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Course Information

Instructor Info:Becky Miller
Office Extension x5545
TA Info:Abigail Hobart
Jesse French
Term: 2014S
Meeting Info: Tuesday Thursday
02:00 PM - 03:20 PM Music and Dance Building RECITAL
02:00 PM - 03:20 PM Music and Dance Building RECITAL
07:00 PM - 08:15 PM Adele Simmons Hall (ASH) 112

This course focuses on American southern old-time string band music, bluegrass, and early country song. We will draw on cultural theory to explore the growth of these musics throughout the 20th century as well as the influences of gender, music revivalism, and African-American musical expression. We will consider old time and bluegrass both from an historical perspective and as vital forms in communities today. There will be an off-campus fieldwork, weekly reading and listening assignments, and regular written assignments. This course also has a performance component: students will learn to play old time music by ear and develop a repertoire of dance music. Prior experience with old time and bluegrass is not necessary, but a basic working knowledge of one of the following instruments is required: fiddle (violin), banjo, guitar, upright bass, mandolin, harmonica, and other appropriate instruments. A painless audition in the first week of class will determine eligibility.

Course Objectives:

Combining both academic engagement and performance skills, this course requires that students complete and substantially engage with regular reading assignments, short essays based on the assigned reading, and other written assignments. Energized, engaged participation in class discussions, during music sessions, as a member of a band, and in the class concert at the end of the semester are all mandatory.

There are also required (occasional) Monday night film screenings.  If there's interest, we will also hold music sessions on Monday nights and, after spring break, mandatory string band coaching sessions.  

Note: it is mandatory to attend any classes in which we have special guests. 

Evaluation Criteria:

This course will include weekly reading/listening assignments, occasional film screenings, an off-campus fieldwork project, short essay assignments based on the weekly reading assignments, and two 4-5 page essays, one of which is an ethnography of an old time or a bluegrass music session. Participation in classroom music sessions, performing with an assigned band, and participating in the end of the semester concert are also required.

Additional Info:

Students are allowed 3 absences; anything more than this results in no evaluation (failing grade) for the course. Lateness for class counts as an absence.

Required text: Goldsmith, Thomas, ed. The Bluegrass Reader, Urbana, IL:University of IL Press. Available at Amherst Books, 8 Main Street, center of Amherst, 413.256.1547;

All other reading is indicated on the course webpage. You MUST print out all of these assigned articles and bring them to class.