Mini-Class in a Blog Post

Mini-Classes are coming, and I’m assuming that if you are reading this blog, you are either extremely excited about jazz or you are mildly curious about the one NCF class I’m teaching this semester. I’ll still be at Mini-Classes, FYI.

Required Texts:

Scott DeVeaux and Gary Giddens, Jazz (New York: W. W. Norton & Co. 2009).

Robert Walser, ed., Keeping Time: Readings in Jazz History (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999).

Recommended Course Item:

DeVeaux and Giddens, Recordings for Jazz (New York: W. W. Norton & Co. 2009).

Course Description:

History and Analysis of Jazz is a broad overview of how jazz traditions developed during the twentieth century from a feared popular music to “America’s Classical Music.” The course will balance a critical history of jazz with close readings and “listenings” of improvisatory solos and arrangements. It will also trace jazz’s history alongside its place in wider popular culture through source readings and references to it in film and literature. It invites students to learn new ways of listening to music, while also exploring its changing roles, routes and meanings in society. From its origins in African American culture barely a century ago, jazz has often challenged existing distinctions between “art” and “popular” music, and today is an internationally respected art form that is revered by classical musicians and hip-hop artists alike. This course will introduce students to a wide range of key innovators from jazz’s multifaceted histories through a survey of musical evolutions and the debates and aspirations that surround them.

Course Structure and Evaluations:

We will cover approximately a decade of jazz history every 1.5 weeks. (ETA: this is an average. The fragmentation of the ’50s and ’60s will warrant more time.) Students will sometimes be required to present on course readings, listening, and popular cultural connections to the material. In addition to presentations, students are required to complete 3 short response papers, there will be a 5 page mid-term paper, a term paper proposal with bibliography, and 12 to 15-page term paper on a topic related to the class.

  • Participation (including presentations) will count for 1/4 of your evaluation.
  • Response papers will count for 1/4 of your evaluation.
  • Mid-term paper will count for 15 percent of your evaluation.
  • Your term paper proposal and final term paper will count for 35 percent of your evaluation.
  • You must complete all assignments to pass the class with a satisfactory.

Class FAQ’s:

  • What is your capping policy? Beyond meeting the pre-requisite, third and fourth year Music AOC’s get priority. Unless some arrangement has been made in advance, you must arrive on time on the first day of class to be enrolled.
  • Is the Music Theory pre-requisite firm? This course assumes knowledge of music theory to allow us to analyze jazz strategies of improvisation and composition. If you haven’t taken Music Theory but still feel that you have the theory chops to take the class, you have the option to take a placement test. Contact me in advance via email if you feel you meet this requirement.
  • The textbooks are really expensive. What do I do? EBooks are available for both texts, but the expensive one (DeVeaux / Giddens) comes with a catch. Jazz is available through the W. W. Norton website as an eBook, but Norton requires that you use their website or a device that is flash-enabled (i.e. no Android or iOS devices). There is also an option to buy the book through CourseSmart. Neither option is as easy as an ePub, Kindle, or PDF. The good news is that the Walser is available in multiple eBook editions (i.e. Kindle and Nook friendly).
  • How will I contact you outside of class? I will only be on campus one day a week this semester. If you need to meet with me in person, it’s best to make an appointment for Wednesday morning or just after class. Otherwise, I am happy to meet with you via Skype.
  • I’m really into an obscure (but influential!) jazz musician. Will we have time to discuss his/her/their music in class? Depending on the size of the course and student interest, there may be ways to incorporate your favorite artist into the class. The easiest way to make this happen is to select one of your presentation slots for the time period when your musician of choice was most active and present about them in context of the class. The other possibility is to choose your favorite jazz musician as your topic for your final paper.
  • The 3-hour seminar slot is brutal. How can we make things more exciting? We will take a break in the middle of the seminar slot. We can also take turns bringing snacks if everyone is amenable.
  • I already know I have a problem with the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and I’ll likely miss class. What can we do? Since we only meet once a week, that meeting will be important to the class. I am open to rescheduling our class meeting only if it works for everyone and everyone makes the rescheduled time. In general, rescheduled classes are very tough to pull off.
  • How are we going to get the music? Have no fear: I will distribute all recordings that are not on the 4-CD collection through password protected links. If there is a lot of interest in certain time periods, we might use a shared Dropbox folder. We shall see.
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