Macalester College

Spring 2004


Telling Labor's Story Through Music


Peter Rachleff

History 194-05


Robert Peterson

Music 194-03


     This is a cross-listed, interdisciplinary course, linking History and Music.  Students can register through either discipline for credit.  Students need no previous experience in either discipline to take this course.  It is intended to offer students an in-depth exposure to both disciplines, as well as an opportunity to consider their intersection.  Our focus will be to explore the use of music by working people and the labor movement as a way to process and comment upon their experiences at work, in communities, and in struggles, as a way to express their values and views, and as a way to tell their stories to others in order to elicit understanding, empathy, and solidarity.  


     This course will meet twice weekly for lectures and discussions, for which you will be expected to complete reading and/or listening assignments and come to class prepared to participate.  Your participation in class will be an important factor in your final grade. There will also be a variety of writing assignments which will ask you to reflect on the readings, recordings, lectures, and discussions, and to formulate your own arguments and conclusions about the material.  You will be expected to turn in a final journal which includes brief weekly entries and a reflective final set of comments.  There will be no formal examinations.


     This course will also work towards a "concertized production" of a newly written labor musical, "Forgotten: The Murder at the Ford Rouge Plant".  Performances will take place on April 29 at United Autoworkers Union Local 879's hall on Ford Parkway and on April 30 in the Macalester Concert Hall.  All students in the class will be expected to contribute to this production, as performers, stagehands, researchers, or producers of lobby displays and educational materials.  Rehearsals will be Sunday evenings and some Thursday evenings.  For some of you, this will add to the time you must devote to this course.  We are expecting the composer, Steve Jones, to spend some time with us during the semester and to attend the actual performance.  Other composers and performers of labor music will join us at different times.  We will be collaborating with members of UAW Local 879, who will be helping us to understand the work, lives, and issues of auto workers today.  We hope that this will include tours of the Ford plant and attendance at union meetings.  It is important that we hold up our end of this relationship by treating our collaborators with respect and being responsible in our dealings with them.


     We want to thank the Macalester Center for Scholarship and Teaching for their support of this project.  We see this as a very special opportunity to learn from each other, from you, and from our community collaborators, as well as, ultimately, to produce something beautiful, provocative, and engaging.