Thursday, November 27, 2008

"When I Can Read My Title Clear"

Humn 65 in Psalms and Hymns of Isaac Watts ... Christian Classics Etherial Library

A young David Ivey leads "When I Can Read My Title Clear" at Dewey Williams Birthday singing 1990, Ozark Alabama

Watts' text and MIDI file for Pisgah in CyberHymnal at

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Re: Porgy and Bess: 'Trouble on Catfish Row'

An article by Gary Yonge on racial stereotypes in "Porgy and Bess" published in The Guardian before a 2006 revival in London.

  • "There has long been a tension between the manner in which Porgy and Bess, written by George Gershwin and first performed in 1935, has been lauded by audiences in Europe even as it was loathed at home. ...

    "Those who have been in its cast read like a who's who of African-Americans prominent in the arts. As well as Angelou, performers have included, at one time or another, Cab Calloway, Sidney Poitier, Dorothy Dandridge and Sammy Davis Jr. The songs written for it, particularly Summertime and It Ain't Necessarily So, remain enormously popular.

    And yet, in the US, Porgy and Bess has long been steeped in controversy. To many African-Americans, it was little more than a high-class minstrel show - a distant cousin to Amos and Andy. "The times are here to debunk Gershwin's lampblack Negroisms," said Duke Ellington after its premiere."

  • "But while the racial values that underpinned the play never endured, the music Gershwin created only grew in its appeal - particularly Summertime and It Ain't Necessarily So. Just as the compelling narrative of Oliver Twist enabled the novel and play to persist beyond any general acceptance of the anti-semitic portrayal of Fagin, so by the 1980s African-Americans had started to believe that they could rescue the play from the anthropological cul-de-sac in which it had been parked."

  • "Time has enabled many to understand Porgy and Bess as a period piece, rather than a reflection of commonly held contemporary views. Grace Bumbry, who was born the year Gershwin died and played Bess at the Metropolitan in 1985, said: "I thought it beneath me, I felt I had worked far too hard, that we had come too far to have to retrogress to 1935. My way of dealing with it was to see that it was really a piece of Americana, of American history, whether we liked it or not. Whether I sing it or not, it was still going to be there."

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Doc's schedule for finals

Copied from an email message to my journalism students ...

Hi everybody --

If you're getting this message, it's because: (1) you're registered for COMM 393, the senior portfolio, this semester; (2) you're registered for COMM 297, the internship, this semester; (3) you're registered for both; and/or (4) you've been trying to track me down regarding the paperwork for spring semester internships.

Anyway, here's when I have final exams:

-- Monday, Dec. 1, from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m., in Dawson 220 (COMM 386).
-- Tuesday, Dec. 2, from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m., D220 (COMM 207).
-- Wednesday, Dec. 3, from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m., D220 (COMM 337).
-- Thursday, Dec. 4, from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m., D220 (HUM 223).

I think everybody's seen the syllabuses for COMM 297 and COMM 393. But just in case you haven't, they're linked to my faculty page at ... they'll answer basic questions, and you can email me for details on the others.

You can also keep up with me by checking my journalism blog at ... I'll post updates and messages on my whereabouts there.

-- Doc

Final -- HUM 223

HUM 223: Ethnic Music

Springfield College in Illinois

Fall Semester 2008

Music is your own experience, your own thoughts, your wisdom. If you don't live it, it won't come out of your horn. They teach you there's a boundary line to music. But, man, there's no boundary line to art. -- Charlie Parker

Final Exam – Thursday, Dec. 4, 2008

Answer each of the three essay questions below; No. 1 is worth 50 points, and Nos. 2A and 2B are worth 25 points each. This is an open-book test, so in grading it I will take into account the amount of detail you use to support your answers as well as their clarity, correctness and relevance to the questions. Specific detail is very important; the more detail you cite to support your points, and the more logically you use it to prove your points, the better your grade. It’s that simple. So be specific. . Due Dec. 4. You have the option of writing it in Dawson 220 during the scheduled period, 1:30-3:30 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 4.

Essay #1 (50 points). In the TV show Godfathers and Sons, Chicago rap artist Common said, “Hip hop is definitely a child of the blues, and I think you’ve got to know the roots to really grow [as a musician]. It’s like knowing your parents, it’s like knowing your culture so you can be proud of that culture and take it to the world and say, ‘Hey, this is where we’re taking it. We’re utilizing the origins of this to take it somewhere else. We’re paying homage, and we’re taking it to a new place.’” In each of the three videos about the blues we watched this semester, we saw artists searching back to the origins of blues and reflecting them in other forms of music including jazz, rock and hip hop. How did bluesman Corey Harris’ search for musical origins in Feel Like Going Home differ from that of the English rock singers like Eric Clapton featured in Red, White and Blues and mentioned in the book Robert Palmer’s Deep Blues? How was it the same? How do Harris’ and the English rockers’ quests compare to the hip hop artists featured in Godfathers and Sons? How have the music and the cultural values of musicians from Africa, rural Mississippi and the Chicago of Muddy Waters’ day been reflected in the blues and contemporary popular music?

Short essay #2A (25 points). What have you learned in HUM 223 that surprised you? What was your overall impression of the blues before you took the course? Has that impression changed as a result of your reading, class discussion and research for the course? What specific thing (or things) surprised you the most? Why? What do you think was the most important point? As always, be specific. Cite specific evidence - in this case, while discussing what you learned in the course. Your grade on the essay will depend on the specific evidence you cite.

Short essay #2B (25 points). As you wrote your research paper, did you expect to learn when you started? What did you find out from your research that was unexpected? In other words, what surprised you? What new insights did you gain? What did you learn about the history of American popular music? Where did the musician(s) you studied fit into the development of blues, jazz, rock, hip hop or other forms of American popular music? How did your appreciation of their music change from doing the paper?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

HUM 223: Final exam, blues videos

Please note correction in 2nd graf!

I haven't made out your final exam question yet, but it will heavily depend on the videos we screened this month in class and "Deep Blues" by Robert Palmer. I have made arrangements at SCI's Becker Library to have the DVDs put on reserve at the circulation desk, which I will do after class today (Thursday). In order to level the playing field, you'll have to watch it in the library so everybody gets an equal chance at it.

Final exam schedule for our class (cut-and-pasted from the schedule on line) is: 1:00p.m. TR ... December 2 [at] 1:30p.m. – 3:30p.m.Thursday, December 4 [at] 1:30p.m. – 3:30p.m.

I will hand out the final exam at our last class session, at 1 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 25. It is a take-home exam, and it is due at the scheduled time and place -- in other words, at 1:30 p.m. Tiesdau. Dec. 2, in Dawson 220, our regular classroom. You can write it ahead of time and bring it in then, or you can write the exam in D220 during the scheduled time from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m.

You are responsible for the three videos we watched, which are part of the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) series "The Blues directed by Martin Scorsese:
Note: If you follow the links above, they'll take you to webpages with a short blurb on each of the videos as well as links to remarks by the directors of each. They'll also show you how to spell the singers' names, so you can check your finals for spelling errors.

If you have questions, you can reach me most easily by email ... at SCI at or at home at

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Annbjørg Lien, "Waltz with Me" CD w/ sound files

Annbjørg Lien
Waltz with Me (Compass Records)
Norwegian hardanger fiddler and composer Annbjørg Lien was commissioned last year to compose new music for the prestigious Telemark Festival in Bø, Norway. She responded with an ensemble of Bruce Molsky on violin and vocals, Christine Hanson on cello and Mikael Marin on viola, then wrote a varied set of tradition-based tunes and songs that reflect an eclectic attitude. The strong chemistry shared by members of the group is apparent on each and every track on ths lovely recording of new Nordic music.
The Traveller
Sula Mountain
The Fiddle
Home East

Odd Nordstoga og Øyonn Groven Myhren

Odd Nordstoga og Øyonn Groven Myhren
Harp and accordion are not your usual duet configuration, but this CD presents traditional and modern Norwegian folk music by an excellent duo who use these intruments and their voices in unusual combinations to create new music for the poetry of Aslaug Vaa. It's still genuinely "folky" but here and there a surprising modernity sneaks in, catches you off guard and charms the heck out of you.
Odd Nordstoga - vocal, guitar and accordionØyonn Groven Myhren - harp and vocals

Monday, November 03, 2008

HUM 223: DVD on Corey Harris and the blues

Tomorrow (Tuesday< Nov. 4) and Thursday we will screen a DVD called "Feel Like Going Home," directed by Martin Scorsese for the Public Breoadcasting System in 2003. It features blues and reggae artist Corey Harris of Charlottesville, Va., (whose MySpace page has more information) searching for the roots of blues and playing with local musicians in Mississippi and the West African nation of Mali. You'll notice I'm giving you a handout in class that lists the performers and interviewees in the video. That's the good news. Since you have the handout, you'll know how to spell their names correctly. Right? Which means you'll be expected to. That's the ... was I about to say "bad news?" No, it's good news.

We all want to spell correctly. Right?

I thought so.

Scorsese put together a whole series of seven TV shows for his series The Blues. In his introduction he says:
Corey isn't just a great player, he also knows the history of the blues very well. We filmed him in Mississippi talking to some of the old, legendary figures who were still around and visiting some of the places where the music was made. This section culminates in a meeting with the great Otha Turner, sitting on his porch in Senatobia with his family nearby and playing his cane flute. We were also fortunate to film Otha's magnificent November 2001 concert at St. Ann's in Brooklyn, which I believe was his last performance captured on film. It seemed natural to trace the music back from Mississippi to West Africa, where Corey met and played with extraordinary artists like Salif Keita, Habib Koité, and Ali Farka Toure. It's fascinating to hear the links between the African and American music, to see the influences going both ways, back and forth across time and space.
You can -- and should! -- read more on the linked page. Scorsese ends by saying:
People like to think of the great blues singers as raw, instinctive, with talent and genius flowing from their fingertips. But John Lee Hooker, Bessie Smith, Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Blind Lemon Jefferson, and so many other amazing talents, more names than I have space for here, are some of the greatest artists America has ever had. When you listen to Lead Belly, or Son House, or Robert Johnson, or John Lee Hooker, or Charley Patton, or Muddy Waters, you're moved, your heart is shaken, you're carried and inspired by its visceral energy, and its rock solid emotional truth. You go right to the heart of what it is to be human, the condition of being human. That's the blues.
"Some of the greatest artists America has ever had." That's pretty high praise. Think about it. You don't have to agree. Just think about it.