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UC Berkeley Old Folks at Home A Plantation Act & After the Ball Questions

UC Berkeley Old Folks at Home A Plantation Act & After the Ball Questions

Question Description

I’m working on a Music exercise and need support.

1. Watch the Vernon and Ryan 1950 blackface sketch. Describe the elements of blackface makeup that are present there. What features are highlighted and/or exaggerated? What do the costume pieces add to it? How about gesture?

2. Watch the clip from A Plantation Act. What minstrel character does this seem to align with? Why so? How does a piece like this function as a racial project? What kind of structures does it create or support? How so?

3. Look at the advertisement featuring Billy Van in and out of blackface (this in in the lecture slides). In a couple of sentences each, discuss how whiteness and blackness are depicted in the ad. How do these representations relate to one another?

4. Do you agree with Garofalo’s claim that “Old Folks at Home” tempers the exaggerated dialect found in other minstrel songs and paints a more humane portrait of the singer (Garofalo 20)?

5. Given the history of “Old Folks at Home” and “Dixie,” should songs such as these continue to circulate? If so, what might be done to address their problematic history? How would you feel performing one?

6. Listen to “After the Ball” paying attention to how the story unfolds and the way the verses and chorus work together. Describe the central image–”after the ball”–and its meaning as it evolves over the course of the song. How does the chorus take on new meaning or relationship to the verses as the song progresses?

7. Given what you’ve learned about the evolution of the popular song, what might you propose as reasons for the consolidation of the Tin Pan Alley Golden Era (AABA chorus) form? What might have been the appeal of this form? What did it capitalize on or support? As in past assignments, make educated guesses here and see what you can offer in terms of the song examples or your own experience of the form as evidence.

8. Listen to “Maple Leaf Rag” and “Alexander’s Ragtime Band.” What do you hear as similar or different? If you were making a case for how ragtime was appropriated by Berlin in “Alexander’s Ragtime Band,” what evidence would you turn to? Do Smith’s lyrical changes (as Garofalo points to) alter this dynamic or not?

9. What continuities and ruptures do you see between minstrelsy and incorporation of black music into Tin Pan Alley songs? Give two examples.

10. What might be new forms of minstrelsy or cultural appropriation in popular music today?


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