So, next up we have Jannie Dresser, who will
be here to teach The Great Ballad Tradition. Welcome, Jannie. Thank you, Susan. I want to give a
shout out of thanks to Susan and the OLLI Berkeley staff and volunteers who
keep this going, it’s a great honor to work with them in classes that I’ve
proposed, and so many of what I’ve heard today, so many of the descriptions of
classes involve communication and connection. I think that’s really a theme
that OLLI is promoting. So, I teach a class called Ballads: Stories in Poems and
Poems in Songs. About two years ago, Bob Dylan received the Nobel Prize for
Literature and a lot of people were a little bit miffed that he was a
songwriter and not a poet, per se, but what I felt with the Academy in choosing
Bob Dylan, they were also acknowledging a long-standing, sometimes overlooked,
tradition of oral literature that goes back to the beginnings of poetry and
beginnings of writing. So, it was not just Bob receiving that Nobel Prize, but
generations and writers and singers who have promoted stories in poems and poems
in songs. A ballad is basically a poem that is telling a story and written in a
certain formula structure, and in songs many poems have been set to music, and
many songs tell stories the way that the ballad tradition literature like The
Rime of the Ancient Mariner or Casey at the Bat tell stories. So this class is
really going to trace the roots of Ballad tradition to get an understanding
of what’s influenced what we know as popular song. We will go back to the
Middle Ages and go through the broadside tradition, when poems were sung
to tell the news of the day between one village and another. I’ll
be looking at broken token songs, ghostly ballads where you have lovers speaking
from the grave, shipwrecks, and men with big hammers. So, we’ll be covering a lot
of material, we’ll look at some of the written poems, things like The Cremation
of Sam McGee, we’ll be looking at what happened in Appalachia, where you had
collectors discovering songs that were in English language forms that were even
older than the song form and stories that were being sung in England. They
went back to Elizabethan tradition in Appalachia, and those were recovered by
a great tradition of song collectors. So we’ll look at that as well. And then
we’re gonna bring it up to date with what happens when you have essentially
an Anglo-Celtic tradition in America meeting African traditions and bursting
out with ballads in blues form, things like Frankie and Johnny. We have, of
course, our modern balladeers, including Bob Dylan, tangled up in blue,
and many, many other stories in song that Bob Dylan features. We’ll look at Lead
Belly, we’ll look at Bruce Springsteen, of course, one of our great storytellers in
song, and end up with some some contemporaries, like Steve Earle and Mary
Chapin Carpenter. So it’s gonna be a big bop around song tradition, we’ll be
listening to a lot of music in class, and telling a lot of stories, and I hope
you’ll join me. It’ll be a lot of fun. Thank you. Jannie, thank you.