The Route of Progress

During the summer of 2007 Carrie Dashow and Jesse Pearlman Karlsberg took a two-month-long trip along and beyond the Erie Canal. The Route of Progress contained 2 major components; the 13th Screen dynamic group editing production and Shape Note music, written and taught. Both components include major input from participating residents whether in actually shooting the video, or telling their own stories of place and singing. Please see the 13th screen Video portion of the tour for visual details, and Singing and Song Map for audio. The book created from this experience was re-printed in part by The Ninth Letter, a collaborative arts and literary project produced by the Graduate Creative Writing Program and School of Art & Design at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

Collaborating with local Historical and Cultural Societies, the team were invited to each town for about one week. Carrie would meet with and gather local stories and thoughts from residents. Writing it into verse at night, handing it off to Jesse to compose in original shape note scores. Jesse would hold traditional shape note singing workshops and each visit concluded with a participatory presentation where we would all sing, tell stories and watch the 13th screen, shot and edited by local participants.

The Route of Progress rears its head from the heartland of New York. Its path traces the beginnings of globalization that resulted from the short-lived, yet enduring Erie Canal. Built along the Mohawk River and tracing animal tracks turned hunting portages, the Canal is the first uninterrupted water route connecting the Northeast to the Midwest. Quickly bypassed by the faster railroads, the Canal was obsolete after a twenty-five year heyday. Yet it burrowed into our history and culture, and remains relevant today. The Canal opened the United States to itself, connected the Great Lakes to the Atlantic, and positioned New York City as an international commercial port. After the Canal’s construction, the communities it bridged were open to worldwide business, carried which way the water went. This hybrid man and nature made waterway catalyzed our country’s early involvement in global trade. The Canal’s quick life formed a short and rich legacy, but the quick replacement of the cheaper and faster Railway, led to the subsequent decline of upstate New York. We need not solely look toward developing countries to see the effects of globalization, industrialization, and development. Here in upstate New York, in examining the land, with toxic refuse amidst bits of rich soil, these effects are just as clear.


The Route of Progress trip bore 6 Locally shot, multi-view video documents and an original location based 53 song and participatory tune book written from stories told in each location, written in Shape Note music, words and texts by Carrie Dashow and composition by Jesse Pearlman Karlsberg, as re-printed in part by The Ninth Letter, a collaborative arts and literary project produced by the Graduate Creative Writing Program and School of Art & Design at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.



Further information:



  • New York State Council on the Arts, Individual Artist Grant
  • Experimental Television Center, Finishing Funds as an agency of NYFA
  • The New York State Music Fund, established by the New York State Attorney General at Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisory Committee
  • The Tank, a space for performing and visual arts in New York City
  • Arts Center of the Capital Region
  • The Roland Corporation

Screen shot 2011-11-01 at 5.22.47 PM



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