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Jeff Todd Titon

JEFF TODD TITON, Emeritus Professor of Music, Brown University

BA (American Studies) Amherst College, MA (English) University of Minnesota, PhD (American Studies) University of Minnesota. Taught folklore, American literature, ethnomusicology, and co-founded American Studies program at Tufts University 1971-86; directed Brown University ethnomusicology PhD program, 1986-2013. AFS member since 1971; AFS Fellow, 1998-. Presenter, Smithsonian Folklife Festival; Panelist, NEA Folk Arts Program; Board member,; co-chair of applied ethnomusicology section, Society for Ethnomusicology; two NEH fellowships for independent study and research; NEA grant for Old Regular Baptists self-documentation project (1993). Publications include Worlds of Music (5 editions since 1984); Early Downhome Blues, Powerhouse for God, 3 Smithsonian Folkways recordings, Handbook of Applied Ethnomusicology (forthcoming), and fiction; research blog recent public lectures on ecomusicology, and a call for a managed sound commons for all living beings.

From where I stand, the biggest challenge today facing folklorists, and therefore the AFS, is in getting our voices heard in the ongoing public (and private) debates over managing a future worth having. As Wendell Berry said, we have to keep talking with the politicians and corporations because they need to know if they're going to burn the house down, they're inside that same house. Our sensibilities, our understanding of creativity and expressive culture, our respect for the living and dead, our collaborative field partnerships, and our orientation toward the public good means we can contribute knowledge, values, experience and action to a future of cultural, social, economic and environmental justice. Of course, part of the challenge is to articulate that vision of the future, but the other part is getting ourselves more centrally into the conversation, so our voices aren’t like the music of the spheres, distant and unheard. Public folklore can be a movement, not just a profession. And so I suggest we undertake to encourage people all over to embrace their folkloristic impulses, to become stewards of our joint domain, so that many, many more of us will, together, shape a future for all that is worth wanting, and worth having. 

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