December 8, 2008
BY BOB KOSTANCZUK Post-Tribune staff writer
Folk music is the forte of Ronald D. Cohen, professor emeritus of
history at Indiana University Northwest in Gary.
Cohen has a book-signing event Wednesday at IUN for "A History of
Folk Music Festivals in the United States: Feasts of Musical
Celebration" (Scarecrow Press).
The book can be purchased for $25 at the event, which is being done
in conjunction with an exhibit this week of vintage folk-music
festival posters from the 1950s and '60s and other memorabilia.
The items -- taken from Cohen's personal collection -- are being
displayed in the IUN Gallery for Contemporary Art in the Savannah
Center on campus.
"The better ones are from the University of California at Berkeley,"
said Cohen, a Gary resident. "I've got a bunch of those."
The exhibit evokes memories of two mainstays of folk history: Pete
Seeger and the Newport Folk Festival.
As for Cohen's book, some deep-rooted history is dished out.
"I go back to the 19th century," the author said. "I go to the
origin: Where do these festivals come from?"
Cohen points out that many of those who have attended folk festivals
over the decades have come to play their own tunes -- albeit not onstage.
"Festivals are not just where people go to listen to music: People
also go to festivals to play on their own," he said. "People camp out
and they don't even care who's on the stage. They're there to play.
It's a participatory activity. You're involved, so it's a social event."
Cohen earned a Grammy nomination as a co-producer in the "Best
Historical Album" category for "The Best of Broadside 1962-1988:
Anthems of the American Underground From the Pages of Broadside Magazine."
Released in 2000, the five-CD set includes socially conscious fare
from folk icons including Seeger, Bob Dylan and Phil Ochs.
Adding live, folk-tinged sounds to Cohen's book-signing will be the
Kettle Moraine String Band, featuring Kris Huysken, associate
professor of geology at IUN.
"I play the upright bass," Huysken, a Chicago resident, said.
She also supplies vocals for a band that serves up bluegrass and
Contact Bob Kostanczuk at 648-3144 or email@example.com.