ENGL 40761 Lecture Notes - Lecture 16: Classical Music, Laurie Anderson, Henry David Thoreau

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7 May 2017
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I. The background of the Anthology
a. The Handbook to the Anthology: stories behind the songs
b. Smith originally wanted to make money by selling his 78 rpm records but ended up
compiling the anthology
II. Harry Smith in relation to our class
a. His work is at a similar position in the second half of the semester as the works of
Emerson and Thoreau in the first
Analogy 1: Multicultural
Harry Smith: Low culture, which is as rich as the high culture
Mixing of country music and blues is the basis of American music.
The music in the anthology had significant impact on Bob Dylan,
Laurie Anderson, etc.
Tremendous impact all over the world.
Emerson and Thoreau: High culture
They take high-culture ideas from all over the world and form their
own strings, which are cornerstones of Transcendentalism
Analogy 2: Acknowledge universal patterns of human cultures and bring
them together in new forms.
Ezra Pound: Cantos
Literature, luminous details
E.g. The Book of Odes he translated from Ancient Chinese into American
folk songs
Used American focus on words.
Harry Smith: anthropological approach
Collections: books from libraries, cultural artifacts (e.g. Seminole textiles,
Ukrainian Easter Eggs, New York City paper airplanes, and string
figures from around world)
Audio recordings of street sounds
Collage films: animations, superimpositions, etc.
Paintings (fact: Smith was very proud of his paintings. But he did not
have enough money to pay rent, so when landlord tried to clear his stuff,
he/she threw away most of his paintings)
III. Songs in the Anthology
a. Endlessly provocative: these songs are meant to affect you
Remain fascinating to subsequent singers till present
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