Date of Award

5-1-2017

Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts

Department

Mass Communication and Media Arts

First Advisor

Needham, Jay

Abstract

Foundational cultural theorist Antonio Gramsci noted in his theory of cultural hegemony that the subaltern class must develop and document their culture as it exists because this history counters the dominating message of the ruling class. My digitally recorded music album Ballads of Makanda: a Modern Folklore serves this idea through capturing the modern stories of the rural midwestern village of Makanda, Illinois and recreating them through American roots music. Using ethnographic and auto- ethnographic approaches to compose the music, these compositions, lyrically created from written and oral histories of residents and visitors of the village, speak to the identity of the community. It reveals several perspectives addressing untold, unexpected yet culturally significant narratives relating to gender, laws, myths, survival, and legacy. Not only do I address lyrical content, but the use of melody which has historically served as a tool for collective memory. My work explores the culture of small communities and my own experiences within, and synthesizes these stories into artistic practice to culminate into a music performance of the entire album featuring all the musicians, in order to fill in the narrative gaps of the human condition. Ultimately, I have created a cross-platform media, modern folklore to counter the established media representations that exist around small towns claiming they are culturally bereft, nondescript, uneducated, and poverty stricken due to financial irresponsibility. These messages have aided in the rural diaspora of younger generations seeking economic opportunity and culture in urban areas. These false ideas also create a history which informs an identity that people will assume. As a Southern Illinois local and Makanda resident, I see this project as a service to dispel stereotypes and celebrate the small town culture of Makanda. This is an attempt to preserve history and identity, and fill in the narrative gaps in the vernacular of the culture which inherently is an act of resistance from subjugation.

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