Professor of Music
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. Professor 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.
Professor 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, Professor Miller plays southern old time string band music, French-Canadian music, Irish music, and klezmer and she performs regularly throughout New England.
This course will explore the social and historical context for Irish traditional music performance in Ireland, in diaspora, and as a tradition in the Pioneer Valley. We will also study Irish popular music from the perspectives of post-colonialism, Irish nationalism, and political/economic change in Ireland during the 20th and 21st centuries. There will be regular writing and reading assignments (both primary and secondary sources). We will spend roughly 25% of class time learning Irish traditional music and/or song by ear. Instrumentalists will learn to play various types of Irish dance tunes -- reels, jigs, slip jigs, hornpipes, slow airs, and others. Vocalists will learn Irish sean nos (old style) singing. No prior experience is necessary; however students should have an interest in singing or have a basic working knowledge of an instrument specific to this genre: fiddle (violin), guitar, mandolin, tenor banjo, piano, accordion, flute, pennywhistle, and potentially others.
In this course, we will learn how to produce music pieces for public radio. 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, including a vox pop, a music reviewm a CD review, and a short documentary feature in a style consistent with public radio. Students will also gain a working knowledge of sound editing techniques using ProTools or another software. In addition to regularly workshopping 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.
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 theoretical concepts (pitch, rhythm, timbral nuances, texture, intervals, chords, harmony, etc.) and develop our sense of music cognition through ear training and solfege singing. This course will connect music to theory by teaching students how to compose music. We will also apply the theory we learn to the instruments we play (or to Orff xylophones for those who do not play an instrument). Students are required to attend one ear training class every week, either Monday or Thursday evening from 7:00 - 8:30 pm. No prior music training or literacy is required. Students who wish to skip this course and go directly into Tonal Theory I should contact Becky Miller to take a placement test before the start of fall classes.
Fundamentals of Music [formerly Musical Beginnings]: This course focuses on the broad fundamentals of western music and music theory, including music literacy (how to read western music notation). We will learn theoretical concepts such as pitch, rhythm, timbral nuances, texture, intervals, chords (triads and sevenths), harmony, etc. We will also develop our sense of aural music cognition through ear training. This course will connect music to theory by teaching students how to compose music; students will also develop analytical writing skills through attending two concerts and writing a report on each. Students are required to attend a weekly ear training class (either Monday or Thursday evening, 7:00 - 8:30 pm). No prior music training or literacy is required. (A placement test will be offered at the beginning of fall semester for students who might be able to place into the next level of music theory.)
American Strings: Old Time and Bluegrass: This course focuses on American southern old-time string band music, bluegrass, and early country song. We will draw on cultural theory to explore the growth of these musics throughout the 20th century as well as the influences of gender, music revivalism, and African-American musical expression. We will consider old time and bluegrass both from an historical perspective and as vital forms in communities today. There will be an off-campus fieldwork, weekly reading and listening assignments, and regular written assignments. This course also has a performance component: students will learn to play old time music by ear and develop a repertoire of dance music. Prior experience with old time and bluegrass is not necessary, but a basic working knowledge of one of the following instruments is required: fiddle (violin), banjo, guitar, upright bass, mandolin, harmonica, and other appropriate instruments. A painless audition in the first week of class will determine eligibility. There is an every-other week film series attached to American Strings on Wednesday evenings from 7:30 - 8:30 pm in ASH auditorium.