Stuff to Look At…


Here’s some stuff to look at, which will help make our next class a little more comprehensible to you in general.

First off, we’re going to finish off discussing the pop culture samples you chose for analysis. We already talked about Desperate Housewives and Harry Potter. If you have more to say about those examples, please note it for class: I’ll ask if anyone has a question or comment, and then we will go on to the other two samples: Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean, and the Pirates of the Caribbean film series.

Here’s the video for Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean — we can analyze the video as a “text,” as well as the lyrics (and even the music), so have a look:

Also, this article will be useful for those thinking over the idea of pirates (a popular figure in American culture).

And with that, we’re going to turn to the roots of American popular culture, specifically prior to the 20th century. We’ll be checking out some older traditional “popular culture” and it will probably seem a little bit alien to you, so have a listen to some of this stuff:

First, if you don’t know “The Blue Danube” by Strauss, then please listen to this track, courtesy of Youtube:

… and, for contrast, a sample of traditional Zimbabwean music and dance:

Think about the differences and the similarities involved in these kinds of music, and the dances associated with them. We’ll be talking about this in class.

Please also give a look to some other videos and MP3s which will be of some importance, listed below. While we cannot directly access music from before about the 1920s, looking at stuff that’s available today can tell us about the past. So check out the following…

“Dog and Gun” (mp3) by Bradley Kincaid, from the Harry Smith Anthology of American Folk Music. (Though lyrics are notoriously changeable in folk songs, this version is pretty close.)

Branford Marsalis’ recording of the prison work song “Berta, Berta”, here:

… which was “resurrected” by August Wilson in his play, “The Piano Lesson”:

Please also have a look at Robert Johnson’s “Crossroads” (lyrics here):

… and Fred “Mississippi” McDowell (with his wife Annie McDowell) doing “Get Right Church” (one version of the lyrics here, but there are many versions of this song):

… and a few more recent versions of the same song, including one by Reverend James Cleveland:

and another (much more recent, by some random guy out on the internet) this time using a banjo, and in a more “folksy” style:

I’ll also be giving you a story (by American writer Andy Duncan) to read next week, and while I don’t expect you to finish it for Thursday, we will be talking about it.

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