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Jeff Todd Titon

Professor Emeritus of Music:
Music Department

I am preparing two websites: (1) on the life and preaching of Reverend C.L. Franklin and (2) a multimedia interactive fiction titled The Virtual Folk Festival. I research the musical cultures of Old Regular Baptists, old-time fiddling and blues. I am writing a book on music, sound and sustainability, and co-editing the Handbook of Applied Ethnomusicology. I also write fiction and compose and perform music. Please visit for the most up to date information.


Jeff Todd Titon received the B.A. from Amherst College, and the M.A. (English) and Ph.D. (American Studies) from the University of Minnesota, where he studied ethnomusicology with Alan Kagan, writing his dissertation on blues music. He has done fieldwork on religious folk music, blues, and old-time fiddling, with grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities. For two years he was the guitarist in the Lazy Bill Lucas Blues Band, a group that appeared in the 1970 Ann Arbor Blues Festival; in the 1980s he took up the fiddle and banjo, and most of his music-making today involves old-time string band music from the upper South. He also repairs and restores violins. He is the author or editor of seven books, including Early Downhome Blues (1977; 2nd edition, University of North Carolina Press, 1994), which won the ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award; Worlds of Music (five editions since 1984, with translations into Italian and Chinese); Powerhouse for God (a book, record, and documentary film); and most recently Old-Time Kentucky Fiddle Tunes (University Press of Kentucky, 2001), and American Musical Traditions, (Gale, 2002). His work in applied ethnomusicology was the subject of an interview by John Fenn in the fall, 2003 issue of Folklore Forum. In 1991 he pioneered in writing a hypertext-multimedia computer program on old-time Kentucky fiddler Clyde Davenport that is still regarded as a model for weblike interactive computer representations of people making music. His current projects include ongoing fieldwork with Old Regular Baptists in eastern Kentucky, with whom he has produced two CDs for Smithsonian Folkways (1997 and 2003); a website on the life and preaching of the Rev. C. L. Franklin, father of the singer Aretha Franklin, which will include video footage of his chanted sermons; writings on music, sound and sustainability (see and fiction writing. From 1990 to 1995 he was editor of Ethnomusicology,, the Journal of the Society for Ethnomusicology. He is a Fellow of the American Folklore Society. His teaching began at Tufts University, where he was assistant professor of English, then associate professor of English and music. He has been a visiting professor at Carleton College, Amherst College, Berea College, the University of Maine, and Indiana University. From 1986-2013 he was professor of music (ethnomusicology) at Brown, retiring from classroom teaching in 2013 while continuing research, lecturing, and publications.


My current work includes the following projects and research interests:

1. A website on the life and preaching of the Rev. C. L. Franklin (father of Aretha), of Detroit, MI. I spent 1977-78 in Detroit supported by a National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Fellowship for Independent Study and Research on Rev. Franklin's life and preaching. Franklin was the most popular African American Baptist preacher of his generation, and his sermons served as models for many listeners. Like a rock star, he made record albums of his sermons (more than 70), recorded live at his home church of New Bethel, in Detroit. With gospel groups such as The Ward Singers accompanying him, he went on preaching tours to black communities all over the U.S. from the early 1950s through the early 1970s. In Detroit I was able to spend time with Rev. Franklin at his home, where I tape-recorded his life history in several sessions over many days. I was also able to make audio and video tape recordings of his sermons during this time. The videos are of special interest as they are the only films ever made of his preaching. These sessions will form the basis of the DVD, which is being produced at Brown University and will be published and distributed by the University of Illinois Press. The DVD will also contain complete texts of all Rev. Franklin's sermons, as well as audio excerpts from his life history, interpretative and contextual information, still photos, and excerpts from my book, Give Me This Mountain (on Rev. Franklin's life and sermons) and from Nick Salvatore's biography of Franklin, Singing in a Strange Land.

2. A hypertext-multimedia interactive fiction entitled The Virtual Festival. In this computer representation of a folk festival, the user experiences something of what it is like to be both front stage and backstage at a folk festival, viewing and listening to presentations, performances, and narratives, while also overhearing conversations backstage, many of which highlight the intentions of the festival organizers, the logistical and other problems they encounter, and the excitement generated when all come together to stage it. The Virtual Festival can be a teaching tool as well as an interactive fiction. In one projected version, it follows a conflict over authority that emerges between a performer and various festival organizers concerning the way the performer is represented, thus foregrounding certain problems and issues involved with festival presentation today. The internet is envisioned as the delivery system for this project, and I demonstrated an early version of it at the 2005 conference of the American Folklore Society.

3. Ethnographic research on the musical culture and lined hymnody of Old Regular Baptists in southeastern Kentucky. This is an ongoing project which began in 1990 and has resulted in numerous field recordings and videos, as well as two CDs published by Smithsonian Folkways, demonstrations of lined hymnody at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in 1997 (see my article, "'The Real Thing,'" for an interpretation of their appearance at that event), and at a conference on lined hymnody that took place in 2005 at Yale University. I envision a collaborative musical ethnography in the form of a book, with a CD insert, to emerge from this work.

4. A project theorizing the concept of "sustainable music," which considers sound and music in the natural and human worlds. I organized a panel on the subject for the Fall 2006 conference of the Society for Ethnomusicology; papers from that panel were published in a special issue of the world of music in 2009. In the meantime I've been developing an ecological approach to musical and cultural sustainability, contrasting the sustainability discourses of conservation ecology and developmental economics. Most recently I delivered a series of lectures on this subject at the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing, China, five invited lectures on it during the spring of 2011, at the University of Texas, the University of Michigan, the University of North Carolina, Portland State University, and Indiana University, and in 2012 at the University of New Hampshire, the University of Tennessee, and the Ecomusicologies 2012 Conference. My current thinking in this area may be tracked on my research blog at

5. Fiction writing and musical performance and composition. I continue to write and publish fiction, and to compose and perform music. My most recently published fiction is Davey (Longhouse Publishers, W. Brattleboro, VT, 2013); my most recent public appearance as a musician took place at the conference of the Association of Brazilian Ethnomusicologists in Joao Pessoa, Brazil, in May, 2013.


B.A., Amherst College; M.A., Ph.D., University of Minnesota


Recent Invited Lectures

Plenary Address, Annual Conference of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), Nashville, Tennessee, Oct. 7, 2013.
Keynote Address, Symposium on Cultural Sustainability, Sterling College, Craftsbury Common, Vermont, August 16, 2013.
Keynote Address, Biennial Conference of the Brazilian Association of Ethnomusicologists (ABET), Joao Pessoa, Brazil, May 27, 2013.
Distinguished Lecture in Musicology, sponsored by the Humanities Center and the School of Music, University of Tennessee, Oct. 3, 2012.
Saul O. Sidore Lecture, University of New Hampshire, March 22, 2012.
Lecture on Music and Sustainability, Curriculum in Folklore, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, April 21, 2011.
Seminar on Sound and Sacred Space in the American South, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, April 20, 2011.
Keynote address, Conference on Folklore and Ethnomusicology, Indiana University, March 25, 2011.
Curry Distinguished Lecture in Musicology, University of Michigan, March 18, 2011.
Lecture on Music and Sustainability, University of Texas, Austin, February 11, 2011.
Lecture and Roundtable on Music and Sustainability, Portland State University, February 4, 2011.
Lecture Series on Music and Sustainability, Central Conservatory of Music, Beijing, China, November 2009.
Reading (fiction), Hugh Ogden Memorial, Rangeley, Maine, August 2009.
Bruno and Wanda Nettl Lecture in Ethnomusicology, University of Illinois, March 2006.
Distinguished Lecture in Ethnomusicology, University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, February 2006.
Reading (fiction), "Percy" (short story), The Lomax Legacy, conference at the Library of Congress, January 2006.
Marshall Dodge Lecture, University of Maine, Orono, April 2005.
Keynote address, British Forum on Ethnomusicology, annual meeting, Aberdeen, April 2004.

Honors and Awards

American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP) Deems Taylor Prize (for Early Downhome Blues), 1977.

Harvard University, W.E.B. DuBois Institute, Fellow, 1986-87.

American Folklore Society, Fellow, 1998-

American Musical Traditions chosen among "Best Reference Works of 2002" by Library Journal.


Society for Ethnomusicology (SEM). Editor, Ethnomusicology (the SEM Journal), 1990-1995.

American Folklore Society. Fellow, 1998-


Courses taught (selected): Music of the world's peoples; Introduction to Ethnomusicology; Seminar in music and cultural policy; Seminar in music and documentary film/video; Seminar in the history of ethnomusicological thought; American Roots Music; Blues; Old-time, bluegrass, and country music; Seminar in interpretation in ethnomusicology; Applied ethnomusicology; American folklore; Seminar in narrative; Inventing anthropology; Seminar in field research methods.

Funded Research

Although I have received grants over the years, and sat on grants review panels (NEA, NEH) and evaluated fellowship proposals (ACLS, Radcliffe) since the 1970s, since 1990 I have very seldom applied for them, thinking that my university salary and sabbatical/leave system provided sufficient time and salary to support my research. But I will list a few of the grants and fellowships that I did receive here:

Grants to support "Invested in Community," a conference on Applied Ethnomusicology, at Brown University, March, 2003, from National Endowment for the Arts, RICH, and Rhode Island Foundation. $11,000.

Grant, Brown University, Scholarly Technology Group, for consulting on multimedia project involving life and sermons of the Rev. C. L. Franklin, to be published as a DVD by the University of Illinois Press, 2001-present. $32,000.

National Endowment for the Arts, Folk Arts Program. Grant to support Community Self-Documentation Project, Lined-Out Hymnody among Old Regular Baptists in Knott, Perry, and Letcher Counties, Ky., 1994-96. $14,000.

Grant, National Endowment for the Arts, Folk Arts Program, to support master drummer/dancer Freeman Kwadzo Donkor as Visiting Artist-in-Residence at Brown University, 1987-88, $6,500.

National Endowment for the Humanities, Fellowship for Independent Study and Research, Spring, 1987. $25,000.

Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and Public Policy, 1985-86, 1986-87, two grants to defray partial costs of film production for Powerhouse for God. $5,500.

National Endowment for the Arts, Folk Arts Program, 1985-86, grant to defray partial costs of film production for Powerhouse for God. $53,000.

National Endowment for the Humanities, Implementation Grant, for Program in American Studies, Tufts University, 1983-1986. Co-author. $165,000.

National Endowment for the Humanities, Fellowship for Independent Study and Research, 1977-1978. $18,500.

Howard Foundation, Individual Fellow, Summer 1977; Honorary Fellow, 1977- 1978.

National Endowment for the Arts, Folk/Ethnic Pilot Grant for Individuals/ Documentation, 1977. $3,000.

National Endowment for the Humanities, Summer Stipend, 1974. $2,500.

National Endowment for the Humanities, Publication Subvention Grant (awarded to the University of Texas Press) for publication of Powerhouse for God (book). $4,000.

Tufts University Faculty Awards Committee, Summer Fellowship, 1972. $1,500.

Web Links

Curriculum Vitae

Download Jeff Todd Titon's Curriculum Vitae in PDF Format