I. Describe the artifact in detail. For instance, how would you describe it to someone who could not see it? [You practiced this 2-4-1 Short Answer: Seeing Your Artifact in a New Light.]
Your response might include basic and technical details about the artifact, such as its medium, who made it, where it comes from, and what area of the humanities it belongs to: “All Shook Up” is an American rock-and-roll song, written by Otis Blackwell and sung by Elvis Presley, recorded and released in 1957. The song is approximately two minutes long.
You could also describe what the artifact depicts, what it is about:
In the song Elvis sings about the symptoms that he is experiencing from being in love and how they affect him physically and mentally when he is both around and away from the woman he is in love with.
Abraham Lincoln: Life Masks
There are various myths surrounding the person of Abraham Lincoln. One of them is that a death mask was made after his assassination. There were two life masks done for Lincoln, the first was made by Leonard Volk in 1860. The second was made by Clark Mills in 1865.
II. Choose elements of the artifact that you believe are most important to how you experience it and explain why. For instance, what particularly catches your senses or makes you want to keep experiencing it? Does the choice of medium impact your experience? [You studied elements of artifacts and how we experience them in 2-4 How Do We Study Artifacts.]
Think about the senses you use to experience the artifact and the attributes that impact your senses: “All Shook Up” is primarily experienced aurally, through sound, by listening to it, as it is a piece of music. Most important are the lead vocals by Elvis, but the guitar, drum set, and piano, along with other instruments, are also important to the sound. The chorus, “I'm in love/I'm all shook up/Mm mm mm, mm, yay, yay, yay” is particularly catchy because of the way it sounds.
Consider the medium of the artifact, the way the medium affects your experience: When the song was released, it was originally a vinyl record, though it could also be heard as sound waves on the radio, and, today it can be experienced as an audio file on a computer. One can also locate video of Elvis performing it live. A person alive in the 1950s could have experienced the song live in person. This would be a different experience since he or she would have been surrounded by a lot of screaming fans. Music can be experienced in a variety of places, either socially (at a bar or diner) or alone, and what is going on around the listener at the time can affect the experience.
Lastly, one can experience the song to some degree as a kind of poetry simply by reading the lyrics.
One of the masks made by Leonard Volk was made out of plaster by literally molding plaster on Lincoln’s face and pulling it out after it dried up. The second life mask was made by Clark mills which had the stain of presidency written on it. This second mask displays how Lincoln aged with rapidity.
The two masks display a kind of resilience with a tinge of immortality.
The masks display changes in Lincoln’s life, with startling distinctness.
While the first mask was done when Lincoln was only 51, with a clean face and a firm outline, free from fat and with hard muscles, depicting a large mobile mouth ready to speak, a bold, curved substantial and broad nose with a face full of vivid aspiration, energy and life, the same cannot be said of the second mask. It is sad, and peaceful and is considered the ideal death mask because of its infinite repose.
III. State your opinion on what you believe is the purpose of this artifact and the success of the creator in achieving the purpose. For instance, what message do you believe the creator is trying to express, and is that message successfully expressed? [You examined this in 2-3-1 Worksheet: Reasons for Creating Artifacts.]
“All Shook Up” is intended to present the physical and mental state of being in love, one of the big themes of human existence. However, the main purpose of this song seems to have been to entertain and to earn money for the artists involved and the recording label, RCA. The lyrics of the song are not highly profound, which suggests they are mainly there for the sound. The song is also quite short, suggesting it is meant to be a quick diversion. The song was successful in all of these purposes because it was at the top of a number of popular music charts for a month or more. This could be because it accurately captured the feeling of being in love and was therefore appealing to its audience, because the sound was catchy and danceable, or a combination of these things. Its success made money, and the song has remained well known until today, so its purposes continue to be fulfilled.
I believe that both Leonard Volk and Clark Mills are artists who had a profound respect and love for the person and Character of Abraham Lincoln that they felt an obligation to make an immortal impression of Lincoln that would live for generations on even after his demise so that later generations would appreciate the greatness of Abraham Lincoln.
The two artists seem to believe that the greatness of Lincoln is unmatched and it was necessary to keep his image that would symbolize Lincoln even after his death.
IV. Discuss how the artifact reflects the culture (or context) in which it exists. Be sure to address what aspects of culture have relevance for this artifact: politics, history, religion, social perceptions, technology, media, education, and so on. In other words, how do the artifact and its culture interrelate? [You learned about this in Theme: Introduction to the Humanities (all learning blocks) and in learning block 3-3]
“All Shook Up” is part of the rock-and-roll revolution that took place in the 1950s and marked new developments in music. Rock and roll is uniquely American as it combines African-American musical influences and country-western and folk. This combination reflected the breaking down of racial barriers in America after World War II, as people migrated to cities from all over the country, and, in fact, the creator of “All Shook Up,” Otis Blackwell, was an African-American songwriter, while the song was sung by the white Elvis Presley.
Songs of rock and roll exploded in popularity at this time because young people in the 1950s wanted to rebel against the strictures of the past. After the horrors of World War II, Americans also were looking for a sense of release and fun that was filled by songs like “All Shook Up.”
Technology played a part in the growth of rock and roll too. It has been said that the grinding rhythms of rock reflect the sounds of machinery and automobiles that were part of industrialization in postwar America. The invention of instruments such as the drum set and electric guitar was essential for the sound of “All Shook Up,” and the growth of radio as a medium ensured its promotion to the public.
These artifacts reflects the American culture of artistry in a big way. The perfection with which the life masks are made is a representation of a culture of making artistic impressions. The art also seeks to preserve the political history of America as American’s would always be reminded of their Nation’s Founding father.
V. Use the artifact to discuss how acts of creative expression impact and are impacted by the people and situations that surround it. How might the artifact and the person who created it have impacted each other? For instance, how might the geographic location where the artifact was made, the materials used to create the artifact, the medium of the creative process, or the environment where the artifact is displayed influenced the creator’s life or future creative work? How might the artifact and the culture or context in which it was created have impacted each other? For instance, does the artifact add to the understanding of the culture from which it was created? What contributions does it make to continuing on a dialogue about that culture and the importance of its artifacts? [You looked at these ideas in learning block 3-3.]
Influence of geographic location on the creators: “All Shook Up” was recorded in Hollywood, and the commercial atmosphere there led to the promotion of Elvis as a star. He would appear on TV and in movies and became a celebrity and an American icon. Because of the success of the song, Otis Blackwell was hired to work for Elvis Presley Music in New York City, which contributed to his ability to continue writing influential hit songs.
Impact on the culture in which it was created: “All Shook Up,” as part of rock and roll, contributed to a wide range of cultural changes in the United States and worldwide.
The song was a hit on both the R"B and country charts in America, demonstrating an appeal that crossed racial lines. It has been said that the trans-racial nature of rock and roll helped usher in the Civil Rights Movement.
The song is also overt in its sexuality (“Her lips are like a volcano when it's hot”), which anticipates the openness of the sexual revolution that would begin in the 1960s.
The words of the song, which emphasize casual speech and slang (“A well'a bless my soul/What'sa wrong with me?/I'm itchin' like a man in a fuzzy tree”) also helped shape American everyday language.
Its popularity contributed to the growth of popular culture itself and the massive influence of rock and roll on numerous facets of American life, from social behavior to fashion.
Clearly, the example of “All Shook Up” shows that artifacts in the humanities can have a great influence on culture well beyond their own creation as works of artistic value.
The creativity of making life masks of Abraham Lincoln impacts on the people of America in that it motivates them to aspire to live great lives like Lincoln.
The masks will be a motivation for generation to come and a reminder of America’s history.
These artifacts continue to play a noble role of aspiring talent in America especially art oriented art.
VI. Pose questions you have after thinking deeply about this artifact. What more do you want to know regarding:
a. The relationship between human culture and expression
b. Your personal assumptions about artifacts of this sort and why they exist
c. How your values
have shaped and are shaped by your expression and that of others
d. The relationship between the possible intent of the creator and your own interpretation
of its meaning [You learned about this in learning block 3-4.]
What was the culture like when the song was created?
How could the culture have influenced Otis Blackwell?
Why do I think Otis Blackwell wrote this song? What might he have been trying to express?
I know that Elvis was popular in the 1950s; why did he choose to sing this song?
How might listening to this song shape the values of listeners in the time that the song was released?
Would the lyrics have the same impact me if the song were released today?
What is the validity of artefacts in contemporary culture?
What was the idea in the mind of the artists when they decided to make face masks?
The relationship between human culture and expression is that the two are intertwined and dependent on each other.
The two coexist in that one cannot exist without the other. For culture to exist, there must be expression and likewise, culture is more of a form of expression of societies’ norms and practices as well as way of life.
My personal assumption about artifacts is that they are meant to immortalize an iconic character through art.
My values might not have shaped those of others but have certainly been shaped by people who have achieved a good deal of success in life.
The relationship between the possible intent of the creators of these artifacts and my interpretation is purely deductive as I reason deductively about what could be the possible intention of the makers of the artifacts.
VII. Speculate on how you would go about answering these questions. For instance, what sorts of things would you study about these kinds of artifacts and their contexts that might begin addressing these questions?
I would do research on the artifact itself and the history of the time. I could find biographies of the creators involved. I might look at newspaper articles from the time and books written on the artifact and the culture that created it. I could also find information on the influence of the artifact since it was created.
I would look for and study biographies of both Leonardo Volk and Clark Mills who are the artists behind these face masks. I would also do more research on the face masks in various publications that have covered them in their content. I could also research more about the face masks and Abraham Lincoln himself in publications that have covered these topics in history.