violence and death in folk music

violence and death in folk music

Order Description

Draw from material that has made up the course–the assigned readings to make your argument. Reference citations should be included whenever relevant (regarding quotations, historical references, musicological information, etc.), but only through direct sourcing; Wikipedia references or the like are not acceptable.

For the paper content:
Consider the insistence on death, violence, and crime as subjects in the songs we’ve listened to and the novels and historical studies we’ve read this semester. Citing a range of examples from class and the texts, consider why folk performers and audiences are drawn to material that involves violence and death.
Is there something inherent in the form and function of the folk song that encourages these themes? Is there something about our own time that keeps certain folk stories, images, melodies, and phrases going back hundreds of years alive today?
This could include murder ballads and blues songs, essays from “The Rose & the Briar,” material from “Wisconsin Death Trip,” ” My Pafology” from “Erasure,” the Handsome Family’s “Arlene,” Bob Dylan’s comments on the Civil War in “Chronicles,” the shooting in “John Henry Days,” and more.

Reading Schedule
Week one, Aug. 29: Songs that Don’t Go Away • Introduction, Syllabus, Inquiry Questions Example
Week two: Sept. 5: The Folk World—”It Was Just too Perfect” • Reading: Bob Dylan, Chronicles, “Markin’ Up the Score,” “The Lost Land,” “River of Ice”; in Reader, Luc Sante, “I Is Somebody Else” • Recommended listening: Bob Dylan, Good As I Been to You (1992); Anthology of American Folk Music, compiled Harry Smith 1952 (1997); Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music, Vol. Four (compiled c. 1958, issued 2000)
Week three, Sept. 12: Highway 61—Minnesota to New Orleans and Back We will discuss expectations for the short paper • James Marsh’s “Highway 61 Revisited” screened — we will not watch all of this again in our section but we will discuss • Reading: Bob Dylan, Chronicles, “New Morning,” “Oh Mercy”
Week four, Sept. 19: Bascom Lamar Lunsford and the Mole in the Ground First short paper due in hard copy • Reading: in Reader, Robert Cantwell, “When We Were Good”; from The Rose & the Briar, Dave Marsh, “Barbara Allen”; Cecil Brown, “We Did Them Wrong: The Ballad of Frankie and Albert” • Recommended listening: related performances from The Rose & the Briar soundtrack album.
September 26: NO TA SECTION — Rosh Hashanah • **Begin reading Colson Whitehead’s John Henry Days (you will have need to have read to page 142 by October 17, see below) **
Week five, October 3: Murder Ballads YOM KIPPUR—We will not meet at our regular time we’ll vote in class for time/day. • Reading from The Rose & the Briar, Rennie Sparks, “Pretty Polly”; Anna Domino, “Naomi Wise, 1807” • Recommended listening: Anthology of American Folk Music, compiled Harry Smith 1952 (reissued 1997); Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music, Vol. Four (compiled c. 1958, issued 2000); Related performances from The Rose & the Briar soundtrack album; Snakefarm, Songs from My Funeral (1998); The Handsome Family, Down in the Valley (1999) • Recommended viewing: a hilarious and scholarly lecture by Rennie Sparks of the Handsome Family on the murder ballad, University of Minnesota, 2008.
Week six, Oct. 10: More Murder Ballads • Reading: Michael Lesy, Wisconsin Death Trip; in Reader, Steve Perry, “Songs That Fall from the Sky: Meet the Handsome Family” • Recommended listening: Handsome Family, Down in the Valley

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