History of Jazz (79-326)
Carnegie Mellon University
Spring 1999

Dr. David Rotenstein
Department of History

course website:

Meetings: Mondays and Wednesdays 10:30 11:50 a.m.
Classroom: Doherty Hall A317

Office Hours: Mondays, 12:30 - 1:30, Room 207 Student Center
and by appointment.

Required Texts: David Evans, Big Road Blues: Tradition and Creativity in the Folk Blues. Mark Gridley, Jazz Styles: History and Analysis (paperback & cassette). Robert Palmer, Deep Blues. John Litweiler, The Freedom Principal: Jazz After 1958.

· Photocopied and Reserve Readings in Hunt Library
· Three (3) Listening Assignments

Students are responsible for all assigned readings and listening assignments. Grades will be based on two exams (Midterm and Final), three listening assignments and class participation. Class attendance is mandatory. Test material will be drawn from assigned readings, lectures and videos.

 Grade Scale Class Participation:
Mid Term Exam:
Final Exam:
Listening Assignments:
90% - 100%
80% - 89%
70% - 79%
60% - 69%
Below 60%

This class is designed to introduce students to the history and cultural contexts of jazz and blues music. The blues emerged at the turn of the century as a unique genre of African-American musical expression. Jazz and blues have developed through the twentieth century as complementary musical art forms, the former more instrumental and the latter more lyrical . Both, however, may be described as vocal. In jazz, instrumentation was favored over the lyrical expression of the blues. This course will place jazz and blues music in a culture-historical context with an emphasis on the blues as an oral poetic genre. Over the past century, the blues has undergone periods of popularity and revival in traditional communities as well as in the mass market place. What once was an almost exclusively African-American art form has become a globally transformed music adapt ed to many performance styles and contexts. The blues has woven its way into the aesthetics of diverse groups of people to be reinvented as rhythm and blues, rock and roll, electric blues.

The course will develop chronologically moving from the roots of blues music in nineteenth century spirituals and traditional West African musical and narrative forms through the twentieth century and the advent of recording technology, radio programs, an d their representation in print media such as books, artist interviews, fan magazines such as Living Blues, and now, electronic media such as the Internet. The course requires no previous musical experience.

The development of jazz in New Orleans also will be examined from a historical perspective. The contributions of such key figures as Jelly Roll Morton and Louis Armstrong. Jazz, like blues, spread across the musical map of the western hemisphere taking r oot in major cities such as Chicago, New York, Philadelphia and even Pittsburgh. The spread of jazz and its evolution will be discussed in relationship to the rise of the recording industry.

Click HERE for some course objectives

Course Outline

Week 1:
Monday January 11: Introduction to course. Introduction to African American music and definition of jazz and blues. Readings: Maultsby 1990:185-210; Keil 1991:30-49.

Wednesday January 13: Elements of Jazz: What is Jazz and why discuss it with the blues? Continues the discussion of the development of African American Music begun in the introduction.
Readings: Szwed and Marks 1988; Gridley (Elements of Music appendix)

Week 2:
Monday January 18: Elements of African American Music: learning to listen
Reading: Evans 1982:17-105; complete Gridley "Elements of Music appendix."

Wednesday January 21: Blues and Jazz Songs: Back to the Basics of Song Structure and Content.
Video: Sworn to the Drum
Reading: Gridley (chapters 1-3).

Week 3:
Monday January 25: Blues and Jazz Songs: Rhythm, Rumba and Ragtime.
Readings: Palmer 1981: 23-91; Scarborough 1923

Wednesday January 27: Origins of the blues in America: Plantations, Levee Camps, Turpentine Camps and Prisons.
Video: The Land Where the Blues Began
Readings: Lomax 1993: 64-120; Peabody 1903

Week 4:
Monday February 1: Music on the Landscape: Blues Styles and Geography.
Readings: Bastin 1986:3-51; Keil 1991:50-58 and Appendix on blues styles

Wednesday February 3: Geography and Styles, continued.
Reading: Evans 1982:167-264 (Begin reading, complete by next week).

Week 5:
Monday February 8: Collecting music: folklorists, historians, anthropologists and musicians.
Video: Along The Old Man River
Reading: Complete Evans assignment.

Wednesday February 10: From barrel house to jukebox: The changing contexts of blues performance.
Readings: Palmer 1981:95-131

Week 6:
Monday February 15: The rise of jazz and star performers.
Video: At the Jazz Band Ball
Readings: Southern 1983:307-356; Gridley (chapters 4-6)

Wednesday February 17: Early recordings and the drawing of generic lines in popular music: Race Records and hillbilly music and the framing of musical tastes.

Week 7:
Monday February 22: Listening Assignment Due.
Swing and the birth of big bands
Reading: Gridley (chapter 6 )

Wednesday February 24: The big men of the big bands: Bix Beiderbecke, Duke Ellington and Count Basie
Reading: Gridley (chapters 7-8)

Week 8:
Monday March 1: No Class: Mid-Semester Break

Wednesday March 4: Test Time Blues: Mid Term Exam.

Week 9:
Monday March 8: Flour Power: King Biscuit Time and the rise of black appeal radio.
Reading: Palmer 1981:174-216.

Wednesday March 10: Musical and Social Boundaries: The Sacred and Secular Revisited
Video: Saturday Night, Sunday Morning
Reading: Bastin 1986:52-86.

Week 10:
Monday March 15: Sweet Home Chicago. The rise of Chicago as an urban blues nexus.
Video: A Way to Escape the Ghetto
Readings: Spencer 1991:25-41; Palmer 1981:132-169.

Wednesday Mar 17: Big city jazz and the birth of bebop.
Reading: Southern 1983: 361-394; Gridley (chapters 9-11)

Monday March 22: Spring Break

Wednesday March 24: Spring Break

Week 12:
Monday March 30: From blues to rock 'n' roll. Through the 1940s into the 1950s when the term "rhythm and blues" is coined
Reading: Palmer 1981:217-277

Wednesday March 31: Robert Johnson: the man, the music and the legend and his influence in jazz and blues. Rock and Roll explosion
Readings: Palmer 1991:649-674; Shumway 1991:753-769.

Week 13:
Monday April 5: Louisiana Return: Zydeco, Mardi Gras and modernity.

Wednesday April 7: Blues Revival: the 1950s and 1960s.
Reading: Titon 1993:220-240

Week 14:
Monday April 12: Modern Jazz: Charlie Mingus and Miles Davis
Reading: Gridley (chapters 12-13); Litweiler (chapters 3-5)

Wednesday April 14: Music commodified and unplugged: jazz and blues as a symbolic representation of the past in the present.
Readings: Rotenstein 1992

Week 15:
Monday April 19: John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, Sun Ra, Anthony Braxton: Freedom and the birth of modern Jazz
Readings: Gridley (chapter 14); Litweiler (chapters 1-2)

Wednesday April 21: No Class Meeing. Use this time to complete the listening assignment and to prepare a list of three possible essay questions for the final exam to turn in on Monday with your listening assignment.
Readings: Litweiler (chapters 6, 8-9 and 12)

Week 16:
Monday April 26: The blues today: unplugged, electric and on the Net.
Readings: Narvaez 1993:241-257; Keil 1991:225-243.

Wednesday April 28: Last Day of Class: Course Review.


Tuesday May 4, 1999. 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Doherty Hall A-317


Reserve / Required Readings
These readings are available in bound form (two copies) for in-library reading and/or copying at the Hunt Library Reserve Desk.

Bastin, Bruce
1986 Red River Blues: The Blues Tradition in the Southeast. Urbana: University of Illinois Press. [Photocopied excerpts]

Keil, Charles
1991 Urban Blues. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. [Photocopied excerpts]

Litweiler, John
1984  The Freedom Principle: Jazz after 1958. New York: Da Capo Press.

Lomax, Alan
1993 The Land Where the Blues Began. New York: Pantheon. [Photocopied excerpts]

Maultsby, Portia
1990 Africanisms in African-American Music. In Africanisms in American Culture. Joseph E. Holloway, ed. Pp. 185-210. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Narvaez, Peter
1993 Living Blues Journal: The Paradoxical Aesthetics of the Blues Revival. In Transforming Tradition: Folk Music Revivals Examined. Neil Rosenberg, ed. Pp. 241-257. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.

Palmer, Robert
1991 The Church of the Sonic Guitar. The South Atlantic Quarterly 90(4):649-674.

Peabody, Charles
1903 Notes on Negro Music. Journal of American Folklore 16:148-152.

Rotenstein, David S
1992 The Helena Blues: African-American Folk Music and Cultural Tourism in Helena, Arkansas. Southern Folklore 49(2):133-146.

Scarborough, Dorothy
1923 The Blues As Folk-Songs. In Coffee In The Gourd. J. Frank Dobie, ed. Publications of the Texas Folklore Society, No. 2. Pp. 52-65. Austin: Texas Folklore Society.

Shumway, David R.
1991 Rock and Roll as Cultural Practice. The South Atlantic Quarterly 90(4):753-770.

Southern, Eileen
1983 The Music of Black Americans. New York: Norton. [Photocopied excerpts]

Spencer, Jon Michael
1991 The Diminishing Rural Residue of Folklore in City and Urban Blues, Chicago 1915-1950. Black Music Research Journal 12(1):25-41.

Szwed, John F., and Morton Marks
1988 The Afro-American Transformation of European Set Dances and Dance Suites. Dance Research Journal 20(1):29-36.

Titon, Jeff Todd
1993 Reconstructing the Blues: Reflections on the 1960s Blues Revival. In Transforming Tradition: Folk Music Revivals Examined. Neil Rosenberg, ed. Pp. 220-240. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.

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