"There is more to jazz than music,” a scholar recently wrote, “and it is there, paradoxically, that its influence is profound.” “Jazz,” he continued, “is also a loosely connected set of ideas: it has a history and a tradition of thought, an imagery and a vocabulary that have given it reality and presence." This first-year seminar follows up on those very ideas.
We will explore a few elements of the music, culture, and literature of jazz. We will be especially attentive to jazz’s relationship to African American cultural and intellectual life in the 20th century and we will also track the music’s relationship to American musical culture more broadly. Although the full history of the music covers more than a century and reaches across the world, our focus this term will be on the culture of modern jazz in the 1950s and 1960s and some of that era’s major figures, such as Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and Billie Holiday.
Among other work, there will be regular written commentaries required and short reading quizzes to help keep everyone on track with the reading.
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