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. 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.
This course focuses on American southern old-time string band music, bluegrass, and early country song. We draw on cultural theory to explore the growth 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 an historical perspective and ethnographically as vital forms in communities today. The course will include weekly reading/listening assignments, occasional evening film screenings, written assignments based on the reading, and a midterm essay. While this course is primarily academic, there will also be a performance component: 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 working knowledge of one of the following acoustic instruments is required: fiddle (violin), cello, banjo, guitar, upright bass, mandolin, harmonica, ukulele, and others.
Recognizing the importance of multicultural education and outreach, arts organizations, funders, and community groups are increasingly focusing on the public presentation and documentation of community-based music and other performing arts for general audiences. This course will introduce students to the basics of arts administration and public presentation of the arts. While we will focus primarily on music and musical performance, we will also consider theater, dance, performance art, and other other cultural expressions and organizations. Students will learn the basics of applied work, including grant writing and fieldwork methods (interviewing, conducting oral histories, and making audio and video recordings) and will conduct fieldwork towards completing a semester-long ethnographic project on a music community or an arts organization in the Pioneer Valley. Students will also complete required weekly reading assignments and several short writing assignments that examine issues of representation, class, race, power, and ethics in the context of public presentation of the arts.
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. No prior music training or literacy is required. 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).
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.