“Songs of the Seminole Indians of Florida” Recorded by Dr. Frances Densmore

Dr. Frances Densmore was born on 21 May 1867, in Red Wing, Minnesota. Densmore began her study of music at Oberlin Conservatory of Music in 1886 through study of piano and organ performance, as well as study of harmony. She then went on to continue her study of piano performance at Harvard under the direction of John K. Paine in 1890. Densmore began her study of American Indian music in 1893 after reading reports written by ethnologist and anthropologist Alice C. Fletcher, and with encouragement from an authority on American Indian music at the time, John Comfort Fillmore. She first transcribed American Indian music in 1901 when she wrote down a couple of songs sung by a Sioux woman living near Red Wing. In the years that followed, Densmore, in conjunction with the Bureau of American Ethnology of the Smithsonian Institution, transcribed 2,400 songs and made thousands of recordings from the Mandan, Hidatsa, Arapaho, Cheyenne, Papago, Pawnee, Seminole, Sioux, Maidus, and Pueblo tribes. The Smithsonian-Densmore collection of Indian Sound Recordings was first housed in the National Archives in Washington D.C., and was later moved to the Library of Congress

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Densmore recording songs from a Blackfoot Chief

Densmore began recording the Seminole Indians of Florida in January of 1931, when she went on her first recording expedition of the Seminole at the Big Cypress Swamp. This initial trip was followed by a second visit, begun in November 1931 that continued until March of 1932. During the second expedition, Densmore once again visited the Big Cypress Swamp, but she also traveled to record the Cow Creek groups. Her third, and last, expedition to record the Seminole occurred during 1933 during which she recorded members of the Cow Creek group. Densmore returned from her travels with several-hundred song recordings, 243 of which appear analyzed in her monograph.

Instruments:

Coconut rattle

Coconut rattle

The Seminole use rattles, drums, and the occasional flute to accompany their songs. The rattles usually are made out of coconut shells that are filled with seeds. Women participating in the Corn and Stomp Dances often wear these rattles tied to their legs, just below the knee. The drums that are used by the Seminole are one-headed hand drums. Flutes are used rarely by the Seminole, but can be made out of cane.

Corn Dance and Hunting Dance:

The Seminole have only two tribal gatherings per year—one in June for the Corn Dance, and one in September for the Hunting Dance. The Corn Dance is a celebration of the ripening of the corn, when everyone can eat together. None of the new corn that has been grown is eaten by the Seminole until after the ceremony, which can last anywhere from four to eight days, and takes place in a central location so that all groups may be present. The Corn Dance is also a time during which trials and punishments are doled out to those who have done wrong, and the punishments are carried out by the offender’s family. Songs specific to the Corn Dance are the Buffalo Dance Song and the Corn Dance Song.

Corn Dance Song

The Hunting Dance occurs in order to make sure that the hunt for that year is successful. Unlike the Corn Dance, during the Hunting Dance, only the leader and his helper sing, with the rest of the people not joining in. Songs specific to the Hunting Dance are the Snake Dance or Horned Owl Dance, and the Hunting Dance.

Hunting Dance Song

Works Cited:

—http://www.folkways.si.edu/songs-of-the-seminole-indians-of-florida/american-indian/music/album/smithsonian

—http://media.smithsonianfolkways.org/liner_notes/folkways/FW04383.pdf

—http://siarchives.si.edu/oldsite/research/sciservwomendensmore.html

—http://www.semtribe.com/History/

Solomon Linda’s “Mbube”

Background

Solomon Linda (1909–1962) spent the majority of his life as a poor and largely unknown Zulu laborer from Ladysmith, South Africa.  Even after he and The Evening Birds recorded what would continue to be one of the most transformed and rereleased songs ever, Linda’s regional notoriety would not ever extend beyond South Africa during his lifetime.  Worse yet, Linda would only see a minute fraction of the tremendous amount of revenue that this simple track would generate in its many iterations and implementations during and after his life—revenue from which he and his destitute family could have dearly benefitted.  “Mbube” would bring several important musical and ethical questions to the forefront: who really owns a musical work, to what degree must an original musical work be transformed until it can be considered a new original, and who deserves what money?

Linda was steeped in Zulu culture since birth, having been raised entirely within a Zulu community singing traditional Zulu songs until his journey to Johannesburg in search of employment in 1931.  The Evening Birds simply began as Linda’s earnest attempt to preserve Zulu musical tradition beyond the boundaries of his birthplace as he ventured to the big city.  Little did Linda know, however, that he and his friends would give birth to a genre so iconic that it would adopt “Mbube” as its eventual identifier.

“Mbube” was not always so evidently destined for fame (or infamy), though, and its very existence hinged on a chance encounter that Linda and The Evening Birds happened to have with a scout from Gallo Records, their employer in Johannesburg at the time.  The South African label specialized in recording African music onto 78s and saw potential in the tunes that Linda and his friends were singing as they packed those same 78s to earn a living.  In 1939, Gallo Records offered to Linda and The Evening Birds the exclusive opportunity to try their hand at recording these Zulu songs.  The session was generally unremarkable and often frustrating, considering that Linda and his friends had zero prior experience within a recording studio.  Despite this, one promising track would emerge to transform an otherwise royal waste of effort into pure magic.

Production

Griffiths Motsieloa, recognized as the first black producer in South Africa, begrudgingly oversaw Linda’s foray into the realm of recording.  Motsieloa was vastly disinterested in producing what Linda had to offer musically—as Rian Malan of Rolling Stone described him, “[he] was a refined classicist who abhorred this cultural slumming”—but nonetheless offered his guidance to Linda and The Evening Birds throughout the painstaking process.  By the time that Linda and his fellow musicians prepared to record “Mbube,” they had already infuriated Motsieloa with many unimpressive, downright useless takes.  Linda could only partially get through two disappointing takes of “Mbube” before Motsieloa insisted on recruiting three instrumentalists down the hall: a guitarist, a banjoist, and a pianist.  Linda was initially skeptical of this presumed bastardization of traditional Zulu music but still elected to record again with the unconventional additions.  As the vocalists struggled to accommodate the foreign sounds of the strings (who were likewise struggling to find their key), Linda whimsically improvised a melody that would spark just as much controversy as it would admiration in the decades to come.

Legacy

Motsieloa knew that he had struck gold; it was not long thereafter that “Mbube” was circulating throughout South Africa on 78s pressed in England and stamped with the signature rooster of Gallo Records, to whom they had swiftly sold the rights to their piece for a “petty cash voucher”—a dubious decision that would plague Linda for the remainder of his life.  Regardless, Linda and The Evening Birds rapidly became local superstars as Zulu migrants identified with the Zulu lyrics of “Mbube” and upheld Linda as the ideal of Zulu success.

In 1948, Alan Lomax (1915–2002), an American folklorist who had already well established himself as an archivist of black American music and at the time worked for Decca Records, accidentally stumbled upon “Mbube” in a stack of ten African 78s designated for the garbage.  Lomax soon presented “Mbube” to Pete Seeger (1919–2014) of The Weavers who in turn sought to morph it into something new altogether.  Lacking any familiarity whatsoever with the Zulu language, Seeger transcribed “Mbube” phonetically, hearing the original Zulu “uyimbube” as “wimoweh” instead and renaming his rendition just that. Punctuating Seeger’s departure from Linda’s version was his unique decision to set “Wimoweh” to accompaniment by a big brass band—something that Linda never could have dreamed of doing.  In 1952, “Wimoweh” reached #6 in America, all without eliciting a single peep from Gallo Records across the ocean.

Seeger catalyzed the ensuing torrent of remakes of “Mbube” with “Wimoweh” as it was released under Decca Records.  Countless covers were to come, all striving to capitalize on the catchy beat and the enchanting melody that Linda had laid down in 1939.  These covers stuck mostly true to Seeger’s version until 1961, when Jay Siegel (1939–) of The Tokens debuted his version as it was rewritten by George David Weiss (1921-2010).  In addition to tweaking the musical style of “Wimoweh” to be less brassy, Weiss added the famous words “in the jungle, the mighty jungle, the lion sleeps tonight,” and like that, “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” skyrocketed to #1 in America and #11 in England, just before Linda died in poverty from renal failure in 1962.

Aftermath

Malan estimated in 2000 that “Mbube,” “Wimoweh,” and “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” had earned artists $15 million in total royalties since 1939.  Unfortunately, those lucky artists did not include Linda himself, who had already long passed away.  So who got what money?  Broadly speaking, royalties were divided into two categories: publisher and composer.  Seeger and The Weavers received the former for “Wimoweh” while Weiss did the latter for his essential role in “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” although Seeger did so far less enthusiastically.  As he recalled, “The big mistake I made was not making sure that my publisher signed a regular songwriters’ contract with Linda.”  Seeger’s conscience prompted him to send $1000 to Linda’s family back in 1962, and although he instructed his publisher, TRO/Folkways, to keep this compensatory trend going, Seeger’s request was totally ignored.

The drama hit its peak in 2004 when Linda’s family decided for the first time ever to pursue legal action against some of those who had so enormously and unfairly profited from Linda’s composition—in this instance, Disney.  Seeking recompense for the use of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” and thus indirectly the unauthorized use of “Mbube” in The Lion King, Linda’s family sued Disney for $1.6 million, representing only a tiny portion of the cash that the theatre and film spectacle reaped for Disney.  The case attracted widespread public attention but was never settled.

In the same year, TRO/Folkways vowed to construct a memorial in honor of Linda and to furnish his surviving family with $3000 annually, presumably to counteract the decades of silence prior.  Whether TRO/Folkways did this from goodness of heart or as a preemptive measure against another hefty lawsuit, this was the first and only real victory that Linda’s family had experienced.  Still, the fact remained that as Linda’s family celebrated a meager consolation—one with relatively insignificant financial bearing—Seeger, Weiss, and Disney would grow richer by the day, all thanks to a modest Zulu man with an unforgettable falsetto.

Bibliography

“A Lion’s Trail.” PBS. PBS, n.d. Web. 19 Apr. 2016.

“Gallo Record Company.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 19 Apr. 2016.

Malan, Rian. “Longform Reprints: In the Jungle by Rian Malan.” Editorial. Rolling Stone May 2000: n. pag. Longform. Longform. Web. 19 Apr. 2016.

“Solomon Linda.” Solomon Linda. NNDB, n.d. Web. 19 Apr. 2016.

Project Proposal Meetings

Below is a proposed schedule for our one-on-one meetings to discuss your final project proposals. The schedule is based on your availability from the survey you completed last week in class; if you are not available at the time I have scheduled you, please let me know and we will arrange another time.

Wednesday, April 6

1:30—Evan
1:50—Peter
2:10—Jim
2:30—Ellis
2:50—Kevin
3:10—Tyler
3:30—Matt

Thursday, April 7

3:00—Maddie
3:20—Charlotte

Friday, April 8

1:30—Ian
1:50—Natalie
2:10—Alec
2:30—Emma Rose

Switched on Bach – Wendy Carlos

Introduction:

Although Switched on Bach was not the first album to make use of the modular synthesizer, it was, by far, the most commercially and critically successful of its kind. The album, which features electronic renditions of ten works by J.S. Bach, ushered in a new era of music production and blurred the lines between the traditional roles of engineer and musician. At a time when electronic music was coming of age in the United States, Switched on Bach provided important influence and direction for emerging musical and engineering talents.

The turbulent 1960s saw many pre-established norms crumble under pressures from a new generation. “Switched on Bach” is not obtrusively a social commentary, but the album does convey an important shift in technological creativity. Created on a Moog synthesizer, Switched on Bach lent itself to a different kind of performance, one that could not be given easily in traditional concert halls or auditoriums. Modern in its rendition of Bach and for its experimentation with a new technology, Switched on Bach was an album for a generation fascinated by cultural and technological novelty.

 

Vintage Record Collection: Switched-On Bach, Wendy (Walter) Carlos Performing on the Moog Synthesizer, Columbia Masterworks Records, Released in 1968

 

Biography – Wendy Carlos:

            Wendy Carlos, born on November 14, 1939 in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, was an engineering and music prodigy from her early childhood. In 1953, Carlos won an award at the prestigious Westinghouse science competition for building a homemade computer. Her technical brilliance took her to Brown University, where she studied music and physics. While earning her masters degree in music composition at Columbia University, she became engaged in the academic debate on the merits of serialism versus traditional orchestral, tonal music. With an aversion for serialism, then the preference of high-minded academic circles, Carlos found a career as a composer to be impossible to undertake. Instead, she reconnected with her interest in electronics, and, after working under Vladimir Ussachevsky at the Columbia-Princeton studio, developed a friendship with Robert Moog, a physicist from Cornell who had pioneered the Moog synthesizer in 1963.

Carlos’ friendship with Moog acquainted her with her future collaborator and producer Rachel Elkind. The Elkind-Carlos relationship was sour at first, with neither recognizing the potential of the other; only when Carlos realized that Elkind could provide a necessary connection to the corporate recording industry did she abandon her intense loathing for Elkind. With Elkind, Carlos began experimenting more heavily with the Moog synthesizer, using it in her version of “What’s New Pussycat.” Elkind provided the critical direction of any good producer, but was only impressed when she heard Carlos’ synthesized rendition of Bach’s “Two-Part Invention in F Major.” The pair would go on to create, produce, and mix Carlos’ 1968 album, Switched on Bach. Elkind’s guidance and Carlos’ brilliance made the album a tremendous commercial success. Upon this album, Carlos built a reputation that would earn her contracts for several blockbuster film soundtracks, including those of The Shining and A Clockwork Orange.

The Album and the Moog Synthesizer

            By the time Williams, a pioneer in the fields of music, electronics, and engineering, had graduated from Columbia University in the early 1960s, other musicians were putting out popular renditions of classical pieces. The venerated works of German composer, Johann Sebastian Bach, were the focus of some important musicians, including Keith Emerson, frontman for British rock outfit The Nice, and Virgil Fox, an independent organist.

Conceived by Williams, produced by Rachel Elkind, and made on Robert Moog’s 1963 Moog synthesizer, Switched on Bach was a painstaking project. Elkind and Williams, along with musicologist Benjamin Folkman, spent the spring and summer of 1968 working on the album, which featured ten pieces by Bach available under public domain. The trio relied on Robert Moog’s newly invented synthesizer, which, unlike its contemporary, the Buchla synthesizer, gave musicians infinite tape loops and repeats. Despite this innovation, the Moog was a complicated piece of analog technology: it systematized the production of electronically generated sound into a number of functional blocks. Each note, therefore, was played individually. Surely Moog’s machine tested the patience of both Carlos and Elkind during the recording process.

Having first bought a Moog synthesizer in 1966, Carlos, despite her technical proficiency, struggled to master the varied tonal nuances of Bach’s pieces, as her analog instrument only had half-a-dozen basic sounds. Carlos brilliantly surpassed the technological limitations of the machine, and, during the recording process, jumped from timbre to timbre on the Moog in order to produce more timbral resources than really existed. Elkind and Carlos worked together to search for certain timbres, to mimic hard-to-produce sounds, like those of a French horn. With parts from Apex, Carlos assembled a special 8-track recording device that she and Elkind used to record Switched on Bach.

 

 

Alice Daisy´s Moog Voyager and Yamaha CS Dual Channel Synthesizer

 

 

Featured Tracks: “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” and Toccata and “Air on a G-string”

The recording of each track, as aforementioned, was a difficult and long process. Each note had to be played individually, and Elkind and Carlos doubtlessly spent hours trying to correct errors caused by the limitation in the Moog’s timbral facilities. Below are two tracks for Switched on Bach, “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” (from Cantata no. 147), and “Air on a G-string” (from Suite in D major).

 

“Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring”

Originally entitled “Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben” (Heart and Mouth and Deed and Life), this piece was composed in 1716, and then revised in 1723 by Johann Sebastian Bach. In their original iterations, the chorale movements 6 and 10 had been scored for choir, trumpet, violin, viola, and basso continuo. Written during Bach’s Weimar period, this piece includes an opening chorus and four arias.

As with “Air on a G-string” and “Toccata and Fugue in D minor,” “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” was already immensely famous before Carlos’ rendition. Traditionally, the piece had been performed at weddings and on Christian holidays, such as Easter and Christmas. It was pieces like these that contributed to the commercial success of Carlos’ Switched on Bach.

 

“Air on a G-string”

August Wilhelmj’s arrangement of the second movement in Bach’s Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D major, “Air on a G-string” is broken up into two movements. While the first movement is comprised of a French overture, the second movement features an “Air.” Wilhelmj’s arrangement can be played entirely on the G-string of a violin, the instrument’s lowest string. Bach’s original suite is comprised of three trumpets, a timpani, two violin parts, a viola part, and a basso continuo. The melody produced by the strings contrasts with the rhythmic bass, creating a special effect in the suite.

The complexity of this piece is notable, and Elkind and Carlos had difficulty performing it on the Moog (citation). Modifying the machine so that it would produce these complex timbres, Carlos called on her own talents as an engineer, switching from timbre to timbre in order to achieve the desired effect in the second movement.

 

 

Commercial Success of Switched on Bach

            Although Carlos was a gifted engineer, the commercial success of her album came as a result of help from Rachel Elkind. Elkind, who had befriended Columbia Records’ Ettore Stratta of the Artists and Repertoire department, saw to the submission of Carlos’ proposal. Upon receiving the proposal and hearing Carlos’ renditions, officials at Columbia offered Carlos a two-album commitment and a multi-thousand dollar signing bonus. At this time, rock-and-roll and electronic experimentation were popular; Columbia, in an attempt to seize the day and compete with Nonesuch Records, a label that had signed Morton Subotnick’s Silver Apples of the Moon in 1967, had spearheaded the Bach to Rock program in an earlier year. This competition between the two labels is ultimately what led to Carlos’ early signing.

Switched on Bach would enjoy tremendous commercial success after its 1968 release by Columbia Records. The album stayed atop the Billboard Classical Charts for over three years, from January 1969 until February 1972. Within a few months of its release the album had been certified gold by the RIAA, for sales exceeding 500,000. Switched on Bach became the first classical album to go platinum in 1986.

 

Performances and Carlos’ post-Switched on Bach career:

 

Carlos’ merits as both an engineer and a musician were apparent in the creation and production of Switched on Bach. The question of whether or not artistry and engineering could go hand-in-hand loomed at the time of Switched on Bach’s release. Critics of Carlos cried that it must have been the machine—not Carlos herself—who was responsible for the work. Could an engineer also be a musician? Or were the roles separate? As Carlos proved, making music on a complicated piece of machinery did not preclude one from being a creative artist. Engineers, creative in their own technical ways, were, by Carlo’s testimony, the musicians of the modern age. Devices like the Moog would eventually become omnipresent in popular music, and Carlos’ Switched on Bach brought electronic music to the forefront of popular criticism and discussion in 1968.

Unconventional in many ways, Switched on Bach was not an album that could be easily performed live. Not only was Carlos tremendously uncomfortable in front of large crowds—biologically, Carlos was a man but identified as a woman, and was forced to dress in gender-conforming outfits on stage—but it was also impossible for her to reproduce the album on stage on the Moog. In the same way that the Beatles could not easily perform Sergeant Pepper in an auditorium, Carlos was only able to give a live performance of the album twice. In 1969, following the release of her second studio album, The Well-Tempered Synthesizer, Carlos teamed up with the St. Louis Philharmonic to perform Switched on Bach. Then, in 1970, on the Dick Cavett Show, Carlos performed the Switched on Bach once again. This was the last performance of the album, and one of the few of Carlos’ career.

Switched on Bach influenced a number of other artists, including the Grateful Dead and Pink Floyd. Others, such as Stevie Wonder and Keith Emerson, also owed much to Carlos for her work on Switched on Bach. With so much critical and commercial success already under her belt, Wendy Carlos went on to produce three more studio albums, including The Well-Tempered Synthesizer (1969), Switched on Bach II (1973), and Switched on Brandenburgs (1979). Carlos’ career also included composing scores for two major Stanley Kubrick blockbusters, A Clockwork Orange (1972) and The Shining (1980).

 

Works Cited:

  • Analog Days: The Invention and Impact of the Moog Synthesizer. Pinch, Trevor, Trocco, Frank. Harvard University Press: Print. 2002.
  • Shillito, P. Switched-on Bach – Where it All Started. Classitronic. 21 July 2009. 14 February 2016.
  • “Air on a G-string.” Wikipedia. Wikipedia Commons. 14 February 2016. 14 February 2016.
  • “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring.” Wikipedia. Wikipedia Commons. 2 February 2016. 14 February 2016.
  • “Switched-on Bach.” Wikipedia. Wikipedia Commons. 13 February 2016. 14 February 2016.
  • “Robert Moog.” Wikipedia. Wikipedia Commons. 13 February 2016. 14 February 2016.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Final Project

For your final project in the course, you will develop an extensive project related to some aspect of sound and music recording. The form of your project is for you to determine. A research paper is a standard and entirely acceptable project, although I am also very open to projects that use an alternate format (creation of a webpage, say) or projects that incorporate a creative element. I am particularly happy to help you develop ethnographic research projects, if this interests you. The only requirements are that the project engage with some aspect of music recording and that it is rigorous. The project should be approximately 10 pages (typed and double-spaced) or the equivalent amount of work, if using another format.

Your project is due by 8:40am on Friday, May 6 (the beginning of final exam period).

If you choose to write a research paper, you are required to go well beyond the material we have covered in class. You can draw on our class materials, of course, but you will be expected to conduct substantial independent research. Some ideas for research papers might include (but are certainly not limited to): a paper about the recording techniques or procedures of a particular musician, producer, engineer, or studio; an exploration of some particular theory of concern to recording (such as “aura,” “fidelity,” “liveness,” or any number of others); a study of how recording(s) are central to a particular scene or subculture. If you have personal experience with recording—as a musician, engineer, or whatever—you can write about that experience, although you should ground your interpretation of your experiences through independent research. If you want to produce a recording (and have the means to do so—remember, this is not a “hands-on” class!), you should also write a commentary accompanying and interpreting your production.

These are only a small number of the many, many possibilities for what you can do for your project. Be creative; think outside the box. And please feel free to talk to me at any point in the process, if you’d like some suggestions or want to talk through ideas!

Proposal

The first stage in the project is a proposal. This will be due online (instructions to be provided) by Wednesday, March 30 (the first day back from Easter Break). Your proposal should be a short discussion of what you want to do for your project: describe your proposed topic, explain its importance, discuss challenges you expect to face and how you plan to complete the project. You should also include a brief discussion of sources you plan to consult, explaining their relevance to your project. Include a short bibliography (maybe 5–7 sources) that indicate the direction you wish to take. (If you are proposing a non-research-based project, you may omit this part of the proposal.) After you submit your proposals, I will arrange times to meet with you one-on-one to discuss your plans for the project.

Hyper Production Conference Online

For anyone interested in record production and/or classical music, there’s currently an online conference happening. It is the Classical Music Hyper Production and Practice-As-Research Conference. This conference is the culmination of a year-long research group in the U.K. that was investigating the possibilities for alternative and experimental production techniques in the realm of classical music recording. You can find the conference at: cmhp-conference.com. You’ll see that there are a number of “panels” (on Performance, Production, Musicology, etc.), and there will soon be some performance videos and other resources. There are some really fascinating conversations happening there, and you should certainly check it out!

Creating your Record Page

This post is intended to give you some of the basics about creating the web page for the record you research. The directions here are not exhaustive, though, so please let me know if you want to do something and can’t figure out how.

The first step is to create a new page, which you do by clicking “Pages” in the left hand menu of the dashboard Continue reading

Two Interesting Films

First, here is the film we began to watch about how records were produced at the RCA Victor plant in the early 1940s:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qZ5PQSaDYgU

Also, here is a short film you might enjoy about what happens when a recording medium (an LP, a CD) is read (by a stylus, or a laser). (You can also read the short accompanying article here.):

Record Presentations: Guidelines and Assignments

Assignment

You are responsible for researching a particular record or album, presenting it to the class, and creating a page for it on our course website. There are not separate instructions for the content of the website (although I have posted some specific technical instructions); the page you create should reflect the research you do for your presentation. (Do note, though, that you must also work on the Timeline for the website during the unit in which you present; instructions are in the post about curating the website.)

You should think of your research as a cultural and musical history of the record/album. This can mean many things:

  • You can investigate the particulars of the recording process: who is represented on the recording? Who produced and engineered the recording? What interesting or innovative techniques were deployed in making the recording?
  • You can investigate the recording’s life as a commodity: How was the recording sold or distributed? Who was its audience?
  • You can look into the recording’s musical identity as part of a particular musical culture: What musical genre or style is represented on the recording? How does the music of the recording fit with other records or musical performances?
  • Does the recording represent a specific event? If so, what is the nature of that event, and how was it translated to the recording medium?

This list is not inclusive, and should only be taken as a starting point for your research. Further, you’ll need to tailor your research and your presentation to the particulars of your record/album. Not all these issues and questions are equally suitable for all of the recordings! Finally, make sure that your research and presentation are centered on the album. You might want to give us some information about the biography of the artist or the producer, but you should do so in a focused way that is clearly relevant to understanding the recording. (For instance, don’t tell us all about the lives of the Beatles before Revolver; just tell us what they were doing at the time in a way that helps to explain something about Revolver.) You might think of this as being somewhat along the lines of the 33-1/3 series of books.

Your presentation should be roughly 10 minutes in length, and you are encouraged to use any media that will help you to make an insightful point about the recording (playing music, of course, but also PowerPoint or other presentation software, film, etc.). You don’t need to turn in anything along with your presentation, but you’ll need to include citations when you create the webpage for the recording. Please feel free to contact me if you need help finding resources for your research; I have many suggestions!

~~

Here are the record/album assignments and presentation dates:

The Beatles, Revolver—Peter Hillinck (February 2)
Public Enemy, Fear of a Black Planet—Ellis Coan (February 4)
The Beach Boys, Pet Sounds—Matt Walker (February 11)
Wendy Carlos, Switched-On Bach—Jim Hurson (February 16)
Enrico Caruso, “Vesti la giubba”—Charlotte Scott (February 23)
Louis Armstrong, Hot 5s and 7s—Kevin Enderby (March 8)
Augustus Pablo and King Tubby, “King Tubby Meets Rockers Uptown”—Alec Custer (March 17)
Glenn Gould, Goldberg Variations (1981)—Tyler Caruso (March 22)
Morton Subotnik, Silver Apples of the Moon—Natalie Kucher (March 31)
Danger Mouse, The Grey Album—Evan Stack (April 5)
Cher, “Believe”—Maddie Fisher (April 7)
Solomon Linda, “Mbube”—Ian Hicks (April 19)
Francis Densmore, Songs of the Seminole Indians of Florida—Emma Rose Parker (April 26)

Website Guidelines

There are a couple of areas of the course website that you will need to add to during the semester. This post will give you instructions on what to do, both in terms of content and the use of WordPress.

1. Timeline

Note: The timeline is NOT intended to be a repository of chronological information about your record. In fact, the timeline is not intended to be about the albums at all. Rather, you are to gather information from the unit of the course in which you presented and add that information into the timeline. You should draw from assigned readings and class discussions. You may include one or two items about the album you researched, but no more than that. The timeline should ultimately reflect the range of ideas and events we have explored in this course!

Throughout the semester, we will construct a timeline of the history of music recording. The timeline can contain important events, people, recordings, etc. The information of the timeline is hosted not on the site, but on a spreadsheet saved in my Google Docs. This file is linked from within the “Readings” section of the site (so that it is protected by the password and not available to the public).  In order to add items to the timeline, follow the link to the spreadsheet. Once there, you enter any relevant information. Please note that dates must be entered in numerical form and individual boxes can only contain one number.  So if something happened on, say, August 12, 1877 (that date should eventually mean something to you!), you must enter 1877 as the year, 8 as the month, and 12 as the day. You don’t have to enter all of the information, though; you can enter only a year, if that’s the only information you have. You can also enter a date range by entering an end date in the same format and in the appropriate columns. Finally, you have the option to specify a particular date to be displayed (such as January – February).

Once you have input the date(s) for your entry, you can add content. Put a short headline in the “Headline” column, and then add content (maybe a short paragraph) in the “Text” column. In the final set of columns, you can enter links to media. In the “Media” column, you can provide a link to an image, a video (i.e., from YouTube), a song (i.e., from SoundCloud), a tweet, etc. That column must contain a URL; you cannot upload files of any sort to the spreadsheet. In subsequent columns, you can enter a caption and an attribution for the media.

2. Records 

In this portion of the website, you will create a page about the record/album that you research and present to the class. It is up to you to determine what your page should look like, and I encourage you to experiment with the various tools on the site. You can also ask me if you have a vision for the page that you are not sure how to execute; if I don’t know the answer, I can find it out for you. You are also encouraged to integrate media (images, sound and video files, etc.), but take note: do not upload copyrighted media to the site! You can link to anything you like; for instance, when you embed a YouTube file (by simply copying the video URL into the page text), you are not placing content on the website, but rather, you are creating a link from the site to YouTube. In this case copyright issues are handled by YouTube. However, if you upload an image to the site, you are creating a new copy of it, and if the image is copyrighted, then you might be exposing our site to a copyright violation claim. To avoid this, try to use links, or use the Creative Commons search engine. This search tool returns only items that are licensed under a creative commons license, which means that you are permitted to reuse them (with proper credit). Your page should include proper citations for a blog format (i.e., hyperlinked text, which you can create using the link symbol above the text box) and a bibliography of sources pertaining to your record/album.

Deadlines

You are responsible for curating the website during the thematic unit in which you present on your record. During that unit, you must add items to the timeline and create the page for your record. Your contributions are due at the end of the unit or a week after your in-class presentation, whichever is later.

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