In 1974, composer Joseph Byrd and Clare Spark founded The Yankee Doodle Society, a production group of artists and scholars whose former advisors and endorsers have included Julian Bond, Roscoe Lee Browne, David Brion Davis, Herbert Gutman, Michael Rogin, Roger Shattuck, Kathryn Kish Sklar, and Richard Slotkin. YDS is a 501(c)3 organization, supported by tax-exempt donations and, to date, some volunteer labor. The advisory board is currently being entirely reconstituted: new members include Mark Kramer (Harvard University), Margaret Washington (Cornell U.), and Mark Bauerlein (Emory U.)
Clare Spark has co-produced four narrated concerts of nineteenth-century popular music, two sets of recordings (4 disks: Takoma A-1048, Musical Heritage Society 834561) which reconstruct middle-class music of the early and mid-nineteenth century; and has produced, written and directed A Change of Tears: Sentimental Song and Purity Reform in the Age of Jackson, a 10 1/2 hour collage of dramatized documents and music from antebellum America demonstrating contradictory themes in the emerging industrial culture, for instance: “family values” can be seen either as “conservative” nostrum for social and economic ills or as the bulwark of democratic opposition to illegitimate authority. Actors included Hershel Bernardi, Roscoe Lee Browne, Beatrice Manley, David Birney and William Schallert. These activities have been funded through private contributions, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Endowment for the Arts, and TOSCO. The collage was broadcast in its entirety on July 4, 1994, KPFK-FM, Los Angeles, rebroadcast Thanksgiving 1994 and Labor Day 1995. (The flyer for the first broadcast of A Change of Tears is here: http://clarespark.com/2010/07/04/flyer-for-first-yds-broadcast-a-change-of-tears/. Depending on funding, these musical/cultural materials will be made available on the internet at no cost to the viewer, as ownership of the reconstructed music (for ten years distributed by the Musical Heritage Society) has reverted to YDS.
The mission statement of YDS is also under revision: future projects will focus on problems in intellectual history, for instance representations of the scientific revolution of the 17th century, and of the subsequent eighteenth century Enlightenment: both are controversial topics in the construction of current “multicultural” humanities and social science curricula. Moreover, partisan representations of the American past strongly impact mental health, to the detriment of democratic political participation, for instance in the inability to decode propaganda. When she catches her breath, Clare also expects to put her notes on Ralph Bunche’s participation in the controversial founding of Israel on the YDS website.
Other projects will focus on the political culture (including the culture of the academy and of the mass media) of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, continuing to rely upon primary sources and original interpretations of the main themes in American and European history, for instance, in current diagnoses of mass death, identity, ethnicity and mental illness, especially as these concepts impinge upon artistic/cultural freedom and the capacity of citizens to resist antidemocratic, sick-making propaganda from partisan sources. (See the recent blogs by Clare Spark on this website. The blogs are united thematically and use primary source materials that have either been ignored or unknown in previous work in the humanities. These are therefore portentous interventions in our understanding of American and European culture, especially as represented in the schools and in the media. )