Assignment 1: Listening to the Voices of the Past
The District Attorney sho' is hard on a man
He taken me from my woman, cause her to love some other man
District Attorney sho' is hard on a man
He will take a woman's man and leave her cold in hand
     --Bukka White, “District Attorney Blues”

For this first assignment, I’d like you to listen closely to the sound recordings on this site.  The music you hear on this site may sound strange to you; it is probably very different from what you listen to on a regular basis.  I’ve devised questions to guide you through this material and to help you make sense of it. 

(Note: I have very little formal music education; I’ve learned most of what I know through listening repeatedly—and I might add passionately—and studying the cultural context of this music.  I don’t think you need any formal training to answer the questions and consider the issues listed below.  If, however, you are able to pick out elements like rhythmic structures, odd keys, unique chords, feel free to describe them on the discussion board.  I will be very eager to learn from your posts!)

Part A

Start by browsing through the entire "Now What a Time" collection in any way that your spirit moves you (remember: the MP3 Format is the default in the archive; if that won't play for you, click on Additional Audio Formats, and you will find a link for Real Audio [RealPlayer]) 
As you’re browsing, keep these questions in mind:
Part B

Once you have established an initial impression of this music, listen more closely for the distinctive features of each type of music. 

In your weblog, consider:

Part C

Choose  a group (2 or 3) of either blues or gospel songs to analyze in your weblog.  

For blues songs:

Listen closely to the lyrics (I realize that a lot of the lyrics are difficult to discern.  Do the best you can.  Don’t worry if you miss words, lines, or verses.  Just try to get a general sense of what each song is about and make connections between songs). 

Think about these issues as you analyze the songs you’ve selected:
Consider these questions as well:

For gospel songs:

Many of the gospel songs are based on the call and response model, in which one singer makes a musical statement and a group of singers offer a response.  This model is one of the distinctive features of African-American music (and African-American culture in a larger sense).   Think about what the call and response model says about the role of religion in African-American culture. 

Also, consider the following questions:

Once I lived the life of a millionaire

Spending my money, I didn't care
I carried my friends out for a good time
Bying bootleg liquor, champagne and wine

Then I began to fall so low
I didn't have a friend, and no place to go
So if I ever get my hand on a dollar again
I'm gonna hold on to it till them eagle's green
--Ida Cox, “Nobody Knows You When You're Down And Out”