Tag Archives: music

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? 









“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?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YkADj0TPrJA – Phil Collins

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zXt56MB-3vc -Red Red Wine

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mSByjqMGtaU – Welcome to the Jungle

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o_27y74pw1g – Giving Up

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Qqib2eDweE – Moonlight Sonata

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TWZKw_MgUPI – Pop

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3XjYY9mffDg –  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.