Table of Contents:
About This Project:
This project started as the result of some folklore studies I conducted while in Dr. Lynn Patyk's Slavic Folklore course. At the time — freshman spring — I was neither a music major nor did I have any interest in musicological studies. In fact, I did not even know what musicology or ethnomusicology were. Having only been taught Western classical piano, my perception of what "music" as a field of study could be was limited. Recently, the Department of Music at Dartmouth College issued a new set of major requirements that allows each student the flexibility to explore music broadly while simultaneously allowing for sustained and focused studies in a field that interests the individual student.
My major plan is one of these progressive major explorations: progressive in the sense that what I thought I might study even just one-and-a-half years ago when I first considered majoring is not what I am studying today. As I have taken different classes and as new courses have been offered, my studies have evolved to give me the room to continue diving deeper into what I find interesting. My honors project is a microcosm of this dynamic process. Where I thought I would go with this project is not where I have landed, and the results and findings of this work will probably not be seen for several years to come (if the results of this project can be quantified at all). For example, now that so many musical sources in Rauner are digitized and available for students and scholars at Dartmouth, what research might be done on these pieces? The goal of this project was to get the ball rolling, so to speak, such that future students would not be stymied by the often laborious process of obtaining these primary musical sources.
I speak from experience because my work on this thesis was met with roadblocks of its own. Sitting in Rauner for hours at a time, I would shuffle through archived boxes. In each box were usually anywhere from 12-20 folders. In each folder were anywhere between 10 and 80 sheets of paper. On each piece of paper were words, music, pictures, and memorabilia that I read, evaluated, and ultimately decided whether or not to include for digitization. Upon putting away the last box of the Richard Hovey collection, a series I had spent over a week going through, I very nearly cried.
Counter to that little anecdote, the paper sources were easy. The audio or audio-visual sources presented issues of their own. Phono-discs and films had to be sent to the conservation team. If they made it out of conservation purgatory, they were sent to Jones Media Center for digitization. However, older discs require a special type of reed needle as a typical diamond-tip would scratch the surface. A 16-mm film that I found in the archives had to be shipped off to a third-party vendor for digitization because Dartmouth did not have the technology in-house to digitize a source in this format. As these sources continue to come in, and as more sources that I never got to slowly get digitized, a larger body of material will be at the fingertips of researchers at Dartmouth. My hope is that the progressive nature of this project will go on.
Something I was not prepared for was the mental exhaustion that came along with this project. As I wrote above, I was the one who ultimately decided whether or not something I found in the archives was put through the digitization process. The process of attempting to weigh the value of one source against another, especially when there were so many, was frightening. What if I overlooked a source that I should have kept (as I definitely must have done)? It is important to acknowledge that there are several narratives and untold stories that are left in the Rauner archives. For example, a lot of my work has to do with discrimination against Native Americans. While Native Americans make a good case study in the context of Dartmouth’s founding as an institution to educate American Indians — the salience of which is heightened by the recent repatriation of the Occom Papers — I completely exclude the stories of other racial and ethnic minorities. This raises another series of questions: what has been lost, what is impossible to know, and what do we not have access to? My explorations in Rauner led me to the sources presented in this project, and a deeper dive might uncover some other shocking materials. However, in my experience, it is evident that the library itself tends to prioritize certain sources. Ultimately, what I decided was worth keeping in this project was, to a certain extent, also what the library decided was worth preserving in Rauner.
Equally important to note is the fact that this project is, in large part, about issues of racism, homophobia, and misogyny, and spending my senior year writing about these topics was mentally draining as well. I remember the feeling I had while writing the section about R. Kelly: I got such a sick feeling in my stomach, I had to close my computer and not look at that writing for several days. Reading about the R. Kelly scandals is one thing; writing about them and then contextualizing them in a way that illustrates how similar incidents happen within my own community was traumatic.
Finally, the process of digitization is, in and of itself, an alteration of the materials that we consider. When I sat in Rauner, deciding which sources deserved to be kept within the scope of this project, I came face-to-face with the physical objects themselves. It is important to acknowledge that the relationship scholars have with physical sources can be drastically different from the relationship once these sources are digitized. Holding a score that was used by generations of Dartmouth students to pass down musical tradition carries emotional, almost sacred, weight. Once the paper is converted into thousands of projected pixels, some of that is lost. This phenomenon is not unique to music; think about how people prefer to discuss important issues in-person rather than over text or email. As humans, we are innately aware of the intangible gravity that is sometimes amiss when we enter a digital realm.
I would like to thank Professor William Cheng and Professor Alison Martin for advising this work. I would also like to thank Laura Braunstein and her team at Digital by Dartmouth Library (DxDL) for their guidance throughout the digitization process. Finally, special thanks to Memory Apata, Professor Richard Beaudoin, Peter Carini, Jay Satterfield, the Rauner staff, and Scout Noffke for their help throughout this process. Funding for this work was also provided through the Erich Kunzel Class of 1957 Fund.
Digital Content Warning:
A Statement on Potentially Harmful Content adapted from statements from the Digital Public Library of America and Digital by Dartmouth Library (DxDL):
This project is ultimately meant to serve two purposes: 1) it should be a reference point for students and scholars to access Dartmouth music sources that were previously inaccessible or difficult to access and 2) it should allow the public to engage with sources of music that have been forgotten. The sources contained here span several decades of history, and items in this project are a product of their time. Some items may be harmful or difficult to view because they are racist, sexist, ableist, homophobic, transphobic, classist, or contain otherwise offensive or hateful views and opinions. This project recognizes that making these sources widely available could potentially lead to their use in harmful ways. However, it also makes these sources open to historical critique. This project never endorses or agrees with the perspectives represented in these materials, but does act as a critical eye turned on the past to create insights that develop avenues for social change.
The process of contextualizing harmful materials is necessarily iterative, collaborative, and aspirational. This project is but one step in this process.
It is important to note that my research on Dartmouth’s musical history stems from centuries of indigenous mistreatment, suffering, and violence. I want to acknowledge the severe cost that the native people of the Mohegan tribe have faced during the construction of Dartmouth music, a cost that I now have the fortunate position of examining. This project also benefits from Abenaki land which was forcefully taken away from the indigenous people of this area.
Next: A Vignette of Dartmouth Music