Rebecca (Becky) Miller, associate 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. 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.
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.
In this course, we will learn the basics of producing 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, CD review, and a documentary feature in a style consistent with public radio. Students will also gain a working knowledge of sound editing techniques using ProTools 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. Prior college-level coursework in writing, journalism, media production, or ethnomusicology (or anthropology) is required.
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 and by performing on instruments the basic theoretical concepts covered throughout the course. Students will also develop their critical writing skills through attending two concerts and writing an analytical report about each. No prior music training or literacy is required. Students are required to attend a weekly ear training class (either Monday or Thursday evening, 7:00 - 8:30 pm).
As expressions of identity and culture, the music of immigrant and diasporic peoples in the United States ranges from traditional folk styles to hybrid popular and rock styles specific to each community. The performance of these genres often serves as a bridge between the old and new cultures and is reflective of changing identity and aesthetics. This course will focus on the traditional and popular music from a number of immigrant, migrant, and diasporic communities: Irish, East European Jewish, various parts of the Caribbean, Mexican, German, Cambodian, and others. We will also examine community institutions that foster music and dance as well as the appropriation and marketing of "ethnic" musics by the dominant culture. Finally, this course will examine some of the theoretical concepts inherent to the immigrant musical experience: the institutionalization of culture, "subcultural" theory, music revivals, and others.
While ethnomusicology -- the study of music in culture -- has traditionally been relegated to the classroom, the field has, in recent years, spawned interest outside of the academy. Recognizing the importance of multicultural education and outreach, arts organizations, funders, and community groups are focusing on the public presentation of community musics for general audiences. In this course, students will learn about applied ethnomusicology as well as how to document and present the musical culture of a specific community in the Pioneer Valley. Students will learn fieldwork methodologies such as interviewing, oral history, photography, and audio and video recordings. In addition to weekly reading and fieldwork assignments, students will write a 10 page ethnography on their community. Students will also complete a short project that will return something to this community, such as organizing a concert, creating a short video or audio documentary, or creating a webpage, among other options. Prerequisite: Prior coursework in ethnomusicology, anthropology, or cultural studies.
Rebecca (Becky) Miller
Associate Professor of Music
Mail Code CS
Adele Simmons Hall 208
893 West Street
Amherst, MA 01002