Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Ballads: A story in a song

ballad (noun)
  1. a simple narrative poem of folk origin, composed in short stanzas and adapted for singing.
Simon and Garfunkel
One of the most famous types of poetry during the Middle Ages was the ballad. In a nutshell, ballads are songs that tell stories. In our textbook, "Sir Patrick Spens", "Get up and Bar the Door," "The Twa Corbies," and "Barbara Allen" are all great examples of Medieval ballads. However, the tradition of telling stories through songs has continued through to this day, even regaining its popularity through the works of Simon and Garfunkel, Johnny Cash, and, even more recently, Ben Folds, one of my personal favorite musicians. His song, "Fred Jones, Part II," tells a tale of a man whose life seems to be coming to a close while the rest of the world moves on.

I made that video myself, by the way. I picked a song that was a modern-day ballad—a song that tells a story—and I created an audio slideshow that featured my song lyrics with the music synced up behind it. Pretty cool, huh? Well, British Literature students will be doing the same thing for their Ballads Project.
  1. Pick the right song. A ballad is specifically a song that tells a story, so the song you select must have a definitive plot. It's not good enough to say "TEACH-AH, I'M GOING TO PICK BABY BY JUSTIN BIEBER! OMGZ HE'S SOOOO CUTE!" That song is not appropriate because it doesn't tell a story, so picking it will automatically affect your grade negatively.

    A surprising number of students get this part of the assignment wrong, so to help you out, I'll be requiring that, on the blog post where you eventually add your video, you provide me details of the song's plot, including:

    • exposition (Who?, What?, Where?, and When?)
    • 3 instances of rising action
    • the story's climax
    • dénouement Not necessary—not included in most songs.
  2. Make the video. To make the video, you have the choice of using your own software (recommended: iMovie for Mac or Windows Movie Maker for PC) on your own computer or you can use the Audio SlideShow software on the school computers. This will require that you obtain MP3 files of the song you pick and bring it (on a Flash Drive) to the computer you're making the file from.
  3. Uploading to YouTube, copyright-friendly. Once you've created the video, you will upload it to  and then, ultimately, embed it into your blog. However, when you're uploading it, you'll need to make sure you add the copyright information and a sentence expressing that you're uploading it for educational purposes. For example, the copyright information for mine looked like this:
    Copyright 2001, Sony Music. Posted on YouTube via Fair Use for educational purposes.
    If you do NOT put this information in, YouTube will block your song, and we won't hear it. If this happens, it will be your responsibility—your grade will suffer, so make sure that this is both your own work and actually listen-able.
  4. Embed the video. Once you've uploaded the video, go to its site and click Share. When the little screen pops down, click Embed and copy the HTML code that appears.

    Now go to your blog and create a New Post. The top part of your post should include the 3 elements from Step 1; below here, you'll add in the HTML that you copied from YouTube. Make sure you click on the Edit HTML tab at the top of the post composition body and then paste in the code. It should look something like this:
    <iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="295" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/gx3sWnOchBU?fs=1" width="480"></iframe>
    When you're done, you can publish the post.
Ok, so that's about it. Give it a shot, and please post if you have any problems with these instructions!

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