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English Speaking Countries Today – America Unit Three 1 Unit Three Core Text The Augusta Heritage Center in Beautiful West Virginia The song Take Me Home, Country Roads by John Denver1 is popular worldwide. In it, John Denver sings: “Almost heaven, West Virginia Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah River Life is old there, older than the trees Younger than the mountains, growin' like a breeze. Country roads, take me home To the place I belong West Virginia, mountain momma Take me home, country roads” (by John Denver, Bill Danoff and, Taffy Danoff copyright, Cherry Lane Music) Author’s Note: You can listen to this song in the online courseware. Sound familiar? You’ve probably heard this song many times. First released in 1971, it is still one of the most popular songs in the world, selling tens of millions of copies and receiving almost constant airplay. John Denver was singing about one of the most magnificently beautiful states in America, West Virginia. Nicknamed “The Mountain State”, West Virginia is very hilly and rugged, with the highest mean altitude (1,500 ft/457 m) of any state east of the Mississippi River. Much of West Virginia is wild open land within which are many charming small cities and towns. 7.8% of West Virginia is federal land and of the remaining 92.2%, almost 69% is forest and 17% is farm land. Apples, peaches, hay, corn, and tobacco are the principal crops, while broiler chickens, cattle, and dairy products lead in market receipts. Most of the population lives in beautiful rural areas. Urban and built-up areas account for only 4.5% of West Virginia. For those who love nature, West Virginia is indeed “almost heaven.” English Speaking Countries Today – America Unit Three 2 West Virginia was settled mostly by immigrants of Scottish, Irish and German origin, who came over the rugged mountains in the mid-1700s to create a new life. They worked primarily as farmers or coal miners. They brought songs, musical instruments, dances and storytelling traditions with them and these arts flourished in the rural culture of the region known as Southern Appalachia. (The Appalachian mountain system extends from Canada to the Gulf coast of Alabama through the Eastern United States and encompasses several mountain ranges, including the White Mountains, Green Mountains, Berkshire Hills, Catskill Mountains, Allegheny Plateau, Black Mountains, Great Smoky Mountains, Blue Ridge, and Cumberland Plateau.) The local folk lore and folk arts are known as Southern Appalachian culture and it is a vital and treasured heritage of West Virginia, one which West Virginians proudly preserve. In the part of West Virginia known as the Potomac Highlands, in Randolph County, is a lovely town called Elkins. The Potomac Highlands are full of trout streams, mountains and waterfalls. Songbirds, wildflowers, forests, villages, colleges and scenic railways abound. It is a habitat of America’s national bird, the noble and awe-inspiring Bald Eagle. Appalachian Mountains (mountain range) A Bald Eagle Randolph County is home to some of the best artisans in the East. From fine art painters to wood workers, jewelry makers, potters, basket makers, weavers, and quilters, a wide variety of modern and heritage arts can be found there. Elkins, at an elevation of 2000 feet, is a small college town with a population of only about 10,000. It has been ranked 28th in both the 100 Best Small Towns in America and The 100 Best Small Arts Towns in America. Elkins, on the Tygart Valley River, is in a region that contains many of West Virginia's highest mountains. Named for Stephen B. Elkins, Secretary of War and U.S.A. Senator from 1895 to 1911, the city was a center for railroad, timber and coal operations. Basket Weaving Gainer, Joe English Speaking Countries Today – America Unit Three 3 Guitar class Irish Dance Class The Augusta Heritage Center(Author’s Notes: You can find more about this Center on the website: http://www.augustaheritage.com/), presents a 5-week series of workshops on folk culture each summer, under the guidance of director Margo Blevin. 2000 participants, young and old from all over America (and many other countries) come to learn and practice traditional arts and crafts of Southern Appalachia and other parts of America. They also hold public concerts, dances and festivals and exhibitions featuring folk music, arts and crafts and they produce recordings and videos of traditional folk musicians and dancers. A 3-day festival of performances and exhibits open to the public ends the summer workshop season. Festival Concert admission is $15 for adults, $8 for senior citizens over 60 and children under 16. The festival concert ticket price includes a dance after the evening performances. One of the finest and most famous programs of this type in America, Augusta attracts the most outstanding and renowned teachers (who are also often well-known performers, folklorists and fine art craftsmen and craftswomen) in the field. Cajun food party-folklore Making Pottery Augusta was the historic name of West Virginia from its period of earliest settlement. Year round, the center produces research and documentation of folklife and folk arts of many American regions and traditional cultures. Started in 1973, the program is famous worldwide. The Augusta Heritage Center’s stated mission is to:  encourage wider understanding and practice of artistic expression found in local, regional, and ethnic traditional folk cultures  document, promote, encourage, and nurture West Virginia’s folklife and folkways  accomplish the above through workshops, apprenticeships, publications and public presentations. Elkins is home to a sophisticated community of musicians, performers, artists, writers and crafters. It is also the home of the David & Elkins College(Author’s Notes: You can find more about this Univrsity on the website: http://www.davisandelkins.edu/), a very small institution of higher learning (650 undergraduate students with a faculty to student ratio of 1:12) on a beautiful campus. To celebrate and sustain the traditional culture of the area and other traditional folk cultures of America, David & Elkins College sponsors. English Speaking Countries Today – America Unit Three 4 The center receives support from many national, public and private funds as well as individual patrons in addition to the infrastructure and funding from David & Elkins College. Donors who contribute may be able to deduct the contribution from their taxes. A volunteer staff helps run events. This keeps the cost of workshops affordable (tuition is between $275 and $375 a week) for participants. Craft classes require an extra fee for materials. In addition to workshop fees, participants must pay for housing on campus: $295 per person per week. Lodging rates include all meals at the campus dining hall. West Virginia residents can get discounts on tuition and young artists can qualify for partial to full scholarships. These prices are competitive with the average expense for an American summer vacation. Participants can get college course credits for the classes they take but they must pay a surcharge of $75 per credit hour, plus $3.00 per transcript. When the Augusta Heritage Center programs first began, it was primarily a crafts program. The crafts workshops are still the centerpiece of the summer session and remain Augusta’s best-known program. All traditional cultures prize craftwork. In rural unindustrialized societies, people had to make what they needed, as there was neither money nor marketplaces to buy such necessities. Each culture made most if not all of its own tools, utensils, household goods, décor, clothing, furniture, toys and even musical instruments. These home-made objects reflect the local culture and environment. The twig furniture of Southern Appalachia is a good example of this, using humble materials overlooked in contemporary woodworking: twigs and bark. Using basic tools, each student designs and builds a stool and weaves a hickory bark seat. Experienced woodworkers can design and build a chair. The classes, taught by an assortment of the most outstanding master teachers in their fields, teach beginners, advanced beginners, intermediate and advanced students of the folk arts and crafts offered, which include many music classes (guitar styles, blues, Irish music and special classes in instruments typical of the region’s musical traditions), dance classes (step-dance, swing dance, Irish folk dance and square dance), folklore classes (history, culture, food), and hands-on crafts workshops (basketry, beadwork, blacksmithing, pottery, quilting, Celtic design and lettering, and musical instrument building and repair). Poetry, writing and herb craft (practical uses of local wild plants) are also taught. This is but a small taste of the over two hundred classes held each summer workshop season for more than thirty years. The campus is alive every day with activity; students and teachers singing, playing music, dancing, creating folk art and sharing their experiences. Every night there is a social dance for the whole campus and the different musical workshops hold parties and jams (informal group singing and playing). Bow repair Bluesjam-hallie English Speaking Countries Today – America Unit Three 5 Traditional Southern Appalachian Crafts American Traditional Music Of all the traditional arts, music influenced the development of American popular culture the most. Most contemporary American popular music can be traced back to the musical traditions nourished in Southern Appalachia and other regions of the American south. The Scots, Irish, and English settlers’ primary social and family activity was playing and singing together at home, in church or in bands at public festivities. This traditional music, often called “Old-Time music”, was the origin of commercial “country music”. It came to be influenced by African-American music as blacks moved into mountain areas (as well as northern cities) after emancipation from slavery in the 1860’s. African-Americans had evolved a blues guitar style and added musical styles from Africa to those European religious music styles the white settlers brought with them to their new home in America. No confluence of American musical styles is more consequential than the African/Anglo combination that began in the 17th century and evolved into modern Rhythm & Blues (R&B), Jazz, Rock and Roll, Blues-Rock, Heavy Metal, Rap, Pop, Hip Hop2, etc.---and this cross-breeding of styles did occur in Southern Appalachia as well as in the deep south and northern urban areas, although to a somewhat lesser extent. Most traditional musicians didn’t read music, so the musical traditions and song lyrics were passed on from person to person by “the folk process”. Music was a part of everyday life and each musician and singer that played or sang added something to the repertoire of another musician or singer. The class includes history of rustic furniture; identification and selection of materials, preparation of hickory bark, seat weaving, and a field trip to collect material. The designs of the hand-made traditional bed quilts made in Southern Appalachia are prized all over America and copied by manufacturers. Still, people want to learn how to make them by hand. Quilting was often a community activity for women and is a pleasant and gratifying craft. Twig chair student Kordek, Fran-quilt This quilt, made by the teacher of the workshop, is what's known as a “sampler”, featuring several quilting motifs. Usually quilts were made of multiple squares or other shapes repeating the same motif. English Speaking Countries Today – America Unit Three 6 Early in the 20th century, with most families having radios and record players, things changed. Although there were still many amateur musicians who played for pleasure and entertainment, more people started listening to the radio and playing records, hearing mostly professional musicians. Radio and recordings brought Old-Time music out of the rural Southern mountains to people all over the United States and new music was increasingly influenced by urban styles. Commercial country music (properly called Country and Western Music or Country-Western music and often abbreviated as C&W) overtook Old-Time country music. Urban Blues, mostly electrified, overtook the acoustic country blues. Home-made music was fading as a popular activity as progress marched forward and the traditional musical arts were in danger of dying out. It only takes one generation for a folk art to die; if nobody practices it, there will be no one to pass it on to the next generation. Although books and the more modern inventions of video and audio recordings can preserve the work of authentic folk musicians, only the tradition of personally teaching, learning and playing traditional music can truly keep it alive. The historical traditions of this music were kept alive by those who loved it. It was the power to unite ordinary people playing together and the fresh appeal of the music itself that kept this traditional music thriving through the last half of the 20th century. In the 1950s, some folk songs emerged in popular music and competed well with the band and rock and roll on the radio. In the early 1960s young musicians popularized traditional folk music even more and additionally composed contemporary folk music in the same musical styles as traditional American folk music, adding topical content about politics, war and the struggle for civil rights. In the mid-1960s a combination of folk music and rock and roll emerged, known as Folk-Rock, and became very popular. The John Denver song, Take Me Home, Country Roads is an example of Folk-Rock. Folk festivals became popular with a large mostly college-age audience and at these festivals both older traditional musicians and young musicians preserving and evolving this music would play. When the performances were over, amateurs from the audience would break into small groups and play folk songs together all night. Many surviving Old-Time musicians were not professionals; they worked in factories, fields, and businesses and played music for pleasure. Many young musicians traveled to hear and study these musicians, to learn their musical techniques and experience at first hand the original heart and soul of American traditional music. In the early years of Augusta, it was a meeting place for members of traditional communities and young adherents of the 1970s counterculture. Youthful idealists, academics and longhaired hippies mixed freely with farmers, fundamentalists and mountain folk. The fun and challenge of the folk arts became a common ground for people of many backgrounds. Those who love these traditional musical styles love it intensely. One of the most famous contemporary folk musicians and scholars wrote: “What place can this music play in today’s life? Perhaps I may write more personally here. I would be playing this music whether or not it is my profession. (I'm pleased that it is.) This is the music that I was raised with (though by college-educated parents), and it includes a lot that I have learned more recently from older traditional rural musicians or their recordings. It has those great old love songs and ballads, the story songs. It has blues, topical songs and humorous songs and a world of instrumentals that I enjoy playing when I am alone at home or with my string-band-music friends. This music connects me to the past, it expresses feelings and thoughts about life. It is a pleasure English Speaking Countries Today – America Unit Three 7 every day, either as I play myself or as I listen to others---usually, these days, to younger musicians, who will be experiencing the same pleasure for many years to come. I hope you experience some of that pleasure, too.” Mike Seeger (from http://mikeseeger.info/) As with the music, the traditional American dances, crafts and folklore require special effort to preserve today. The Augusta Heritage Center in Elkins, West Virginia is the most prominent of several organizations dedicated to the enjoyment, teaching and preservation of authentic traditional American culture. The 2,000 participants who attend the summer workshop program and the thousands of others who attend the concerts and festivals keep the love as well as the skills of these wonderful arts alive. It also provides exposure and work for musicians, dancers and artists who practice and treasure these Old-Time arts. The extension texts revolve around performances at the Augusta Heritage Center. By viewing them you will experience first-hands the authentic roots of popular music, the art of traditional music and dance, in both the Southern Appalachian and other southern regions, and the dedication of the musicians and dancers who study and perform them. The texts will explain the music you watch and listen to, tell you a little about some of the performers and introduce some of the musical instruments played in the performances. Mike Seeger, outstanding second generation contemporary folk musician and scholar, one of the artists credited with revitalizing interest in southern string band music. He has taught extensively at Augusta.
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