Story Preservation Initiative®

Preserving the Stories of Our Lives by capturing the voices, words, and meanderings of artists, scientists, writers, poets, musicians, and eyewitnesses to history. Listen, learn, and be amazed!

The story of New England is written in stone

 

Stonewalls crisscross our New Hampshire property, which at one time was a sheep farm.

 

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The story begins with merino sheep, prized for fine wool, developed in Portugal and kept within its borders by the nobility there.

When Napoleon conquered Portugal in 1809, that restriction was lifted and the American ambassador imported 4,000 of the animals to his Vermont farm in 1810.

After the War of 1812, the United States imposed heavy tariffs on British goods—including textiles—and “sheep fever” took hold in New England. The area’s sheep population grew rapidly: in 1840 it reached a peak of 1.7 million in Vermont alone, and similar explosions happened elsewhere. Hundreds of thousands of acres were cleared for sheep pasture as farmers took advantage of this burgeoning market for domestic textiles. By 1840, about 75 percent of our region’s land was in agriculture, mostly pasture.

All of these fields had to be enclosed to keep the sheep from overrunning nearby cropland. At first, New England farmers used stumps and brush from cleared land to make fences. Later, these were replaced with zigzag split-rail fencing. Eventually, though, as timber became scarce, farmers used the next material at hand: stone.

Stone fences, as they were called, soon crisscrossed the landscape, keeping sheep in the pastures and out of crops.

No official inventories were ever taken, but an 1872 U.S. Department of Agriculture report on fences suggested that in 1875 some 240,000 miles of stonewalls crisscrossed New England. Vermont writer Castle Freeman Jr. wrote more than a century later, “… if a stone wall a fraction as long as the walls of Vermont alone had been built by the order of some old king or emperor, it would be one of the wonders of the world.”

To find out more about the New England landscape, you might want to listen to Tom Wessels oral history, included in our collection (found at: http://storypreservation.wordpress.com/2013/11/12/tom-wessels-the-forested-landscape/ ) or read his book Reading the Forested Landscape, de rigueur in classrooms across America.

 

Info for this post was taken from numerous sources.

Gutzon Borglum  The Danish-American sculptor responsible for creating Mt. Rushmore.

GB & LB in cable car

 

As part of Story Preservation’s Preserving a Legacy series, we will be meeting with and recording Gutzon Borglum’s granddaughter, Robin Borglum Carter later this month.

 

From pbs.org:

John Gutzon de la Mothe Borglum liked to tinker with his own legend, subtracting a few years from his age, changing the story of his parentage. The best archival research has revealed that he was born in 1867 to one of the wives of a Danish Mormon bigamist. When his father decided to conform to societal norms that were pressing westward with the pioneers, he abandoned Gutzon’s mother, and remained married to his first wife, her sister.

In 1884, when Gutzon was sixteen, the family moved to Los Angeles. His father, unhappy in California, soon returned to Nebraska, but Gutzon stayed behind. He studied art and met Elizabeth Jaynes Putnam, a painter and divorcee eighteen years his senior. Lisa Putnam became a teacher and mentor to Gutzon, helping manage his career and advising his education. They were married in 1889. While in California, Gutzon painted a portrait of General John C. Fremont and learned the value of having a wealthy and socially connected patron. Although the general died a few years after sitting for his painting, his widow provided Borglum with contacts to men such as Leland Stanford and Theodore Roosevelt.

The Borglums traveled to Paris to work and study, and there Gutzon met sculptor Auguste Rodin. As much as he admired Rodin, more than one historian has suggested that the reason Gutzon gave up painting was to compete with his brother Solon, who had been making his name as a sculptor. Gutzon’s talent was immediately apparent and he found a few commissions (certainly the fact that Solon had already associated the name Borglum with fine sculpture didn’t hurt). At the same time, Gutzon’s marriage was falling apart. He left Paris alone in 1901 and aboard ship met Mary Montgomery, an American who had just completed her doctorate at the University of Berlin. He and Mary wed as soon as Lisa granted him a divorce. They bought a house and farm in Connecticut and named it “Borgland.”

Borglum’s major work back in America included a bust of Abraham Lincoln, which he was able to exhibit in Theodore Roosevelt’s White House. The Lincoln portrait and other much admired works gave Borglum a national reputation, and he was invited by Helen Plane of the United Daughters of the Confederacy to carve a bust of Robert E. Lee on Stone Mountain in Georgia. Borglum’s conception was bigger than Plane’s and Stone Mountain became his first mountain carving project, and where Borglum developed some of the techniques that would later be used on Rushmore.

While at Stone Mountain, Borglum became associated with the newly reborn Ku Klux Klan. Whether this accorded with a racist world view, or if it was simply one way to bond with some of his patrons on the Stone Mountain project, is unclear. Frankly, Borglum had little time for anyone, white or black, who was not a Congressman or millionaire, or happened to be in his way. There is no indication, for example, that he treated his long-suffering black chauffeur Charlie Johnson any differently than any white employee — he owed him back pay just like everyone else. Stone Mountain was not finished by Borglum, but it inspired his next job: Mount Rushmore.

When South Dakota state historian Doane Robinson read about Stone Mountain, he invited Borglum out to the Black Hills of South Dakota to create a monument there. Borglum, perhaps realizing that Stone Mountain had only regional support, immediately suggested a national subject for Rushmore: Presidents George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.  Theodore Roosevelt and Thomas Jefferson were added to the program soon afterward.

 

gb EARLY RUSHMORE MODEL

 

Borglum had met and campaigned for Roosevelt, and by invoking that president’s acquisition of the Panama Canal and Jefferson’s Louisiana Purchase, the Rushmore monument became a story of the expansion of the United States, the embodiment of Manifest Destiny.

Work on the mountain was not constantly supervised by Borglum. When he was at Rushmore, Borglum would be climbing all over the mountain and all over the hills, to determine the best angle for each feature, and advising the carvers on how to create the nuanced details that might not even be visible from below. But after creating the models, siting the sculpture, and developing methods for transferring the image to the mountain and carving the rock, there were long periods during which Borglum’s presence was not required. He would often leave his assistants, including his son Lincoln, to supervise the work and then travel. He would go to Washington, D.C. to lobby for more money, and he also traveled around the world, finding and completing other commissions, sculpting a Thomas Paine for Paris and a Woodrow Wilson for Poland, and meeting politicians and celebrities such as Helen Keller. (Helping her feel pieces by his old friend Rodin, he recalled her comment: “Meeting you is like a visit from the gods.” He sometimes felt the same way about himself, writing in his journal: “I must see, think, feel and draw in Thor’s dimension.”) When he returned to the Dakotas, a rock might have been roughly blasted into an egg shape and he would be back to looking over every detail.

Borglum’s stubborn insistence on having things done his way led to numerous confrontations with John Boland, who chaired the executive committee of the Mount Rushmore Commission. His temper and perfectionism caused him to fire his best workmen (who then had to be hired back by Borglum’s son Lincoln). Borglum’s ambition and hubris motivated him to recreate a landscape in his image (a tableau of prominent white men) rather than for the Native Americans who held the Black Hills sacred. Borglum was stubborn, insistent, temperamental, perfectionist, high-reaching, and proud — but these were also the characteristics that were required to carve a mountain. Big, brash, almost larger than life, only a man like Gutzon Borglum could have conceived of and created the monument on Mount Rushmore.

On March 6, 1941, Borglum died, following complications after surgery. His son finished another season at Rushmore, but left the monument largely in the state of completion it had reached under his father’s direction.

Photos are courtesy of Robin Borglum Carter.

 

Some Fun Facts!

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SPI posts have been read and audio listened to more than 20,000 x by folks from 102 different countries, ranging from the US to Mongolia, and from Fiji to Macedonia!

 

Our Learning Lab project will focus on New Hampshire – but we’ll keep our blog up and running for all of our friends from around the world!

Rounding out the learning … with images, lesson plans, and more

As we upload material to the Learning Lab website, we’re including images and documents that correspond with the audio, as well as info graphics, lesson plans and links of interest.

 

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Harvard-Smithsonian astrophysicist, Jonathan McDowell’s narrative allows us … and the students who will be listening to the recording … to delve into the rich collections of photographs available on NASA websites.  

 

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SPI’s Learning Lab – Getting Ready to Launch!

 

 

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Here’s a screen shot of our Learning Lab website, now in development.  Photographs accompany each audio track, there’s a full transcription, lesson plans, links of interest, and a forum for teachers to share outcomes and experiences.

The website will be ready to go and available to teachers in early December.

 

 

 

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SPI was at an educational conference in the White Mountains in early October, meeting and beginning to collaborate with NH public school teachers for Story Preservation’s Learning Lab project.

 

 

 

We’re initiating the project in our home state – with plans to expand to schools outside of New Hampshire in late 2015.

The Singing Life of Birds  A Conversation with Don Kroodsma

Don Kroodsma

Don Kroodsma has studied birdsong for 45 years.

Audio UP!  

 

He has listened to and recorded bird songs from the East Coast to the West, and constantly adds to his birdsong library back home in Massachusetts, where he’s professor emeritus of biology at the University of Massachusetts.

His book The Singing Life of Birds: The Art and Science of Listening to Birdsong won the 2006 John Burroughs Medal “for outstanding natural history writing” and the American Birding Association’s Robert Ridgeway Award “for excellence in publications in field ornithology.”

Kroodsma explores the mysteries of birdsong — how birds learn to sing, why some sing and some don’t, and why songs vary from bird to bird and even from place to place. “Birds have song dialects just like we humans have dialects,” he says.

On his travels, Kroodsma enjoys listening, knowing that where a bird learned a song is just as important as a bird’s genealogy. He noticed in his travels that birds of the same species but in different states sang the same song, but with their own unique “accents.”

His field of study may be unique, but the way he goes about his research is equally unique — Kroodsma tours the continent on his bicycle, collecting bird songs along the way. He biked completely across the nation once in 2003, and in 2004 biked from the Atlantic shore to the Mississippi, lugging his recording equipment with him.

“There is no better way to hear a continent sing than by bicycle,” Kroodsma says. “You can read the minds of these birds if you simply listen… Riding a bike is just a great way to hear birds.”

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“There’s this wonderful Zen parable,” he says. “If you listen to the thrush and hear a thrush, you’ve not really heard the thrush. But if you listen to a thrush and hear a miracle, then you’ve heard the thrush.”

Don’s new book tentatively titled “Listening to a Continent Sing.  Birdsong by Bicycle from the Atlantic to the Pacific,” is soon to be released from Princeton University Press.

A fun site:   http://www.wildmusic.org/animals/thrush

Check out Don’s website at donaldkroodsma.com

To Listen to Don’s recording, click on links below.

 

 

Audio copyright Story Preservation Initiative 2014.  All rights reserved.

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Stories Matter

Working to Create an Educational Laboratory  Introducing SPI’s Learning Lab

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storypreservation.org was not available when we started this blog back some four years ago.   It is now a domain name that we own and we will be developing it as a separate website to house all the educational material for our Learning Lab initiative, the Uncommon School, and information on Story’s library archive.

We’ll keep this site up and running for all who enjoy reading our blog posts.

 

 

Think of the Learning Lab as an educational laboratory where we will be creating and testing unique and flexible teaching and learning opportunities.

 

Vivian Perlis  Preserving the Voices of American Music

Used with permission.   Photographer unknown.

Perlis, Copland. Photo credit: David Walker

 

I have to say I am especially looking forward to sitting down with and recording Vivian Perlis.  I’ve known her personally for more than 30 years and admired her deeply since the day we met. Vivian is an historian in American music.  She is widely known for her publications, lectures, and recording and film productions.  In addition, she is a groundbreaking oral historian.

Vivian Perlis is the founder and former director of the Oral History of American Music (OHAM) project at Yale University.  OHAM is known to be the preeminent project in the field of music dedicated to the collection and preservation of oral and video memoirs of the creative musicians of our time.

Her story begins:  In 1969, while working as a reference librarian at the Yale School of Music, Vivian started a project of tape-recording interviews with those acquainted with the composer Charles Ives, a Yale graduate. Her work – thorough, methodical, and revealing – culminated in 1974 with the book: “Charles Ives Remembered: An Oral History,” for which Vivian was awarded the Kinkeldey Prize of the American Musicological Society.  Hailed “a vivid memory portrait of an enigmatic American composer, told in the voices of the people who knew him best.”

Beginning with her pioneering work in 1969 and extending through to the present day (via OHAM), there are “thousands of recordings and transcripts accessible to a wide range of users including scholars, musicians, students, arts organizations, and the media.”*

From the OHAM website: Following the Ives Project, it was evident that no systematic scholarly research was in progress to document creative musical figures by means of tape-recorded interviews. Several composers had spoken about Ives, and in so doing, about themselves as well. (It is not a good idea to ask a celebrated composer to talk only about someone else.) These formed the nucleus for a broader-based project, Oral History of American Music (OHAM). Included were Elliott Carter, Lou Harrison, Nicolas Slonimsky, and Dane Rudhyar. Through the decades since the founding of OHAM, composers have continued to be the project’s primary focus.  

Perlis, Bernstein, Copland.  Used with permission. Photographer unknown.

Perlis, Bernstein, Copland.
Used with permission.
Photographer unknown.

A list of interviewees can be found at: http://web.library.yale.edu/oham/major-figures

In 1984 Copland: 1900 through 1942 was published.  Perlis and Copland co-authored this “enduring record of an American maestro’s explosively creative coming of age.”  The book garnered a Deems Taylor/ ASCAP award.

A review upon its release: Aaron Copland is one of America’s most beloved musical pioneers, famous for Appalachian Spring, Billy the Kid, and Lincoln Portrait, as well as the movie scores for “Our Town” and “Of Mice and Men,” and numerous orchestral and chamber works. This candid, colorful memoir begins with Copland’s Brooklyn childhood and takes us through his years in Paris, the creation of his early works, and his arrival at Tanglewood. Rich with remembrances from Leonard Bernstein, Virgil Thomson, and Nadia Boulanger, as well as a trove of letters, photographs, and scores from Copland’s collection.

In 1989 Copland Since 1943 was published, again to much acclaim.

In 2013 The Complete Copland was issued, combining the earlier two books into one volume.

Other works include:

Composers’ Voices from Ives to Ellington, co-authored with Libby Van Cleve, includes two CDs and is derived from interviews in the OHAM archive.

Among her productions are recordings of the music of Leo Ornstein and Charles Ives, and television documentaries on Ives, Eubie Blake, Aaron Copland, and John Cage.

Honors and awards received include: The Charles Ives Award from the National Institute of Arts and Letters (1972); a Grammy nomination for “Charles Ives 100th Anniversary” (1974); the Harvey Kantor Award for excellence in the field of oral history (1984); a Guggenheim Fellowship (1987); and the Irving Lowens Award for distinguished scholarship in American Music from The Society for American Music (1991).

In 2010, celebrating the 40th anniversary of the archive, Vivian was honored at both Carnegie Hall and Yale’s Zankel Hall.  She stepped down as the director of OHAM the same year; however, she remains active and ever-influential. She continues to serve as a senior research scholar at Yale University.

TO LISTEN TO THE INTERVIEW, CLICK ON LINKS BELOW. 

 

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Stories Matter

 

Christa McAuliffe Technology Conference

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Furthering our commitment to education in the State of New Hampshire, Story Preservation has been selected to present at the Christa McAuliffe Technology Conference later this year.

The CMTC is New England’s largest technology in education conference.

We’ll be showcasing ways for teachers to integrate our primary source educational audio recordings into their classrooms for learning that is both unique and powerful!!!!

This conference furthers the legacy of New Hampshire’s own “first teacher in space.”  A woman I can say with confidence, we all loved.

 

 

 

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