Rebecca Miller

Professor of Music
Hampshire College Professor Rebecca Miller
Contact Rebecca

Mail Code CS
Rebecca Miller
Adele Simmons Hall 208
413.559.5545

Rebecca (Becky) Miller, professor of music, received an A.B. from Bryn Mawr College, an M.A. from Wesleyan University and a Ph.D. from Brown University in ethnomusicology. She conducted dissertation research as a Fulbright Fellow on the Caribbean island of Carriacou (Grenada).

Professor Miller's book, Carriacou String Band Serenade: Performing Identity in the Eastern Caribbean (Wesleyan University Press, 2008) examines social and political change through the performance of traditional music, song, and dance in Carriacou. Miller also has conducted fieldwork in Ireland as a Whiting Fellow (2006-2009) on popular Irish showband music for an upcoming book length project. As a public sector folklorist, she has documented and presented the traditional arts from a number of immigrant and refugee communities throughout the United States. Her work has culminated in publications, recordings, festivals, radio, and video documentaries.

Miller is the producer of the award-winning public radio series "Old Traditions-New Sounds" and is the co-producer/writer of the documentary video "From Shore To Shore: Irish Traditional Music in New York City." A fiddler, she plays southern old-time string band music, French-Canadian music, Irish music, and klezmer, and she performs regularly throughout New England.

Recent and Upcoming Courses

  • This course focuses on the broad fundamentals of western music and music theory, including music literacy (how to read western music notation). We will look at concepts such as pitch, timbre, melody, and texture, and learn about rhythm, intervals, scales, chords, and harmony. We will develop our musical understanding through ear training, solfege singing, and "deep listening." This course will also connect music to theory by teaching students how to compose music. Students are required to attend a once/weekly ear training workshop on either Monday 7:00 - 8:30 pm or Thursday 4:30 - 5:50 pm in the Music Recital Hall. No prior music training or literacy is required. Keywords: music theory, listening, composition.

  • This course focuses on American southern old-time string band music, bluegrass, and early country song. We draw on cultural theory to explore the development of these musics throughout the 20th/21st centuries as well as the influences of African-American musical expression, class, gender, and music revivalism. We will consider old time and bluegrass both from a historical perspective and ethnographically as vital forms of folk expression in communities today. The course will include weekly reading/listening assignments, film screenings, short written assignments based on the reading, and other writing assignments. This course includes an optional performance component: interested students will learn to play old time music by ear and develop a repertoire of traditional dance music. Prior experience with old time music is not necessary, but a willingness to sing and/or a working knowledge of an acoustic stringed instrument is helpful (violin, guitar, mandolin, bass, cello, banjo, others). Keywords: music, ethnomusicology, American studies, performance, race, class, gender.

  • The music of immigrant, refugee, and diasporic people in the United States ranges from traditional and folk genres to popular and rock styles, and often serves as a bridge between the old and new cultures. This course focuses on music from a number of immigrant/diasporic communities in the United States, including Irish, East European Jewish, Mexican, African-American, various parts of the Caribbean, Vietnam, and others. We will examine the many ways that identity is created and solidified in immigrant communities through music, song, and dance. This course will introduce students to theoretical models to better understand the dynamics of immigrant culture: subcultural theory, "creative" ethnicity, hybridity/musical syncretism, gender, and cultural appropriation. In addition to regular reading, writing, and listening assignments, students will conduct an oral history and help construct an oral history archive. Keywords: ethnomusicology, American studies, diaspora studies, oral history

  • A cranky is a storytelling device consisting of a box with two spindles and a hand-cranked illustrated scroll and accompanied by instrumental music, song or spoken word. Crankies arrived in the southern Appalachians with British immigrants beginning in the 1800s and served as entertainment as well as a means to record local, historical events. In this course, we will build crankies and create stories from folk ballads, original music, and songs that deal with contemporary issues. We will work independently and collaboratively as we experiment with image making, mechanical motion, simple lighting, shadows, music, and song. We will read and complete writing assignments about the role of crankies in folk culture, both historically and in contemporary practice. The class will conclude with an end-of-the-semester performance. It is open to students interested in making images and illustration, folk arts, and theater. Introverts and extroverts welcome! Keywords: Design, fabrication, American studies, folk arts, music

  • In this course, we will learn how to produce music pieces for public radio and podcasts. We will first learn the basics of radio journalism, including reporting, recording, scriptwriting, production, and the effective use of music and ambient sound. Students will then produce three music-related pieces -- a vox pop, a recording or song review, and a short documentary feature -- in a style consistent with public radio. Students will gain a working knowledge of sound editing techniques using Adobe Audition. In addition to regularly workshopping of students' projects in class, we will discuss weekly reading and listening assignments that introduce students to creative public radio pieces focusing on music. Students can borrow digital recorders, microphones, and other equipment from Media Services. (keywords: radio, podcasting, production, documentary making)