Folklore & Folklife
Logan Hall
Center for Folklore and Ethnography
Graduate Program
Undergraduate Minor
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FOLK 228 001 Folksongs and Ballads

Steve Winick
Monday, Wednesday 3:00-4:30

With folksongs and ballads, ordinary people in every era have turned language into poetry and their own voices into music. Our folksong and ballad traditions contain some of the great poetic, narrative and musical artistry ever created. As stories told in song, ballads tell tales of tender love and brutal murder, of painful partings and joyous reunions, of outlawed men and warrior women, of mighty nobles and downtrodden commons. Lyric songs express humanity's basic emotions: love and hate, fear and desire, joy and sorrow.

This course will examine folksongs and ballads in all their forms, concentrating on English-language materials but making excursions into other traditions as well. We will explore the themes and meanings of different kinds of songs, from the classic medieval ballads to the journalistic fare of the nineteenth century, from homey songs of place to frightening tales of terror. We will explore different regional and ethnic traditions, Including British and Irish songs, Appalachian ballads and African-American blues, Western Cowboy songs and Mexican-American outlaw ballads. We will detail how folksong traditions in America played a crucial role in the development of popular music, inquire into the history of individual songs, and ask how folksongs vary from singer to singer and from country to country. We will also listen to different musical styles being applied to ballads and folksongs in the modern world, from the classic country of the Carter Family to the blues of Leadbelly and on to the hard rock of Metallica, asking the question: how do different settings of classic folksongs add new meanings to the older ones? This course is for anyone with an interest in old songs or the history of popular music.

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