

  • Robert Cantwell, “Smith’s Memory Theater: The Folkways Anthology of American Folk Music,” New England Review (1990-), Vol. 13, No. 3/4 (Spring – Summer, 1991), 364-397
  • Robert Cantwell, “Darkling I Listen: Making Sense of the Folkways Anthology,” in If Beale Street Could Talk: Music, Community, Culture (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2009), 26-41
  • Robert Cantwell, “The Magic 8 Ball: From Analog to Digital,” in If Beale Street Could Talk, 42-52

LISTENING

  • Anthology of American Folk Music Vol 1-3

Optional:

VIEWING

Optional:

  • The Harry Smith Project: The Anthology Of American Folk Music Revisited/The Old, Weird America: Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music, dir. Rani Singh (2007)
Th 02/09 More Folk Mediations READING

  • Tom Western, “‘The Age of the Golden Ear’: The Columbia World Library and Sounding out Post-war Field Recording,” Twentieth-Century Music 11/2, 275–300
  • Henry Adam Svec, “Folk Media: Alan Lomax’s Deep Digitality,” Canadian Journal of Communication Vol 38 (2013), 227-244
  • Henry Adam Svec, “Pete Seeger’s Mediated Folk,” Journal of Popular Music Studies, Volume 27, Issue 2, 145–162

VIEWING

  • Optional: Lomax the Songhunter, dir. Rogier Kappers (2004)

LISTENING

  • The Columbia World Library Mix
WEEK 7 Getting Going on Research
Mo 02/13 Assignment 04: Final Project Ideas ONLINE ARCHIVES (SELECTED)

There are many additional archives online or to visit in person as you explore final project ideas

Tu 02/14 MMLC Workshop 01: Sound Editing with Garageband and Audacity (Matt Taylor) Work on independent research
Th 02/16 MMLC Workshop 02: Using Voyant (Josh Honn) and open for consultation on final projects Work on independent research
WEEK 8 Dylanology
Mo 02/20 Assignment 05: Audio Analysis Using Garageband or Audacity READING

  • Andrew J. Salvati, “DIY Histories: Podcasting the Past,” Sounding Out! Blog, 14 April 2014, https://soundstudiesblog.com/2014/04/14/diy-histories-podcasting-the-presenting-of-the-past/

LISTENING

Tu 02/21 Dylan Up Close READING

  • Dylan, Chronicles, 1-100
  • Filene, Romancing the Folk, 183-236

VIEWING

  • No Direction Home: Bob Dylan, dir. Martin Scorsese, Parts 1-2 (2005)

LISTENING

  • Dylan Mix
Th 02/23 Dylan In Contexts 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, 84-131
  • Barry Shank, “‘That Wild Mercury Sound’: Bob Dylan and the Illusion of American Culture,” boundary 2, 9, 1 (Spring 2002), 97-123
  • Elijah Wald, “Think Twice,” Oxford American 95 (Winter 2016), http://www.oxfordamerican.org/magazine/item/1058-think-twice

VIEWING

  • I’m Not There, dir. Todd Haynes (2007)

Optional:

  • Masked and Anonymous, dir. Larry Charles, screenplay by Bob Dylan and Larry Charles (2003)

LISTENING

  • Dylan Mix
WEEK 9 Gender Benders and Record Collectors
Mo 02/27, midnight Assignment 06: Glitching Artifacts—”Deformance” for Historical Analysis READING

Optional:

  • Michael J. Kramer, “‘A Foreign Sound to Your Ear’: Image Sonification For Historical Analysis,” in Provoke! Digital Sound Studies, eds. Mary Caton Lingold, Darren Mueller, and Whitney Anne Trettien, (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, forthcoming 2017)
Tu 02/28 Gender Benders READING

  • Paige A. McGinley, “Real Personality: The Blues Actress,” in Staging the Blues: From Tent Shows to Tourism (Durham: Duke University Press, 2014)
  • Mimi Thi Nguyen, “Riot Grrrl, Race, and Revival,” Women & Performance: A Journal of Feminist Theory, 2012 July, Vol.22 (2-3), 173-196
Th 03/02 Record Collectors READING

  • Selections from Amanda Petrusich, Do Not Sell At Any Price: The Wild, Obsessive Hunt for the World’s Rarest 78rpm Records (New York: Scribner, 2015), Prologue, Chapter 1, 10, 12, 13, 14, 15

Optional:

  • Walter Benjamin, “Unpacking My Library: A Talk About Book Collecting” (1931), in Illuminations, ed. Hannah Arendt, trans. Harry Zohn (New York: Schoken Books, 1978), 59-68
  • Jean Baudrillard, “The System of Collecting” from The System of Objects (1968), in The Cultures of Collecting, eds. John Elsner and Roger Cardinal (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1994), 7-24

VIEWING

  • Ghost World, dir. Terry Zwigoff (2001)
  • Desperate Man Blues, dir. Edward Gillian (2003)
WEEK 10 Of Folk Music and Folksonomies: Conclusions
Mo 03/06, midnight Assignment 07: Voyant for Historiography
Tu 03/07 What’s so funny about the folk revival? VIEWING

  • A Mighty Wind, dir. Christopher Guest (2003)
  • O Brother, Where Art Thou?, dirs. Ethan and Joel Coen (2000)
  • Inside Llewyn Davis, dir.  Ethan and Joel Coen (2013)
Tu 03/07,

midnight

Assignment 08: Final Project Outline
 Fi 03/17, midnight Final Project due.

Assignments

Assignment 01: Getting Familiar with WordPress.

We will be using a password-protected WordPress content management system as the main arena for writing, conversation, and digital research and publication beyond classroom meetings. The url is https://curricula.mmlc.northwestern.edu/bfmf/winter2017. Log in using your Northwestern Net ID and password at https://curricula.mmlc.northwestern.edu/winter2017/wp-login.php. WordPress is fairly simple content management software, but it can be stretched and expanded in productive ways. For basic instructions on using WordPress, see: http://codex.wordpress.org. You can also watch brief instructional videos such as https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zi9uGwXI-NU. But most of all, I suggest simply diving in and using it as the platform is fairly intuitive. There’s a published view (what readers see) and then a “dashboard” or backend in which you create content for the website. Think of it as the equivalent of the printed publication and the design studio, respectively.

Set up and test your account on our WordPress content management system to test out the platform.

  • Write a one-paragraph introductory post. 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?
  • Try inserting a hyperlink into your post.
  • Try uploading an image to your post.
  • If you are feeling daring, try embedding a YouTube video or other media object in your post.
  • Add a comment to your post or another student’s post.
  • Pick a song from the Introduction Mix and write a one-paragraph analysis. What do you hear in the song? What makes you curious about it? What is meaningful about it to you, not only in the lyrics, but in the sounds? What kind of history do you sense it encapsulates? Try embedding the song from YouTube, Spotify, or another source if you can locate it.

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

“Slow down, you move too fast”—annotation/database building for close reading.

READING

  • Michael J. Kramer, “Writing on the Past, Literally (Actually, Virtually),” Issues in Digital History, 4 February 2014, http://www.michaeljkramer.net/cr/writing-on-the-past-literally-actually-virtually/
  • Michael J. Kramer, “What Does Digital Humanities Bring to the Table?,” Issues in Digital History, 25 September 2012, http://www.michaeljkramer.net/cr/what-does-digital-humanities-bring-to-the-table/

ASSIGNMENT

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 primary source readings thus far in class:
  • Susan Montgomery, “The Folk Furor,” Madamoiselle, December 1960, 98-100, 117-119
  • A., “Folk Singing: Sibyl With Guitar,” Time, 23 November 1963
  • Alan Lomax, “The ‘Folkniks’—and the Songs They Sing,” Sing Out! 9 (1959): 30-31, reprinted in Alan Lomax, Selected Writings, 1934-1997, Ronald D. Cohen
  • John Cohen, “In Defense of City Folksingers,” Sing Out!9 (1959): 33-34
  • Ellen J. Stekert, “Cents and Nonsense in the Urban Folksong Movement: 1930-1966,” in Transforming Tradition, 84-106
  • Open up the document in Adobe Acrobat Reader DC (available here for free download: https://get.adobe.com/reader/). 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, or select the Comments tool on the righthand sidebar (see screenshot below).

  • Make your annotations and markups.
  • 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 post.

EMBEDDING ANNOTATED PDF IN WORDPRESS 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.

CREATE A “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 and 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 Lomax Annotation.”
  • Add in your information (Detail, Description get cut and paste) then add in Significance and your Citation.

EMBEDDING YOUR “SIGNIFICANCE” TABLE IN WORDPRESS POST:

•       Once you have completed your table, copy the shortcode [table id=<ID> /] and paste it into the corresponding place in your 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: Time and Space, Timeline and Mapping

READING

  • Michael J. Kramer, “Line Dancing,” Issues in Digital History, 29 March 2016, http://www.michaeljkramer.net/cr/line-dancing/
  • Michael J. Kramer, “There Is a Timeline, Turn, Turn, Turn,” Issues in Digital History, 10 November 2012, http://www.michaeljkramer.net/cr/there-is-a-timeline-turn-turn-turn/
  • Michael J. Kramer, “This Land Is…Not As It Seems,” Issues in Digital History, 28 July 2016, http://www.michaeljkramer.net/cr/this-land-is-not-as-it-seems/

ASSIGNMENT

The goal of this assignment is to explore how assembling a digital timeline and map can help you to conceptualize and frame a “macro-narrative” or a “master narrative” for the folk revival. The assignment also offers an opportunity to reflect on methodological questions of how we construct narratives of historical meaning from the past. We will use the tools Timeline JS and Storymap JS, both created at Medill right here at Northwestern.

Your final WordPress post should feature the following:

  1. An embedded Timeline JS timeline.
  2. A copy of your Google Sheets spreadsheet (which you can export from Google and then upload to WordPress as an .ods file)
  3. An embedded Storymap JS that geocodes your Timeline events.
  4. A short essay (prompts below)

USING TIMELINE JS

  • Go to the Timeline JS (http://timeline.knightlab.com), 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 Timeline JS page, click on the green “Make a Timeline” button and follow the instructions to use a Google Docs template to add your data.
  • 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 5-15 events you wish to portray in your timeline.
  • When your spreadsheet is complete, follow instruction number 2 back on the Timeline JS website (not on Google) to select “Publish to the Web” as well as instruction items 3 and 4. This allows your database to port into the timeline template and render in your WordPress post.
  • In WordPress, create a new post.
  • Select the Text tab and paste the embed code from Timeline JS to your WordPress post.

SAVE YOUR GOOGLE SHEETS DATA IN WORDPRESS

  • In Google Docs, choose File > Download as > Open Document Format (.ods) and upload/insert that file into your post. This captures your Google Docs spreadsheet in your WordPress post.

USING STORYMAP JS

  • Go to Storymap JS (https://storymap.knightlab.com) and review the website as well.
  • Click the green “Make a Storymap now” button. Follow the instructions to create points on the map from your Timeline elements.
  • When your map is complete (or even before it is finished), click on the Share button and scroll down. Cut the Embed code from the window and past it into your WordPress post with the Text tab selected rather than the Visual tab. Your Storymap should now render in your WordPress post below your timeline and spreadsheet file link.

ADDITIONAL OPTIONAL EXPLORATION

  • You can play around with ordering and presentation of items in both Timeline JS and Storymap JS if you wish. Do they make you think about the chronology and spatial dimensions of the revival in new ways if you reorganize your data and re-represent it through these digital tools?

ESSAY

  • Finally, develop a short essay (1-3 paragraphs) that reflects on the experience of developing a timeline and related map to narrate the overarching narrative of 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 map: did it make you consider history in linear and non-linear modes? Does history look different or suggest different meanings when rendered and implicitly narrated on a timeline or in the spatial representation of a map? History within time and space—how do these digital tactics help us to discover new awareness about what history is and how we create it from our historical data?
  • Choose category.
  • Be sure to add a title and tags (keywords) to your post.

Assignment 04: Final Project Ideas

What Does the Final Multimedia Interpretive Digital History Project Involve?

The final assignment in our course asks you to develop and produce an “interpretive digital history” multimedia project based on original research. What does this mean, exactly? The goal of the final assignment is to develop a topic suitable to an essay-length investigation. Then you must develop a functional and compelling research question. Next, your task is to read the existing research on the topic, which is to say read the secondary sources, or what is known as the historiography (what other historians have had to say about a topic). Then you must develop your own archive of primary sources to analyze from existing archives and locations. Methodologically, you might ask how the digital tools we have used might add to your capabilities to perceive, notice, document, and communicate what you are noticing about the sources in relation to your research question. Each student should use at least two of the tools (exceptions can be made for particular topics that suit one or more tools in particular). Your goal is to assemble a multimedia interpretation and narrative about your topic, articulating your research question and developing an argument in response to your research with primary sources as they interact with your understanding of existing historiography (the secondary sources). Careful explanation through text, digital analysis, and other means will allow you to create successful, compelling, and cogent argumentation, or the convincing connection of evidence to your argument. Each project will include a 2-5 minute audio podcast overview in which you creatively and clearly explain your project in an aural format (sound effects welcome).

The tactics and look are different, but the overall goal is the same as a conventional essay written only with text: 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:

  • Start to identify what you wish to focus on for your final project
  • Pose a “big question”: 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?
  • Zero in on a very specific topic: what’s your small case study?
  • 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?)
  • Consider what digital tools you might use to explore your topic from the ones we are exploring in class or using other tools that are available.
  • Any other questions, concerns, ideas, etc.
  • Select one primary source to embed in your post: it can be a song, an image, a segment of text. Develop an additional paragraph analysis of the primary source and how it relates to your tentative project idea.

Your project can be in bullet points or paragraph form, whatever works best for you.

ONLINE ARCHIVES

(Selected)

There are many additional archives online or to visit in person as you explore final project ideas.

Assignment 05: Audio Analysis Using Garageband or Audacity

Use Garageband or Audacity to create a short audio clip. You might think of the assignment as a practice run for your final project’s audio podcast overview. Or explore a “remix” approach, putting together clips from recordings or songs to collage them as a heuristic for noticing and then writing a short essay (1-3 paragraphs) about what the remix made you notice and why your observations are significant for folk music history.

All clips should, at minimum, include:

  • at least one song
  • at least one sound effect
  • your voice discussing some aspect of the song (sound, lyrics, artist, context, etc.)
  • a fade in
  • a fade out

Once you have created and saved your audio analysis:

  • Upload the clip to the WordPress Media Library.
  • Embed it in your post.
  • Write a 1-2 paragraph description of your podcast, noting any aspects of your material you noticed by working in an aural format. What did working aurally on your material change for your understanding of it? What other observations of this mode of historical thinking did you consider in developing the assignment?
  • Choose category.
  • Add tags (keywords) to your post.

Assignment 06 – Glitching Artifacts—”Deformance” for Historical Analysis.

  • In the BFMF Digital Archive (or 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 paper.js (http://paperjs.org), 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 three-paragraph reflection: (1) First paragraph—analyze your glitched images closely as historical artifacts…what details did the glitching reveal? How might you interpret these details historically? How might you contextualize them? What do the “distortions” suggest about the historical moment that the original image “captures”? What do the glitches point to or suggest as new potential historical interpretations to which the image as whole speaks or gestures? (2) Second paragraph—Analyze your image in terms of how we might understand digital artifacts? What happens when older modes of technological representation such as 1960s still photography “go digital”? What are the new opportunities for analyzing these artifacts? What new problems emerge in the transfer to the digital medium? What does code allow you to do with objects? Did this make you think about the archival material in a new way? (3) Third paragraph—What was your experience of playing with javascript in paper.js?
  • Choose category.
  • Add tags (keywords) to your post.
  • Examples of assignment: Michael J. Kramer and students, “Distorting History (To Make It More Accurate),” Issues in Digital History, 3 April 2016, http://www.michaeljkramer.net/cr/distorting-history-to-make-it-more-accurate/

Assignment 07: Voyant for Historiography

Use Voyant (https://voyant-tools.org) to “read” one or more secondary source(s) computationally. Develop a short analysis of what you notice in your Voyant-processed version of the source(s). Or use a secondary source pdf from your final project research. Additionally, if you are feeling self-reflective, you might also experiment with cutting and pasting the text from your assignments thus far for class to see if they produce any interesting results when processed computationally.

  • If you wish to work with articles and essays from seminar, it will probably work best to open up one of the OCR (Optical Character Recognition) PDF files and cut and paste the text into the Voyant window to produce effective results. Here are files you might use and analyze:
    • Robert Cantwell, “When We Were Good: Class and Culture in the Folk Revival,” in Transforming Tradition: Folk Music Revivals Examined, ed. Neil Rosenberg, 35-60
    • Ellen J. Stekert, “Cents and Nonsense in the Urban Folksong Movement: 1930-1966,” in Transforming Tradition, 84-106
    • 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
    • Archie Green, “Vernacular Music: A Naming Compass,” Musical Quarterly 77, 1 (Spring 1993): 35-46
    • Elijah Wald, Introduction and “What Is the Blues?,” in Escaping the Delta: Robert Johnson and the Invention of the Blues(New York: Amistad, 2004), xiii-13
    • John Jeremiah Sullivan, “The Ballad of Elvie and Geeshie,” New York Times, 13 April 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/04/13/magazine/blues.html
    • Ray Allen, “In Pursuit of Authenticity: The New Lost City Ramblers and the Postwar Folk Music Revival,” Journal of the Society for American Music 4, 3 (August 2010), 277–305
    • Brian Jones, ” Finding the Avant-Garde in the Old-Time: John Cohen in the American Folk Revival,” American Music 28, 4 (Winter 2010), 402-435
    • Warren Bareiss, “Middlebrow Knowingness in 1950s San Francisco: The Kingston Trio, Beat Counterculture, and the Production of ‘Authenticity,'” Popular Music and Society, 33, 1 (February 2010), 9–33
    • Barry Olivier, “Folk Music at Berkeley: 1956-1970,” Berkeley Folk Music Festival Collection, Special Collections, Northwestern University Library, manuscript written circa 1973
    • Barry Olivier, “A Personal Beginning,” Berkeley Folk Music Festival Collection, Special Collections, Northwestern University Library, manuscript written circa 1973
    • Michael J. Kramer, “When Mississippi John Hurt’s Head Moved,” Issues In Digital History, 26 June 2016, http://www.michaeljkramer.net/cr/when-mississippi-john-hurts-head-moved/ (Links to an external site.)
    • Michael J. Kramer, “This Land Is…Not As It Seems,” Issues in Digital History, 28 July 2016, http://www.michaeljkramer.net/cr/this-land-is-not-as-it-seems/
    • Robert Cantwell, “Smith’s Memory Theater: The Folkways Anthology of American Folk Music,” New England Review(1990-), Vol. 13, No. 3/4 (Spring – Summer, 1991), pp. 364-397
    • Tom Western, “‘The Age of the Golden Ear’: The Columbia World Library and Sounding out Post-war Field Recording,” Twentieth-Century Music 11/2, 275–300
    • Henry Adam Svec, “Folk Media: Alan Lomax’s Deep Digitality,” Canadian Journal of Communication Vol 38 (2013), 227-244
    • Henry Adam Svec, “Pete Seeger’s Mediated Folk,” Journal of Popular Music Studies, Volume 27, Issue 2, 145–162
    • 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, 84-131
    • Barry Shank, “‘That Wild Mercury Sound’: Bob Dylan and the Illusion of American Culture,” boundary 2, 9, 1 (Spring 2002), 97-123
    • Elijah Wald, “Think Twice,” Oxford American 95 (Winter 2016), http://www.oxfordamerican.org/magazine/item/1058-think-twice
    • Mimi Thi Nguyen, “Riot Grrrl, Race, and Revival,” Women & Performance: A Journal of Feminist Theory, 2012 July, Vol.22 (2-3), 173-196
  • You can also select files or websites independently but they will only work if the scan has OCR functionality, which is to say if you can actually cut and paste the text characters from the original into Voyant
  • Take a look at the results in Voyant. What emerges from these alternative, computational ways of “reading” the text(s)? Any confirmations? Any surprises?
  • Optional: if you are feeling self-reflective, you might also experiment with cutting and pasting the text from your assignments thus far for class to see if they produce any interesting results when processed computationally.
  • Develop a 1-2 paragraph essay about what you notice in the Voyant version of the secondary source
  • Choose category
  • Add tags (keywords) to your post

Assignment 08: Final Project Outline

Develop a full outline and prospectus of your final project. It should include:

  • A tentative title.
  • Your current research question and any prior formulations of your research question.
  • Your hypothesis.
  • Your primary sources listed and annotated to explain how they relate to your hypothesis and narrative.
  • Your secondary sources listed and annotated to explain how they relate to your hypothesis and narrative.
  • Your digital tools and how you plan to use them.
  • A draft of your audio podcast overview script.
  • Work plan, issues, dilemmas?
  • Select one primary source to embed in your post: it can be a song, an image, a segment of text. Develop an additional paragraph analysis of the primary source and how it relates to your tentative project idea.

Required Materials

  • Benjamin Filene, Romancing the Folk: Public Memory and American Roots Music (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1999) ISBN-13: 978-0807848623
  • Bob Dylan, Chronicles, Volume One (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2005) ISBN-13: 978-0743244589
  • Amanda Petrusich, Do Not Sell At Any Price: The Wild, Obsessive Hunt for the World’s Rarest 78rpm Records (New York: Scribner, 2015) ISBN-13: 978-1451667066
  • Lots of material (readings, listenings, viewings) on course website.

Websites

Canvas: https://canvas.northwestern.edu/courses/51500

WordPress: https://curricula.mmlc.northwestern.edu/bfmf/winter2017

You will also need a Google account (Your U.Northwestern account) to access Google Docs/Sheets.

Evaluation

  • 8 assignment posts, 10% each = 80%
    • Original post. Usually due on Mondays by midnight.
  • Final Project = 15%
  • Class participation and discussion = 5% (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?)

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 multimedia project will have its own rubric. Overall, the goal of the project is to select a topic for research, formulate a well-formed research question, develop a hypothesis, pursue research with original archival evidence (such as the Berkeley Folk Music Festival Collection or another archive), and locate question, argument, and research within existing historiography on the topic. Finally, the project must use at least two of the digital tools we have explored in our mini-assignments (with alternative arrangements possible depending on what tool or tools best advance a student’s specific research) and include a 2-5 minute audio podcast overview of the project (instructions will be provided).

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 Content Management System and Other Digital History Tools

We will be using a password-protected WordPress content management system as the main arena for writing, conversation, and digital research and publication beyond classroom meetings. The url is https://curricula.mmlc.northwestern.edu/bfmf/winter2017. Log in using your Northwestern Net ID and password at https://curricula.mmlc.northwestern.edu/winter2017/wp-login.php. WordPress is fairly simple content management software, but it can be stretched and expanded in productive ways. For basic instructions on using WordPress, see: http://codex.wordpress.org. You can also watch brief instructional videos such as https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zi9uGwXI-NU. But most of all, I suggest simply diving in and using it as the platform is fairly intuitive. There’s a published view (what readers see) and then a “dashboard” or backend in which you create content for the website. Think of it as the equivalent of the printed publication and the design studio, respectively.

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 content, 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 websites 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.

One thought on “Syllabus: Digitizing Folk Music History, Winter Quarter 2017

Leave a Reply