Tag Archives: music

The Weekly Text, 8 October 2021, Hispanic Heritage Month 2021 Week IV: A Reading and Comprehension Worksheet on Los Angeles

Here on the fourth Friday of Hispanic Heritage Month 2021, is a reading on Los Angeles along with its accompanying vocabulary-building and comprehension worksheet.

This second-largest city in the United States, known in the vernacular by its initialism, L.A., was founded as a city in 1781, but claimed as Spanish territory by Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo in 1542. The city became Mexican territory in 1821 after the Mexican War of Independence. Then, in 1848 (a momentous year in world history, to say the least), after the Mexican-American War, following the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, the United States purchased the territory that became the state of California two years later, in 1850.

The city is a rich producer and repository of Chicano culture. This is the municipality, after all, that played a role in giving the world the nonpareil Los Lobos.

If you find typos in these documents, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

Elvis Presley

Here is a reading on Elvis Presley along with its attendant vocabulary-building and comprehension worksheet. This has tended to be high-interest material for some students, so I have tagged it as such.

For other students, Elvis may be of no interest whatsoever. I’d just like to mention that he presents an interesting case study on cultural appropriation. Did you know “Hound Dog” (which has been recorded, according to the song’s Wikipedia page, “more than 250 times”) was originally a hit for Big Mama Thornton (which was answered, humorously, by Rufus Thomas in his song “Bear Cat“) and was a number one hit for her on the R&B charts? Of that the first song (and his first hit single) he ever recorded, at Sun Studio’s Memphis Recording Service, was “That’s All Right,” composed by Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup

In other words, this is a good reading to open a discussion about how white artists, especially in the 1950s, helped themselves to the work of black artists and got rich doing it. This is so well documented at this point that if you search “white artists not paying royalties to black artists” you will find a trove of information about this practice. Even gigantic media company BMG admits Black artists were cheated out of fair contracts and royalty payments. I salute Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy for calling for reparations to Black recording artists.

There is a lot to chew on here. The essential question here is something like “What is cultural appropriation and what is outright theft? What is the difference?”

If you find typos in these documents, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

Term of Art: Suggestopedia

“Suggestopedia: A method of foreign-language instruction developed by Bulgarian psychologist Georgi Lozanov in the 1970s that uses the power of positive suggestion. Teachers trained in Suggestopedia’s techniques create a calm physical classroom environment that relaxes the students and lowers their affective filter, or resistance to learning. The teacher first introduces the words and grammar of the lesson, Then, during a concert session, students listen to the teacher read the lesson while Baroque music plays in the background. Other forms of art, such poetry, drama, and puppetry, are also employed to stimulate students’ perceptions. The students sing songs and play games, using what they have learned, and then interact with one another in the new language, without correction. The method is also referred to as desuggestopedia to reflect advances in its theoretical development.”

Excerpted from: Ravitch, Diane. EdSpeak: A Glossary of Education Terms, Phrases, Buzzwords, and Jargon. Alexandria, VA: ASCD, 2007.

Mellifluous (adj)

Here is a context clues worksheet on the adjective mellifluous. It means “having a smooth rich flow <a mellifluous voice> and “filled with something (as honey) that sweetens.”

It’s not a word used with any real frequency in English. But when you need it–as when it’s time to express one’s feelings about, say, Nina Simone’s voice–well, nothing else will quite do, you know?

If you find typos in this document, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

Common Errors in English Usage: Utilize (vt), Use (vi/vt)

Here is a worksheet on using the verbs utilize and use. Utilize is used only transitively, so don’t forget your direct object. Use is also transitive, but has a two intransitive uses. The first is a very common locution in the English language: we call upon the verb use in the past tense, i.e. used, which we join with the preposition to so that we can “indicate a former fact or state,” as in “We used to go out more often” and “He didn’t use to smoke.” The second intransitive purpose for use is “to take illicit drugs regularly.” (Maybe you won’t want to point that out, however.)

Put another way, the first sense of the intransitive exercise of use can best be demonstrated by the title of the blues standard first recorded by Eddie Jones, aka Guitar Slim, “The Things That I Used to Do.” Did you know that the young Ray Charles produced and arranged the recording session that produced this great song? Neither did I until I sat down and wrote this post. For the record, (so to speak), the song was recorded at Cosimo Matassa’s J&M Recording Studio on Rampart Street in New Orleans. It was issued by the legendary Los Angeles R&B record label Specialty on October 16, 1953.

What we’re really talking about when the subjects of Cosimo Matassa, Ray Charles, Guitar Slim and Specialty Records arise are the beginnings of rock and roll. But that is another story.

If you find typos in this document, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

African Music

“African music: Music of sub-Saharan Africa. Though a vast geographical area with diverse cultures, Africa’s music has a number of unifying traits. Its traditional music, including its ‘art music,’ is orally transmitted; thus, pieces do not exist as finished works, but are conceived of as recreated differently with each performance. Another general characteristic is the prevalence of ‘call and response.’ Aside from its spiritual and celebratory and dance-accompanying roles, African music has a distinctly political role; the griot sings the tribe’s history and creates songs of praise for the leader, or mocking songs when community feeling is running against the leader. The association of words with music extends to the existence of words to be thought while performing purely instrumental pieces. Being largely improvisational, African music employs only limited counterpoint (including roundlike imitation that may be an outgrowth of overlapping calls and responses), though melodies are often accompanied in parallel intervals, creating a chordal texture, and truly polyphonic music is played on the mbira, where the melodies performed by the two hands are conceived as separate. Rhythm is highly developed in Africa. Whereas Westerners tend to perceive simultaneous patterns as sharing a common meter, Africans think of such patterns as cycles with different starting points. Outside influences have played a role in African music, most importantly Islam. In recent times, compatible elements of Western music have mixed with indigenous elements, though in popular music these Western influences more likely arrived via Arabic and Indian examples. The music of North Africa represents a separate tradition.”

Excerpted/Adapted from: Stevens, Mark A., Ed. Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Encyclopedia. Springfield, Massachusetts: Merriam-Webster, 2000.

The Weekly Text, February 19, 2020, Black History Month 2021 Week III: A Reading and Comprehension Worksheet on Robert Johnson

This week’s Text, in this blog’s ongoing observation of Black History Month 2021, is this reading on Robert Johnson with its accompanying vocabulary-building and comprehension worksheet.

If your students know anything about Robert Johnson, it is probably the legend that surrounds his acquisition of his breathtaking facility in playing the guitar: to wit, that he made a deal with the devil himself. In exchange for endowing Robert Johnson with preternatural ability in playing the guitar, the devil took ownership of Robert Johnson’s soul. This has been the stuff of popular culture for a long time, and I’ll cite Walter Hill’s 1986 film Crossroads–a title derived from one of Mr. Johnson’s best-known songs, made a rock-and-roll standard by the British trio Cream–as a conspicuous example. The number of guitarists Robert Johnson inspired is as impossible to overstate as the influence of his songs in American popular music over the years.

Put another way, this is probably very high-interest material for some students. If you want to consider the role of Papa Legba in Robert Johnson’s crossroads story, you and your student very likely have the makings of a synthetic research paper. There are, in the final analysis, West African cultural touchstones behind the story of Robert Johnson’s encounter with the devil at the crossroads.

Incidentally, the great music writer Robert Palmer, in his book Deep Blues, reported that Robert Johnson was given an “ice course.” i.e. a glass of poisoned whiskey, by a jealous husband in a rural juke joint. You probably won’t be surprised that there is a lot of speculation on this floating around on the Internet. As the headline to one of these articles rightly puts it, “The only solid fact about Robert Johnson is his music….” Which, in fact, is a pretty good place to start in writing about this towering figure in American culture.

If you find typos in these documents, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

Art Ensemble of Chicago

“Art Ensemble of Chicago: U.S. jazz ensemble, innovators in free jazz. The group evolved from the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), an experimental collective. Saxophonists Roscoe Mitchell and Joseph Jarman, trumpeter Lester Bowie, bassist Malachi Favors, and drummer Don Moye formed the group in 1969, combining freely changing tempos, dynamics, and textures with an often comic theatricality of presentation. Their diversity of inspiration is expressed by their motto, ‘Great Black Music—Ancient to Modern.’”

Excerpted/Adapted from: Stevens, Mark A., Ed. Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Encyclopedia. Springfield, Massachusetts: Merriam-Webster, 2000.

Cultural Literacy: Jazz

Here is a Cultural Literacy worksheet on Jazz. This is a full-page worksheet, so it is suitable for independent practice.

Jazz is principal genre of music played at Mark’s Text Terminal; in fact, as I type this, Kenny Dorham is playing “Blue Friday” from his fine 1959 recording Quiet Kenny. It’s a quartet set with Mr. Dorham backed by a rhythm section including pianist Tommy Flanagan, bassist Paul Chambers, and drummer Art Taylor

When I listened to jazz for the first time in high school (let the record reflect it was the original Impulse long-play vinyl record of John Coltrane Live at the Village Vanguard, side two, the almost 17-minute-long version of “Chasin’ the Trane”) , and I mean really listened, rather than simply heard, I knew I would be an aficionado of the music for the rest of my life. 

Over the years, the word Jazz (especially spelled out with a lower-case j) began to trouble me. Aside from its slangy sound and therefore connotation, it seemed like a miserly word to describe such original, variegated, and stately music. So, a few years back, when I heard an interview the great trumpeter (see him live if you can!) Nicholas Payton in which he said he takes issue with the word Jazz, I was relieved to hear him say it. He prefers the term “Black American Music,” which sounds good to me. If you’re interested in learning more of Mr. Payton’s thoughts about Jazz, you might want to take a look at this 2011 post from his blog.

Clint Eastwood has often said that Jazz and Blues are the perhaps “the only original art forms that we have” in the United States. It’s hard to disagree with that, and it’s hard not to at least consider the fact that Jazz especially has been ignored in the United States for two simple reasons: racism and a lack of good taste, tendencies that far too many Americans express proudly. Jazz is our classical music, and maybe for that reason alone it is time to find a new name for this complex, vibrant, uniquely American music.

If you find typos in this document, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

The Weekly Text, February 5, 2020, Black History Month 2021 Week I: A Reading and Comprehension Worksheet on Huey P. Newton

Here, for the first Weekly Text in observance of Black History Month 2021, is a reading on Huey P. Newton along with its accompanying vocabulary-building and comprehension worksheet.

In the mid-1970s, among my crowd in high school, Huey P. Newton was a bona fide hero. He co-founded, with Bobby Seale (another of our heroes), the Black Panther Party, (a heroic organization), which among many other things, fed breakfast to impoverished children and challenged the kind of police brutality that brings us events like the patently racist and sadistic murder of George Floyd in 2020.

It’s quite possible that your students may know Huey’s name. A panoply of rappers, including Tupac Shakur, Dead Prez, The Flobots, Public Enemy, Ab-Soul, Buddy and A$AP Ferg, and the great Kendrick Lamar have alluded to Huey in their rhymes. Pop artists like St. Vincent, Ramshackle Glory, Bhi Bhiman, and the Boo Radleys have also mentioned Huey in their songs. The character of Huey Freeman in Aaron McGruder’s brilliant comic strip and television show The Boondocks, a favorite of many students I’ve served over the years, is named for Huey P. Newton.

My own personal favorite pop-culture reference to Huey occurs in the 1979 film Richard Pryor: Live in Concertwhich Eddie Murphy regards as the greatest stand-up comedy performance ever captured on film. At the 1:06:54 mark (thanks to Wikipedia for that) of Mr. Pryor’s performance, he calls out to raise the house lights and introduces the audience to Huey P. Newton–who, alas, does not appear on camera.

Finally, I found Spike Lee’s production of Roger Guenveur Smith’s celebrated solo performance in A Huey P. Newton Story to be utterly riveting. Mr. Smith uncannily captures Huey’s deep intellect and abiding compassion, but also his essential shyness and even diffidence. I highly recommend this film.

If you find typos in these documents, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.