Week 14: Thank You!

This course was nothing like I expected. With a search on RateMyProfessor, I started out with an expectation that this course was a good one and the professor was great. I expected PowerPoint slides and occasional “professor joke” but, I did not expect to be mind blown in most of the classes and truly interested in the material!

I am a very straightforward, give me the right answer kind of student so, I did have a struggle in the beginning trying to open my mind and be an ignorant student. Ignorant in the sense that it is okay to not know an answer and to question abstract theories. This class had me really nervous when I looked at the syllabus to find there were no tests and quizzes because I usually do well on them and I wanted to make sure I had an a. Now, I look back and really appreciate the teaching method because I truly understood and payed attention in class. The material was presented in a way that I was the judge of what was right or wrong and I had to critically think about issues, situations, history, etc. Although I did not speak in class, my mind was 100% participating. Thanks to this class I think twice about music, life and school. I also can sound like a snobby, know-it-all college student when I talk to my family about the history of music during the holidays. When my ivy league graduate aunts and uncles ask me what I learned in college, I can nonchalantly say, “Oh, you know, the usual. How white America has mass appropriated the culture of ethnic minorities and how the format of music has produced social and industrial problems that occur in our everyday lives that we fail to notice.” I’m sure that will be a great conversation starter.

I just want to thank you, professor, for a well taught class. I’m not sucking up for a good grade but, rather, appreciating the way you did not force material down our throats and how you were uncensored in showing us information about the past. I am grateful and thankful I took this class and I wish every class could be as eye-opening as HIST 390.

Week 13: What is Going on in This Book?!

We had to have read MP3 by Jonathan Sterne this week and I must say this was the most boring book I have ever read. Yes, even comparing to textbooks. I thought The Shallows was bad but, I was wrong. I really didn’t understand anything from the book like what his point was or what he was trying to prove. I felt like it was a jumble of randomness and incoherence. He went from talking about psychology to cat experiments to Word War 1 and then to formatting. I probably was doing shallow reading but, I can usually force myself to figure out the point the author was trying to make but, this was ridiculous. I’m not even really sure what to say about this book in my blog. I’m glad we went over what Sterne was trying to say because I had no idea.

Apparently one of Sterne’s points was the format of music and how it has become more accessible and privatized. After been told that, I can see how Sterne made his point. Sterne writes, “the iTunes store may be the world’s largest music retailer, but an extended web of Gnutella and BitTorrent sites and the users who frequent them make up an even larger, transnational swap meet for recordings” (185). He continues to explain how music companies are struggling to keep their songs from being illegally distributed resulting in a significant monetary loss. Music has continued to shift its format and needs to “undergo yet another of the massive reorganizations.” I am curious to see the new form music will undertake.

I didn’t get too much in depth with this book and it’s because I wasn’t interested in it. When I’m not intrigued, I will not put forth more effort. Sad but, the truth. Sterne could have made this book into an easier, simpler version but, chose not to. I don’t know if this is his style of writing or he was reaching out to a more educated, professional audience. Professor, I apologize for not giving a full analysis on this book but, a girl did not understand anything!

Week 12: Put That Hat Away Jasper!


We learned about the scientific part of music this week and it was very interesting. I knew music is basically physics with the pitch of a note determining the frequency and that sound travels through air. I think just being reminded of how the certain joys of the world are the basis of science is a phenomenon. People, including myself, seem to forget the pleasures in life are actually a complex system of equations and science.

Relating music to other components of the world makes me think I’m an idealist. I am a fairly religious person and I do think God purposely created the world in harmony. The fact that music and physics, two very different and distinct subjects, are able to come together and work harmoniously just blows my mind. I do not think this is a coincidence because it is so complex that only The Almighty could figure out.

“All roads in life lead to a man in front of a screen.” A very thought invoking quote- a rare occurrence for me. Applying this to music is something I can see. When I was messing around with GarageBand for my final project its crazy to think I can make a song with a few minor strokes and just a couple of clicks. A piece of art that used to involve actual instruments and people now only requires a human and screen.

GarageBand seems to have more negative effects than positive in my opinion. I noticed much of the loops seem electronic. Music does not have a definition of what it is supposed to be composed of but, from experience and the past, musical instruments seem to be the medium. I don’t want to sound like a geezer as professor would but, I think music is meant to be played on actual instruments. This EDM stuff has these young kids going wild (shakes head).

GarageBand also had subtle racial implementations. Having an outline of the different “artists” furthered the stereotypes of different races. There is literally a guy named Dez with dreads whose drum beat is trap hip hop… Really? That’s is basically saying only black people can create that kind of sound. Although, I must confess, the EDM drummer Jasper with the headphones and out of style snapback did give me a chuckle.

Week 11: Ashamed of Myself

Sampling music was the theme of this week’s classes. I knew what sampling was but, was not aware of the history behind it. The ability for poor DJs and musicians to have the idea of taking parts of different songs and creating a symphonious piece is a work of art and a skill.

I have heard of J-Dilla’s songs before but, I never thought too much into it. When we listened to Workonit, I was highly impressed at the level of organizing and talent it takes to make it sound good. I can now truly appreciate his songs as well as other artists who use sampling. DJ Angelo is ridiculously talented too! I am truly amazed how he took the time to look at each individual record to find a few seconds’ worth to put into his song and make it sound cool. I find it unfortunate that sampling has become illegal unless it’s been paid for. Artists who are unable to pay thousands of dollars are limited to what they can use and puts a cap on the amount of creativity being made.


Another more famous sampler, Elvis Presley, took songs and made them white- louder and faster. “That’s Alright Mama” and “Good Rockin’ Tonight” were songs Presley covered but, adjusted them to his audience landing him fame and fortune. I just think it is interesting to see that, once again, white people have stolen and profited off the work of black people. Credit was given but, how come Presley made so much more money than Arthur Crudup and Wynonie Harris? To be honest, I did not even know these covered songs were actually covers. I was under the assumption that Presley or his music label made the song. This just comes to show that people are not going to do the extra effort to see who actually made the song; they are just going to know who sang it “better.” I am ashamed and annoyed that I was not aware of original origins and gave all the credit to Presley when in fact, it should have been given to Crudup and Harris. It’s also strange, yet predictable, when Presley covered Billie Monroe’s, a white man, “Blue Moon of Kentucky” people were upset and Presley felt bad! Presley was doing what he normally does but, when it comes to copying a white man, there is a problem. Hmmmm!!!

Week 10: Underpaid Teacher v. Wealthy, Resourceful School System

Copyright was the discussion of this week’s lecture and I was kind of excited to dive into the world of ambiguous ownership. The most unsettling discussion this week was about ownership. I think it is really unfair that companies, corporations, institutions, etc. get to own the rights of someone’s craft. The company did not move a finger in the creativity and intellectual process yet, they reserve the rights and have ownership. The idea of another “person” basically taking credit for someone else’s work is disturbing. One of my high school teachers was working on a presentation for a conference to make kids focus more in classrooms and received a lot of praise for her work but, later was given a notice that the school system will be taking credit for her work because the PowerPoint she made was on a laptop that the school provided. To hear stories like this pisses me off because who is an individual to a corporation? How could an insufficient paid teacher battle a wealthy, resourceful school system to find out, in fine print, her labor is owned in exchange for a bi-weekly underpaid salary?

Extending the idea of “human corporations”, corporations have made themselves to seem like a person, when in fact it is a “fictitious, immortal body.” One of the many reasons that these slick corporations portray themselves like a human is so that no single individual is reprimanded when things go south. It’s such a conniving method, but very smart.

I realize that these corporations, institutions, or whatever you want to refer them as, do give credit to the creator but, at what cost? The corporation just throws some percentages of money to the creator and then, BOOM, the corporation owns it. It makes me really sad to think that money can purchase art, intelligence, effort and ingenuity. People deserve to be paid for their service but, also be owners and have a say in how their work is dealt with.

The part that splits my opinion on ownership is Richard Stallman and his idea of free software. I love that people can contribute to make a program better for everyone. What Stallman stands for is amazing and I love him for that! I kept thinking of Stallman’s stance as people who are intrinsically motivated while others are extrinsically motivated. Stallman’s idea would work in a perfect utopia, but I do think people do have the right and option to have ownership of something they created. I thought about this long and hard and I honestly do not know where the line should be drawn between free and paid services.

Week 9: Do I Want Andre or Clark?

This week we only had one class that mainly composed of people explaining what they found through their Digital Scavenger Hunt. I didn’t take many notes on that day but, one thing that was hysterical to me was when professor was referring to different singers and beats being available on GarageBand as “products like seasoning.” Having the ability to choose a singer named Andre, that sounds like a black guy, or Clark, a man that sounds like a hillbilly, singing incoherent words and make a song sound comprehensible is wild. Is it even music anymore?

This comes back to the beginning of the semester when we talked about how we like to not think hard about the music. Our brains are constantly using mental shortcuts in everyday life so, applying it to music is weird but understandable. Instead of having a complete orchestra, a spacious room and a singer, all we need now is someone who can hear and has downloaded music software. I can just imagine a wannabe “music producer” living in his parent’s basement thinking he’s a hotshot because he can place pre-made beats together.

I feel like the shortcuts we use now, such as technology, has made music less memorable. We remember old singers like Frank Sinatra, Bessie Smith, etc. because the music they made was with real instruments and with real professionals. Yes, yes, yes, music engineers and singers today are professionals and a computer is an instrument blah bah blah. I’m just curious in two hundred years, what song is going to be considered a classic from the 21st century. Probably Beyoncé because… well it’s Beyoncé.

The video of the guy showing the history of heavy metal umlaut through Wikipedia was informative but strange. I just kept thinking to myself, “this guy must be really bored or is a really boring dude to create a video about a Wiki page.” The fact that people all around the world are able to look at the same page is crazy! The “battle” between the vandalizer and the “wiki cop” was hilarious to me. It was immature but, I guess I find laughter in the pettiest things. On a serious note, it was amazing that two strangers were able to edit a page within a minute. I tried to find the page today but it seems as though the title has changed from “heavy metal amulet” to just “heavy metal music.” I did not know that Wiki has editors constantly checking the page to make sure information is accurate and is backed up by evidence. Poor Wiki has a bad reputation among high school teachers. I think it’s actually a good source of beginning information and should be encouraged. Screw you high school teachers!

Week 8: Great! Another white guy explaining black culture!

For my digital scavenger hunt, I wanted to search more into the terms “white people, black people, country music.” When I used Ngram, country music had no correlation to either white or black people but, when I switched country music to folk music, black people and folk music crossed paths around 1933 and again in 1964.  I found it interesting that white people and folk music never intersected. I even swapped white people for Caucasian yet, nothing changed. I think the reason for the crossing paths in 1933 was because the 1930s was when “race records” started to begin. Black people, like Muddy Waters and Sons Sims, started to sing and perform songs that were mostly folk because black people “looked” the part.

For finding an early article, I switched black people for negro because that term was more commonly used. The earliest article I could find in the Chronicling America that made sense was from the New-York Tribune on December 17, 1893. The author explains a lecture given by a man named H.E. Krehbiel, who explains that black people did have a part in the creation of the folk song but, only because folk music required a “genuine naïve disposition,” which black people apparently had. I did some research on Krehbiel and he was a musical critic and had a vast amount of musical knowledge. He even wrote a book, Afro-American folksongs: a study in racial and national music. Great, another white guy explaining black culture. Fortunately, through Google books, I found that his book is fully available on archive.org so, I got to skim some pages. He basically is saying that black people are too incompetent to create their own music and can only imitate or copy. He tries to give black people “credit” but, makes sure he demeans them right after.

A year later another article was written by the Democratic Press from Ohio in 1894. The writer says that negroes had their own type of music and were “merely imitations of Scotch and Irish folk songs and folk dances…” I’m pretty sure folk music from Europe was completely different than folk music in the United States. The author ironically continues to write “… brought over by immigrants of those nations, who were so widely scattered through and became so valuable an addition to the population of the American colonies.” Really? So… white European immigrants are valuable but, any other race isn’t? That makes sense (sarcasm).

I tried to use ProQuest but, its vast amount of information overwhelmed me. I couldn’t find anything that really stood out to me. Maybe it’s because my capacity for researching is at its maximum. However, this research quest left me with more questions than I started with. When did the shift from the term folk turn into country? When did country music become a white thing? Probably because when black people were doing it, the music became a success and white people didn’t want any credit going to the black people so, they stole it, just like everything else. Harsh thought but, very rational.

Week 7: The White Man is the Devil!

This week we only had one class and were supposed to read Miller’s Segregating Sound. I’m not sure is Professor O’Malley is purposely trying to make me suffer or prove his superiority that he can understand what Miller is talking about but, regardless, the book has been read and my suffering has ended.

What I find really interesting is the theme of white people profiting off of black people. The topic was underlying in the discussion as well as Miller’s book. White people like John Lomax used black men such as, Ledbetter and Black Sampson, to make money and a name for himself. Miller writes, “the folklorist [Lomax] noted the profit potential of Ledbetter’s songs as soon as he met the singer” (269). This comes to show that Lomax really only cared about money. One could argue that Ledbetter was only in it for the money too but, comparing Ledbetter’s prison, discriminated life to Lomax’s privileged life seems to be unfair. I feel like Ledbetter would have not been able to make a decent living if it wasn’t for his singing. He saw his shot and took it. Lomax could have become rich a lot easier. I’m not saying becoming rich was easy but, when comparing Lomax and Ledbetter, Ledbetter was never going to make decent money without singing. Miller even referred to Ledbetter as Lomax’s “loyal servant” (269). As humans we tend to justify our behavior to match our beliefs so, in Ledbetter’s mind, I am sure he justified being a servant to Lomax as his way out to a better life.

Another example of Lomax’s scrooge-like ways was when Ledbetter wanted to portray himself in a more professional manner and try new songs but, Lomax was not having it. Lomax believed the money was with Ledbetter’s “repertoire” as a folk singer rather than a commercial artist. Lomax also forced Black Sampson, a man of religion, to sing to him and sing songs that were against his beliefs. We can see Lomax’s bullying to Black Sampson as Miller writes, “Lomax extracted songs and styles that… were morally repugnant and consciously avoided” (262). These examples are evidence that Lomax did not care for the wellbeing or interests of his Black artists, but rather his own pleasure and success.

Those who want to be the annoying devil’s advocate may say that Ledbetter and Black Sampson made good money and should owe their success to Lomax. And to that I say although they made a good fortune at the time, I am sure they knew they weren’t going treated as an equal but, rather as a loyal servant who weren’t portraying themselves and “under the watchful eye of Lomax.” Another annoying argument could be artists don’t always portray themselves and that is the point of an artist; to deceive and not being able to tell what is real and what is fake. And to that I say, WHITE artists, then and now, had the ability and the CHOICE to portray what can and can’t be shown. Black artists on the other hand were under the whips of the white man, aka masters.

I wrote more than I expected on this blog and it’s most likely because I firmly believe black people were, and are, subject to inferiority. Their culture and identity has been snatched by white people. Of course, not all white people are horrible. Professor O’Malley is awesome and is also, in modern terms, woke. Although the book seemed like a boring dissertation, I can appreciate and respect Miller’s attention to race within the musical field.

Week 6: Musically Impaired

Before I formally start my witty blog, I took my notes before I got the feedback from Professor O’Malley so, forgive me if I don’t specifically write quotes or the song titles in this week or next week’s blog. I’m trying. I promise. Please don’t take off points! Now that that has been covered….

We spent Monday’s class listening to different songs in order to help us recognize the difference between European and Afro-Central beats. I was not really able to tell the difference probably because I do not have a musical bone in my body. The only contrast I could literally feel in me was the European 1 and 3 beat which was off to my hearing. It felt like a nail scratching chalkboard. The Afro-Central 2 and 4 beat was definitely more aesthetically pleasing to my auditory system. Most songs nowadays use the 2 and the 4 beat but, then again I couldn’t tell the difference so, what do I know. We then discussed the displaced beat, a mix of European and Afro Central beats, which is 1 AND 3 4. The displaced beat is popular in Havana, Cuba. The song that really made me giddy was Habanera by Bizet. It is one of those songs that brought me back to my childhood when my parents would failingly dance the tango to it and I would always hear this song in many movies.

Also seeing the video of the three guys using the same beat for hundreds of songs made my jaw drop. How could I be so naïve?! It is crazy to think that all these artists, from different genres, use the same basic beat and are making millions off of it. I mean where is the originality, the uniqueness of an artist? It is as though it is impossible to create something new and be different. It’s such a frustrating, hair pulling feeling. I might as well use that beat and heavy auto-tune so I can become rich.

The Postmodern Jukebox group is awesome! Their version of Womanizer by Britney Spears is so much better. Although, I do have to confess, I actually liked Spear’s version but, hearing the ‘40 jazz version was more enjoyable. It comes to show that when you strip out the electronic “music” and auto-tune, the music becomes so much more appealing.

Week 5: Weird and Creepy, Time and Space

Blackface played an important role in music. How vile and repulsive is that? I knew what Blackface was but, I was not aware of the Minstrel show. The fact that white people changed their appearance to mock black people is so derogatory and disgusting. I feel like white people low key wanted aspects of the African-American culture incorporated into their own. White people did not have a culture so, they stole African-Americans. The Minstrel show is such an irony because Caucasians hated African-Americans yet, they enjoyed their customs and are purposely imitating them. The posters were also super creepy. I wanted to reach into the picture and save them. To see this as entertainment is puzzling and makes me feel uncomfortable.


During this week we also touched on the topic of music through space and time. Every class I am stunned at how little I pay attention to the present world and the past. I would have never thought that the idea of time somewhat vanishes when we are able to replay back sounds and visuals from the past. Sounds were heard only once and then they were gone but, the development of records helped sound be reheard. Sound can now be heard any time and is not something in the past anymore. The concept of space is also manipulated when we purposely shift the room to fit our needs. Before the microphone, a person had to know the room’s space to make sure they were heard. Now, we don’t need loud voiced politicians or singers because the microphone was created. There is no such thing as “out of time, out of place” because we are now able to make time and space fit our needs anywhere at any time.

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