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Finding Aid for the Charles Keil Papers, 1965-1998, (bulk 1970-1990)


State University of New York at Buffalo. University Archives

420 Capen Hall
Buffalo, New York 14260
United States
Phone: 716-645-2916
Fax: 716-645-3714
Email: lib-archives@buffalo.edu
URI: http://library.buffalo.edu/archives

Finding aid prepared by Erin Verhoef.
Finding aid encoded in EAD by Erin Verhoef, July, 2006.
Finding aid written in English.
Finding aid prepared using local best practices.

Please use the following URL when citing this document:

© 2006. State University of New York at Buffalo. All rights reserved.

Collection Overview

Title: Charles Keil Papers, 1965-1998, (bulk 1970-1990)
Creator: Keil, Charles
Extent: 15 manuscript boxes, 1 half box (6.46 linear feet)
Language of Material: Collection material in English.
Repository: State University of New York at Buffalo. University Archives
Abstract: Collection of materials from Charles Keil, ethnomusicologist and professor of American Studies. Includes his teachings, publications, political activism, resource material, and his work in the University at Buffalo American Studies, Music, and Anthropology departments.

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

[Description and dates], Box/folder number, 16/8F/1064, Charles Keil Papers, 1965-1998 (bulk 1970-1990), University Archives, The State University of New York at Buffalo.

See the Archives' preferred citations instructions for additional information.

Acquisition Information

Records were donated by Charles Keil in 2000.

Terms of Access

Charles Keil Papers, 1965-1998 (bulk 1970-1990) are open for research.


Copyright of papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns. Researchers must obtain the written permission of the holder(s) of copyright and the University Archives before publishing quotations from materials in the collection. Most papers may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures unless otherwise specified.

Processing Information

Processed by Erin Verhoef, June 2006.

Accruals and Additions

No further accruals are expected to this collection.

Biographical Note

Ethnomusicologist Charles Keil was born August 12, 1939 in Norwalk, CT. He earned his undergraduate degree in American Studies from Yale University in 1961, and went on to the University of Chicago to earn his MA (1964) and PhD (1979), both in Anthropology. His MA thesis, Urban Blues, won the Roy D. Albert Prize, University of Chicago, for best Master's Thesis, 1963-1964. Village Voice music critic Robert Christgau comments on Keil's first publication:

It would be difficult to overstate how significant Urban Blues was for rock criticism and popular music studies, neither more than a gleam in a nerd's eye when he wrote it... for Keil to embark upon a serious study of currently popular entertainers who earned good livings with electric guitars was a radical departure that heartened a generation of like-minded listeners back when it still took chutzpah to admire James Joyce and James Brown in the same lifetime, much less the same sentence.*

His dissertation, Tiv Song, was the product of two years of fieldwork in Nigeria from 1965 to 1967, just before the outburst of the Biafra-Nigerian war. It was a study of song culture among the Tiv population, who live in nearly classless communities. The book was a co-winner of the Chicago Folklore Prize in 1980.

His interest in African culture and politics led him to become president of the Buffalo chapter of the American Committee to Keep Biafra Alive (1968-1970). Throughout his life, he has always kept apprised of political issues in Africa.

Though he published many papers during the 1980's, Keil did not publish a full length book again until Polka Happiness (1992), a collaboration with his wife, Angeliki Keil and photographer Richard Blau. He then published My Music (1993), Music Grooves (1994), Bright Balkan Morning: Romani Lives and the Power of Music in Greek Macedonia (2002), and Born to Groove (2006). <http://borntogroove.org/> Other than his first two publications, all of these titles were collaborations with other researchers and writers.

Keil spent thirty years as an American Studies (AMS) professor at the University at Buffalo before he retired in 2000. Playing an integral role in establishing the PhD program in AMS, he helped to make the department one of the most prestigious in the country. He taught seventeen different classes, many of which were cross-listed in the Anthropology and Music departments. He was director of Graduate Studies (1970-1977), acting chair of the Department of American Studies (1978-1979 and 1992), and he was director of Undergraduate Studies (1986-1989). He also spent summer sessions as a visiting lecturer at Trent University (1982-1983).

Active and outspoken in the University at Buffalo community, Keil was one of the 45 faculty members to be arrested during the 1970 protest against police presence on campus. He and colleague Michael Frisch (aka Vizzy Goth) co-wrote a song, "Hayes Hall Blues," about the incident in order to raise legal defense funds. [45 rpm phonorecord in University Archives collection # 3/5/33, Campus Unrest at the State University of New York at Buffalo Records]

A founding member of Buffalo's famous Afro-Latin dance band "Outer Circle Orchestra," Keil also spent time playing with the "12/8 Path Band" and "Biocentrics." Though a dedicated performer, his true passion is fostering musical expression in young people.

Frustrated with the state of public education, he helped to co-found the Central Community School in 1970. He and Angelika wanted their two children to attend a school that was committed to creative thinking and expression.

In 1990, Keil founded Musicians United for Superior Education, Inc. (M.U.S.E.). <http://www.musekids.org/index.html> M.U.S.E. is a unique not-for-profit organization of artists and educators dedicated to increasing children's access to culturally diverse performing-arts instruction. "Activity and participation in a music-dance tradition prepares children for a life well-lived at many deep and mostly unconscious levels-how to be in time, in tune, in graceful synchrony with other people, how to be an energetic presence and shining individual in tight relationships with many others simultaneously," he says. "We have to reinvent the traditions before they're completely gone."

Currently in 2006 (at the writing of this Biographical Note), Charles Keil is collaborating on two books, Polka Theory: Perspectives on the Will to Party; and The Rhythm Section. In his retirement, he keeps busy maintaining a website, 12/8 Path and a blog, Conserving Consensus. Available online at: <http://128path.org/> and <http://conservingconsensus.us/>

Scope and Content Note

This collection documents the academic and community work of Charles Keil for the duration of his time as a professor at the University at Buffalo. This includes information on courses, individual students, the Department of American Studies, publications, and community activism.

Keil's work as a professor and activist is documented in his correspondence, articles, interviews and research. Subjects covered include campus unrest, world politics (primarily African politics), world music, human rights, and community outreach.

III. records some of the Department of American Studies' activity through the notes and records Keil kept during his time there. The struggle for approval of a Ph.D. program and bureaucratic structuring and restructuring of the university, including the Tolstoy College experiment, are documented here.


The collection is arranged into five series: Courses, Students, Department of American Studies, Publications and research, and Activism and outreach. Records are in chronological and/or alphabetical order when possible.

Container List

I.     Courses

Series contains lecture notes and student work from specified courses. Most of the course information in this collection pertains to the Music in Culture and Musics of the World courses. Music in Daily Life, a fieldwork course, is listed in Subseries A of Series IV because of its relation to Keil's published work. Course information regarding AMS 109 and AMS 621 were in files labeled "fieldwork course." AMS 621 was taught by other American Studies faculty members and had a flexible curriculum. Keil taught this course at Auburn Correctional Facility, the documentation of which is available in Series III. Department of American Studies.

I.A    Fieldwork Course
Box-folder Contents
Course notes, 1973-1991, no date; includes autobiography and a "Day in the Life of Keil."
New York Times project, 1975
Student work, 1981-1991, no date
I.B    Music in Culture and Musics of the World
Music and Culture and Musics of the World were filed together due to their many similarities. During the years covered in the collection, both courses were listed under AMS 209 (though Musics of the World was sometimes listed under AMS 210). There is significant cross-over of covered topics and many of the lecture notes, quizzes, and articles are interchangeable. Copies of student papers were retained for their research value, and also as examples for future classes. Almost all student work includes Keil's critical comments. Arrangement: Student work is arranged by assignment and then chronologically.
Box-folder Contents
Course evaluations, 1983-1996
Handouts and materials on reserve, 1970-1997, no date
Lecture notes (handwritten), 1970-1997, no date
Lecture notes (typed), 1970-1997, no date
Tests and term paper notes, 1970-1997, no date
Student work, 1970-1997, no date
[15 folders]
Survey of students, no date;includes written survey filled out by students about their relationship to music.
I.C    Other courses
Box-folder Contents
Afro-Asian Musical Praxis (AMS 128), 1989, no date
American Lives (AMS 199), 1964, no date
American Lives and Environments (AMS 200), 1974, no date
"Blues course," 1987
Blues course student work, 1987
Contemporary Popular Song (AMS 111), 1995
"Dylan seminar," no date
"History of Imperialism," no date
Modern Greece (AMS 476/576), no date
Problems in Cross-cultural Education: Africa and Afro-America (AMS 612) no date
General courses, 1968-1990, no date;includes Percussion Practicum (AMS 311), Applied Sociomusicology (AMS 432), Seminar in Comparative Culture (AMS 511), and Thinking Green (Ams 130).
Course proposals, no date
II.     Student files

Student files containing work and correspondence primarily pertaining to courses, dissertation or thesis work, independent study, and advising issues. Originally, each student had their own folder. In processing, the smaller files were combined into the folders called "other student files." Some of the work, specifically the term papers, included in this series were saved by Keil for their interesting subject matter or to be used as examples for future classes. All student work includes Keil's critical comments.

Series begins with collection of smaller, general student files and then goes into individual student files, which are in alphabetical order.

Box-folder Contents
6.1 Advising issues, no date
6.2 Correspondence, 1970-1998
6.3-6.7 Other student files, 1970-1998
7.1 Poetry, no date
7.2 Student surveys, no date
II.A    Individual student files
Box-folder Contents
Barreira, Jose, 1989-1990
Burke, Nan, 1970
Collins, John, 1987-1995
Dimitriadis, Greg, 1994
Edwards, Wanda, 1993 [see also: Visions of Empowerment festival, located in Series III. Department of American Studies]
Fairchild, Charles, 1995-1996
Haq, Faizan, 1997-1998
Hoffman, Nan, 1980-1982
"Kahlil's course," no date; includes a syllabus and notes from a class taught by one of Keil's students.
Kohan, Kyle, 1989
Koperski, Kate, 1980
Kramer, Jake, 1989-1990
Kreuzer, Lynn, 1972-1974, no date
Kwiecien, Frederick, 1992-1994
Levinson, Michael Stephen, 1970; includes course proposal and description of political mission.
McClusky, Laura, 1996
Munch, John, 1989-1990
Niman, Michael, 1986
Papazaharias, Stefanos, 1984
Rivera, Gilberto, 1990-1995
Rosado, Sylvia, 1989
Sapierski, Paul, 1975
Skibo, Norman, 1990
Steenland, Kyle, 1972-1973
Wetmore, Joseph, no date.
Wyseng, Lee, 1990
Zhang, Lan, 1990-1993
Box-folder Contents
10.1 Clippings, 1972-1982, no date; includes event posters and articles.
10.2-10.3 Correspondence, 1970-1995
III.A    Administrative information
Department records collected by Keil.
Series is alphabetical and then chronological.
Box-folder Contents
"AMS visions," 1996-1998
Courses and program proposals, 1969-1997, no date
Decentralization and land use, 1970-1991, no date
"Department meetings and agenda," 1974-1976
"Diversity and equality studies," 1986, no date
Experimental colleges, 1968-1982
Faculty positions, 1970-1990; includes letters of resignation.
"Faculty Senate on Women's Studies courses," 1975, no date
Foreign Language Institute students, 1980-1981
"Graduate student statements" and "department reunion," 1971, 1995
Lectures and workshops, 1986-1988
Memos, 1975-1995
11.8-11.10, no date
Ph.D. approval, 1980-1988, no date
Survey of other AMS departments, 1980-1985
Visions of Empowerment festival, 1995
III.B     Auburn Prison Master of Arts Program
Primarily records from American Studies courses taught by Keil at Auburn Correctional Facility. Includes clippings and departmental correspondence.
Series is chronological and then alphabetical.
Box-folder Contents
Lecture notes and administrative correspondence, 1983-1985; includes clippings describing program.
Student work, 1983-1985; includes correspondence.
III.C    Faculty position
This includes any documentation about faculty position within the department as well as salary, grant, and sabbatical information.
Box-folder Contents
Curriculum vitaes, 1970-1996
Rockefeller grant, 1975
Salary and promotion, 1969-1986, no date; includes correspondence on taxes, job offers, sabbatical, as well as flyers promoting lectures.
IV.A    Music in Daily Life project
Primarily interviews conducted by students in the Music in Daily Life course, and the Music in Culture course (AMS 109, AMS 209, AMS 499, AMS 546, and AMS 621). These interviews were the origin of the book, My Music, published in 1993 by University of New England Press. My Music was co-written by Susan D. Crafts and Daniel Cavicchi and is anthology of interviews on the subjective experience of music in America. Few of the notes and interviews in this subseries were included in the published book. A majority of Keil's work on this and his other publications are located with his collection at the Boston University Archives.
The numbered interviews are in rough numeric order according to handwritten numbers.
Box-folder Contents
Course notes, 1989, no date; includes My Music proposal.
Interviews, 1978-1990
Numbered interviews, 1984-1985, no date; includes copies of interviews annotated with a handwritten number.
Sample packet for project supporters, 1988
Student reactions to interviews, 1978-1990
IV.B    Other writings
Published and non published articles, statements. The correspondence that is included here pertains primarily to research and publications, though e-mails are of a more personal nature. All issues of journal Echology are available in the Music Library.
Box-folder Contents
Articles, short essays, book reviews, and poems written by Keil, 1965-1998, includes interview with activist Buffalo lawyer, James Ostrowski.
Book reviews and clippings, 1993-1996, no date; includes reviews of Keil's books and any publicity surrounding his book publications.
Correspondence, 1969-1995, no date; includes print-outs of e-mails from 1994-1995, retrieved from floppy disc.
[disc discarded]
"Cuba notes," 1987, no date; includes travel notes from a trip to Cuba. [See also Jake Kramer's individual student file in Series II. Student files for more references to the trip to Cuba.]
Echology, 1987-1990; includes covers and articles written by Keil for American Studies journal that he edited.
IV.C    Research materials
This subseries consists of reference material including annotations.
Box-folder Contents
Bibliographies, no date; includes a list of frequently used terms and definitions, translations of Juju lyrics.
Maps, 1941-1960; includes African tribal maps, primarily focusing on Nigeria. Also includes a Shell-BP Petroleum Development Company map of Nigeria, 1960. Some maps have written comments.
Research and course related articles, 1940-1998; includes a sampling of articles used for research and lectures.
Work of colleagues, no date; includes papers by Richard Blau and Robert Dentan with comments.
V.     Activism and community outreach

This series includes records of political work. Specifically his activism regarding world politics, human rights, and education.

Box-folder Contents
15.8 "African Observer," 1970
15.9 Biafra-Nigeria War, 1968-1971
15.10 University at Buffalo campus unrest, 1968-1969; includes notes and interviews dealing with "Friends of the 45 Defense Fund" and Department of Defense sponsored research at the University.
16.1-16.2 Central Park Community School, 1968-1970; includes information on an alternative elementary school co-founded by the Keils.
16.3 Correspondence, 1967-1993; includes activity flyers.
16.4 General activism, 1967-1983; includes newsletters on human rights, article from Realist magazine about Malcolm X's assassination.
16.5 "Migrant workers," 1987, no date; includes New York Folklore issue on migrant workers.
16.6 "M.U.S.E. origins," 1984-1989, no date

Search Terms

The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the Library's online catalog.


Blau, Richard
Collins, John
Dentan, Robert K.
Feld, Stephen
Frisch, Michael H.
Kennedy, Elizabeth L.
Kramer, Jacob
Niman, Michael I.
State University of New York at Buffalo. American Studies Dept
State University of New York at Buffalo. Program in American Studies
State University of New York at Buffalo. University Archives

Subject Terms

Community activists
Ethnicity in music
Folk music--Africa
Folk music
Folk music, Polish
Keil, Charles--Archives
Keil, Charles--Correspondence
Keil, Charles. Echology
Keil, Charles. Music in daily life
Music and anthropology
Music--Social aspects
Political activists--New York (State)--Buffalo, NY
Social reformers--New York (State)--Buffalo, NY
State University of New York at Buffalo. American Studies Dept--Faculty
State University of New York at Buffalo. Program in American Studies--Faculty
State University of New York at Buffalo--Archives

Associated Material

Separated Materials

American Studies department records that were not directly related to Charles Keil or his work were moved to the Department of American Studies records.


Urban Blues, University of Chicago Press, 1966, revised edition, 1992.

Tiv Song, University of Chicago Press, 1979.

(Written with Angeliki Keil and Richard Blau) Polka Happiness, Temple University Press, 1992.

(Editor with Sue Crafts and Dan Cavicchi) My Music, Wesleyan University Press, 1993.

(Written with Steve Feld) Music Grooves: Essays and Dialogues, University of Chicago Press, 1994.

Bright Balkan Morning: Romani Lives and the Power of Music in Greek Macedonia, Wesleyan University Press (Middletown, CT), 2002.

Related Resources

Related Resources in the University Archives

16/8/1014 , Prison Master of Arts Program Records, 1979-1993
34/9, College F (Tolstoy College)
34/5/1012 , Elizabeth Lapovsky Kennedy Papers, 1961-1993 (bulk 1970-1993)
9/5/00-6, Ethos literary magazine
MS 57 , Jacob Kramer Papers, circa 1943-1991

Related Resources from University Archives' Campus Unrest collections:

3/1/289, American Association of University Professors. Buffalo Chapter records, 1926-1973
3/1/1217 , American Association of University Professors. Buffalo Chapter. Secretary's Files, 1968-1989 (bulk 1968-1972)
3/5/33 , Campus Unrest at the State University of New York at Buffalo Records, 1965-1990
3/5/351, Campus Unrest: Oral History Interviews, 1967
3/5/570m, Support Your Campus Police Treasurer's Records, 1967-1968
3/5/779, Faculty 45 Files, 1969-1972
3/5/825, Campus Unrest: Clippings, 1964-1975
3/5/821, Paul Krehbiel Campus Unrest Collection, 1968-1970, 2000
3/5/897 , Campus Unrest: Research conducted by Dean G. Pruitt and James Gahagan, Social Psychology Department, 1967-1972, 1975
3/5/974, Campus Unrest: Individuals' Collections, 1969-2004
3/5/1248 , Richard A. Siggelkow Campus Unrest Collection, 1961-1991
9/0/251, Broadsides: Collection, 1963-
9/1/64, Graduate Student Association records, 1963-1970
9/4/247, Student Coordinating Council and Polity Minutes, 1967-1972; Student Senate Minutes, 1967-1972
11/2/66, University Information Services. Campus Unrest Subject Files, 1964-1973
11/2/235, University Information Services. Campus Unrest Subject Files, 1969-1970
12/1/74, Faculty Senate Records, 1952-1969
16/4F/133 , Bruce Jackson Papers, 1964-1971
16/4F/134 , Bruce Jackson Campus Revolt Collection, 1969-1970
22/6F/205, Theodore Friend papers, 1968-1973
34/9/1071 , Charles Haynie Papers, 1963-2002
MS 46 , Fred F. Harcleroad Student Unrest Collection, circa 1964-1972
MS 82 , Military and Draft Counseling Center of Buffalo Records, 1953-1978 (bulk 1967-1974)
CD-ROM 5/3, Campus Unrest Images