Fall Presentations on Sacred Harp and Digital Publishing Platforms

This fall I’m presenting internationally on Sacred Harp singings geography, history, racial politics, and contemporary relationship to the past. I’m also speaking on Southern Spacess newly redesigned Drupal-based website and on Readux, Emory’s new platform for reading and annotating digitized books and publishing digital critical editions.

Jesse P. Karlsberg introduces Sacred Harp's history at the Festival Oudiemuziek Utrecht, in the Netherlands, August 30, 2015.
Jesse P. Karlsberg introduces Sacred Harp’s history at the Festival Oudemuziek Utrecht, in the Netherlands, August 30, 2015.

In late August I traveled to Utrecht, in the Netherlands, to give a pair of presentations on Sacred Harp’s history and the relationship of contemporary singers to that past. My talk “Resonance and Reinvention: Sounding Historical Practice in Sacred Harp’s Global Twenty-First Century” at the Stichting voor Muziekhistorische Uitvoeringspraktijk [Foundation for Historical Musical Performance Practice] described frames of folk and early music applied to Sacred Harp singing have affected contemporary singers’ and performing ensembles’ conceptions of the style’s aesthetics. This symposium is held each year in conjunction with the Festival Oudemuziek Utrecht, a large international early music festival. The festival this year featured a Sacred Harp singing school taught by Cath Tyler of Newcastle, United Kingdom, and an all-day singing, the first in the Netherlands. In addition to participating in the singing, I gave a short talk on Sacred Harp’s history and geography to complement Cath’s singing school.

Festival organizers invited black and white groups of Sacred Harp singers to sing together at the 1970 Smithsonian Festival of American Folklife in Washington, DC. Photograph by Joe Dan Boyd, courtesy of the Alabama Council for Traditional Arts.
Festival organizers invited black and white groups of Sacred Harp singers to sing together at the 1970 Smithsonian Festival of American Folklife in Washington, DC. Photograph by Joe Dan Boyd, courtesy of the Alabama Council for Traditional Arts.

In October and November I’ll give two additional talks on Sacred Harp’s history, here centered on interactions between folklorists and Sacred Harp singers in the field and at folk festivals. In “Separate but Equal?: Civil Rights on Stage at Sacred Harp Folk Festival Performances, 1964–1970” at the American Studies Association in Toronto, Canada, part of a session I organized on “Race and Resistance in the Folklorization and Reappropriation of Musical Cultures of Struggle,” I’ll describe how folk festival organizers drew on ideas about the civil rights and folk music movements when deciding how to program Sacred Harp singers at the 1964 Newport Folk Festival and the 1970 Smithsonian Festival of American Folklife, and will speak about how these concerns differed from singers’ own priorities. Later, at the Alabama Folklife Association’s Fall into Folklife symposium, I’ll speak about Alan Lomax’s relationship to Sacred Harp singing, focusing on the recordings that emerged from his visit to 1959 United Sacred Harp Musical Association in Fyffe, Alabama, and the encounter’s influence on Sacred Harp singing ever since.

Long Cane Baptist Church, a possible site of the 1845 first Sacred Harp convention, features a balcony in which enslaved African Americans sat after entering the church through a separate, then-outdoor staircase.
Long Cane Baptist Church in LaGrange, Georgia, a possible site of the 1845 first Sacred Harp convention, features a balcony in which enslaved African Americans sat after entering the church through a separate, then-outdoor staircase.

One final talk on Sacred Harp singing, at the American Academy of Religion meeting in Atlanta, Georgia, illuminates a little-told chapter of Sacred Harp’s racial history. In “The Black in ‘White Spirituals,'” I detail the racial politics and musical landscape of the nineteenth-century West Georgia setting in which the Sacred Harp’s compilers lived and worked. I argue that revival choruses, the song form most characteristic of the editions of The Sacred Harp edited in this region, emerged from the mixed-race religious context of early nineteenth century camp meetings, and may have reached the ears of Sacred Harp contributors sung by enslaved African Americans.

Home page of the redesigned Southern Spaces site. Screen capture courtesy of Southern Spaces.
Home page of the redesigned Southern Spaces site. Screen capture courtesy of Southern Spaces.

I’ll also give three presentations this fall on new digital platforms I’ve helped develop for open access journal and scholarly edition publishing. In presentations at the Digital Library Federation in Vancouver, Canada (with Sarah Melton), and at Drupalcamp Atlanta (with Daniel Hansen), I’ll detail the Drupal 7–based platform for scholarly journal publishing developed for Southern Spaces in conjunction with Sevaa Group, Inc., a project I oversaw as the journal’s managing editor. I’ll also speak at Emory University’s Currents in Research lecture series on the Readux platform’s value for editing and publishing annotated facsimile digital scholarly editions.

Announcing Southern Spaces’s New Mobile-friendly Design

Home page of the redesigned Southern Spaces site. Screen capture courtesy of Southern Spaces.
Home page of the redesigned Southern Spaces site. Screen capture courtesy of Southern Spaces.

In August Southern Spaces, the open access peer-reviewed journal for which I serve as managing editor, launched a new redesigned site. As I described in a blog post announcing the launch the “new design emphasizes visual clarity, readability, richer multimedia, and a mobile-friendly responsive layout [and] introduces a dynamic, open source journal publishing platform” the journal will make available as a Drupal 7 distribution this fall. (( Jesse P. Karlsberg, “Renewing Multimedia Scholarly Publishing: A Streamlined and Mobile-Friendly Design for Southern Spaces,” Southern Spaces Blog, August 19, 2015, https://southernspaces.org/2015/renewing-multimedia-scholarly-publishing-streamlined-and-mobile-friendly-design-southern-spaces. ))

The launch of the new site also marks the end of my tenure on the journal’s graduate student staff after two years as managing editor and two additional years in other positions. As I look forward to a new position at Emory’s Center for Digital Scholarship this fall I am also transitioning into a newly created role as the journal’s consulting editor. As consulting editor I will work with the journal’s senior editor, editorial board, and new managing editor Meredith Doster, contributing to discussions on strategy and consulting on the development and distribution of our publishing platform.

Open Access Interview with Emory Libraries

Screen Shot 2014-10-21 at 4.52.08 PM
Chatting Open Access on the Robert W. Woodruff Library’s blog.

I recently sat down for an interview with Emory’s Bethany C. Nash about open access publishing from my perspective as a graduate student. The Robert W. Woodruff Library’s blog has just published the interview in conjunction with Open Access Week 2014. (( Emory’s scholarly communications blog has also published the conversation. )) In it, I talk about open access as a value in scholarly publishing, power and privilege in relationship to access to scholarship, the challenges of publishing open access as a graduate student, and how Southern Spaces—the journal I manage—benefits from publishing open access.

Recent Bulletins on the Southern Spaces Blog

I’ve written two recent posts for the Southern Spaces Blog’s Bulletin compiling news “from in and around the U.S. South.” For the October 18 issue of The Bulletin, I reported on activism surrounding the fortieth anniversary of the 1972 Clean Water Act and decisions by southern states to opt out of Medicaid expansion under the new health care law. In the November 15 issue of The Bulletin, Alan Pike and I surveyed post-election “visualiz[ations of] the geography of political power,” focusing on the historical roots of urban/suburban political divides in metropolitan areas in the interior and rhetoric about the persistance of a “solid South” in presidential politics.

Place, Pluralism, and Shape-Note Singing

Harmony Primitive Baptist Church, Calhoun, Georgia. Photograph by Judy Mincey, June 4, 2012.
Harmony Primitive Baptist Church, Calhoun, Georgia. Photograph by Judy Mincey, June 4, 2012.

On Saturday, May 5, I attended a Sacred Harp singing at Harmony Primitive Baptist Church in Calhoun, Georgia. The singing was organized by Judy Mincey to coincide with the stop in Calhoun of “Georgia Harmonies: Celebrating Georgia Roots Music,” a traveling exhibition of the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum on Mainstreet program. One of a number of events associated with the exhibition, the singing attracted a dozen white Sacred Harp singers, perhaps thirty listeners, and three members of a black shape-note singing community who also had a special singing included in the event calendar.

I write about this encounter between white and black shape-note singers, the exchange it promoted, and the role that the exhibition’s focus on the connections between music and place played in making the connection possible in a new post on the Southern Spaces blog titled “Place and Pluralism: The ‘Georgia Harmonies’ Traveling Exhibition.” The post also contains three recordings of mine from a black shape-note singing held in Marietta the day after the singing in Calhoun that four other white Sacred Harp singers and I attended.

In addition to my post, new content on the Southern Spaces blog also includes:

Post on FSA/OWI Color Photos on the Southern Spaces Blog

My first post for the new Southern Spaces blog, on our use of color photos from the Library of Congress’ Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information collection as banner images, is online. These photographs from the 1930s and 1940s depict rural farming practices, social life in towns, factories and their environmental effects, and aspects of World War II mobilization.

Other recent content on the Southern Spaces blog includes:

Essay on Sacred Harp Singing in Ireland in Southern Spaces

My essay, “Ireland’s First Sacred Harp Convention: ‘To Meet To Part No More,'” was just published on the online, peer-reviewed journal Southern Spaces. In the essay I detail how the first Ireland Sacred Harp Convention served as a revelatory experience and a catalyst of reciprocal travel among Sacred Harp singers from across Europe and the United States. Alongside its written component, the essay includes eight videos of singers leading at the convention.

Blogging as Scholarly Publishing?

There’s an interesting conversation on the HASTAC blog about the merits of blogging as a form of scholarly publishing. Needless to say, while many academics blog on their own web sites and contribute to other blogs, blogging is not generally considered a form of scholarship on par with books, journal articles, and conference presentations. As online journals proliferate and publishers of such journals experiment with the form of scholarly publishing, why do blogs lack prestige?

My contention in a recent comment is that the lack of peer review in almost all personal (and most group) blogging contexts is a major reason for this difference. Some authors have experimented with subjecting blog posts to peer review. In certain cases, these experiments have productively challenged the nature of peer review, embracing forms of post-publication peer review, for example.

I would argue that in many cases conventional peer review is undesirable for blogs. Blogs facilitate:

  • Immediate (or at least rapid) publication, which enables authors to respond quickly to timely events,
  • Conversation among authors of different blogs and through commenting, through which scholarly conversation can move along at a much quicker pace than through peer reviewed journal articles, and
  • Reflexive writing, thoughts on process, multimedia, and other forms of thoughtful, academically interesting writing that for various reasons are unlikely to find their way into a number of conventionally peer reviewed publication forums.

This capacity to engage in conversation and respond to current events is one reason Southern Spaces, the multimedia, online, peer reviewed journal at which I am an Editorial Associate, is considering launching a blog in the next couple of months to supplement its conventionally peer reviewed publications. A blog would provide the journal’s staff with a platform for participating in conversations about digital publishing and the U. S. South while also providing our authors with a venue to weigh in on timely current events.

The journal will need to determine what kind of pre-publication review posts will undergo. Ernesto Priego suggests that certain review processes involving a community of non-blind reviewers and blogging tools may be superior to conventional peer review in many respects and “empower authors to become active participants in the publication and promotion of their own articles” in his reply to my comment over at HASTAC.

I am planning to use this blog to publish a short piece to accompany a forthcoming publication. While the conventional peer review process at the journal to which I submitted my piece helped refine and shorten my essay, and rendered it more appropriate for the journal’s audience, this shortening left me wishing for a venue to publish some left out quotes and some writing on my own relationship to the events described in the piece. It is entirely possible that such forms of writing might be welcome in other conventionally peer reviewed spaces. However, I imagine that regardless of the forum, there is often some complementary material that an author may wish to make public and accessible, yet that winds up excluded from a given publication. I am willing to sacrifice the academic credit that might come from the imposition of peer review for the flexibility that I have in this publishing space.

What is emerging in the conversation on HASTAC referenced above is that certain forms of review may preserve the advantages of a blog while improving its scholarship. As online journals slowly proliferate and gain legitimacy, amid continuing exploration of what forms such journals can take, blogging should be thrown into the mix. By doing so, scholars and online journal publishers might also helpfully reconsider the form peer review takes in these spaces.

2011–12 HASTAC Scholars Program

I’m happy to report that I’ve been selected as a HASTAC Scholar for 2011–12, joining six other Emory University graduate students (including three others from the ILA).
As I work this year on the digitization and presentation of a selection of books in the English and American Hymnody and Psalmody Collection at the Pitts Theology Library I am eager to interact with others in the HASTAC community interested in the representation of printed texts, musical notation, and other digitized objects online and interfaces for expressing scholarship in relation to such digital objects. Presenting such work digitally has the potential to engage a general public (of Sacred Harp singers in my case) as well as a scholarly audience. I’m hopeful that sharing this work may catalyze collaborations around the comparison and annotation of digitized objects.

In addition to participating in a conversation related to my scholarship, as an Editorial Associate with the interdisciplinary online journal Southern Spaces, I’m looking forward to sharing my experience implementing new web technologies for a multimedia digital academic journal. I’m also excited to be able to offer occasional updates on digital scholarship at Emory, where our new Digital Scholarship Commons (DiSC) is in its first year.