Sunday, October 31, 2010

A Very MOMA Halloween

From all of us here at Musicological Musings to all of you there, checking your RSS feeds and NOT dressing up as Snooki, we'd love to wish you a very modern art Halloween. Like Phish's legendary Halloween shows, we have a tradition [1] of surprising and delighting our long-time fans. For your viewing enjoyment, we have created aura-rich Picasso and Mondrian pumpkins, presented here in both still and moving [2] representations. What would Benjamin say?

[1]– Last year, we were unable to bring you this post due to severe rottage.
[2]– Despite giving my DSL connection all day, the video still hasn't uploaded. I'll try again when I get to school.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Coal Miner Songs

The following is a commentary on my most recent research project, entitled "Oppression, Violence, and Unity: A Survey of Coal Miner Protest Songs." I wish I could post the entire paper, though I know very few would be interesting in reading it in this context. If you are, however, so included to give it a look, let me know and I will be happy to send you a copy.

The basic idea behind this paper is that coal miners were treated pretty terrible throughout (and well before) the labor movement. It was not uncommon for a miner's already meager wages to be lowered without just cause or due notice, if not withheld completely. Worse, still, was the practice of compensating miners, not in legal tender, but in company scrip that was only valid at over-priced company owned and operated stores. Miners were even forced to rent company housing, resulting in the constant threat of eviction.

Recognizing this as an unfair way to be treated, the miners unionized and subsequently went on strike. In response, companies often responded with physical threats--many gained the support of the state militias and some even hired gangsters from Chicago to serve as mercenaries. Faced with violence, the miners typically answered with "eye for an eye" tactics.

Throughout all of this, miners were composing songs in order to create a historical record of the atrocities they suffered, to commemorate those who lost their lives in the battle, and to rally support for the unions. During the course of my research, I discovered that, as time went on, the miner songs became less traditional (that is, broadside-esque) and more aggressive. The four I examine are: "The Avondale Mine Disaster" from 1869 in Pennsylvania; "Coal Creek Troubles" from 1891 in Tennessee; "The Ludlow Massacre" by Woody Guthrie, but about a 1914 strike in Colorado; and Aunt Molly Jackson's "I Am A Union Woman" from 1931 in Kentucky. They all are wonderful examples of our nation's rich body of occupational protest songs.

For your enjoyment, here is Woody Guthrie singing "Ludlow Massacre." (I was unable to find a YouTube version without the pictures going on)