Author Archives: Elizabeth-Burton Jones

About Elizabeth-Burton Jones

I love to sing and dream big. I am an optimistic and energetic person that is ready to work.

“American Folk Music and the Humming Hybrids”

“American Folk Music and the Humming Hybrids”
Elizabeth-Burton Jones

Can you define FOLK?:

“Folk” is a word with many definitions. You can be folk. You can sing folk. You can be a part of folk life. Folk can be described as a way of life for a traditional culture. A street performer’s music could be classified as folk music. Country music, jazz music, and bluegrass music can all be categorized as some extension of folk music. Needless to say, diversity is great.

The genre of folk, often finds itself oozing into other genres. This creates a lack of a concise definition. Without a clear definition, the folk culture can become lost and become even more detached from the “real meaning”.

This article will attempt to find the definition of folk, particularly with regards to American Folk Music. The article will do so by a survey and an interview. After all of the information is gathered and briefly processed, then the article will mold a conclusion via semiotics, cultural transmission, the cultural encyclopedia, the history of American Folk Music, and current Marketing strategies and further research. 

The Musical Experiment:

The Method:

In order to find out the recipe of American Folk Music and in order to see if there is a clear and concise definition of American Folk Music, I decided to interview a professional folklorist. The purpose of the interview is to find out what American Folk Music really is. Is it concise? In actuality nothing is purely concise, but by having a clear definition of American Folk Music, will create a better understanding of American folk Music’s place in the giant world of music. After the interview, I created a brief survey for a diverse group to complete. The purpose of this survey was to find out what people think about folk music. I wanted to demonstrate the idea of the cultural encyclopedia and find out if there is any consistency within the brand of American Folk Music and it’s relation to “folk”. After the results are compiled, I should have a better understanding with regards to what people assume American Folk Music is and the reality of American Folk Music.   

The Interview:

I interviewed Nancy Groce, Ph.D. who is the Senior Folklife Specialist at the American Folklife Center at the U.S. Library of Congress.

The Interview Questions were:

Can we define folk?
What’s the major difference between folk life and folk music? Is there a difference?
What’s the general history of folk music?
Are there hints of folk music in every genre?
Does the use of “low tech” or stereotypically less sophisticated instruments and technologies classify folk music as a “lower” art?
What are the Lomax recordings?
Because folk music is so diverse, does the diversity muddle the understanding of the definition?
Is there a concrete definition for “folk music”?
Does a “utopian” view of folk music hinder a greater understanding of “folk music”?
Additional comments?

The Video:

The video was truly monumental in the organization of this study. By talking to Dr. Groce, I was able to find out which areas were important with regards to my study and which areas should be for the future.

The Survey:

I asked a diverse group to share their opinions about folk music. I asked about the general concept of folk music to see if any one would classify a type of folk music. I sent a questionnaire to multiple people from diverse backgrounds and from varied chapters in the cultural encyclopedia.

The Survey Questions:

1. What do you think of when you envision “folk music”?
2. What do you think of when you hear this song?
3. How would you classify this song?
4. Does folk music have a stereotype?
5. When thinking about American Folk Music, do you think that the music is over produced?

Also, I asked if the participants could include their name and where they are from at the top of their response. 


I sent an e-mail questionnaire to multiple people using different formats (e-mail and Facebook). Six people responded to the survey. The people were from various states and various fields of study. Two people were from Ohio and one person was from Louisiana, South Carolina, Kentucky, and one person was from Great Britain. Each person had a different level of musical knowledge. One person that completed the survey was a professional musician. Another person that took the survey admitted that she had little musical exposure. The use of a diverse crowd yields itself to a diverse group of answers.

Here are the responses:

What do you think of when you envision “folk music”?

1. Kelsey S.

“I think of original music by a group of people that is specific to that group and usually representative of their culture.”

Emily H.
South Carolina

“When I think of folk music, I think of a couple things. I think about older folk music from artists like Emmylou Harris and Dolly Parton from back in the 70s. I also associate folk music with more contemporary acts such as Iron and Wine. I often associate folk music with bluegrass and country.”

Ashley Brooke T. (B.)

“Music for the people, songs expressing emotions felt by the common ‘folk.’”

Chris C.

“When I think of folk music I think mountain people dancing around with moon shine.”

Margaret S.

“Folk music … I think of older music.”

Tanvi P.
Great Britain

“Folk music for me is something which is traditional and original to a particular tribe, community, county or district. It is composed of customs and traditions and it is not dictated by commercialisation. Folk music can either be only instrumental or it is composed of distinct verbal use. It is passed on through generations through oral transmission.” 

2. What do you think of when you hear this song?

Many participants said that the music sounded very traditional. Some of the participants mentioned that it sounded like a struggling group others mentioned that it sounded like a church hymn. But, the main reaction was that he music sounded like country music. Each response revolved around struggle and not around sophistication.
3. How would you classify this song?

Emily H. mentioned that: “When I hear that song, I think of very old, traditional style folk music…like how folk music originally started. To me, the style of the song is meant to tell a story and invoke a strong emotional connection to the story being told.”

Overall, this is how it broke down:

4. Does folk music have a stereotype?

Two participants mentioned that it has the stereotype of being “uneducated” and “poorly written”. One participant mentioned that it has “distinct qualities to it”.

Emily H. mentioned that: “I wouldn’t say that folk music has a stereotype because the genre can be conveyed in so many different ways. The variety of folk artists are so diverse and unique.”

Ashley Brooke T. (she is a very experienced singer) mentioned: “I think it had a sort of hayseed stereotype and maybe does still hold that feeling for some groups. Now though just about every singer-songwriter is considered folk..” 

5. When thinking about American Folk Music, do you think that the music is over produced?

Kelsey S. of Kentucky said, “I think it is. If America’s folk music is considered to be country, it’s definitely over produced. As much as I like Taylor Swift and other “country” artists, the genre had changed a lot from the early days.”

Emily H. of South Carolina said, “I would have to ask what is meant by “overproduced”. I could see that word to mean different things. Does that mean that it is made too frequently-like there is an over saturation of folk artists or does that mean that the music itself is of low quality or is not uniquely identifiable/creative?”

Ashley Brooke Toussant (Bigler) of Ohio said, “When thinking about American Folk Music, do you think that the music is over produced? Not at all. When I hear folk, I think the opposite. More simple, capturing the essence of the LIVE performance.”

Chris C. from Ohio said: “I do not think it is overproduced.”

Maragret S. from Louisiana said, “No American folk music definitely isn’t overproduced.”

Tanvi P. from Great Britain said, “no I personally don’t think the music is overproduced.”


After looking at the data from the interviews and surveys, it is quite evident that not everyone is on the same page. Only two people addressed the difference between folk music and American Folk Music. The two people that addressed the difference were the people with the most exposure to American Folk Music (Nancy Groce, Phd. and Ashley Brooke Toussant (Bigler)).To explore the meaning behind the data, it is important to look at semiotics, dialogism, cultural transmission, the cultural encyclopedia, and marketing.


To address semiotics, there is a central definition that will be used. According to Posner,
“The English word ‘semiotics’ (Greek sēmiōtiké epistémē) designates the science…of signs…Signs are objects that convey something – a message …; they presuppose someone who understands them – an interpreter. The processes in which signs and interpreters are involved are called ‘sign processes’ (“semioses”; see Morris 1938, Deely 1990: 32, and Koch 1998: 707-718)” (Posner 1).

The “science” of signs is usually scattered when it comes to American Folk Music. It takes a true folk expert to help everyone get through the “milieu” of folk music.

According to Mieke Bal semiotics is:
“The field, discipline and perspective of semiotics study the meaning and implications of that characteristic of the human species. The field of semiotics is characterized by interests in a set of questions like: what sign-systems do we have, what types of signs are operative, how do they function, what is their effect?” (Bal 4). 

With this working definition, we can properly assess the information that was gathered about Folk Music. To answer the question about the folk sign-system, this is complex because the small sample of people that I surveyed did not have a concise answer. No one came up with one clear sign that signifies folk music. However, the tension is released by the question of the signs that are “operative”. If we are to take the “signs are operative” to mean the signs that are being displayed within folk music (if we twist the definition of the words that Bal uses and make them about folk and confusion) then we can aggregate the signs.

For illustration, the participants in the survey mentioned that folk could have the stereotype of being “uneducated” and “moonshine” driven. Other participants mentioned that folk music can be scattered and another participant mentioned the “hayseed” genre. The Folklorist mentioned that folk music is very diverse. With these answers we can start to compartmentalize the genre of folk music to discover that each working stereotype can have a “function” that satiates each stereotypical group. For instance, it is not wrong to say that some folk music pleases people from the 1960’s political movements. It is also not wrong to say that folk music satisfies many people of different economic levels. However, with all of the definitions the “effect” could take a wrong turn when it comes to preserving a historical genre because the genre is not clear. But, maybe music doesn’t have to be defined maybe music is meant to be blurred.

However, when it comes to readily defining “folk” music, is it is extremely difficult to do so. It is not easy to define “folk” and specifically American Folk Music by the codes and meanings. For instance,“… when we think of signs that nobody has designed as signs. When we look out of the window in the morning and the sun is bright, we take that as a sign: ‘good weather.’ We do not yet experience the good weather; we do not yet feel the actual warmth, but we know we can expect it and dress accordingly or the day. The sun is not in itself a sign. It becomes one for the person looking out of the window, seeing it and drawing conclusions from it” (Bal 9). 

This is not true for American Folk Music. The seemingly ubiquitous nature of American Folk Music makes it very hard to look and listen to a track of music and directly classify it with “American” Folk Music instead of jazz music or traditional cultural folk music. It is easier to classify the music as country or jazz or gospel music. But, when it comes down to actually defining something as “American Folk” it appears that we must initially peel away all of the layers of the vocals, the instruments, and the lyrics. Once all of that is gone then folk can be found.

By peeling through the layers, we must find out the different codes for the different sections of folk music. “A code consists of a set of signifiers, a set of signifieds, and a set of rules which determine the relation of these to each other(see Nöth 1990: 206-220). A code is either innate, such as the genetic code, is learned in interaction with the social environment, as is the case with many behavioral codes, or may be created through an explicit decision by one or more individual(s)” (Posner 4). But the question remains, does folk music actually have a set form of codes? Marketing wise, the codes might be forced, by adding a form of style to the outfit. But, by listening to a song, there is a muddled version of folk. This is exemplified by the survey. Before the participants listened to the song, I asked that they solely listen to the song and that they do not make assumptions by the picture on the video. Even so, there was not a universal answer found by the codes of the voice, the stress of the notes, and the grit in the music. The song did not clearly signify American Folk Music from the South. Instead, the music sent codes of gospel and general folk (one person said American Folk. The difference is the specific genre of folk and not the general universe of folk, which could include folklore and folk life).

By testing the sensory modality, the participants made it clear that if we strip away the pictures and visual effects it is much harder to classify folk music. “Thus, a pop music concert simultaneously utilizes the sensory modality of the eye and the ear, the contact matter of air, the technical apparatus of spotlights and projection screens as well as musical instruments, …and tonal music. This special constellation of media predisposes it for an emotionally-laden, generally understandable message, which can provide every individual in a large audience with a feeling of belonging” (Posner 8). 

However, this “feeling of belonging” is often muddled when it comes to the realm of American Folk Music. It is muddled because the location is not certain. Does a person belong with the counter-culture, the people in the group singing by the fire, or with the new band at the Grammy’s?

Therefore, does the lack of belonging suggest that folk music does not have a culture? Posner gives an interesting definition of culture that can help discover if American Folk Music is a part of a culture.“A culture makes available to each member of the respective society the experiences of his or her contemporaries and predecessors, so that these can be repeated and improved on, if they were positive, or so that they can be avoided, if they were negative. Culture, then, does for the society what memory does for the individual (see). It is a collective mechanism for the storage of information. Collective information storage is dependent on individuals who generate information by having experiences. It would be impossible without communication, since the original experience can only be transmitted when the one who experienced it takes on the role of the sender. It would be impossible without codes, for if all communication utilized only uncoded messages, the original experience would be passed on only from the sender to his or her addressees and from them to their addressees in turn; for individuals not present as addressees in such a chain of communication, the relevant experience would be inaccessible” (Posner 28-29). With this information, we can assume that folk music does have a culture, but a limited culture. The culture is passed down from person to person and the culture is communicated. But, the access to the culture is limited by the amount of people that have access to the information.

Folk and all of its extensions have a society that preserves its image from the past. This is the Library of congress. But the question is how does the average listener of folk music assess that culture? Well, the Library of Congress started an initiative a long time ago to preserve the folk life and folk music cultures. This project is called the Global Jukebox.

This is a wonderful way to give access to the masses.

In sum, semiotics is a wonderful lens in which we can take the evidence from the interviews and surveys to find out what the answers really mean. We can dig deeper into the answers from the survey. Through semiotics, it is apparent that the definition of the culture of American Folk Music is very scattered and that it has a different meaning for everyone that listens to it. This allows for a particular freedom of interpretation. Through semiotics, the “freedom” is an area that should be addressed because it is muddling the definition of the music (with regards to having a set definition for the American Folk Music genre). Semiotics helps the listeners interpret the meaning and another way to examine the effectiveness of the culture’s message to the masses would be the way it communicates.

Cultural Transmission:
Communication is integral when it comes to finding the meaning of any area of study. It is imperative that we have a textbook definition and a free form definition so we can actually observe how the message is communicated. When we are talking about communicating we are mentioning the distribution to the masses. Debray mentions that “Commonly understood, ‘communicating’ is simply making familiar, making known” (Debray 1).  Now that the meaning of American Folk Music has been assessed as fundamentally blended, it is appropriate to discover why the music is blurred and why people have vast yet similar definitions. To demolish the confusion, lets take a closer look at communication (Debray 3).  

Through communication, we can find the answers, but through transmission we can find the evidence. “If communication transports essentially through space, transmission essentially transports through time” (Debray 3). Many things change over time. It is life. But the one thing that remains, are many hints of the culture that can lead to hints about the future.

To look at the history over a span of time for any given culture, it is important to address the transmission.  Debray says that: “The content of the message is guided by the requisites of its deliverance, as is the organ by its function. Through measurably temporal, transmission does have a geography. Its advancement occupies space, but it conducts its crossings and bids for influence in order to make inroads toward permanence, to make history (the pervasive desire to pervade time by turning any means it can to account)” (Debray 4). American Folk Music has indubitably left a mark and made various historical efforts. However, these efforts seem to be unrelated to the culture of the genre as whole.

Transmission can be thought of as the knowledge that is given. For instance, Debray mentions that,  “Journalists communicate; professors transmit. (The difference is that between news and knowledge.)” (Debray 6). The knowledge will hopefully stick with the message for a long period of time and help define the message. Knowledge has more “staying power”.

But it seems as though American Folk Music is missing the crucial transmission points. To spell out the transmission points, it is important that to break down the definition of transmission.  “The prefix trans-: comes down most decisively to this particle that encapsulates the marching past, burden, and adventure of so many mediations” (Debray 7). To encapsulate the past of folk music there are a few artists throughout history that have made waves in the ocean of music (1960’s artist). But it seems as though each artist that encapsulates a time period is different from the other. This is not rare.

For instance, if we look at the history of Presidents of the United States of America, we can notice that not all of the President’s believed in the same principles, not all of the President’s were of the same party, but in the end the President of the United States still had a guide, a set structure that they had to follow. Now, the President’s have (had) many guides, one could argue that the Constitution was a guide for the President’s but this guide shifts every now and then and can be amended. Yet, no matter the number of amendments, the heart of the document stands true. Another example could be the Declaration of Independence. Many things have changed throughout the years, but even so the unalienable rights of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” have remained the same.

The three unalienable rights and the shifting throughout history provides a nice example of how history can be a chain filled with people that have different ways of thinking and drastically different principles, but at the end of the day these chains are still linked. Also, with regards to the President’s no matter how different each President may be they are still under the title of President of the United States. This is a transmissible characteristic that we are missing in folk music. We are missing the connection.

Yes, throughout the years there are many artists that have characterized American Folk Music. But, if we compare these artists, do they follow a linear progression? Linear progressions are not always easy to maintain because of the space and time, but at the heart of their music, is there a node of “American Folk”? Is there a “pluckable” note?

That’s where the confusion lies. The transmission of the message of American Folk Music is varied and scattered. However, through transmission, there are ways to remedy the confusion.  “Transmitting means organizing” (Debray 15). Therefore, there have been ways to organize different genres by category (jazz, country, gospel). But while organizing American Folk Music, it seems to be difficult to actually separate the culmination of all genres.

Therefore, is American Folk Music milieu? To answer this question we can look at Debray’s quote about milieu and the black box. “Mediology is devoted to medium and median bodies, to everything that acts as milieu or middle ground in the black box of meaning’s production, between an input and an output” (Debray 7). No, American Folk Music is not the milieu, rather it is the initial information. By thinking of American Folk Music as the initial musical information, then we can propose that all of the current genres are the milieu and the future of music lies outside of the black box of music.             

Therefore, if we propose that Folk Music as a whole, is the initial form of music, and if we recognize that within the realm of American Music, that American Folk Music has been integral (with the evolution of various genres of music), then we could say that everything that is current and every musical approach spawns from Folk Music. However, this is contingent on the cultural memory of the person ranking Folk Music.

Cultural memory deals with the subjects that are properly curated and preserved. If certain memories are not passed on to the future, then the essence of the origin could be lost. Debray mentions that a message that is not properly preserved disappears. “…Communication is the message’s sine qua non, while the community of messengers is that by which the choice of an inheritance is possible. The message that does not find an institutional housing will go up in smoke or be drained off as so much background noise by the ambient environment of cultural life. Perpetuating meaning assigns an institution the dual mission of archival and pedagogical conservation” (Debray 10-11). The conservation part of American Folk Music, is greatly taking part in the Library of Congress (Global Jukebox) and other places that devote themselves or a section of their master skills to the world of American Folk Music.

Therefore, the Library of Congress serves as the main source of transmission for the American Folk Music world. “At the material level, to transmit is to inform the inorganic by manufacturing consultable store of externalized memory through available technologies for inscribing, conserving, inventorying, and distributing the recorded traces of cultural expression” (Debray 11-12). Through the library and other resources, we can gather more and more information about American Folk Music.

Even with all of the information, the biggest confusion lies within the past and the present. “Our objects hold fast to their historical context while our works can escape from them” (Debray 53).  Therefore, this is to say  (within the American Folk Music world) that we can organize all of the past actions, but the past actions are being transformed into present actions and then they will lend themselves to future actions. The present actions “our works” are leaving the past and trying to re-define the meaning of American Folk Music. By searching and reconstructing the meaning, we are losing our original meaning and creating a meaning from the past that does not live on to the present.

But regardless of the shuffle between past and present, there is something to always remember, everything is connected. To find the state of American Folk Music in the chain of history, it is necessary to address dialogism. Dialogue/Dialogic/Dialogism: Every level of expression from live conversational dialog to complex cultural expression in other genres and art works is an ongoing chain or network of statements and responses, repetitions and quotations, in which new statements presuppose earlier statements and anticipate future responses” (Irvine).

The “ongoing chain” explains the transmission cycle and how the different artists are displayed. For instance, before, it was put into question if American Folk Music was too diluted by other forms of art. But, if we look at American Folk Music through the lens of dialogism, we can find out that the history is still connected with this chain, no matter how different the artist or the music genre. They are still connected.

This connection can link to the space that it is located in history. Bakhtin mentions that, “[a] ‘word’ is therefore always already embedded in a history of expressions by others in a chain of ongoing cultural and political moments.” (Irvine) Therefore, if the music is already drenched with historical content, then American Folk Music does not seem so detached from music.

Since a lot of the results from the surveys and the interview used the word, “traditional” to describe Folk Music (not everyone identified folk music with the American twist) it is easy to also link the tradition of the music to the past, which can be cyclical.

“No tradition has come about without being an invention or recirculation of expressive marks and gestures. No movement of ideas has occurred that did not imply the corresponding movement of human bodies, whether pilgrims, merchants, settlers, soldiers, or ambassadors” (Debray 2).

Therefore, American Folk Music is a part of the chain of music and also a response to music in general. That would create a new wrinkle in the assessment of Folk Music.

However, the accessibility to the observance of the placement of the chain depends on individual knowledge. Each person is from a different mind frame and has varied access to the information. 

Cultural Encyclopedia:

With all of this information, it is important to realize that all of the signs and meanings are different for each person. “The meaning of signs is different according to the social groups we belong to” (Bal 6). With the survey group, everyone was relatively from the same social group, the only difference is the depth of the cultural encyclopedia. For instance, one participant is a singer. She has many of her own CD’s and singles. On the other end of the spectrum, we had one participant that didn’t really know that much about music. Another participant interned for the Kennedy Center and had a lot of information about music and culture. All of the participants were all on different chapters of the cultural encyclopedia.

The diversity of the group helped to demonstrate that everyone addresses the information in a different way. “Why do some people ‘get’ meanings and others don’t? Some people will be more competent than others in using the codes and accessing the encyclopedia than others, but everyone in a culture will understand how to use the codes or draw on knowledge that they don’t know from the relevant cultural encyclopedia. Since all meaning and symbolic systems are intersubjective, collective, and public, there is no such thing as ‘hidden meaning.’ There can be only as-yet, unaccessed, relevant parts of a cultural encyclopedia with the learnable relevant codes and knowledge nodes that anyone can apply” (Irvine 14). This is exemplified through my survey. Some participants automatically assumed that country music was folk music. One participant classified the folk music as American Folk Music. The answers were very telling of everyone’s position in the cultural encyclopedia. Therefore, this proves the notion of the cultural encyclopedia. Some people have read volumes and are more entrenched in the knowledge while others are entrenched in other information.

But the important aspect is to understand each other. With American Folk Music, it seems as though people are all on different pages of the encyclopedia and have different ideas to what folk is (let alone what American Folk Music is). Therefore, the solution would be to create a neutral stance.“Neutral dictionary meanings of the words of a language ensure their common features and guarantee that all speakers of a given language will understand one another, but the use of words in live speech communication is always individual and contextual in nature (p.88)” (Bakhtin).The important aspect is to understand one another. Not everyone has to know the definition of complex examples of American Folk Music, but everyone should be able to understand each other and have a working understanding of the genre.

With regards to the cultural encyclopedia, it seems as though American Folk Music has become like an “inside joke”. Some people get it and other don’t some people know the structure and other don’t. The reason, as with all reason, is the access to the information. The access to this information is muddled through access to cultural memory. “All of our individual expressions necessarily assume and embed the expressions of others, either in an immediate context (like conversation) or in cultural genres that unfold in a larger environment, both contemporary (during our own time) and an inherited cultural memory (a cultural encyclopedia)” (Irvine 6). This access to the cultural encyclopedia echoes all other information about the muddled definitions of the American Folk Music genre.

However, if the information is already a hybrid, if the information is already “embedded” into each conversation and each note, then the information should be slightly understood. This should create an equal playing field for the cultural encyclopedia and it should make the encyclopedia more accessible or at least more inclusive and less about the “inside joke” aspect. “When we become socialized into our language community (and available subcultures), the dialogic base is always already there, in place before we begin a new expression, which will always be a response to conversations already going on in an accrued dialogic cultural encyclopedia” (Irvine 13). If this statement is to be true, then we should already have some connection to the link of American Folk Music. This connection does not have to be a distant connection it could be an immediate connection via today’s popular music.

 Some History:

In today’s popular music there seems to be a strand of “American Folk Music”. There are codes that are being used to distinguish these mechanisms. For instance, in the survey, one participant mentioned that folk music had a “moonshine” appeal. This appeal can lead to a plethora of images. Yet, each image is subject to interpretation. For instance, when some people think about a “moonshine” appeal, they can tend to think about people around a camp fire hanging out in the hill country having a wonderful time enjoying friendship and singing songs. The point is that there tends to be a new shift to the “moonshine” and group sing appeal of folk music. This is being marketed to the masses assuming that the masses are not culturally remembering the significance of American Folk Music in the 1960’s.

The current generation is being marketed certain images of American Folk Music because for the most part the younger people have no tangible recollection of the 1960s or they were not at prime protests etc. (they weren’t born yet). Therefore, the marketing groups are marketing to a population that does not, for the most part, have a personal cultural memory of the other events of American Folk Music.

Therefore, certain markets are overselling this idea of “group song” and campfires. This notion of telling stories and being with groups of people is not that far off of the general friendly aspect of folk music, but it is only exposing certain information and making certain parts of history accessible to the next generations with regards to their cultural memory.

The traditional aspect of folk is split up in many groups. Culture wise some cultures have very pure relations of their culture they include traditional garb they produce traditional values and have traditional ways. In some communities these folk and traditional cultural foundations are displayed at cultural festivals. The folk garments and dance moves allude to the “old country” and staying true to their roots. Without delving into to too much of what this means, we can at least use this as an examples of how cultural communities can provide these cultures with their own memories. With regards to American Folk Music, there isn’t a set way to be reminded of the ways of the past, because it is often assumed that American Folk Music is so blurred.

Therefore, this creates an easy marketing strategy. Some marketing companies are marketing certain signals, however, the signals are not connected to the original meaning. For instance, for the most part, mass-produced American Folk Music has lost its political dissidence.

In the 1960’s the meaning of folk music was synonymous with protesting and the counter-culture. “The notion of an alternative culture is a far cry from just popularizing a musical genre in an existent culture. Interest in folk music did not numerically affect an entire generation. Folkniks were by-and-large politically reformist, believing in the possibility of social change” (Lund and Denisoff 405). However, today’s bands that are signifying popular trends from the evolution of the folk counter-culture are doing so without the meaning original meaning from the cultural memory.

For instance, historically, folk music embodied the “people”. “…After World War II the ‘people’s artists’ trend was interdicted by the advent of the McCarthy era and the application of the media blacklist to folk-styled singers, such as Pete Seeger and the Weavers. As members of People’s Artists, Inc. were being summoned to testify before Congressional subcommittees, an artistic and literary fad which explored the traditional ‘road’ concepts of the American experience came into existence in the bohemian communities of several large metropolises. This movement was called the Beat Generation, or by journalists such as Herb Caen, ‘beatniks.’ The beats proclaimed disaffiliation from American society and its institutions” (Lund and Denisoff 395). Today’s popular counter-culture artists are not fully associated with the American Folk Music realm. The counter-culture artists of today can be seen as going back in time, but not the genre. Also, the counter artists are in various genres and not just in the realm of Folk Music anymore.

To demystify the notion that folk music is only to the moonshine culture and the overproduced, we have the New Lost City Ramblers. “The first performing group in the urban ‘folk’ scene to specialize in material of traditional rural origin was the New Lost City Ramblers.19 They were organized in 1958 by Mike Seeger, youngest son of the famous ethnomusicologist Charles Seeger; John Cohen, Yale-educated photographer; and Tom Paley, a New York mathematician and photographer” (Lund and Denisoff 400).

The fact that the people were replicating the music of the South is very interesting. The article by Lund and Denisoff provides more historical examples and provides more of an explanation for the said cultural shift. However for the purpose of this paper, it is important to note that some of the “urban folk” artists were educated. This is important because today’s generation is given the sign that the folk music community deals with “low technological instruments” and is more of a “moonshine” culture. However, this goes back to how far along we are in the cultural encyclopedia.

Another point about our detachment is the cutting and pasting of the culture. At first many recordings (like the Lomax Recordings) were thought of as being authentic. “… records of the twenties and thirties were genuine folk songs of a far greater authenticity than anything heard at the early urban ‘folk-festivals’” (Lund and Denisoff 399). In today’s time, these works are still authentic works. But, the chain of Folk Music does not end there. The chain continued to link with other genres of music, which can still be considered authentic in relation to the connection in the “chain”.

The New Lost City Ramblers played fiddles, mandolins, guitars, and banjos in careful imitation of the early Southern recording artists, always crediting the origins of each song” (Lund and Denisoff 399-400)

Too add more genres to the mix we have the bluegrass genre. The bluegrass genre of music started to blend with the folk music of the time. This blending created another genre of folk music. “Aside from ‘old timey’ music, another form of rural, traditionally derived music came to the attention … namely, bluegrass. Bluegrass music was a type of commercial country music which appeared during the 1940s. It was a reaction against electrification and the cowboy image which by then permeated the country music industry… Its sound was dominated by the five-string banjo, especially as played by Earl Scruggs. The first college bluegrass concert, the Osborne Brothers at Oberlin College, was a smashing success… Home-grown bluegrass groups were organized at colleges and bohemian enclaves in the North and West” (Lund and Denisoff 400).

There are many depictions of what the definition of Bluegrass is. Similarly to our place in the cultural encyclopedia, bluegrass can be thought as a collection of many different strands depending on the person. Nevertheless, folk music blended in with bluegrass and created another genre. Another genre of folk music could be seen as the college angst folk culture. “At many universities, notably Harvard and Yale, the folk subculture became completely enraptured with bluegrass. Yale’s Grey Sky Boys, Harvard’s Charles River Valley Boys, and Greenwich Village’s Greenbriar Boys …. The most successful southern-authentic bluegrass band, Flatt and Scruggs and the Foggy Mountain Boys, were double-billed with Joan Baez at Carnegie Hall in 1963” (Lund and Denisoff 400).

College folk groups are a hybrid of the hybrid in that they are a product of folk music and bluegrass. College folk groups are still very prominent. “The campus bluegrass revival is, of course, over on a large scale, but vestiges of it still survive” (Lund and Denisoff 401). However, today, these vestiges are more hybrids of hybrids in that they have moved from being counter-culture to becoming mainstream. It is like a forced counter-culture that is guided by signs and signals void of the original meaning.

“The popularity of Johnny Cash, and now Merle Haggard, among the “counter culture” can be traced back to some of the attitudes prominent in the folk music revival” (Lund and Denisoff 403).

Today, the college folk scene is a hybrid of a hybrid, and the genre placement is still hard to decipher.

With each performance on college campuses and each strumming of the guitar on mainstream radio stations there is a message.
Everything is a message…from natural to social stimuli or from signals to signs—but these messages do not necessarily constitute an inheritance. Legacies are never the effect of pure chance. Similarly, there are communication machines but not transmission machines…” (Debray 5).

This goes back to the distinction between communication and transmission. Even though these “revivals” are popular and they are hybrids of the authentic American Folk Music, they are still transmitted in a different way than they are communicated. Each branch and hybrid of American Folk Music communicates a message. This message can be related or not related. It is like a branch of a tree. However, the strength of the branch comes from transmission. For, all of the hybrids and clones of the musical style can be great, but they have no relevance if they do not pass on knowledge or time. For instance, the branches or genres could communicate specific ideals, but not have lasting power. They cannot grow. But the base of the branch always goes back to the strongest part, the tree and the roots of folk music.


With regards to marketing, the groups that are popular and classified as folk musicians “represent our ideas or cultural stereotypes about that past” (Jameson 118). In some cases these artists are over-produced meaning made to appear to fit one stereotype. This is carried out through signified styles: “signifier—a material object, the sound of a word, the script of a text—and a signified, the meaning of that material word or material text. The third component would be the so-called ‘referent,’ the ‘real’ object in the; real’ world to which the sign refers—he real cat as opposed to the concept of a cat or the sound ‘cat’” (Jameson 119).

The “signified” object could be the folk music and it could be displayed by having people dress in certain ways. If the marketing groups are trying to create a folk appeal, they could draw on the stereotype of being counter-culture, therefore they could dress the artist in clothes that are counter-culture. If they are going for the folk stereotype of “group sing alongs” they could construct a group of people to sing with the artist. This group would try to encapsulate the stereotype as well.

However, with all of the ideas of transmission and communication, the longevity is at risk, it is important that the groups preserve some form of information, even if it is a hybrid of a hybrid. “Culture, as a mechanism for organizing and preserving information in the consciousness of the community, raises the specific problem of longevity. It has two aspects: (1) the longevity of the texts of the collective memory and (2) the longevity of the code of the collective memory. In certain cases these two aspects may not be directly related to one another. Thus, for example, superstitions can be seen as elements of a text of an old culture whose code is lost; that is, as a case where the text outlives the code” (Lotman, Uspensky, and Mihaychuk 214-215).  

Only time can tell if the hybrid forms of the hybrids will live on and erase the authentic definition of American Folk Music.

In some cases this hyper constructed folk reality can be very interesting and controversial. But a positive aspect is that no matter how constructed or detached from meaning the subject is, it furthers the brand. It makes the culture live on even if it is not in the intended way. “We transmit meanings so that the things we live, believe, and think do not perish with us” (Debray 3). 

Therefore, the transmitted American Folk Music image, no matter how detached goes on to be changed and changed and changed throughout time, will continue to stay relevant because of the hybridization.

More Examples:


After all of the survey materials were collected and the interview with Dr. Groce was finally edited, it seems as though this study has made an initial action toward the meaning of American Folk Music. Through questions of semiotics, definitions of cultural transmission and communication, historical events, and current marketing endeavors the data leads to the conclusion that this is the initial step to finding more meaning to defining American Folk Music. This study exemplified ideas that everyone has their own place in the cultural encyclopedia and the study exemplified that the definition of American Folk Music is clear when the person has an in-depth perspective aided by the cultural encyclopedia. Regardless, of the place in the cultural encyclopedia, it doesn’t mean that one cannot fully enjoy the music that is presented. From this study, the takeaway should be that folk music is a tree with many branches that have many buds (genres). Each bud holds the promise for a new genre of music, each bud tries to withhold the winter and grow with the tree. Therefore, American Folk Music, is in a way an extension of various genre connections.


Further questions:

If: “Human beings communicate; more rarely do they transmit lasting meanings.” how can that be applied to the Folk Music genre (Debray 4)?

Foundation wise. If folk music is essentially the foundation of folk music, how then can folk music be labeled as a lower art? Is it intentional? With the information about the educated artists, does the stereotype reign true?

Global Jukebox, is it still functioning?

Recent popularity of folk music at the Grammy’s will that cause a shift in folk music?

Is Indie Music American Folk Music?

Are mashups and acoustic songs and versions considered folk?

Works Cited:

Bal, Mieke. On Meaning-Making: Essays in Semiotics. Sonoma, CA: Polebridge, 1994. Print.


Danesi, Marcel. “Semiotics of Media and Culture,” excerpt from Paul Cobley, ed. The Routledge Companion to Semiotics. New York, NY: Routledge, 2009, 135-149.

Debray, Régis. “From Chaps. 1-2; from Chap. 7, “Ways of Doing.”” Transmitting Culture. Trans. Eric Rauth. New York: Columbia UP, 2000. N. pag. Print.

Debray, Régis. “What is Mediology?” Le Monde Diplomatique, Aug., 1999. Trans. Martin Irvine.

Debray, Régis. “Media Manifestos”, pp. 1-40; 69-79; 97-107; Tables, 171-174.

Grayson, Lee. “10 Best Female Folk Singers.” Made Man. Break Media, 2011. Web. <>.

Irvine, Martin.  ” The Grammar of Meaning Making and Meaning Systems: The Human Symbolic Faculty, Semiosis, and Cybersemiotics.” <>.

Irvine, Martin. “Mikhail Bakhtin: Main Theories Dialogism, Polyphony, Heteroglossia, Open Interpretation A Student’s Guide by Martin Irvine Georgetown University.” Bakhtin: Main Theories. Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License, 2013. Web. Mar. 2013. <>.

Jameson, Frederic. (1983). “Postmodernism and Consumer Society.” In Foster,

The anti-aesthetic: Essays in postmodern culture. Bay Press, pp.111-125.

Lotman, Yu. M., B. A. Uspensky, and George Mihaychuk. “On the Semiotic Mechanism of Culture.” New Literary History Soviet Semiotics and Criticism: An Anthology 9.2 (1978): 211-32. J Stor. Web. Mar. 2013. <>.

Lund, Jens, and R. Serge Denisoff. “The Folk Music Revival and the Counter Culture: Contributions and Contradictions.” Journal of American Folklore 84.334 (1971): 394-405. J Stor. Web. 4 May 2013. <>.

Posner, Roland. “Basic Tasks of Cultural Semiotics“. Excerpt from Gloria Withalm and Josef Wallmannsberger, eds., Signs of Power — Power of Signs. Essays in Honor of Jeff Bernard. Vienna: INST, 2004, p. 56-89.

Ruehl, Kim. “Celebrating African-Americans in Folk Music.” Music., n.d. Web. <>.

Searle, John. “Chomsky’s Revolution in Linguistics,” The New York Review of BooksJune 29, 1972.

“The Declaration of Independence.” The Declaration of Independence: The Want, Will, and Hopes of the People. Independence Hall Association, 4 July 1995. Web. <>.

Torop, Peeter. “Semiosphere and/as the research object of semiotics of culture,” Sign Systems Studies, 33/1, 2005. [On Lotman’s theory of the semiosphere.]



Elizabeth-Burton Jones
Week 13

Music has various meaning to various people. It has the ability to change the listener’s mood or introduce the listener to a different culture. But, in order to get the music to the masses a producer has to record the music.

Traditionally, recording music was a task that included a lot of expensive equipment. It was a big deal. One could not simply create a nice track without going to a studio and recording the music with the producers equipment. However, today recording music comes in different ways, shapes, and forms. Now, “everyone” has the ability to record. By making recording a universal platform and cutting out the middle man, everyone can produce and publicize their own music (good or bad). 

Out of all of the “Record It Yourself” microphones, I chose the Apogee Mic. But before we delve into this case study, let’s get some background information.

Very Abridged History of the Microphone:

Universal definition: Throughout this case study, when I am talking about the microphone and the evolution, I am talking about the technology according to this definition:

“The microphone, (coined by Sir Charles Wheatstone in 1827), in its simplest form consists of a membrane that vibrates as sound waves hit its surface. The membrane is attached to a coil of wire that floats around a small magnet. As the coil vibrates back and forth, in response to the sound waves hitting the membrane’s surface, an electric current is induced in the coil that is proportional to the sound wave. This electric current is passed to an amplifier that will greatly boost the input signal and send this on to the speakers in a much louder sound wave. In essence the speaker works on the same principal as the microphone, but while the microphone membrane is small, the speaker membrane is much larger, and capable of moving a larger mass of air which through amplification translates into an larger version of the input signal. A microphone by definition has two meanings: it is an instrument for intensifying weak sounds. And it is a device for transforming sound waves into electrical impulses.”

Microphones do not come in one shape or size. They are varied depending on the use. For instance, a person could use a microphone amplifying their voice when giving a speech, or they could use a microphone when they are at their local karaoke destination.

When recording music, there is a traditional structure code that is usually associated with the microphone. This “code” sets up a blueprint to how the microphone will look and how it will function.
Here are some pictures of the “Evolution of the Microphone”.


Now that we have some background information about the microphone, we can look at my Case Study. 

My Case Study: The Apogee Microphone. 

The Apogee Mic is a microphone that you can connect to your computer and record music.

Apogee Introduction

What does it do?
Basically, the Apogee converts music to a digital form.

This is what the Apple website says:
“Apogee’s MiC digital microphone for iPad, iPhone, and Mac provides a direct digital connection for crystal-clear recordings of anything from acoustic guitar, vocals and percussion, to voice overs, interviews and iPhone videos.

  • Studio-quality cardioid condenser microphone
  • Apogee PureDIGITAL connection for pristine sound
  • Gain control knob for easy input level adjustment
  • No configuration, just plug in and record

Made for use with GarageBand and Logic software

What’s Wrong with Analog:  

I am usually not a fan of the jump from analog to digital, however through this course I have realized that it is hard to avoid the transition, whether it is recording a performance on YouTube or recording a performance via the Apogee. 

To help explain the analog to digital conversion breaks the conversion into multiple steps.

“A Step-by-Step Look at Apogee Technology
Step One: Analog excellence

Analog design excellence is the first critical step in realizing world class digital audio. Poor analog design and cost-cutting measures result in diminished audio quality. Everyone has heard the saying “garbage in, garbage out.” Delivering bad analog audio to the digital converter will always result in bad audio out of the converter. Great-sounding analog audio is the first step, but it is not the last.

Step Two: Getting from A to D

Digital audio conversion is the process that samples an analog audio signal and represents that original signal with 0’s and 1’s. Like a motion picture camera that captures action at 24 frames per second, the sound is “photographed” or sampled between 44,100 and 192,000 times per second depending on the chosen sample rate. The sample rate determines the highest frequency that can be captured by the converter. Digital audio samples can be captured with word lengths ranging from 8-bit to 24-bit. A larger bit size results in superior definition and increased dynamic range. “

The website goes on to mention other steps and clears up any questions about the Apogee.

What’s in the Box, the Blackbox:

This image “deblackboxes” the Apogee. If we look at this image and pair it with the historical information in the beginning of this blog, we can see the continuous nature (dialogism) of the technology.  


Is the Apogee for me?
With all of this information, the Apogee appears to be a wonderful tool to give everyone access to recording music. It seems relatively easy to use. 

The Connection:

I believe the history and use of the Apogee covers so many topics that we have covered over the semester. However, in this post, I have mainly covered the nature of combining all of the evolutionary technologies of the past and fusing them together to create the Apogee. This covers so many topics about dialogism and hybridity.

With regards to the social and cultural meaning, I think this is an interesting topic for debate. Just like many mediums, music is questionably divided between a higher form and a lower form. Accordingly, these ideas stem from different cultural and social views. Therefore, it is relative.

Even with the cultural encyclopedia in mind, the relativity still prevails because everyone is not as well versed in the cultural encyclopedia of musical recording. I guess one of my questions involves the Apogee’s ability to change the definition of home recording. Recording from home is stereotypically viewed as a lower form of recording vis-à-vis the “big studio” version. Therefore, with these advanced forms of home recording (like the Apogee) will we be forced to edit the chapter (in the cultural encyclopedia) about the standards and prestige of recording? Will the symbolic nature change? Will it change the course of the “system map”?

By making the recording world accessible to every artist changes the music world. We have crossed the musical digital divide and currently I am not sure where we stand. With pages like YouTube and companies that will place your music on iTunes, there have been a lot of bad examples of the usage of the available technology. However, there are equally impressive examples on how the recording music from a home studio can be a new way to access traditionally   distant music.


Additional Question:

By cutting out the middle man when recording and making recording a universal platform, does this tarnish the prestige of making a record? 



Did you ever have to learn how to play the recorder?

Elizabeth-Burton Jones
Week 12
“Did you ever have to learn how to play the recorder?”

Last week I explored the music world and the technological intersection via Apple products. The class helped me draw conclusions about the functions and software that are used and it also introduced me to the black box of musical apps. In addition, I noticed the physciality and material differences between the actual instruments and the digital reproductions. This study led me to a greater interest in consumerism and the interface. Specifically in stores where they are utilizing the technology of taking an image of the consumer and reproducing that image on a screen.

Certain companies take an image of the consumer and then place that image on an interface. Then the consumer has the freedom to scan any makeup product and apply it to their image on the screen.

This virtual spin has many positive aspect such as eliminating product waste via samples. Also, the digital makeover is very sanitary. However, a negative aspect about the product would be the “numbness” that was discussed last class. In addition, with this new technology, one can forget the connection between the brush and the skin.



Another technology that is starting to become popular is the growth of virtual dressing rooms. (2:03)

This innovation is a remediated form of the closet and finds notes of dialogism within the retail world and history.

Last week I mentioned the music features of the iPad.


However, for this week we were asked if there was any convergence within the materials covered throughout this course. My answer would be: yes. The convergence is demonstrated by my examples of all of blending of music and technology and fashion and technology. This convergence demonstrates the common thread from our physical world to the “cyber” world. The vibrations and other technological extensions are all part of a greater network. For instance, it is obvious that the technolocial devices such as the iPad and other smart devices are not the actual instruments. They provide a watered down way to play these interesting instruments. However, depending on the context, this nature could be very crucial to education and semiotics. For instance, when teachers incorporate instruments via iPads into their classes they are not only changing the meaning of an instrument but they are also changing the way the instrument is being received. For example, is children are learning how to play the xylophone during class, there’s always the two kids in the corner trying to use the sticks in a sword fight. There’s always the pounding of the sticks on various surfaces or on other humans (to their chagrin).

But when this seemingly mundane switch from analog to digital occurs, then there is a breakdown of communication. I am very interested in writing my final paper on this topic. When we replace instruments with shiny squares of glass, we are loosing the material “street smarts” of the instrument. We are replacing movements with strokes to the machine. Therefore, I think the connection between all of the material would be the loss of cultural memory and the power to change the cultural memory.

Galloway and the Muse:

I am still not 100% positive on Manovich’s opinion of the muse, but I think it is interesting and I think it is a common thread that we can use for later. With regards to the other readings, my main takeaway was the form of the interface through time, the power of software, and the transformation of cyborgs.

I believe that Galloway’s reference to the muse being a vector for information in polytheistic religions is an interesting example. However, it leads to a great point to wonder about:

“This being the same refrain sung
throughout the book, not media but mediation.) One must
look at local relationships within the image and ask how such
relationships create an externalization, an incoherence, an
edging, or a framing? Or in reverse: how does this other spe­
cific local relationship within the apparatus succeed in creat­
ing a coherence, a centering, a localization? But what does this
mean?” (Galloway 36).

This is the connecting point. For every section whether it was linguistics or semiotics, we had to go back to the roots of the issue. We had to reflect on the history and on the meaning. We had to refer back to the cultural encyclopedia hence trying to find the great points in the universal cultural memory. Essentially, for every section, we must as “what does this mean?” to properly assess the information.

Does this contribute to the break down of communication?
Is the shift from analog to digital a good thing?
By losing the tangible instrument lead to a loss of musical history?

I think this could be my final project.





Digital Nutrition

Elizabeth-Burton Jones
“Digital Nutrition”
Week 11

The iPad has many functions and has various uses. From taking notes to playing games to playing instruments. However, it seems as though it’s role in “media-entertainment” is typically restricted by the advertising world. For instance, like any branding venture, the Apple company advertises the iPad in specific ways to gauge specific consumers.

Mini Ad

For illustration, I will use my journey with the iPad. At first, I saw the iPad as a new highway route to my destination of creating digital music. This desire to create music with the iPad came from many advertisements about the drums and the piano apps. That being said, these desires of creating music have not become muted, but rather these desires have shifted based on the technology and course work. Meaning, the Macbook, the iPad, and the iPhone seem to have their own places and definitions for their roles in the “media-entertainment” field and I have started to divide them based on these roles.

iPad Drums

What are these roles?
The Macbook is more of the universal hub for each object. It is the home of all of my purchased iTunes music, all of my Word Documents, all of my garage band files, etc.

Education and Technology

The iPad is my information seeker. I use it during class to record the information through my notes, these notes are then sent back to my Macbook Pro and then reassessed.

The iPhone is my mobile music center, I frequently download music, find music (through SoundHound), record music and lyrics, and also send text messages, use transportation apps, etc.

With the Macbook Pro as the nucleus, this sort of defines the “media-entertainment” roles. But, how does the “Apple System” create these roles in “media-entertainment” and what does it mean? What does it mean to say that the “iPad transforms education”? What does it mean to stroke the tablet rather than hold a mouse?

To start to look at these questions, I read Manovich. Manovich mentions many stories of the evolution of technology (cinema, virtual  camera, etc.) The Apple System has also had a sort of “evolution” (not just from huge computers to small computers). But as we assess the different roles and the different evolutions, Manovich reminds us to remember the dialogic nature of the animals.

Apple’s role as a ‘“global entertainment conglomerate” reminds the community that they are not only a technology powerhouse, but also Apple is a place for innovation (Manovich 54).

From click to touch:

I guess my biggest concern comes from the differences between the interfaces specifically when it comes to playing games and music. Manovich introduces me to this question when he says that “A particularly important example of how computer games use — and extend — cinematic language, is their implementation of a dynamic point of view” (Manovich 91). Before, I read this quote, I was searching for ways to add a musical aspect to this post. I was searching for the meaning of the difference between interfaces and why it mattered. But, this quote helped me find the “point of view”. I interpreted the point of view (with regards to Apple) as the difference between clicking and touching. 

For instance, the iPad has changed so many ways that gamers play their game of choice. In the game “Virtual Villagers” the gamer is given a village and he or she has to rebuild this village. In order to rebuild this village the gamer is given a “bird’s eye view” of the island. The gamer can pick up the players and place them where they should go. The gamer has more of a “hand” in the decision making of the villagers.

This game is similar to other virtual games, but the difference is the perceived power that the gamer has over the game. The Manovich article mentions Tamagotchi’s and I couldn’t help to think about my group of Tamagotchi’s that I would take to school and take care of. But, what makes the iPad “Virtual Villagers” different from the Tamagotchi’s or the other “Pygmalion” games would have to be the point of view and the touch.

Another way to look at this would be through music. In each Apple Product (Macbook Pro, iPad, iPhone) there’s a musical component. With this musical component, each interface is different. Each way that the media is displayed is different. For instance, with the iPhone, the music player is obviously smaller but also resembles the walkman. However, the iPad has more of a music lovers dream when it comes to aesthetics.

For instance, with the iPad, the point of view lends itself to a different feel. The image of the album is very big. It seems like more of a professional instrument. To exemplify the iPad’s relationship with music, you have the relationship with actual performance and the iPad. For instance, last year I did a performance with a full band and our soundcheck was completely done by the iPad. This example is only one example of the many ways that the iPad gives a different powerful point of view. I know that this point of view is not unique to the realm of music, however it is unique (not all platforms can have such an easy transition when it comes to the iPad ie Photography). 

With all of this information I am still searching for the meaning of the point of view. I know that a difference exists, but why is it important? What does it mean to the “interface world”? What does the difference of touch versus click really mean?


  • Lev Manovich, The Language of New Media (excerpts). Cambridge: MIT Press, 2001.
    A very influential book in the field. Read selections from chap. 1 (What is New Media) and chap. 2 (“The Interface”)
    Note the categories Manovich set up in chap. 1 for defining “New Media.”
  • Author’s website with supplements to the book.
  • Lev Manovich: “New Media from Borges to HTML.” Introduction to The New Media Reader. Edited by Noah Wardrip-Fruin and Nick Montfort. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2003, 13-25. (File from author’s site:
    See especially the section on “What is New Media: Eight Propositions.”
  • Lev Manovich, “Media After Software,” Journal of Visual Culture, 2012. Author’s preprint version.
    See also a brief preview of his argument, “There is Only Software” (author’s site); pdf version.

“Dancing Through Life”

Elizabeth-Burton Jones
“Dancing Through Life”
Week 10

In February, my Aunt took some family members to go see The Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre Company. The whole performance was wonderful. As a former dancer in my elementary school days and now a musician and actress, I thoroughly enjoyed the music, set, lights, etc. However, the driving force throughout the performance was the culture.

For this week’s assignment, the “Working With Mediology:From Theory and Hypotheses to Analytical Method” reading it mentions that “Mediology is a method for thoroughgoing, self-reflexive redescription of topics and problems that we have received under the cover of prior descriptions with pre-packaged conceptual metaphors”. I believe that this aligns with The Ailey School because of their ability to “redescribe” dance.


For instance, the traditional code for dance would be ballet. When I was younger, I did ballet for 10 years (I was on point for 4 years). Through ballet, I learned the dicipline of the art form from everything to having the perfect bun (with no frizzy hair follicles going out of place) to elevating to point in the proper way. Sometimes at the end of the year or at a special time of the year during class we could choreograph our own barre work and during the Summer we would have to go to Ballet Summer Camp. Summer Camp consisted of an intensive program where, students learn almost every known form of dance and the history (African, Composition, Modern). In my program, we were also encouraged to learn other dance forms throughout the year so I took Tap and Jazz and then I did figure skating. The point of all of this personal information is the structure. Whether I was dancing to classical music or a popular song, there was alway structure and a way to dance that could not be tampered with.

That’s where The Ailey School comes into the picture. I believe that they have extreme discipline and extreme focus, but they just use another way to display this focus. Instead of relying on one discipline of dance, they fuse multiple areas of dance and they pair these areas with cultural history.



The Mission Statement for The Ailey School is “To make dance accessible to young people and adults through dance training and innovative community outreach and arts-in-education programs”. One of their many goals is to “To train outstanding students as professional dancers by offering a diverse dance training curriculum of the highest caliber.” With the words “a diverse dance training curriculum” we can see how the dance performance is “redescripted”. We know that the dance performance that is “redescripted” is art, but just as Debray asks, we must see how it changes art.

Even though there dance performances can be viewed as a modern dance genre, they still incorporate various characteristics of foundations of dance, yet, they also add an interesting spin of culture and physique. Therefore, the school continuously finds new ways to change and invent new codes of dance, while continuously relying on diversity.

Other areas that I would like to explore:

“Point”y Propaganda

Meaning of culture in Ballet


Regis Debray, “What is Mediology?” Le Monde Diplomatique, Aug., 1999. Trans. Martin Irvine.

From Google to Gucci

Elizabeth-Burton Jones
“From Google to Gucci”
Week 9
I haven’t independently studied the Google Art gallery. Therefore, as soon as I opened the page, I was shocked by the image that appeared on my screen. The image was of a statue, but the image was distorted by the appearance of a square in the center of the image. This square truly confused me for a second, because I didn’t know what to expect from the website.Therefore, I decided to work an image that I have already seen. I was initially skeptical of archived images simply because I am sometimes skeptical of the quality finding it’s origin in the digital world.

My first concern was the loss of depth and detail within the image. So, I sifted through various images and encountered the “Birth of Venus”. I know this image very well and I have seen it in the Uffizi Museum. I clicked on the zoom function and I was very impressed with the quality.

In addition, I am always in search of the residue of realness when it comes to digitization, so I chose to look at a statue. After searching the webpage, I found “Bronze Fountainhead” this was interesting because when I used the zoom feature, I could notice the “wear and tear” of the statue, but I didn’t get that feeling of grit and age.Be that as it may, I believe that this website is a wonderful tool for all students and it grants intimate access to pieces of art that are thousands of miles away. 

Uncanny Valley
But, why am I looking for the “true grit”? What does my stance mean? I guess to look at my stance of the “uncanny valley-ness” of the digital reproduction, I should not be alarmed. The Walter Benjamin reading mentions that replicas were always made (252). This is very true, whether we are assessing Gucci fashion bags or the “Starry Night” everything has been reproduced and at a mass rate.





Another example could be the Marcus Aurelius statue in Rome. There are two versions. one version is outside in a piazza and another is placed inside for restoration. I am bringing this statue up because there is an obvious difference between the real and the replica. 

But what is wrong with the digital reproduction? As mentioned before, digital reproductions have so many positive aspects especially when it comes to filling a void  and granting intimate access to art. I guess the answer is “the here and now” (253). As Benjamin mentions, the “here and now” are often missing from the reproduced pieces of art. This can be said for all types of replications from music to statues. The lack of “here and now” breeds many questions. Therefore the lack of the “here and now” truly makes a difference, but one difference that is essential to the understanding of a piece of art. As alluded by Benjamin, the “here and now” can be age and “wear and tear”. The “here and now” adds more substance to something that is real. The “here and now” distinguishes the replica from the original.



Folk Music

Elizabeth-Burton Jones
“Folk Music”
The folk culture is extremely complex and diverse. To some people, a folk artist could be a person that tells stories of a culture. Folk artists could be a group of nomads that make spontaneous music. To other people, folk music can be defined as an art form that is left untarnished, a rare form of music left pristine, simple. The main thread that holds the vast group of artists together is their ability to embrace simplicity. 

In today’s music society, it seems as though, current artists are returning to the basics and leaving some of the “mass studio  production” behind.  For instance, this year at the Grammy’s there were so many “non-traditional” nominees. Some of the artists were not “overly produced” by their managers, they were simply artists.

The notion, of going back to the basics is very multifarious because in some instances, it seems as though going back to the basics means adding a gimmick to make the artist fit into this category. The notion is also complex because going back to the basics seems impossible when music is already a remix of remixes. So how do we distinguish the code of the rudimentary from the gimmick code?

Nevertheless, the act of going back to more of a folk performance, leads to the American Folklife Center. Last semester, for the final Cultural Hybridity paper, I visited the American Folklife Center. I loved going in there because it was such an interesting mix of people drawn to the origins of a culture and what a culture means. For this weeks assignment, I decided to look at the Folklife website.
 The folklife website defines Folklife in this way:

What is Folklife?

The everyday and intimate creativity that all of us share and pass on to the next generation:The traditional songs we sing, listen and dance to / Fairy tales, stories, ghost tales and personal histories / Riddles, proverbs, figures of speech, jokes and special ways of speaking / Our childhood games and rhymes / The way we celebrate life 
    – from birthing our babies to honoring our dead / The entire range of our personal and collective beliefs 
– religious, medical, magical, and social / Our handed-down recipes and everyday mealtime traditions / The way we decorate our world
    – from patchwork patterns on our quilts to plastic flamingoes in our yards, to tattoos on our bodies / The crafts we create by hand 
    – crocheted afghans, wooden spoons, cane bottoms on chairs / Patterns and traditions of work 
    – from factory to office cubicle / The many creative ways we express ourselves as members of our family, our community, our geographical region, our ethnic group, our religious congregation, or our occupational group / Folklife is part of everyone’s life. It is as constant as a ballad, as changeable as fashion trends. It is as intimate as a lullaby, and as public as a parade. / In the end … we are all folk.”

Another part of the FolkLife Center would have to be the “Global Jukebox”. The “Global Jukebox” is an interesting technology. The jukebox essentially stores the history and keeps cultures going. Through this chronicle, people can learn about specific cultural norms and traditions.

Essentially, folklife is an integral part of the continuous chain of life and the “Global Jukebox” stores all of the cultural chains. In the music realm, there is another chain. Music continues to link to each other. The chain continues and continues. In the NICOLAS BOURRIAUD
CULTURE AS SCREENPLAY: HOW ART REPROGRAMS THE WORLD reading it mentions sampling music and the chain of music.

The chain can be a bit edgy especially when dealing with copyright infringement. However, in the Bourriaud reading I really enjoyed the explanation of the chain and the position in the chain. For instance, he mentions that  the song meaning depends on the place in the chain  (“its meaning depends in part on its position in this chain”). This is interesting because it is true. No matter the extent of the remix and no matter how “scrambled the boundaries” are, the music is still up for interpretation of the time and space of the notes. In addition, the reading quotes Gonzalez-Foerster’s idea of “me” and “others”. “‘Even if it is illusory and Utopian,’ Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster explains, ‘what matters is introducing a sort of equality, assuming the same capacities, the pos- sibility of an equal relationship, between me – at the origins of an arrangement, a system – and others, allowing them to organize their own story in response to what they have just seen, with their own references.'” (18-19).

The idea of the chain relates to folk music, because folk music is often thought of as a chain of notes and sometimes a flow of simple music. Therefore, the Bourriaud reading validates folk music’s place in the music world.

Some music: 

Further research:

Standards vs. Folk stories

Lullaby recognition

Call and response singing

Music and Improvising

Folk vs. Indie

Folk origins and Manager ambition

How do we distinguish the code of the rudimentary from the gimmick code?
How do you define folk music?
Is all music essentially folk music? 


“Movies and History”

Elizabeth-Burton Jones
“Movies and History”

Movies can rarely be completely historically accurate. There is always one flaw to the tale that has the ability to set the whole story off course. But why is this important? It’s just a movie right? Yes, movies are movies and fantasy is fantasy, but the historical accuracy of movies is an important topic because movies are intrinsically linked to the media, read as history books, and the image from the screen becomes etched in our cultural memory.

“THE ROUTLEDGE COMPANION TO SEMIOTICS” edited by Paul Cobley, is an interesting reading that at times can be a summary to the world of semiotics. While reading,  the notion of the medias influence on culture, really sparked my interest. The reading mentions that “… as the media change, so too do the sign systems of culture” (135). This can be exemplified by historical movies and reflections of history.

The movie “Pocahontus”, is a fantasy cartoon. However within that fantasy, there’s an ounce of confusion. For instance, in the cartoon movie, it appears as though Pocohauntus married John Smith. However, in reality she married John Rolfe. Even though the “Pocahontus” movie is great and has a lot of truth, different people could take this as a history textbook. This is just one of the countless examples of “period” movies that change the way people think and the information that they are given?

This is important because these movies are meshed together with reality and people can interpret the meaning however they want.


If media influences society then what does that say about stereotypes in the “Reality TV” market?

Why are “period” movies flawed? Why does it matter? How is the meaning mixed up and is the mixture of the meaning truly important?

If a person doesn’t educate themselves before watching a movie, what are the dangers of watching a “period” movie? Is “ignorance bliss”?


Web of Confusion

Elizabeth-Burton Jones
CCTP – 748

“Web of Confusion”

Sir Walter Scott once wrote “Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive”. The meanings and messages become congealed. Signals are crossed and the validity of communication is ever changed. This week’s topic of semiotics was an introduction to different angles of previous personal academic studies. To exemplify my questions from this week, I would like to look at the movie “An Education”, “He’s Just Not That Into You”, and the absurdist play “Waiting for Gordot” .

The Movie “An Education” follows the story of a young girl that is at a crossroads between education and love. She can either choose the “logical” higher educational path or follow a considerably older conniving lover wherever he goes and give up the socially constructed educational ideal.

The choice seems simple. However, there are different twists and turns that shape the tumultuous love’s path. We can observe the movie “An Education” through the lens of semiotics, by studying the fractured semiotic state.

First, we must question the characters. The young female character, is a seemingly innocent teenager that has a promising future. She is set on the path to Oxford. However, she meets this dashing man and becomes mesmerized. She’s taken aback by his charm and edgy lifestyle. She trusts him. But why?

The answer is because of his ability to command communication. The best example of this is the transitional relationship between the father and the boyfriend. At first the father did not like the notion of her daughter dating an older man. However, the man was very good at controlling the situations. He would often lie.

The notion of semiotics is seemingly changed by the conniving boyfriend. He makes me question the validity of semiotics if they can be manipulated.

I think this song called “You’ve Got Me Wrapped Around Your Little Finger” is a good example of how the power of meaning and how we portray the meaning of being completely surrounded by a lie disguised as love.

Another good example would be the movie “He’s Just Not that Into You”

This movie is filled with double meanings. The main character, Gigi, believes that every look and every pause that a guy makes is a sign of his unending love for her. I think this is another way of looking at the meaning behind the message.

The whole world of dating is a world full of personal interpretations that are often skewed by a person’s journey.

 Another question of meaning comes from the absurdist play, “Waiting for Gordot”. I had to study this play and I remember feeling very confused by the language and the wonderful acting. In the end, there were a plethora of opportunities to interpret the meaning of the play.

Finally, music has all types of confusion twisting However, I really liked the ideas about signs and meanings. I would like to know how to decode all of the signs in this music video:


Mieke Bal, “Semiotics for Beginners,” from Mieke Bal, On Meaning-Making: Essays in Semiotics. Sonoma, CA: Polebridge Press, 1994.’Oh_what_a_tangled_web_we_weave_when_first_we_practice_to_deceive’

Irvine, “Introduction to Meaning Making, Symbolic Cognition, and Semiotics” (begin here)
Read sections 1-4 of this book chapter in progress. We will use later sections next week.



Elizabeth-Burton Jones
Week 5


Virginia Woolf once said that “Every secret of a writer’s soul, every experience of his life, every quality of his mind is written large in his works. ” The idea of having a physical extension of the spiritual is not a new idea, however the an interesting approach to this idea is a mediated extension of the spiritual. This can be demonstrated through multiracial advertising, politics, and music.

McLuhan mentions the myth of Narcissus and his love for himself: “The Greek myth of Narcissus is directly concerned with a fact of human experience, as the word Narcissus indicates. It is from the Greek word narcosis, or numbness. The youth Narcissus mistook his own reflection in the water for another person. This extension of himself by mirror numbed his perceptions until he became the servomechanism of his own extended or repeated image. The nymph Echo tried to win his love with fragments of his own speech, but in vain. He was numb. He had adapted to his extension of himself and had become a closed system. Now the point of this myth is the fact that men at once become fascinated by any extension of themselves in any material other than themselves…” (4. The Gadget Lover: Narcissus as Narcosis). This is interesting because it awakens concepts of narcissism a possible reflection made by the media and the power that the media bestows.

For instance, in the usage of multicultural models in commercials it is often said that they “carefully manufactured racial utopia, a narrative of colorblindness” and something that “It’s always been something that reflects our aspirations, what we can be.”. The advertisements of multi-cultural people creates a new world that may or may not exist , yet the commercial creates this world. However, this world is not tangible (in some cases) therefore the advertisement shows people what they want to see, creating a world that could be an extension of a person’s hopes or dreams or multicultural fix. This in turn makes us “numb” possibly to changing the rights for people that are diverse, because we are constantly bombarded by images of harmony (we could be numb to the outside needs for change).

Obnoxious Video

Another example could be music. Through music, songwriters typically write songs about themselves. The act of writing songs about situations in which they are familiar creates more of a “believable” story and if the songwriter is the vocalist it creates more of an “authentic sound” and “authentic performance”. Therefore in some cases we become “numb” to either passionately good music or in some cases manufactured music. We become numb to this because we are surrounded by it, we are surrounded by singers and song writers as soon as we press the radio button.

The political figure’s lens lends itself to numbness when we pair it with performance.  For instance many politicians are changing their campaigns to a format of the politician or candidate precedes the issue rather than another belief that the issue precedes the candidate. By shifting to this lifestyle, politicians start to talk more about their personal lives also, politicans create a different extension of themselves to the public and finally, the politicians create an extension that more people can probably link on to and relate to. For instance, if a politician mentions his or her dealings with Medicare or Medicaid then this creates a new lens for the politician. The politician becomes a real person. dealing with real issues. The humility to acknowledge such issues creates more of a personality for the politician in which more people can relate to and then have an interesting view that the politician shares an extension of his or herself, therefore they win the vote. The voters or constituents can become numb by constantly seeing images or themselves (or constantly relating to the topics the politician brings up). However, I am not sure if this numbness is a bad thing. This form of numbness is a continuous reflection of what society is like and in turn creates change for everyone. This could be a debatable topic.

With these three examples it is difficult to extract the personal realm or the personal reflection from each. If advertisements only used a distinct physical gene makeup that is not as common, then the audience is lost. If a singer covers a track from a person and doesn’t know the original intent or know the meaning of the lyrics then it is not as feasible for the audience. If  a politician does not mention his or herself, then a politician becomes the stereotypical “politician” and has a difficult time connecting to the voters.


In sum, this weeks reading relates to the power of media because of the power of the extension of the mirror. McLuhan says that “[a]ny extension, whether of skin, hand, or foot, affects the whole psychic and social complex.” (introduction). Therefore, if the definition is linked to the “extension” found by the connection in a mirrored image, then the power creates a new level. The extension is a rules the mind (the advertisements, musical world, and politics). Therefore, grip that the media has is extremely strong and creates an uncanny reflection.

Work Cited:

“What Feelings Sound Like”

Elizabeth-Burton Jones
Week 4

“What Feelings Sound Like”

A river flows alongside the grass and clashes abreast rocks. The fish, the snakes, the frogs take refuge in the flow. It moves, and with this movement the river’s environment is introduced to different terrains some calm and some tumultuous. And in one moment this river flows into a fall. The river starts to disconnect and the environment that once was flowing, becomes a scrambled flow, still moving, yet ever-changing in the movement. Ever-changing in the fall.  Splat. Splash. Mist.  But with all of these changes, it is still flowing. As water cascades down from a waterfall so too do thoughts flow from one aspect to the next. Just as the river mentioned above, thoughts begin with an original flow. Even though the thoughts are introduced to different feelings (happy or sad) and can at sometimes become disconnected, the thoughts still flow from one thought to the next.  For this week, I would like to look at the stringing of the mind and the mind’s musical flow.

I was inspired by the Clark and Deacon reading.  In the Clark reading, the “reason respecting flow” was mentioned. In short, the reason-respecting flow suggests the introduction of one thought breeds introductions of other thoughts and feelings (“sun->sunscreen->paradise”). To connect to the prompt, I tried to link the relation between the flow of thoughts and the sound of music. This made me wonder about the validity of the flow of thoughts and how they can be emotionally shifted when music is introduced.

For instance, right now when you hear any one of these songs, how do you feel? What do you think about? – Phil Collins -Red Red Wine – Welcome to the Jungle – Giving Up – Moonlight Sonata – Pop –  Bust the Windows


Or when you listen to music from Teddy Pendergrass, John Legend, or Barry White how does that change your emotions?

The examples listed demonstrate a wide variety of feelings. The songs stimulate anger, excitement, sadness, relaxation, etc. So I wonder how these feelings can be attached to music and how the music can activate these feelings and continue the flow of other thoughts. For instance, if a person is sad, and they play music that is upbeat, how can this change the flow? Also, music can change the flow and cause a mixed emotion.

Another example of the aroma of music could be an emotional attachment. When looking at music, often certain feelings are brought to the surface. According to the Deacon reading the certain words can bring other aspects. (“Figure 1.1” “stringing together words in a sentence leads the listener to bring together images in the mind”). The same could be said for music. By stringing together different instruments and voices and tones, different images could be created in the mind.

Every one has different reactions to music, some reactions could be created by thoughts and feelings. For instance one song could be connected to your first Kiss or first date. In the movie, “Silver Linings Playbook” the main character has a certain connection to the above song. The Stevie Wonder Classic was his wedding song. However, one day when he came home he found his wife with another man, the music that accompanied his wife’s lip-locking with another man was in fact his wedding song, the Stevie Wonder classic. Needless to say, the string of thoughts became tangled up and resulted in his mental breakdown.

To try to answer the question about combining music and a symbol a plethora of things could happen. Someone could have a nervous breakdown (“Silver Linings Playbook”), someone could be reminded of a happy moment. These strings create a tapestry of musical representations that are visible and invisible.

Respecting the flow in music

Respecting the flow from feelings to musical arrangement.

Finally, there is a connection between spoken word and the transition to song. Through this transition the flow of thoughts and emotions tries to be equally translated. This form of music is difficult to achieve because it takes time to learn how to channel one’s thoughts into another form of speech. By pouring out raw emotion into music, the artist respects the flow and a greater level of mastering of music is achieved.

In conclusion, the connection of music and symbolism is inextricably linked to the flow of language. Without the flow from one subject to the next and the continuous activation of thoughts, music would not be able to have a powerful impact. However, if music is built from thought, (which through this week’s lesson we can conclude that music is a product of the flow) then we can have meaningful emotional connections to music and “we’ll all float on ok”.

Work Cited:

Love Notes

Elizabeth-Burton Jones
Week 3: Love Notes

There are infinite quotes about music and it’s ability to transcend your words, quench your soul, and make your feelings known.  However, it is difficult to actually grasp the meaning of the notes that strike your heartstrings and the notes that “take you to another place”.   For this week, I would like to skim the surface of music’s position in linguistic studies through the actual meaning of the language and the use of language.

Use of language:

When reading about symbolic language, I could not help but go back to the example of music. By looking at language as a form of expression, new definitions of meanings come out to play. These characters are useful specifically when “symbolic” language is compared with music. So I would like to look at the contruction of words and how they are paired with music.

Music has many uses. It can be used to add a pinch of style to a presentation or it can be turned on for jamming in the car. But it can be used to  fill the void. When language is combined with music, it changes the form of music and adds another dimension to the music. It changes the meaning not only in the possibility of changing the  actual arrangement but it changes the meaning of the words. By adding lyrics it changes the whole feeling of the song.  Adding lyrics changes the body of the musical work.


Oftentimes when a musical or an opera begins, there is a musical prologue. This prologue not only introduces the audience to the music, but the prologue gives the audience something to look for. The tease of the prologue changes when the lyrics are added. Therefore, in the beginning of the opera, the music was something to listen to detached from any meaning other than an introduction. But, during the performance, the notes from the beginning start to have depth and meaning.

“Les Toreadors” from Carmen Suite No. 1 (1:10)

Toreador Song (2:49)

Pink Martini- Words vs. No Words

Another area of interest, includes the power of words. These videos below exemplify the power of words compared to the power of humming. Both videos are powerful and create certain emotions. Also, both of the videos have meanings. The difference is the way that the meanings are portrayed by the voice. To connect to the theories from last week, the voice often becomes the gatekeeper. For instance, in the Lullaby song, a multitude of meanings could have stemmed from the notes. However, we are not allotted a specific meaning because of the lack of words. Therefore, the “Lullaby” meaning is up to interpretation and in a way is more marketable for corporations.

Pink Martini Sympathique

Pink Martini Lullaby

Language and Context:

Next are examples of using the same words but in different contexts. By plucking the lyrics from the music and placing the lyrics in another environment, the creator of the remix could portray the original meaning of the lyrics, but it is difficult to bridge the gap between musical space and time. Therefore, the original meaning of the lyrics is often lost and remixed into a new meaning when it is inserted into a new musical content.

However, what about the reverse. If the producer plucks the music from the lyrics is the meaning the same? For instance, the notes in the Ray Charles song “I Got a Woman” are used in the Kanye West song “Gold Digger”. The notes are similar, but the lyrics are different. The meaning of the song is changed.

Ray Charles – I Got A Woman

Kanye West feat. Jaime Foxx

In addition, some musicals change the lyrics but keep the music. By doing so, the meaning is changed by the language of the lyrics. Below are some examples from the musical Les Miserables.

Empty Chairs at Empty Tables

On Parole/The Bishop (2:05)

In the beginning of the musical, Jean Valjean meets a Bishop that introduces him to the saving power of God. Later in the musical (SPOILER ALERT) in the song “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables” the character Marius remembers his friends that fought for what they believed and how they gave up their lives for the cause. He wonders why his life was spared.

Another Les Miserables example: Look Down (1:01)

Both of the songs use the same notes and seemingly same tempos, but the meanings of the lyrics are completely different. The Kanye West feat. Jaime Foxx example and the Les Miserables examples, demonstrate how the act of keeping the musical notes in a song but changing the lyrics of the song,  obviously changes the meaning. But, this leads to the idea that the lyrics are a form of “expression” and how they can be a form of music. But, the music does not necessarily have to be a lyric.

*This does not happen in all musicals for instance in Wicked, the songs “I’m Not That Girl” and “I’m Not That Girl- Reprise” evoke the same meaning.

I’m Not That Girl

I’m Not That Girl- Reprise

Language and Language:

In music, people can move in and out of different musical languages. In one part of the song, there can be a heavy jazz influence and in another section of the song, there can be a heavy rock influence (ex: Santigold). If we take the definition of languages to be something similar to a dialect or a different language (English or Spanish) we can see that the usage of different languages in one song adds so much depth and meaning to the song. In some cases, the multiple languages doesn’t change the meaning it just adds beauty and romance to the song. However, in other cases the multiple languages can have different translations from the original meaning.

Does it change the meaning? For instance in Volare, couldn’t the lyrics just be “Fly Oh oh oh oh” or “Let’s fly”. By singing “Let’s Fly” or “Fly” completely changes the smooth quality of the song.

Dean Martin

Pronoucing the words makes the difference. In Mambo Italiano, Rosemary Clooney is singing words that could be easily translated to English, yet she adds the Italian pronounciation to the song and this makes all of the difference.

Rosemary Clooney – MAMBO ITALIANO

 Add some Oh’s. The same could be said about adding notes to the songs. For instance in the song “Please Mr. Postman” The Marvelettes could have easily taken out the “Ooos”  and they could have not repeated some lyrics “Please, please, Mr. Postman” could have been “Please Mr. Postman”. But those changes drastically change the sound and the quality of the song.

Please Mr. Postman

By changing the songs by taking out repeats or not adding other languages, changes the classic status of these songs. Therefore, in many cases the musical language of the lyrics transforms the musical notes. This transformation would not be possible without wonderful singers, but that argument is for another time.

The Drama of Singing

Why is this important? It is important because, of the difference. In reality, most of these songs could have avoided all of the verses by simply saying the feelings. An artist could probably say that they are in love or are one way or another. But, that would decrease creative expression (ex: expression in Ella Fitzgerald‘s voice).

For instance, there are only so many ways that a person can say that they are in love. But, when an artists expresses his or her love on a record, the whole meaning is changed.

In Love:

Elvis Presley – “Love Me Tender”

Perry Como – “And I Love You So”

Adele – “One and Only”

Beach Boys – “God Only Knows”

“God Only Knows” Awesome Cover

Beatles – “And I Love Her”

The Civil Wars – “Poison & Wine”

The Civil Wars – “Dance Me to the End of Love”

The Civil Wars – Forget Me Not

Norah Jones – “Come Away with Me”

Deon Jackson – “Love Makes The World Go Around”

Aretha Franklin – “Call Me”

Nat King Cole – “LOVE”

Whitney Houston – “I’m Your Baby Tonight”

Whitney Houston – “I Will Always Love You”

Justin Nozuka – “After Tonight”

Out of Love:

Bonnie Raitt & Norah Jones – Tennessee Waltz

Adele – “Someone Like You”


Language in the form of music is continuously linked to meaning. The meanings are ever-changing depending on the context of the content. Through musicals, the observance of two languages in one song, and love songs we can see that music has a powerful message. This message is an extension of the expression of language. Not only does music express “what feelings sound like” but it also gives more depth to feelings that can be hard to explain. When language is paired with notes and lyrics a a bridge to the gap of linguistics is formed. Linguistics from a musical angle creates another definition of the meaning maker. More actors are present. Every role (from the producer to the singer to the guitarist) is given a new opportunity to create a different meaning and a different opportunity to express that meaning.



Works Cited:

Irvine, “Linguistics: Key Concepts

John Searle, “Chomsky’s Revolution in Linguistics,” The New York Review of Books, June 29, 1972.

From Andrew Radford, et al. Linguistics: An Introduction. 2nd ed. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2009.

Noam Chomsky, “Form and meaning in natural languages.” Excerpt from Language and Mind, 3rd. Edition. Cambridge University Press, 2006.

Steven Pinker, “How Language Works.” Excerpt from: Pinker, The Language Instinct: How the Mind Creates Language. New York, NY: William Morrow & Company, 1994: 83-123.



Crash Into You

Elizabeth-Burton Jones
January 23rd, 2012
Week 2

Crash Into You: A Brief on Communicating in a World Full of Broken Strings and the Possibility of Mending the Strings Through Theory


Lack of communication. Those three simply powerful words can bring most communication students to their knees. The very sound stings the ears and makes the stomach turn. Then suddenly, a flood of questions from the outside world washes away all certainty of a possible legitimacy of the communication field. Why did it happen? Why wasn’t the communication student there to save the day? Don’t they know theories? What exactly does a communication student study any way? Next, the observer realizes that the communication student is human and cannot solve every single communication blip in the world.

But, still there is lack of communication and as current communication students, we have the obligation to know these sorts of theories that are displayed in the readings for this week.  However, even though we have this obligation to know survey the surface of communication theories, it is often difficult to transform these messages in the everyday “real world”. For the first weekly writing, I would like to explore the question of: Where and when are “meanings” in communication and information? But, I would like to change the question to address the theories and ideas.

Philosophical Speaking:

Throughout this week’s materials, I gathered that we must work with what we have including our current existence and everything that influences our thoughts. Each person is different and follows different ways of thinking about life and communication. The substance lies within the residue of our differences. This residue can often cloud our perception of communication and how to properly communicate to other humans. Yet, it has the power to alter the perspective on communication.  I could not help but to think about Jean-Paul Sartre and the philosophy of “essence precedes existence” in that our past experiences have a profound impact on our existence. To further relate this to our readings, we could add that our essence impacts the existence of our communication.  In other words, we are seemingly somewhat defined by our trained ways of communication and these lessons overshadow our way of communicating as a whole. I think I will delve into Sartre later in the course, but I would like to just take note.

Space and Time:

In the “James Carey: Communication as Culture”, the words “space” and “time” jumped out at me. This reminded me of Kant’s way of thinking about Space and Time.

“Space is not something objective and real, nor a substance, nor an accident, nor a relation; instead, it is subjective and ideal, and originates from the mind’s nature in accord with a stable law as a scheme, as it were, for coordinating everything sensed externally. (Ak 2: 403)
In this one sentence, we find a list of many important early modern questions concerning space. Is space “real,” or is it “ideal” in some sense?”(

With this information related to the “James Carey: Communication as Culture” idea of the ritual, we could possibly explore the idea of reality of the ritual and the ritual in the reality. In the end, are we creating an ideal? And if so, why?

On a musical note:

In the “An Ecological Model of the Communication Process”, Davis Foulger mentions that we use languages “both learned (proposition 6) and created (proposition 7)”. With these languages, we all have a set of languages. We all come to the gathering place with all of our languages and the meanings that make up the languages. For instance, in the music world, we all have our own interpretations and pay homage to different musicians. Accordingly, we also associate certain tunes with different artists. For instance, if I quote “whatever my man is, I’m his, forevermore” I (Elizabeth) am quoting the movie, “Lady Sings the Blues”. This movie is quoting the life and times of Billie Holiday. However, to someone else, they might think that I am quoting Barbara Streisand. Yet, another person might think that I am quoting Lea Michele on Glee quoting Barbara Streisand. But, at the very moment that all of these different interpretations are going on, as suggested in a 505 lecture, each different opinion “is relevant and valued”.

Click the links for music: Diana Ross, Billie Holiday , Barbra Streisand , Lea Michele

Digital Divide:

Digital divide and communication. Various people have noted that communication is changing because of the digital age. I might want to explore this in another weekly writing.  However, for this weeks reading, I think that it is important to note that communication can be weakened by the use of digital tools. We can lose face-to-face communication skills. By replacing face-to-face with screen-to-screen we can adversely effect other skill sets needed.

Crashes Together:

But what if they crash? As an undergrad communication and theatre arts student with minors in history and Spanish, I was constantly bombarded with theories of communication and required to apply these theories to different contexts based on the subject. In my interpersonal communication course, I remember looking into theories and different studies involving proper communication. One example that we used in the class was the movie “Crash”. We studied the various cultural contexts and norms and how they all blended together. In relation to this week’s readings, I cannot help but place society into the “Crash” dialogue.


We all are leading various lives. We come from different backgrounds. In DC, you really don’t talk to strangers. We are in our own little worlds, with our own views of the American Dream and how we can achieve it. In some situations, when people do decide to break the wall of communication, it is often mortared back with insidious competition, threat of success, and jealousy. Then, the wall is painted with a digital sheen of division perpetuated by targeted advertising.

Therefore, we are separated. There are many “gatekeepers”. In some situations, the gatekeeper could be a variety of things. The gatekeeper could be a cellphone when a person gets a call. Sometimes we have the option of ignoring the call. The “gatekeeper” or scapegoat could also be a cell phone when someone is avoiding someone else. The gatekeeper could be the phone during a conversation. For instance, if I am talking to someone through my phone, this person becomes the audience. I can use the gatekeeper phone to monitor mute my side of the phone, hold the call, etc. By the same token, if we make communication a two way street, then we can see that at one point the audience member will switch roles with the speaker and with that the roles can be changed. Another gatekeeper could be headphones. If we plug them in, then they keep us away from the crowd. They have their own implications. For instance, after a few of my studies as an undergraduate, I had to do a very observational studies. In these studies, I observed that the cellphone was sometimes used as a gatekeeper when it came to ignoring people. People could pretend that they were on their phones to avoid the audience of the busy hallways. To further exemplify these ideas Davis Foulger says, “The caller in most telephone conversations has the initial upper hand in setting the direction and tone of a a telephone caller than the receiver of the call (Hopper, 1992).In face-to-face head-complement interactions, the boss (head) has considerably more freedom (in terms of message choice, media choice, ability to frame meaning, ability to set the rules of interaction) and power to allocate message bandwidth than does the employee (complement).”( “Models of the Communication Process” Davis Foulger)


This relates to “Crash” because it all relates to the world now. There are so many gatekeepers in our world today. Each person has their own American Dream. Each area has certain standards for competition. We can be separate. However, when there is such an absence of communication, within an instance we could crash and finally talk to one another without the gatekeeper. Then and only then can the true form of communication come out to play with no strings attached.

Additional thoughts:

“The first is that communication is used by people (a term which is used here to refer not only to Homo Sapiens Sapiens, but to any intelligent communicator). In an age where we are seriously looking to see if we can find evidence of extraterrestrial intelligence and there is growing evidence that at least a subset of animal species communicate, it seems reasonable to extend the term use the term person to refer to any intelligent entity that can use tools to transmit meaning to another intelligent entity. The second element of the definition is the assertion that communication is a process. Communication is not a a thing. It is a means of enabling things. The third is that the object of that process is meaning. Meaning is a thing. Communication is a means of processing (e.g. constructing that thing sufficient to interpretation of) that thing.” (“An Ecological Model of the Communication Process” Davis Foulger).

Additional Musical Selection:
Some DMB never hurt.

What happens when thoughts crash into each other?
How do we address the fundamental theories and practices of Communication in the Digital Era?
Are digital tools changing our definition of communication?
If we are to carry conversations or transmissions from the past around with us in the present, how do we avoid the minutia of the criss cross in the future?
What is real communication? Do we only recognize it when we crash?

“Models of the Communication Process” article written by Davis Foulger.