MSC 1003 - Music in Civilization

FTR: Tuesdays and Thursdays 4:10-5:25 in Room 6-170
UR: Thursdays 6:05 - 9:00 in Room 6-170
Class 13UR: Thursday, May 02 at 6:05
(= "Class 25/26")
document iconClass Notes for Session 13 document icon

Quiz Four News

I'm giving you the option to take the last test either at the end of the last session on Thurs May 9 or in our finals period, Thurs May 16.

(Note: The May 9 session counts as a regular class, whether you are doing the test that day or not.)

Doing it in the last session will only be slightly awkward. The material we cover that day will be 10% of the test, and it will be well-documented beforehand on this website. So, it won't be hard to feel totally prepared. However, if you are stressed at the end of the semester and have lots of other things going on you can put it off for a week instead.

Complete notes and study guide are now up, and here are your playlists:

Jazz playlist: Youtube / Youtube for Phones / Spotify / Apple Music
Modern Classical playlist: YouTube / Youtube for Phones / Spotify / Apple Music

Absolute Homework Deadline

Website homework will remain open until midnight May 16, and I'll continue to accept timelines by email until then. Duedates for our last three assignments are on the last class (May 9) but if you choose the optional late test date you can also do the last three assignments late - just email me and ask for an upgrade if you get the "this would have been a check plus but it's late" message.

Homework #17: Roots of African American Music

This homework assignment is the "prequel" to the material we began after the test. First read the online unit and then answer 11 questions in assignment 17.

The questions follow the sequence of the discussion with a little light shuffling. As always I recommend opening the online unit and the exercise in separate tabs so you can flip back and forth and do it open book.

This one is due before the last class (Thurs May 9).

Homework #18: Avant-Garde Classical Music

We also have one last online unit on the wacky world of Avant-Garde Classical Music in the 20th Century. I'm not going to lecture about Modern Classical Music at all until May 9, but this is all very radical stuff that isn't really connected to the past and you can check it out any time.

Then, exercise 18 asks you questions about the material.

This one is also due before the last class (Thurs May 9).

Bebop (Mid 40s to present)

We'll start class by looking at Bebop, which was a reaction against the poppiness of Swing. Basically bebop musicians wanted to take jazz out of the dancehalls and make it challenging again. It was played in small groups and featured a more complex take on harmony, melody, and rhythm.

In class we watched Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker performing "Hot House" in 1951.

and for the quiz we are going to learn this recording of The Charlie Parker Septet (with Miles Davis on trumpet) - "Ornithology" [1946]

Track Links: Spotify Apple Music

Also in class I sometimes play the Miles Davis Quintet's "Four," from 1958. In this more modern studio recording you can really hear the aggressive and propulsive drums and bass.

Track Links: Spotify Apple Music

Thelonious Monk

We are going to look at one more bebop figure. Monk is a pianist whose playing style and compositions are valued for their fun "off-kilter" quality.

We'll learn this track for the quiz: Thelonious Monk Quartet, "Rhythm-an-ing" from the album Criss-Cross.

Track Link: Spotify Apple Music

Bonus Post-Bebop Composer: Charles Mingus

Bonus Page: Charles Mingus

Mingus is another top-10 jazz figure that we don't have time for in this unit. Not on the quiz.

Another tangent: Jazz Vocalists

Students often ask me about the role of singers in jazz history (and, like, why aren't we listening to them), so I made an extra page on important singers from the swing era to the present. If you are interested, check it out.

Cool Jazz (1950s onwards)

This is simply jazz that is much more smooth and laid-back than bebop. I started off by playing something from this TV special, which is very similar to the Miles Davis's album Birth of the Cool:

...and then we focused on Miles Davis, "All Blues" from Kind of Blue [1959] which is both cool and modal. This is a quiz piece.

Track Links: Spotify Apple Music

Avant-Garde Jazz (50s to present)

While Miles was making very relaxed and accessible music others were trying to push jazz to challenging new places.

The most radical figure from this movement is Cecil Taylor, whose music is usually both "free" and "atonal."

The clip I play in class isn't on youtube any more, but here is another performance that you can watch IF YOU DARE

...and I also slipped in this performance from 2014, to show that some people are still doing pretty much the same thing.

I've also put up a bonus page about Ornette Coleman. Ornette's music is "free" but not necessarily atonal.

Also, we can put John Coltrane in the avant-garde category. Coltrane was always a very skilled bebop and modal player, but he emerged in the 60s as an original and highly influential force. His music from this time is also modal, but it has a new length and intensity that people found inspiring and spiritual.

In class I usually play live video of the tune "Impressions." Here is another TV performance where he solos longer:

Track Links: (from the album Impressions): Spotify Apple Music

Jazz-Rock Fusion (70s onwards)

We watched some more of Ken Burns' Jazz, which showed Miles Davis's conversion to "fusion." Some of the talking heads in the video had negative things to say about it.

For the quiz we will learn Miles Davis, "Spanish Key" from Bitches Brew [1970]

Track Links: Spotify Apple Music

Post-Modern Eclecticism (90s onwards)

I think we are still in an "eclectic, post-modern" period for jazz (and classical music, for that matter.) Basically the idea here is that an artist can stand outside of history and pick and choose what he or she wants to do, often putting things together in a unique combination.

We usually look at some of the many projects of John Zorn, each one very different from the other.

John Zorn, "Cobra" (invented 1984, this perfomance is from 2008)

John Zorn's Naked City, "You Will Be Shot" [1990]

I usually play John Zorn's Masada Quartet, "Kisofim" from Masada Live at Tonic 2001 in class. Here is a live version with his spin-off band Bar Kokhba.

Conservative Countermovement, 1980s

We usually also back-track a bit to look at the emergence of a more conservative movement in jazz that centers around Wynton Marsalis. Marsalis would argue that many of these more recent developments aren't really jazz at all.

Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Big Band recreate Duke Ellington's "The Mooche."

More Bonus Tracks!

I usually wrap up the session by showing you some more recent performances from youtube.

More "Eclectic" Performances from the 2000s

Vijay Iyer covers M.I.A.'s "Galang"

Track Links: Spotify Apple Music

Robert Glasper merges together Radiohead's "Everything in its Right Place" with Herbie Hancock's "Maiden Voyage"

Track Links (from In My Element): Spotify Apple Music

The Bad Plus covers Nirvana's "Lithium"

The Bad Plus actually kicked off this trend of acoustic jazz groups covering rock tunes back in 2003. I've stopped playing this clip in class because students seem to dislike it, but you can't stop me from posting it here.

Track Links (from For All I Care): Spotify Apple Music

Esperanza Spalding, singing her original tune "Little Fly"

Track Links (from Chamber Music Society): Spotify Apple Music

Bonus Links

Miles Davis's ex-wife Betty Davis takes credit for the title Bitches Brew

NY Times Visits Minton's on 118th St.