lesson 1 lesson 2 lesson 3 lesson 4 lesson 5 lesson 6

Louisiana Voices Educator's Guide  
Getting Started With This Guide  
Study Guide Summary  
Outline of the Study Guide  
Study Unit I Defining Terms  
Study Unit II Fieldwork Basics  
Study Unit III Discovering the Obvious: Our Lives as "The Folk"  
Study Unit IV The State of Our Lives: Being a Louisiana Neighbor  
Study Unit V Oral Traditions--Swapping Stories  
Study Unit VI Louisiana's Musical Landscape  
Study Unit VII Material Culture-The Stuff of Life  
Study Unit VIII The Worlds of Work and Play  
Study Unit IX The Seasonal Round and Life Cycles  
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Unit VI Outline

Introduction - Louisiana's Musical Landscape

Lesson 1: Music Around the State: Sound and Place

Lesson 2: Listening Logs

Lesson 3: Generational Music Communities

Lesson 4: Moving to Music

Lesson 5: Music Is Business

Lesson 6: Louisiana's Legendary Musicians

Unit VI Resources






Music UnitUnit VI

Louisiana's Musical Landscape

By Jocelyn Hazelwood Donlon, Jane Vidrine, Paddy Bowman, Sylvia Bienvenu, and Maida Owens

When a person sings, he can forget how hard his life is.

--Canray Fontenot, Creole musician, St. Landry Parish

Everybody's got to die for himself. No, I ain't afraid of dying. If I don't get well, I'd just as well I died . . . God gave me the gift to play and I'm going to do it as long as I can.

--Robert Pete Williams, Bluesman, West Baton Rouge Parish


Unit Introduction

People around the world have long taken note of Louisiana's complex, fascinating, and rich musical traditions--from the African and African-rooted rhythms of Congo Square in New Orleans to the country sounds of the Louisiana Hayride in Shreveport to the Cajun beat of Fred's Lounge in Mamou. Louis Armstrong, Irma Thomas, Clifton Chenier, Jimmy Davis, Michael Doucet, Ellis Marsalis, Lucinda Williams--these are only a few of the names associated with Louisiana music. And zydeco, rhythm & blues, and jazz, as well as other forms, experienced some of their most important developments in Louisiana. Such seminal music comes not only from stages and sound studios but also from homes, religious halls, fields, city streets, and bayous all over the state. Like its complex foodways, Louisiana's music emerges from diverse cultures that have come together over 300 years, ever since Europeans settled beside many Native tribal groups in the state.

This unit invites teachers and students to understand the importance of musical cultures in the state of Louisiana, in communities, in schools, in families, in the workplace--indeed, in individual lives. The unit also gives teachers and students the means to integrate authentic traditional music resources into the classroom. At the heart of this unit is the assumption that music is important to a person's cultural identity. When people understand the roots of music, the sounds and language used to create music, the different cultural uses of music, music's significance to individual lives, and the economic contribution of traditional music to the state, they can better understand how identities are formed.

In general, this unit classifies music as folk, popular, or elite, as explained in Unit I. Folk or traditional culture is usually learned by word of mouth or through imitation; popular culture is usually transmitted through mass media, such as radios, televisions, magazines, and the Internet; elite or academic culture is usually transmitted through formal institutions, such as schools, universities, music schools, or museums. However, it is important to know that these categories often blur. Students may learn a folk song at school; rock bands may use traditional Cajun rhythms; elite avant-garde musicians may rework the lyrics of traditional folk songs. Moreover, some cultures may value traditional performances in a way that places them in an "elite" category, for example, East Indian classical dance forms. When using these definitions, be careful not to use them as absolutes.

Teachers should consider establishing a classroom listening center and personal listening portfolios. Even high school students appreciate a listening or audiovisual center or archive, which they may use in class or to check out recordings, videos, and publications for home use or in the school media center. In addition to commercial recordings, add students' fieldwork recordings, personal recordings, and found sounds from the community and the Internet to the center or archive. When students share their work in class, audio or video record their oral presentations for the center.

Lesson 1 Music Around the State: Sound and Place introduces students to musical elements and musical styles within the cultural contexts of the three major folk regions of the state; Lesson 2 Listening Logs provides research models and activities to aid students' exploration of their personal and community soundscapes that add to their sense of place. Lesson 3 Generational Music Communities encourages students to identify age-related traditions, particularly those associated with masters and apprentices; Lesson 4 Moving to Music investigates folk movement and dance; Lesson 5 Music Is Business invites students to look at careers in the music industry; and Lesson 6 Louisiana's Legendary Musicians profiles some of the masterful musicians who have shaped traditional music in the state.

Rather than emphasize the entire history of traditional music and the legion of seminal musicians of Louisiana, this unit encourages students' self-discovery as they study their own musical heritage in the context of the important traditional regional music genres of this musically blessed state. Even as adults we are unaware of all the music that surrounds us: Muzak reminding us we've been on hold too long, the car radio, choir practice, TV soundtracks, ring tones, lullabies. Where is traditional music in the mix of all the music and sounds that we hear each day? This unit will help students uncover the traditional music and soundscapes in their own lives; investigate the important chronicle of Louisiana music; identify regional music styles; look at different folk movements related to music; and relate the significance of music and sounds to history, social studies, economics, language arts, foreign language, and the arts as well as school-based music studies.


Unit VI Resources

Unit VI Outline


National Endowment for
            the Arts.

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