Reading lists, conversations, and other texts
What do you collect?
A Syllabus by Marshall Trammell (Music Research Strategies)
This syllabus by Marshall Trammell (Music Research Strategies) asks you to examine what items you collect and how you catalogue them, so as to develop a better understanding of the index or logic you use while developing a collection. What do you collect? reflects on Marshall Trammell's ongoing interest in political aesthetic theory, data creation, mapping, and collective music-and-artmaking in order to step out of the domain of traditional cultural institutions, relocating the act of co-production back in the community. These readings, videos, and activities are designed to be realized individually or collectively.

Week 1: Indexical Moment/um

What do you collect? How do you catalogue your collection? What have you collected during the recent, current and multiple crises?

Read (click on the links to access texts):

Foreword to Chela Sandoval's Methodology of the Oppressed (2000)
by Angela Y. Davis

"Chapter 2: US Third World Feminism: Differential Social Movement I," in Methodology of the Oppressed (2000)
by Chela Sandoval

View (click on the link to view):

Introduction to Chela Sandoval.

Activity (to be done individually):

- Gather no less than 46 items in your possession to create a collection organized as a catalogue, with an index. Choose a logic to organize your catalogue, such as logistics (date, time, location, media) or concept, significance, etc. Someone with little or no knowledge of the collection should be able to ascertain the meaning of the catalogue.
- Use words to describe the images thoroughly.
- Use words to describe the use or purpose of each image.
- Describe the purpose of your collection, if one emerges.

Week 2: Narratives of Fugitivity

"Tactical media" is the use of artistic tools in provocative, activist roles. Tactical media is a popular and political education tool often employed across the political spectrum to transform preexisting forms of culture/art into a vehicle for sending a new and polarized message.

For example, from 1680 to 1860, during the period known for chattel slavery and industrial plantation economy in North America, the Underground Railroad (UGRR) was the designation for the guerrilla movement of African peoples, Native cooperators, and white, settler, colonialist accomplices and allies. Narratives of fugitivity written by self-emancipated persons tell tales of life-threatening convivial adventures of improvisation as virtue.

Negro Spirituals and UGRR quilt block patterns are examples of tactical media. Respectively, the music and sewing patterns in quilts were art forms in everyday life that were transformed into creative and clandestine forms of popular education used to transmit secret messages to enslaved persons and fugitives from plantations and persecution. The North Star code is mythologized today as a community informatic referencing the “Drinking Gourd” song in the Negro Spirituals canon and the popular education device representing the northward path out of the South.

The Bear’s Paw pattern, turned code, was used to mark the homes of accomplices as well as to instruct fugitives to follow animals in the wilderness for signs to shelter and food, among other uses.

Activity (to be done individually):

- Conduct an internet image search for “UGRR quilt block codes, patterns” to uncover examples of quilt block patterns in line drawings and colors, with meanings connected to each image in the code array. You will find images that reference intimate family quilts, featuring crests and sewn narratives, as well as quilted images purportedly used for insurgencies against the law of colonial North America. Searching further, you may also find the Lakota Star quilt that pre-dates colonial North America and gives insight to a rich and ancient practice of continental quilting history.
- Identify and describe any tactical media already within your catalogue. Describe its purpose.


Week 3: Warrior Ethos

The Warrior Ethos develops within an ecology of Oppositional Consciousness (Chela Sandoval), or a mode of "ideology-praxis," rooted in the experiences of US Third World that resists the binary categories of identity in favor of a fluidity that moves between them.

Activity (to be done individually):

- Record yourself reading of the entirety of the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
- For each of the 46 Articles, attribute an item or object or representation documented in a catalogue.
- Listen to the recording and make notes as to when you stopped or broke the reading flow. Note any mispronounced words or occasions when you misspoke or got lost. Note the phrases and words you emphasized in relation to the text.

Week 4: Warrior Ecologies

In 1680, a collective of Pueblo Indians near Santa Fe, New Mexico, successfully organized far-off groups to come together to defeat the occupying colonial Spanish Army, who had enslaved, violated, and subjugated the local population of Native inhabitants to the land.

The Pueblo leader Popay organized the groups by deploying several pairs of runners across the Pueblo armed with yucca cords (braided fiber made from yucca, a desert plant). The runners returned with knots in those cords, which represented the numbers of bands of supporters who pledged their participation on the given day.

To highlight the importance of revisiting this historical narrative, I have contributed the image above to a repository of new UGRR codes reimagined for today’s context in my work.

Activity (to be done collectively):

- Gather a group to record a reading of the entirety of the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, including the Resolution itself.
- Make note of observations upon reviewing the recording.
- Collectively create a glossary of terms used in the document and discussion.

Week 5: Simultaneous Multi-Dimensionality

The image above is called Simultaneous Multi-Dimensionality. It is a musicology term developed from African percussion ensemble dynamics. Imagine the lead drummers in the center, and accompanying circular, narrative, rhythmic cycles that support the performance.

As tactical media, the appropriated image now signifies elements of mutual aid and accomplice-ship and exists as a new UGRR code in my work. As a Creative Musician, I use this image as an emblem for the methodology of Improvisers in performance; and as a citizen, I use it as an emblem of solidarity beyond the limits of the bandstand.

Activity (to be done individually):

- Based on similarities and differences between your notes and those of the group, ascribe new meanings to your original collection. In other words, reconsider the objects or items in your original collection as being representative of the notes and glossary of terms developed in the previous activity.
- Arrange your groupings of images into a sequence or narrative statement.
- Record yourself using musical instruments (including the voice, stomping feet, etc), regardless of musical talent, to make sense of the images with sound.
- Note the development of a lexicon built from musical techniques representing objects in the collection.


Week 6: Performing Political Education

Performing Political Education is my term for the transmission of meaning using the virtues and technologies of Critical Improvised Music, Organizational Psychology, and Organizational Improvisation Studies. These next sections should be performed for audio-visual documentation.

Activity (to be done collectively):

- Gather a group to collectively learn the new graphic score of images affixed to the 46 Articles of the UN DRIP. Transformed into composers and musicians, record the score by re/interpreting the image-sounds in your collection.
- Each member of the group simultaneously addresses the five descriptions below for two minutes (note: since everyone will speak at the same time, the musicians will speak over each other as they describe their performances).

Descriptions of their bodies in performance
Descriptions of mental images, shapes or patterns they saw during the performance
Descriptions of emotional states felt during the performance
Descriptions objects or movement in the room during the performance
Descriptions of the entirety of the performance

- Eat a meal together.


Week 7: Music Research Strategies

Activity (to be done collectively):

- Review the documentation and transcribe the sounds, words, and movements. Chart the duration of the event. List the contributors, instruments, types of sounds, the meaning behind movements, facial expressions and gestures, as well as all possible and readily available relevant information and when it occurred.
- Create a map in such a way that a fourth grader could understand it.
- Present the map to the group over a meal.