Digitizing Folk Music History Potential Research Projects

Here is a list of possible digital research projects that students in my Digitizing Folk Music History course might pursue:

Possible Projects, Or *Design Your Own*

The goal of your research project is to produce an analytic, interpretive digital presentation using evidence related in some way to the Berkeley Folk Festival archive and the history of the American folk music revival in general. Your project should address these historical topics. It should also, in its presentation, explore the possibilities (and the challenges) of the digital for new modes of historical interpretation. A successful project will have a clear argument that connects to evidence in a compelling and convincing way. It will also propose or enact inventive new ways of using digital technology to create historical interpretation.

Here is a list of potential foci. This is simply meant to inspire ideas and give you starting points on your projects. Through reading scholarship, exploring existing digital history projects, seminar discussions, and ongoing conversations with your instructor, technology consultant, fellow students, guest visitors, and participants in the BFF, you are encouraged to formulate your own project in relation to one of these proposed topics or to create your own topic of study.

Your project might be:

  • A study of one performer or participant at the Berkeley Folk Festival using photographs, recordings, descriptions, and additional research materials.
  • A study of one song or set of songs, investigating and analyzing the songs history, circulation, music and text, and significance.
  • A study of one year of the Berkeley Folk Festival, using materials to explore the significance of that particular festival.
  • A study of the relationship of the Berkeley Folk Festival to other events and aspects of Cal, Berkeley, the Bay Area, California, the US or the world.
  • A study of politics at BFF and/or in relation to BFF and the folk revival.
  • A study of change (and continuity) over time in presentations at the BFF.
  • What factors led to the instigation of the BFF in 1958?
  • What factors led to the ending of the festival’s run in 1970?
  • A study of any aspects the business side of the BFF: ticketing, funding, etc.
  • A study of the creation of the BFF archive and the nature of archives in general.
  • A study of the programming, curation, and arts administration at BFF.
  • A study of the relationship between the BFF and the postwar university system.
  • A data-mining project of word clouds, musical compositions, or other factors in the BFF or folk revival.
  • A study of genres and genre boundaries at the BFF.
  • A comparison of BFF to other folk, rock, jazz festivals.
  • Folk music as performance art, theatrical presentation, or other modes of presentation at BFF.
  • The representation of folk music at BFF.
  • The notion of a folk “revival”—revival of what, exactly?
  • The concepts of authenticity, sincerity, irony, and other modalities or sensibilities and values at BFF.
  • The concept of citizen and citizen-artists at BFF and in the folk revival.
  • Commerciality and notions of folk music as commercial or non-commercial at BFF and in the folk revival.
  • Concepts of the audience and of participation at BFF and in the folk revival.
  • Folk music as education at BFF.
  • An oral history of performers or attendees at BFF. Also could include design of a webspace for people to post memories of the BFF.
  • A study of visual material and iconography at BFF (posters, pamphlets, etc.).
  • A study of the journalism and arts criticism that emerged from the festival.
  • A study of uses of publicity and public relations in the BFF.
  • An investigation of copyright issues in relation to BFF.
  • A study of the “folk process” in relation to some aspect of BFF and/or some aspect of the digital.
  • A study of some aspect of the BFF in relation to concepts of “tradition.”
  • A study of some aspect of the BFF in relation to race or ethnicity.
  • A study of some aspect of the BFF in relation to gender.
  • A study of some aspect of the BFF in relation to generational identity.
  • A study of some aspect of the BFF in relation to regional identities.
  • A study of some aspect of the BFF in relation to class formations, identities.
  • A study of some aspect of the BFF in relation to technology.
  • A study of some aspect of the BFF in relation to concepts of Americanness.
  • A study of antecedents to or events inspired by the BFF: earlier folk festivals, or later ones; other kinds of festivity, such as World’s Fairs, rock concerts, Burning Man, etc.
  • Use your intuition and imagination to formulate your own topic!

 

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