Selection: Another Man Done Gone
Recorded: Livingston, Alabama 1940
Performers: Vera Hall
Activity I: Acquainting ourselves with the song
- Listen to the song, giving students guided listening questions to discuss afterwards such as, “What do you think this song is about? Who is the singer? Where do you think it comes from, and why?”
- Listen to the song again, asking students to try to clap a steady beat (Hint: there is no steady beat throughout. This is a chance to introduce students to beat variance for solo performance in a concrete way.) Discuss why the beat might not be steady here.
- Listen again, asking students try humming along to the melody and/or using their bodies to map the melody (e.g., move their hand through space to show things like melodic contour, phrasing, tempo, intensity, etc.) Follow up by asking if the song has sections and if the melody was/is mostly the same or different for those section.
- Divide students into 5 groups. Ask each group to listen for their corresponding verse lyrics. (Hint: Every group except Group 1 has the same line that repeats 4 times to the same melody, with slight ornamental difference. Group 1 has a second line. Provide support for them as needed.) Discuss the story and progression of the lyrics, giving groups an opportunity to lead their section’s discussion (for older grades).
- Group 1: Another man done gone… from the county farm
- Group 2: I didn’t know his name…
- Group 3: He had a long chain on…
- Group 4: He killed another man…
- Group 5: I’m gonna walk your log…
- Listen to the recording and ask each group to sing their section as it happens. Teacher can assist as necessary (especially Group 1 who has different lyrics).
- Listen to recording and ask all students to sing the whole song as they can.
Activity II: Cultural and Historical Significance
- Contextualize the performance of this song by discussing Vera Hall, the Lomaxes, and an African-American South post-Civil war to 1940s. Draw on students’ previous knowledge of African-American musical traditions (work songs, laments, spirituals). Discuss the continuation of racial oppression post-slavery and post-civil war by means of the prison industrial complex and chain gangs and its musicalization.
- Consider the purpose of this song. Discuss the use of repetition (for memory aid, to highlight melodic nuance, for possible call and response, etc.), this song as a tool for consciousness raising and oral history, representations of life experience, etc. Consider as well the roles of women as nurturers, mothers, teachers, and often times the keepers of stories for a community.
- Investigate the ways this song has been transmitted and where it has gone since this original recording. Consider especially the ways it was revived during the mid-20th century by Odetta and Johnny Cash, reinterpreted by Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show in “Marie Lavaux” (to somewhat damaging effect), etc.
- Explore ethical questions about what can and should be done with this song today and by whom those things can be done. Discuss questions of ownership, appropriation, reparations, and possible links to ideas of repatriation as they relate to an African-American musical South.
- Connect to other songs on the Global Jukebox from the same region, such as “Rosie” and “Run Old Jeremiah.”
Five Significant Traits of Cantometrics:
- Melodic Shape (Mostly Descending, across verse and individual phrases)
- Rubato (Vocal Rubato, especially at the ends and beginnings of verses)
- Embellishment (Considerable embellishment), especially in the middle two phrases of each verse)
- Glissando (glissando is prominent, especially at the beginnings and endings of phrases)
- Vocal social organization (Solo singer. Why might this be? Would it have always been the case?)
Lesson Plan by Jack Flesher