Author Archives: Felicity Howlett

Felicity Howlett, Bio and Contribution

Felicity Howlett received a CUNY BA degree in psychology from City College in 2021 and is currently a student in the MALS program at the Graduate Center. Previously, she earned a Ph.D. in musicology from Cornell University with a focus on the twentieth century. Her thesis explored the solo piano interpretations of Art Tatum. She became an executive assistant to David Judelson (a co-founder of Gulf+Western Corporation), who devoted his entrepreneurial skills to pharmaceutical research (developing a safe blood substitute) and the “last mile” problem (digital technology). Over the years, she transcribed and edited his recollections, and in 2016, she produced a two-volume memoir of his life and work. As a pianist, she has entertained in piano bars and in various hospital and elderly community settings. Presently, she volunteers in a “Music for Veterans,” music therapy program under the direction of Concetta Tomaino at the Institute for Music and Neurologic Function.

The Sounds of Music project is inspired by the creative efforts of Concetta Tomaino. As Project Director, Felicity will contribute her personal experience, contacts, and concentrate especially on helping to frame the model program, outreach, and research, including examination of other interactive music programs, resources to enhance accessibility to the internet, and problems of latency and other interactive connection issues. She is fortunate to have creative, technically well-equipped partners who have solid experience in design and project management.



Manifold, an Open Source Platform

F. Howlett

On Tuesday, February 8, Robin Miller, who we are fortunate to have as a classmate and as an Open Educational Technology Specialist and librarian at CUNY GC, led a workshop on Manifold, an open-source platform that is available for all at CUNY to use. An online CUNY description snatched from Google is: “an intuitive, collaborative, open-source platform for interactive scholarly publishing created by a collaboration from the CUNY Graduate Center, the University of Minnesota Press and Cast Iron Coding.”

Robin explained its origins as follows: Matt Gold, in 2011, was looking for a Digital Editor—something more than a website. It was important for it to be accessible and responsive, and what they came up with is a product that can be operated successfully even from a phone.  She explained that Manifold was built with the workflow of a university press in mind, so it can handle large projects but the intention is for it to have greater flexibility and applicability than a traditional literary press.

Manifold operates as a container. My understanding is that the container is essentially a  library,  or similar to a building with adjoining sections—a wonderful space to store not only your project but everything related to it and even things that may not be used but might be considered important connections and reference tools.  The opportunity to have everything you need to reach out for contained in one place. It is not intended for writing. Writing takes place outside the container and imported in without reciprocity. That is, if you amend something once it is inside Manifold, there is no synchronicity with the related documents outside the container.

Text may be brought in by 1) importing text; 2) bringing in a Google doc; 3) importing from Word; 4) texts can be built out from HTML or 5) from HTML Lite (LiteHTML), a function to give developers an easy way to show HTML in their applications.

Robin reported that Manifold is being adapted for a variety of purposes.  For example, at Brown, the freshman student body reads together from it as a book club.

A Manifold installation is called an instance.  That instance can contain several, dozens, or even hundreds of projects, and there is an established hierarchy as to who has permission to do what to whom within each project. Each project has a home page that may contain many content blocks or just a few, depending on how many different categories (paths to take, areas to explore) one wishes to provide. The core block is called the “Hero” block. It appears directly below the title, describes the project, defines its creators and other essential information, and cannot be removed.  Everything else on the home page can be manipulated as desired.

It is possible to include video and audio files and bring in items that would be very difficult for a traditional publisher.  Various content blocks can be hidden as long as wished and released when deemed ready.

The Manifold documentation that I have explored so far is thorough, well-written and easily available both on the CUNY Academic Commons and on Google. Examples of how it is used for projects—whether for classrooms or research or archival purposes—is also plentiful both at CUNY and on the internet.  It gets compared to resources such as Press Books or Pub Pub. In its relatively short lifespan, it seems to have become an integral part of the life of digital publishing.

I attended the Moacir P. de Sá Pereira presentation on GitHub. I got as far as creating an account, and I am very interested and fascinated by its connectivity with Zotero, but it’s going to take more than a couple of hours for me to digest all that I heard there.





Skill sets for Praxis Project

Hello!  I have been Felicity since I moved to New York City in the 1970s and started teaching students just a little younger than I. Until then, the name most frequently applied to me was Flip. So now, I’m relaxing into both names. I’m quite a bit older, so I have years of experience, but I’m very new at digital thought and applications. My life background seems to fall into three loose categories:

1) My academic background includes a musicology degree with a focus on 20th century music and a thesis on pianist Art Tatum, a nearly blind, phenomenally creative jazz musician who redefined the meaning of pianistic virtuosity for nearly everyone who heard him. In 2020 I completed a BA in psychology from CCNY, where I studied all that I could learn about sound, music, the brain, hearing, listening, interpretation, perception, neuropsychology, and the therapeutic applications of music.

2) As a musician/pianist, I’ve worked with choirs and ensembles, but mostly as an entertainer in piano bars (old days) or in various situations with elderly people, most often in an institutional setting. I’ve also participated as a pianist in a music therapy group for several years.

3) As an executive assistant for 27 years to a man who co-founded a major conglomerate in the 1950s, and who pursued his dreams (usually just a little too early for success), I sometimes experienced life at the very exciting edge of possibility. During parts of the last seven or eight years of our work together, he dictated his memories, and I typed them into the computer as fast as I could. After we closed the office, I worked for the next two years to produce a two-volume privately published memoir for his family and colleagues.

Attempting to turn these experiences into skill sets for digital humanities applications and labels pertinent to digital projects is a challenge.

Project Management: I’ve been in many situations where I had to keep track of a variety of activities, organize, and maintain order in a timely fashion. I believe I can play a responsible part in this area, although I’ve never led or managed a team. I’ve taught school, so that in some respects represents a team leadership position.

Outreach: I have just been helping in the online promotion of a virtual recital that involved online research, large mailings of a poster with an embedded registration link, and an online letter, customized for each recipient, to transport information in a practical, efficient, and, hopefully, enticing manner. I have joined Facebook and Linked In but rarely go near these outlets. On the other hand, I am very interested in exploring music participation via Zoom, and I believe that such arenas provide opportunities we barely imagined a few years ago.

Developer and Designer: Skills:  At this moment, I have no computer language skills. For a MALS class last year, I created a WordPress web site called “Morningside Heights Reflections 1961-2020.”  For it I created a photographic exploration of three distinctive characteristic of the area:  Historic Designations; Monuments and Statues, and Institutions. To these I applied seven themes from Jane Jacobs’ historic study, The Death and Life of Great American Cities. It’s clunky, but it was a solid start in thinking about how to put things together on a site. (Available on the Commons if anyone is interested.)

I’m especially interested in focusing on accessibility, community building for a shared purpose, and simplicity, and I’m happy to play almost any role that would be useful.


Sounds of Music

Dhpraxis2, Project Proposal, Felicity Howlett


The Sounds of Music project is a plan for an interactive music program designed to encourage participation, awaken memories, and foster well-being in a home-bound, fragile elderly population. Its focus is on people who, for one reason or another, have been isolated in their living quarters, unable to participate in activities outside their home. Ease of access is a crucial concern. The program operates from a WordPress website platform embedded with Zoom, a video communications application that enables interactive communication and screen sharing. The challenge to the project is to design a platform where people may enjoy a congenial social experience through singing (or other music making), listening, and discussion. At present, technical limitations in audio transfer prevent successful ensemble participation from people in different locations. Specifically, these are problems of synchronicity due to latency (time lag) issues. Sounds of Music offers a working model that can be put into effect immediately, with the flexibility of incorporating improvements in audio interactivity as they become available. This proposal invites the participation of the digital humanities community as its role expands from the academy into the broader public sphere. It encourages creative input and program design to ensure comfortable access to people who have previously may have been excluded from opportunities for social participation.

Problems to Address

 On March 11, 2020, when the WHO declared Covid-19 a global pandemic, the abrupt termination of in-person, interpersonal communication upended traditional practices in classrooms, office buildings, service industries, performing arts, social programs, and more. Those suddenly confined to their living quarters found themselves in situations not so far removed from an established group of outliers—the approximately ten percent of the United States population over sixty-five years of age “who are considered housebound and in need of home-based care” (Qiu et al. 2010). Overnight, traditional in-person activities became on-line encounters, and people began to appreciate what extraordinary opportunities were possible in an online format. What this means for us is that suddenly an overlooked population can participate with the same equipment that everyone else is using. Suddenly people who cannot leave home do not have to be left out. It is hoped that this project can support this participation through the creative planning and structure of an accessible program that invites participation, encourages discussion, listening, and music making.  Creative applications of available material and perhaps new inventions will be required to assist participants to enjoy the greatest accessibility.

Intended Audience

The intended audience includes people who have missed out on face-to-face encounters because of their inability to leave their living quarters, and the intention of the project is to address that issue by creating an inclusive, participatory and comfortable forum focusing on music. We may receive assistance in establishing an audience for a pilot project from Concetta Tomaino, a CUNY instructor, and executive director of The Institute for Music and Neurologic Function, for whom I have been a volunteer piano player for the past three years in both in-house and online music therapy sessions. While this project is not intended to be a therapy program, she has considerable experience in this area and may be especially helpful when considering how best to accommodate certain handicaps as well as in our outreach activities.

Contribution to DH and Potential Impact

With “Sounds of Music” students of the digital humanities have an opportunity to “engage the world beyond the academy” (Gold and Klein, 2019) by offering an overlooked and underserved population access to internet communication and participation in a humanities-based online program. The project also inspires innovative thinking and opportunities to propose and invent creative tools to support those who have difficulty gaining access to digital portals without assistance. For participants, a program that shines light on musical highlights from past years provides a background for the discovery of threads from previous life experiences and the opportunity to tie them into the present fabric of their lives. Enabling a group to share space and time on topics of mutual musical interest can be particularly fulfilling.

Final Product

Through the program format, the goal is to break down distinctions among participants and to create a participatory, informative, and engaging musical program available to anyone who would like to use it but with a special focus on making it accessible to people unable to attend in-person events. A primary objective is to provide a way for people who are confined to their living quarters to enjoy music, musical participation and social communication as adults. At the same time, it is hoped that the final product will serve to open gates that sometimes separate the worlds within and without the university. In the future, the flexible design intended for Sounds of Music might be adapted to a variety of projects, for example, programs coordinating with people experiencing a single cognitive or physical condition or a musical/educational format for children.

Information about the program will be disseminated through appropriate internet links, key words, by notifying local information sites, community organizations, and municipal programs who share such information, with libraries, medical facilities and rehab operations as well. The program may even be of interest to insurance companies and other entities who are interested in seeking ways to enhance quality of life for their clients.

Initial Feasibility Assessment

A number of successful online music programs exist although none was found was exactly this focus.  Two particularly successful examples are:

Daniel’s Music Foundation.                 

New York City, NY  

A thriving music center in New York City offers musical activities and lessons for individuals with handicaps from age three through adult. It shifted to an online presence almost immediately in March 2020, thanks to excellent music studios. No one anticipated the power and value of their online presence. Enrollment has increased significantly since going virtual.

The Sofa Singers                                                           

North Wales, UK

People from all over the world join in real time for 45 minutes of simultaneous singing twice a week on Zoom for a small participation fee. The latency problem is successfully circumvented with an upfront explanation: “The Sofa Singers encourages you to sing as if no-one is listening because they won’t be. Due to latency (delay) it is not possible to synchronise and hear all of the singers at the same time. But you will be able to see each other so sing with a smile.” Afterwards, there’s a break with group discussion.

Our proposal takes advantage of the practical and efficient advice shared by James Sills of The Sofa Singers. Until a better alternative comes along, when participatory singing occurs, singers will hear only the musical output from the moderator and their own voice. At other times, channels will open so that people can enjoy communicating with one another.

Special Applications and Equipment to Enhance Autonomy

 Virtual assistants such as Siri and Alexa have transformed the accessible landscape, and they are getting more capable by the moment. They can turn equipment on and off, set alarms and reminders, and produce programs on demand. Except for the advantages of having a physical presence available, these assistants can perform many tasks that were impossible to manage without assistance for many people not so long ago. Recently new devices attached to these virtual assistants have the capacity to use video and to keep the viewer positioned properly in the video frame. New advances have been made in earphones and watches, and other, older enhancements such as headphones and audio enhancers should not be overlooked.

Continual attention is required to improvements in this areas as well as to the synchronicity problem. These areas may inspire digital humanities students to discover ways to improve accessibility and user friendliness. We do not plan to promise solutions in this area during the life of this project, but we do plan to pay attention to what works and what is needed. Along the way, creative solutions may be discovered.

In its initial form, the program will be free, and the music will be obtained from sources such as YouTube which are openly accessible, so there should not be licensing problems involved.

It is estimated that during the semester, it would be possible to design a WordPress website platform embedded with a Zoom Meeting link, produce a working description and structural program design detailing focus, agenda, protocol, audio-visual equipment, presentation, interactive participation possibilities, etc., and explore options for a flexible program (define the intended content and delivery options) and create a pilot model.


Gold, Matthew K., and Lauren F. Klein. 2019. “A DH That Matters” In Debates in the Digital Humanities 2019, edited by Matthew K. Gold and Lauren F. Klein. University of Minnesota Press.

Qiu, Wei Qiao, et al. “Physical and Menta Health of Homebound Elderly: An Overlooked Population.” Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, vol. 58, no. 12, Dec. 2010, pp. 2423-28.  PubMed Central.