American Music: Roots and Routes
History, Geography, and Musical Style
Professor Allen Tullos
e-mail: allen [dot] tullos [at] emory [dot] edu
Office hours at 327 Bowden: Tuesdays 11:30-12:30. And by appointment.
Spring 2018. HIST 359. AMST 321.
Tuesdays/Thursdays 4:00-5:15. Bowden Hall 116.
This course satisfies Emory GER for Area VII HAP (Humanities, Arts, Performance)
This course explores the roots and routes of several genres and styles of vernacular music in the United States in the context of history, geography, emblematic performers, song content, audiences, circulation, and preservation. Where, when, and why do musical forms emerge, spread as influential cultural streams, or disappear? How do musical genres express social history, cultural identities, qualities of feeling, “authenticity,” displacement and mobility, and political critique?
The assigned songs and readings are either linked from this syllabus or available on Emory course reserves. Check the syllabus regularly (refresh browser page) for updates and changes.
January 23 Introduction
“Roots” and “routes,” song genres, styles, and their trajectories. Discussion of syllabus and assignments.
- Emory Course Reserves
- Emory Music & Media Library (Level 4 of Woodruff Library)
- American Routes radio show hosted by Nick Spitzer
- kexp radio in Seattle
- American Song
- Smithsonian Global Sound
January 25 Routes and Routes
Well-travelled songs. Listen to and read about versions of “In the Pines“
Writing Assignment: For class discussion, write a page or two comparing each of the different versions of “In the Pines.” Consider the singers’ biographical and geographical situations, styles of singing, the emotions they evoke, how they adapt the song, the instrumentation, etc. Turn in your printed commentary at the end of class.
Read about “In the Pines.” (Wikipedia)
Read an excerpt from Bob Dylan’s memoir Chronicles (2004) about his early life in Minnesota, some of his musical influences, and the beginnings of the folk revival in New York City.
In class, discussion of “In the Pines” to illustrate questions that the American Music course raises about genre and performance style in relation to regional geography, social class, race, and gender. Discussion of terms such as “authenticity” and “popular” applied to songs and performers. Excerpt from No Direction Home (2005), Martin Scorsese’s film about Bob Dylan.
Related: Newport Folk Festival begun in 1959. Recent Newport performers.
January 30 Folksong Style and Culture: African American Spirituals and the Carolina Low Country Region
View: Maps of The Transatlantic Slave Trade. Map 1: “Overview of the slave trade out of Africa, 1500-1900.”
Read/listen to the materials on the Low Country web page.
Read Guy Carawan and Candie Carawan, “Singing and Shouting in Moving Star Hall.” (PDF available on Emory Course Reserves)
Quiz on Levine and Caraway readings (four or five short-answer questions).
For class discussion: Draw upon the Levine and Carawan readings to address why the spiritual was the most important expressive musical form to emerge from the era of slavery.
In class: YouTube: “Down on Me” sung by Janis Joplin; versions of “Motherless Children,” “Michael Row the Boat,” other examples of well-travelled songs with roots in nineteenth century African American culture.
Fisk Jubilee Singers recording of “I Couldn’t Hear Nobody Pray” (1909).
Scenes from The Language You Cry In (1998) by Alvaro Toepke and Angel Serrano, DVD 12808, Emory Music and Media Library.
Recommended: Slave Songs of the United States (1867). Read about this song collection.
Alexis S. Wells, “Spirits of the Landscape Rediscovered” (2013)
February 1 The “Folk,” Authenticity, Cultural Mediators, and Ballad Mongers
Read for class discussion: Benjamin Filene, “Setting the Stage” (Chap 1 of Romancing the Folk available at Emory Course Reserves. What are key ideas presented by Filene?
Quiz on the Filene readings.
Pastoral romance and classical music’s use of “folksong”: Ralph Vaughn Williams, “Folk Songs of the Four Seasons Suite: The Sprig of Thyme”.
Folk Revival, Pop, and pastoral romance: Brothers Four, “Greenfields,” (1960)
Listen to some contemporary renderings of the ballad form:
As you read the Filene assignment, begin listening to examples of fiddle tunes and ballads on the Southern Appalachians webpage. Locate a “Child” ballad.
Recommended: Anglo Celtic (Wikipedia)
February 6 Song Style and Culture: The Southern Appalachian Region
Continue reading and listening to the materials on the Southern Appalachians webpage.
Read carefully the essay by Joseph Wilson and Wayne Martin, “A Brief History of Blue Ridge Music,” and listen to the examples.
Quiz on Wilson and Martin essay.
Browse: Olive Dame Campbell and Cecil J. Sharp, English Folk Songs from the Southern Appalachians (1917).
In class discussion of the murder ballad.
February 8 Southern Appalachians: Music Amid Devastation
Continue listening to the materials on the Southern Appalachians webpage.
Read essay by Scott L. Matthews, “John Cohen in Eastern Kentucky: Documentary Expression and the Image of Roscoe Halcomb During the Folk Revival.” http://southernspaces.org/2008/john-cohen-eastern-kentucky-documentary-expression-and-image-roscoe-halcomb-during-folk-revival
Quiz on the Matthews essay.
Halcomb sings, “Across the Rocky Mountains” from Mountain Music of Kentucky (1960).
Old Regular Baptist Church congregation sings “When We Shall Meet” from Mountain Music of Kentucky (1960).
Willie Chapman plays “Little Birdie” on the banjo from Mountain Music of Kentucky (1960).
In class: Discussion of scenes from John Cohen‘s documentary film “The High Lonesome Sound.”
“On Some Foggy Mountain Top,” performed by the New Lost City Ramblers (1958-1962).
Recommended: Bluegrass (Wikipedia)
February 13 Affrilachians
No Quiz Today. Catchup and review, with emphasis upon African American history and music in Appalachia.
Continue reading and listening to the materials on the Southern Appalachians webpage. Explore the “African American Banjo Styles” and the “John Henry” sections.
In class: Discussion of scenes from the Terry Zwigoff 1985 documentary film Louie Bluie (Emory Music & Media Library DVD 1510; Also on YouTube) about the life of African American musician Howard “Louie Bluie” Armstrong, a native of LaFollette, Tennessee.
February 15 Some Varieties of Religious Song and the Emergence of Gospel
Listen to the “Genres of Religious Song in Appalachia” section of the Southern Appalachians webpage.
Read: Robert Darden, “The Foundations of Gospel,” People Get Ready! (2004). (Course Reserves)
Quiz on Darden article on “Foundations of Gospel.”
Some examples of songs and performers discussed by Darden:
LYRICS to “When That Great Ship Went Down”
Famous Blue Jay Singers of Birmingham, “Clanka A Lanka” (1929?)
Jefferson County [Alabama] Gospel Quartets radio documentary (1992).
February 20 Race Records and “Old-Time” Music
Listening quiz on songs highlighted in red from Southern Appalachians webpage. Be able to give the song title , the names of performer(s), and something significant about the song.
In class lecture centered upon Miller, “Race Records and Old-Time Music” (2010) (Available on Emory Course Reserves)
Mamie Smith, “Crazy Blues.” 1920. LYRICS. This is the first commercial recording of blues music by an African-American singer: “Crazy Blues” was composed by Perry Bradford and sold a million copies in its first year.
“Lynching in the US — World War I to II” (wikipedia)
Performers and songs discussed in class and in Miller’s article:
“Soldier’s Joy” Fiddle band dance tune recorded by Gid Tanner and His Skillet Lickers. Atlanta: 1929. Columbia Records. Tanner, fiddle; Clayton McMichen, fiddle, spoken interjections; Riley Pucket, vocal, guitar; Fate Norris, banjo. “Soldier’s Joy” is a well known fiddle piece with origins in eighteenth-century Britain. This popular north Georgia band, whose name typified the self-parody often favored by early rural fiddle bands, played with a tangy, wild abandon. The two fiddlers featured here represented strongly contrasting musical impulses: Tanner was a rural, undisciplined hoedown fiddler, while McMichen was a more controlled and eclectic player with a liking for pop music and jazz. They were backed by Riley Puckett, the blind musician from Alpharetta, whose rapid multiple guitar runs were a distinguishing feature of Skillet Lickers recordings.
Rural drama recordings:
February 22 The Mississippi Delta and the Birth of the Blues
Read: David Evans, “The Development of the Blues.” (Course Reserves)
Quiz on the Evans essay.
Listen to songs on the Mississippi Delta webpage.
In class: scenes from Worth Long and Alan Lomax’s documentary film: The Land Where the Blues Began (1979).
Read: Mikko Saikku, “Bioregional Approach to Southern History: The Yazoo-Mississippi Delta. ”
For reference: Charles Reagan Wilson “Mississippi Delta.”
February 27 Authenticity and the Blues
Read: Filene, “Creating the Cult of Authenticity,” (Course Reserves).
Write a page or two identifying the major points of Filene’s chapter two.
Lead Belly: Find songs by Lead Belly at Smithsonian Global Sound.
Lead Belly, “Mr. Tom Hughes Town” (1934)
Lead Belly’s Last Sessions (1948) http://search.alexanderstreet.com.proxy.library.emory.edu/glmu/view/work/73313 “Tom Hughes Town” or “Fannin Street” LYRICS
March 1 Regional Styles and Blues Routes
Read: Filene, “Mastering the Cult of Authenticity,” (Course Reserves).
Quiz on Filene’s chapter.
Continue listening to songs on the Mississippi Delta webpage.
Listen to songs on the following webpages: “Texas Blues and Gospel Blues,” “Piedmont Blues,” “Chicago Blues.” Can you distinguish differences between Delta, Piedmont, and Chicago styles?
March 6 Revising the Blues Narrative
Read: Susan McClary,”Thinking Blues” (2000). (Course Reserves)
Write a page or two identifying the most important points in McClary’s essay.
Mamie Smith —- “Crazy Blues.” LYRICS. This 1920 record is the first commercial recording of blues music by an African-American singer: “Crazy Blues” was composed by Perry Bradford and sold a million copies in its first year.
Bessie Smith, “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out” (1928).
Brits and Blues:
Rock & Roll – An Unruly History (1995 PBS documentary)
Rock Crossroads Pt 1 A
Pt 1 B (Rolling Stones beginnings, Yardbirds, Clapton on the blues, Eric Burdon leads up to “House”)
March 8 Midterm Exam — Bring a blue book.
Material to be covered includes all the reading and listening assignments indicated in red, as well as the class lectures. The midterm will consist of music listening identifications (give title, artist, and significance), as well as short-answer and fill-in-the-blank questions.
March 12-16 Spring Break
March 20 The Old Wave: Ethnic Roots and Routes from Tin Pan Alley to Broadway
Read and listen to the “Klezmer” materials at “Ethic Roots and Routes“ page.
Quiz on the klezmer and Tin Pan Alley readings.
“Sher (A minor)” Steven Greenman, first violin; Alicia Svigals, second violin; Walter Zev Feldman, cimbal or hammer dulcimer. This old dance tune was published in Brooklyn in 1916 in Hebrew Wedding Melodies.
Dobriden (G minor) Steven Greenman, first violin; Alicia Svigals, second violin; Walter Zev Feldman, cimbal or hammer dulcimer. This piece, which dates from the mid nineteenth century, was used either on the morning of a wedding or after the wedding to honor the members of the bride’s family or the bride and groom themselves. Dobridens were display pieces created by talented klezmorim that used a 3/4 rhythmic structure with a peculiar rhythmic formula at the close of phrases.
Budapest Klezmer Band (2013)
Yiddish Theatre. 12:39
Black Music and Jewish Music. 1:25
Gershwin “Swanee” (1919)
Gershwin Rhapsody in Blue 1924
Cole Porter. 3:01
Frankie Yankovic “Beer Barrel Polka”
“Polka Power” by Weird Al Yankovic. (2006)
March 22 The Beginnings of Jazz and the Life of Louis Armstrong
Read a short diatribe against jazz from the 1921 Ladies Home Journal. Anne Shaw, “Does Jazz Put the Sin in Syncopation?” (Course Reserves)
Read the following three chapters from Lawrence Bergreen’s biography Louis Armstrong. (Course Reserves):
Chapter 4, “Coal Cart Blues”; Chapter 5, “Hotter than That”; and Chapter 6, “Lazy River.” As you read, listen to Louis Armstrong Centennial Show on American Routes Radio devoted to Armstrong and his influences. Follow the show on the Playlist.
Armstrong, “Mack the Knife” (1959)
In class: excerpts from film documentary Jazz (2000) that follow Armstrong’s emergence as one of the most original, influential, and widely known musicians of the twentieth century.
Louis Armstrong and Jazz Use this link (with your Emory ID and Password) to access the Jazz video episodes: Online link to Jazz series.
Louis Armstrong thread:
Once you are at the site for the Jazz videos, proceed as follows :
Episode 1: begin at 38:00 and go to 47:00 Or search the online transcript for: Big Noise
Episode 2: begin at 12:15 and go to 22:00 At age 11
Episode 2: begin at 47:50 and go to 59:10 1922
Episode 4: begin at 14:00 and go to 31:20 mostly black
Episode 9: begin at 40:30 and go to 50:40 vaudevillian
March 27 Creolization: Louisiana and Beyond
Read and listen: Nick Spitzer, “Creolization as Cultural Continuity and Creativity in Postdiluvian New Orleans and Beyond” (2011). In class discussion of Spitzer’s essay, history of Cajun and Black French Louisiana music.
Write a page or two of commentary identifying Spitzer’s main points.
“Acadian One Step.” Early Cajun recording. Joe Falcon, accordian; Cleoma Breaux Falcon, guitar; Ophy Breaux, fiddle; unknown, triangle. Recorded in Atlanta, 1929. Joe Falcon (1900-1965) and his wife Cleoma Breaux (d. 1941) made the first Cajun music record (“Allons a Lafayette”) for Columbia in 1928. Falcon and Breaux’s recordings were extremely popular in Louisiana and opened up the Cajun record market. Cleoma was the vocalist on their recordings. Falcon played accordion for dances and cajun fais do-dos in his home area.
“Jolie Blonde.” Hackberry Ramblers, recorded in New Orleans, 1936. Luderin Darbone, fiddle; Lennis Sonnier, guitar and vocal; Wayne Perry, fiddle; Julius “Papa Cairo” Lamperez, guitar. The most popular Cajun band of the mid-1930s, the Hackberry Ramblers, led by fiddler Luderin Darbone from Evangeline, were a progressive group that incorporated influences from mainstream country music, western swing, and blues. “Jolie Blonde,” often referred to as the Cajun national anthem was the Ramblers most popular recording. In 1946, Harry Choates became the first Cajun performer to have an impact on commercial country music with his hit recording of the song as “Jole Blon.” Source: Le Gran Mamou, Vol. I. (Country Music Foundation, 1990).
“Zydeco Sont Pas Salé“ Clifton Chenier, piano accordion and vocal. (ca 1992) Chenier did not invent zydeco, but he defined it with every performance. Source: Cajun Music and Zydeco, Rounder Records, 1992.
“La Danse De Mardi Gras.” Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys. Since the late 1980s, Riley and his group have earned a reputation as one of the premier bands playing the traditional Cajun repertoire, bringing the old songs to enthusiastic audiences in dancehalls and on stages around the world, and more recently writing original material that carries the tradition forward. Their interpretation of the minor-key “La Danse de Mardi Gras,” one of the oldest Cajun songs, shows how powerful and plaintive this music can be. Source: Louisiana Spice: 25 Years of Louisiana Music on Rounder Records, 1995.
In class: Scenes from documentary film “J’ai Ete Au Bal” (“I Went to the Dance) by Les Blank, Chris Strachwitz, and Maureen Gosling (2003).
March 29 From HIllbilly to Country Music
Read: Richard Peterson, Chap. 10 only: “Honky Tonk Firmament” (1997) (Course Reserves)
and Bob Dylan’s 2015 MusiCares speech.
Quiz on Peterson and Dylan readings.
Jimmy Wakely and Margaret Whiting — “Slipping Around” (1949) A pop cover version.
Wanda Jackson and Justin Townes Earle, “Am I Even a Memory?” (2012)
Loretta Lynn, “Coal Miner’s Daughter” (1969)
April 3 Memphis Notions: Emergence of Rock ‘n Roll:
Read: George Lipsitz, “Ain’t Nobody Here But Us Chickens: The Class Origins of Rock and Roll.” (Course Reserves).
On YouTube, sample the songs Lipsitz discusses.
Quiz on Lipsitz essay.
Listen to songs on “Memphis” website.
Elvis Presley, “That’s All Right” (1954)
Jackie Brenston with His Delta Cats, “Rocket 88” (1951)
Elvis Presley, “Heartbreak Hotel” (1956)
April 5 Rock and Youth Culture in the 1960s and ’70s
Read: George Lipsitz, “Who’ll Stop the Rain” (1994). (Course Reserves).
On YouTube, listen to songs mentioned by Lipsitz.
Quiz on Lipsitz’ article.
Beach Boys, “Don’t Worry Baby” (1964)
Recommended: Robert Christgau, dean of American rock critics
April 10 Origins of Hip Hop
Read: Tricia Rose, “All Aboard the Night Train,” (1994). (Course reserves)
Draw upon Rose’s chapter to write a commentary (one to two pages) about the social and cultural context out of which the musical form “rap” emerged.
Deep background in African American oral traditions, toasts, boasting talk. “The Signifying Monkey”
Begin video at approx. 54:30
Hip Hop history. VH1. Part 1 (“And You Don’t Stop)
Recommended: Art Crimes: City Walls: United States
April 12 Uneasy Listening: Badlands, Alternative Tracks, and Dirty Boulevards
Read: David P. Szatmary, “The Generation X Blues.” (2010). (Course Reserves)
Listen to Szatmary’s examples on YouTube, Spotify, etc.
Write a page or two identifying Szatmary’s main points.
Read: Riot Girl scene
April 17 No Class Today
April 19 Protest Songs and Social Justice
Assignment: Listen to American Routes radio show (two hours): “Midnight Special” and write no more than two pages of comments about the music and musicians featured on this show about prison music.
Historical US Incarceration Rates
Scenes from the documentary Chulas Fronteras: The Roots of Tex-Mex Music
Scenes from Episode 4 of Eyes on the Prize
John Coltrane “Alabama” (1963) Written in response to the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing on September 15, 1963, an attack by the Ku Klux Klan in Birmingham, Alabama, that killed four African-American girls.
Another song in reaction to the Birmingham church bombing: Nina Simone performs “Mississippi Goddamn.” (1964)
Excerpt from Bob Dylan’s memoir Chronicles (2004)
April 24 Hip Hop Geographies
Read: Nicholas Stoia, Kyle Adams, and Kevin Drakulich, “Rap Lyrics as Evidence: What Can Music Theory Tell Us?” (2017) (Course Reserves)
Quiz on article by Stoia, Adams, and Drakulich.
Listen to Terri Gross interview with Jay-Z, and discussion of Decoded.
Atlanta’s Ever-Shifting Hip-Hop Scene, NY Times, July 2015.
Jay-Z video biography
Matt Miller, “Dirty Decade: Rap Music and the US South” (2008)
Holly Hobbs, “‘I Used That Katrina Water To Master My Flow’: Rap Performance, Disaster, and Recovery in New Orleans” (2015)
April 26 Presentations. All Over the Map: Recent Scenes and Networks
For presentation in class: drawing on approaches to music analysis that we have applied throughout the course, select a song from the last five to ten years and write two pages about it. Be prepared to present the highlights of your paper in class: time limit of five minutes.
For your listening pleasure:
Elliot Smith, “Between the Bars” (1997)
Beck, “Guess I’m Doing Fine” (2002)
Grant-Lee Phillips, “Far End of the NIght” (2004)
Cat Power, “The Greatest” (2005)
The National, “Green Gloves” (2008)
Justin Townes Earle, “Rogers Park,” (2010)
Fleet Foxes, “Lorelai,” (2011)
Sharon Van Etten, “Serpents,” (2011)
Angel Olsen, “Sister,” (2016)
Haley Bonar, “Hometown” (2017)
Recommended: Pan-Latin Music from San Antonio to New York
Grading for the Course:
Commentaries and quizzes on the assigned reading and listening. (40%)
To aid in comprehension and class discussion, a typed page or two of commentary demonstrating your understanding of the day’s readings is often assigned on the syllabus. In addition, there will be brief quizzes about the reading and listening assignments. Dates for quizzes and commentaries are posted on the syllabus
Midterm exam (30%) Covers the reading, musical examples, and lectures since the beginning of the course.
Final exam (30%) . WEDNESDAY, MAY 9. 11:30 — 2:00 Bring a blue book.
Material to be covered includes all the reading, musical examples, and lectures since the Midterm indicated in red. The final exam will consist of music listening identifications (give title, artist, and significance), as well as short-answer and fill-in-the-blank questions.
Course Deadlines: All deadlines are indicated on the course syllabus. Extensions will be made on an individual basis at the instructor’s discretion. Late work may be penalized.
This seminar requires participation in discussion during the class sessions. On-time and regular attendance is expected. Because the seminar meets twice a week, two absences are allowed without penalty. For each additional unexcused absence, a student’s final course grade will be lowered by five points. (If you need to be late or absent for any reason, contact Prof. Tullos by email prior to the class meeting time.) Students are expected to complete the assignments on the syllabus prior to class meetings. Please report any problems with the syllabus website, Internet links, or the course reserves materials to Prof. Tullos.
Read and abide by the Emory University Honor Code. Plagiarism involves misrepresenting the work of another as your own and can range from turning in an essay written by someone else to using a direct quotation or paraphrasing without citing the author/speaker. Plagiarism is a serious academic offense. In all writing and project work, be certain to cite authors, musicians, filmmakers, websites, recordings, interviews, and other sources properly, giving credit for ideas and quotations. Plagiarism or cheating in the class (including turning in work prepared for another class), will result in an “F” for the course and a report to the Honor Council and appropriate college dean.
Disability Services: The Office of Disability Services offers reasonable accommodations and assistance to students with a documented disability. You must register with ODS and supply your teacher with a letter from this office that details the specific accommodations that you need. ODS is located in the Administration Building Rm 110. You may contact this office by phone at 404-727-6016.