Southern Mosaic affords students the unique opportunity to study the folk and blues genres, including the relationship between song and oratory. They can explore the relationship between music and literature by analyzing lyrics and the use of humor in songs. These activities will also help students to maximize the meaning they can derive from songs. Finally, the collection's materials can be used in creative writing as well.
Folklore and Folk Music
Folklore includes customs, tales, sayings, or art forms originating from or traditional with the common people of a given country or region. Folk music, a form of folklore, is transmitted orally from generation to generation, and generally reflects the lifestyle of those people who originated and perpetuated it. Though reflecting one "people," folk music can have a variety of forms and uses including entertainment, education, religious expression, artistic expression, and communication. Challenge students to browse the fieldnotes, Photo and Audio Subject Indexes, and lyrics to find proof, such as the following excerpt, of as many different uses of folk music as possible. What uses does the music students listen to today have? Can they find proof in the collection of the folk music's oral transmission through time and generations? Why might this form of transmission be important? How does the way modern music is transmitted effect its audience and use?
Whenever, in the old days, anything exciting happened, a poet made verses about it and distributed the composition as a broadside. Musicians made up the air or tune for the verses. Prisoners leaving on boats would make up verse accounts of their experiences,- accounts of their crimes, etc., and sell them on the streets or from the boat.
Students can learn more about folk music by searching instruments and musicians. What do images of folk musicians and their instruments suggest about their music? Also have them consider the musicians' vernacular recorded by Ruby Lomax throughout the fieldnotes in excerpts such as the following. Finally, have students note the musicians' wide-spread use of nicknames such as "Garmouth," "Little Life," "Clear Rock," and "Stavin' Chain." How many more nicknames can they find? What do they think was the purpose of such nicknames? What can they learn about it from doing a full-text search on the fieldnotes? What can they learn about folk music and musicians from the musician's names and vernacular?
. . . Doc Reed and Vera Hall, cousins who have sung together for many years, are her most dependables. They are good singers of the old style spirituals, are perfect in "seconding"- "following after" they call it,- and they know many songs. Not having book-learning they store in the back of their heads innumerable tunes and stanzas. Vera Hall is especially quick to "catch up" a new tune. And if they do not understand completely the text, they are ingenious in supplying substitutes, either from other spirituals or from their own feelings of the moment. These two, however, unlike old Uncle Rich Brown, do not substitute jargon; their texts mean something, if not always what the original words meant.