11 May 2009

Album cover



A typewriter lends an odd kind of official cast to anything you label with it – and more things than you think can be spooled into the carriage: post-it notes, pieces of cardpaper, envelopes, stationary of varieties & thicknesses impossible for a commercial laser printer.

This is yet another version of my History of American Music mix, made for the music teacher at my school. I taught a lesson in American traditional & folk music that I made up to complement the unit in the textbook, which was all about Spanish traditional music (and so virtually impossible to translate usefully – all of the teachable vocabulary were loanwords); this mixtape I made after the fact, because the teacher asked me what some of the songs were, which is why most of it is outliers. Because I don’t have access to a lot of music out here, most of the track choices are less carefully weighed exemplars & more of a scramble to give a general impression of the sweep of things.

I have no ready explanation as to why the cover is Marvin Gaye in a sailor hat, but it was the only usefully American musical image I could find in last week’s El País Sunday magazine.

2 Responses to “Mixtape”

  1. Nora Says:

    Glad to be of service in the Irish department!

    • Jim Sligh Says:

      It was a timely present you sent me. I enjoyed the post on your recent spate of mixes; I’m on a similar kick, recently. Homecoming on the mind, I guess.

      I should also probably give credit where credit’s due.

      ps. One thing I didn’t address in the post, but which has been on my mind a lot, is how to negotiate complexities when you’re teaching, largely in a second language, to 12 year-olds – in this case, race in American music. (& sticking Irish folk next to the blues was part of that calculation).

      What was considered “white” music & what was considered “black” music (with black being a stand-in for rawness (cf. Kant’s raw man) & authenticity, and white for appropriation & refinement) has troubled the entire history of our folk & popular music. (And it wrinkles further when the black/white division is complicated by the treatment of, say, the Irish, or the Southern folk of poor whites & how it interacted with black culture, or Tin Pan Alley & ragtime [white!]). Appalachian folk derived from Irish ballads, blues from ring chants & work songs, jazz hot or sweet & played at black & tans, but with the first performers getting record deals white musicians (albeit white musicians with an honest love & respect for the material – systemically favored). And we all know what happened to rock & roll.

      You think about all of that, and then you look at your kids – who are imbibing a whole host of Spanish racial notions anyway – and it begins to become clear that there are some things your training has not equipped you to explain to anyone’s satisfaction.

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