Collecting & Composing: Oral History and Music


Instructors: Ben Harbert, Jeffrey Lependorf, Jeremy Thal, Lauren Elizabeth Kelly, LJ Amsterdam, Sheri Bauer-Mayorga, Suzanne Snider

This six-day hands-on workshop draws connections between song, speech, and memory. Days will be divided between talks, screenings, listening sessions, and field recording. Throughout, guest artists will join us as we pursue the motives and methods of song collectors, past and present-day.

Ben Harbert––musician, musicologist and filmmaker––will discuss his work at Angola prison and other Louisiana penitentiaries. LJ Amsterdam will share her experience repatriating Laura Boulton’s 1946 recordings of Iñupiat songs and narratives from Columbia University’s Department of Music to the Native Village of Barrow, Alaska, in 2011 and 2013.

Sheri Bauer-Mayorga and Jeffrey Lependorf will join forces to lead us in an evening sing–– Sheri will guide us in chant, echo songs, call & answer, and rounds and Jeffrey will lead a Shaped-Note demonstration and practice––before we start our fieldwork, collecting songs and sounds in the Hudson area. Collection work will be supported by recording tutorials in the classroom and in the field.

Recordings by several artists, including those of Glenn Gould, the Fiery Furnaces, and Alvin Lucier, will serve as inspiration when we shift our focus from collection to composition, considering the possibilities of making music from oral history.

Jeremy Thal, co-founder/co-director of Found Sound Nation, will address FSN’s hybrid work. FSN projects have included documenting youth music movements in Indonesia, remixing a mediation lesson in India, and amplifying the work of youth activists in New Orleans.

This workshop may be of special interest to musicians, folklorists, filmmakers, artists, radio documentarians, youth educators, oral historians of all stripes—novice or experienced––and the generally curious. All are welcome. No experience necessary.

On June 25, Ben Harbert will be present for a screening of his film, Follow Me Down, followed by a Q&A with the filmmaker.