You are here

SCAND 490 B: Special Topics

Meeting Time: 
MW 1:30pm - 3:20pm
CLK 120
Photo of Guntis Smidchens
Guntis Šmidchens

Syllabus Description:

SCAND 490 / 590: The Singing Revolution. Syllabus, Winter Quarter 2016

MW 1:30-3:20, Clark Hall 120; SLN: 18213, 18219

Instructor: Guntis Šmidchens;; Phone: (206) 616-5224, Office Raitt 305-V, T&Th 12:30-1:20

This course explores the history of singing traditions in the Baltic. We aim to reconstruct a historical and cultural context for the “Singing Revolution,” the nonviolent movement for the independence of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, 1988-1991.

Course Objectives:

  • Seek answers to the question: What role does singing play in politics?
  • Learn the history of singing traditions in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania
  • Learn (about) key songs in the three national traditions
  • Practice the methods of folkloristics: Analyze meanings and functions of songs and singing in context.    

Required Readings

  • G. Šmidchens, The Power of Song (2014), available in print or as an e-book at the UW Library.
  • A Force More Powerful, six 30-minute documentary film series by Steve York
  • James and Maureen Tusty, The Singing Revolution (2008 documentary)
  • Other readings and films, as listed in the course schedule


  • 33% Class participation: Come to class prepared to discuss songs assigned for that day
  • 33% Nine short response essays / take-home exams
  • 33% Independent research project – to be discussed with instructor.

How to remember and discuss songs: Write brief notes on the songs you encounter, including:

  • One-sentence summary of the song text (what the words say; content)
  • Ethnography of song in context (Who sang? For whom? In what tradition(s)?)
  • Notes on the song’s “texture” (rhythm, rhyme, melody, performance style)
  • Meanings (associations singers made when they sang or remembered songs)
  • Functions (what the song did; its effect on singers & audiences, and history).



Catalog Description: 
Special topics in Scandinavian art, literature, culture, and history. Course offerings based on instructor's specialty and student demand.
Last updated: 
October 5, 2016 - 9:17pm