Thursday, October 14, 2010

Labor Songs

A Ballad is a narrative composition in rhythmic verse suitable for singing. Originally ballads were not written down. They were a way to pass tradition and culture down from generation to generation; the music helped people to remember the story. The traditional ballad form has a few easily replicated characteristics that have made it a popular storytelling device for hundreds of years.

Listen to the ballad written about the Homestead Strike (1892) and read the lyrics.

What is the mood created by the lyrics of the song? (Possible answers might include pride, anger and determination)

What words might contribute to the mood of the song? (Have students select 3 words or phrases and discuss how each word/phrase contributes to the emotional impact of the lyrics. Possible answers might include shame, bum detectives, like thieves in the night, grasping corporations.)

What words could be used to predict tension and violence?

Read 'How to Write a Ballad" and then write your own labor song about the Railroad Strike of 1877, the Haymarket Affair, or the Pullman Strike. Be prepared to share your song in front of the class.

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