Project Details and Deliverables:
Your paper must be between 4-6 pages in length (12-point font, double spaced, 1” margins);
It should involve at least three significant sources (such as books or scholarly articles; scholarly website, documentaries, and podcasts are also acceptable as sources, so long as they are scholarly and trustworthy);
You will receive extra credit if your research involves face-to-face interaction and/or an interview with someone in the community you are researching, such as a musician, audience member, historian, and so on;
Your paper needs to begin with your research question or thesis and then proceed to answer your question or support your thesis with the information or ideas you found or developed through your research;
Your paper must include a bibliography of your sources (make sure it follows one of the accepted bibliographic styles, i.e. MLA, Chicago/Turabian, or APA);
You will submit your final paper via SafeAssign on Blackboard (link will be made available below)
You may work in groups, if you wish;
Please contact me with any questions about developing or undertaking your research.
Finding a Topic or Question
The Wald reading raises many historical points about the blues, a number of which many of you have already passionately discussed in your discussion board posts these past weeks. Consider taking on one of those questions for further investigation in your final paper, such as:
Were the Blues Queens proto-feminists? If so, in what ways?
What connections seem to exist linking the roots of the blues with West African music and culture?
How fundamentally different was the minstrel show from the early blues performances in the lives and experiences of African Americans?
Or read ahead in the Wald and explore the other questions that we’ll be encountering in coming weeks, such as:
Where, in particular, was the center of the blues scene in Oakland in the 1940s and ’50s and why was it so important in the history of the blues?
Who were some of the famous blues singers of the Bay Area of the mid-20th century and what made them unique?
What was the influence of rural, country blues musicians on the rise of the Chicago style of the blues?
Women blues singers were an important part of the history of the blues, but were there any famous women blues instrumentalists? Who were they and what did they do?
What did Muddy Waters do to modernize his rural country blues style to appeal to sophisticated, urban audiences in Chicago?
Whichever topic you select, you need to first develop a good research question to guide your research. Characteristics of a good research question include:
It needs to be open-ended (in other words, it’s not a yes-or-no question);
It needs to be answered with research (in other words, you need to do more than a quick “Google” search to find an answer; in fact, I expect each of you to consult several substantial sources in conducting your research on your topic);
It may be controversial and provocative (meaning that it is likely to have different groups of people arguing for different ideas about it);
It needs to relate to the topics, questions, and concerns we address in this course.
This page contains a collection of links to databases where you can find excellent sources for your research. Some of them are related with music. Others, such as JSTOR and Academic Search Complete, are more general, but your searches can be narrowed to focus on music.
In regards to the blues on this web page, check out the following databases:
Oxford Music Online – This is a comprehensive resource that includes the Grove Dictionary of Music (the principle scholarly music reference source in English), as well as the sources written for more general readership. Check this out for basic information about a blues musician or performer.
African American Music Reference – Reference books relevant for a wide range of musical expressions of African American culture.
Alexander Street Press Online Collections – The front end for searching the whole of Alexander Street Press, not only the performing arts collections. There are many different kinds of sources here. Browse the collection and you might find links to what you’re looking for.
Music Online: American Song – Streaming audio of vernacular and commercial American music, including the blues.
Classical Music Reference Library – Digital version of Baker’s Dictionary of Music, Baker’s Biographical Dictionary of Musicians, and Baker’s Student Encyclopedia of Music, and it includes biographies of famous blues performers.
Contemporary World Music – Streaming audio of music from around the world, primarily commercial genres, with some folk and art traditions represented. Explore this for ideas on how the blues has made its way into musical traditions around the world.
Garland Encyclopedia of World Music – The digital edition of the 9-volume authoritative ethnomusicology encyclopedia in English. You might use this collection to explore the roots of the blues with West African music and culture. To access a text volume, click on “view” by the cover image; to access sound recordings, select from the list on the left of the screen.
Smithsonian Global Sound for Libraries – In partnership with Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, a streaming audio collection, which includes blues recordings.
Jazz Music Library – A large, comprehensive collection of jazz in a streaming audio database, including the blues.
Online Guides to Blues Research
Good summaries about the blues and links to additional sources. Remember that our University Library can access just about any source you need. Just ask a librarian for help.
Questia.com, “Blues ‘Music,” Selected full-text books and articles – Web Link
“The Blues,” Oxford Bibliography – Web Link
Mississippi Delta Blues Museum – Web Link
Which often have great documentaries and stories about the blues and interviews with blues performers:
NPR Music – Web Link
Fresh Air – YouTube (check the Fresh Air archives for interviews with blues performers)
BBC World Service, Arts & Culture – Web Link
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