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I'm not jealous but I'm superstitious, but most working men's that way - Willie 61 Blackwell - Four O'Clock Blues

Author Topic: Blues Taught at the College and University Level  (Read 4888 times)

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Offline Stuart

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Emma Lee

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Re: Blues Taught at the College and University Level
« Reply #1 on: August 15, 2005, 05:33:55 PM »
That's so cool. Prof. Bryan T. Sinclair sounds great - is also jazz bibliographer for the university library. Kind of like Prof. Slack and others here on the site.

Hey, speaking of Country Blues for credit -- KC King (who works in the self-sustaining/extension programs part of the University of Washington) was thinking that it's entirely possible (if the right people, in the School of Music, were to make the right decisions and such) that PTCBW could be offered for credit at the U-Dub. The PT Jazz Workshop can already be taken for credit this way -- if the academic School and Department were to think it was a good idea, why not PT Country Blues too? Hmm. I don't know how much interest there would be in such a thing (on all sides of the equation), but it could potentially be cool.

Offline Slack

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Re: Blues Taught at the College and University Level
« Reply #2 on: August 15, 2005, 07:46:55 PM »
Quote
is also jazz bibliographer for the university library. Kind of like Prof. Slack and others here on the site.

Emma Lee, you must have me confused with someone else -- I ain't no perfessor, can hardly write my name.

What a great University class though....

Offline Stuart

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Re: Blues Taught at the College and University Level
« Reply #3 on: August 15, 2005, 08:08:56 PM »
Emma Lee:

I think that it would be great if the UW could do it. It would also be great if the Music Dept. could offer courses similar to the one at UNC (which could serve as a precedent). Of course there would be a number of administrative hurdles and hoops, but it could be done. The Music Dept. had an interest in ethnomusicology in the past at least (just check the holdings of the Music Library). All it takes is one prof. to schedule a course and then bring in a person or persons as (an) adjunct(s) to team teach it with. Given the number of talented and knowledgable people in the Seattle area they could offer a number of interesting (as well as solid and rigorous) courses under the rubric of American Roots Music. Now all we need is adequate funding.

Stu

P.S. From the "dedication page" of my diss that I did at the UW:

"And for MJH (July 3, 1893-November 2, 1966) who, although I never met him personally, taught me how to do things."

And who says that you don't learn anything in grad school!

Offline Rivers

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Re: Blues Taught at the College and University Level
« Reply #4 on: August 15, 2005, 11:23:23 PM »
I'm surprised nobody's taken a gratuitous pot shot at this so . . . that's my cue.

Can you imagine the arguments in those classes. Everyone trying to outdo each other citing meaningful ephemera to support some highly dubious point or other. Kind of like weeniecampbell.com actually. It could only end in tears. Check your axes at the door people, the tutor knows the truth and will guide you to a true understanding of the blues.

Is there an audition or can anybody attend, d'ya think?

Offline Stuart

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Re: Blues Taught at the College and University Level
« Reply #5 on: August 16, 2005, 06:21:59 AM »
Rivers:

My point to Emma Lee was that a course at the UW modeled on the one at UNC could be possible, albeit difficult to get on the books. It would not be a guitar instruction class. As for the potential for problems, what else is new? When the class is structured and taught properly, they would be minimized. Incompetence can turn anything into a disaster.

Can you imagine the arguments in those classes. Everyone trying to outdo each other citing meaningful ephemera to support some highly dubious point or other. Kind of like weeniecampbell.com actually. It could only end in tears. Check your axes at the door people, the tutor knows the truth and will guide you to a true understanding of the blues.

Argumentation is ultimately reason giving. What you describe is possible, but not very likely. Perhap the course description would say, "The instructor has a knowledge of the material and will present it in such a way so that you hopefully will come away from the class with an increased knowledge , understanding, and appreciation of what some people feel is an important, rich, and little known part of the American musical tradition."

As for, "the tutor knows the truth and will guide you to a true understanding of the blues," I know where you're coming from, but I seriously doubt that any mature and competent teacher (there's your cue!) would allow this to degenerate into "National Lampoon Does the Country Blues."

Take whatever pot shots you want. This is an open forum. However, my interest lies with how successful the course at UNC will be this fall semester, that is, how much and how well the students will learn.

Regards,

Stu

Offline Rivers

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Re: Blues Taught at the College and University Level
« Reply #6 on: August 16, 2005, 01:14:15 PM »
I stand corrected! Sounds like a good time anyway.

I'm just concerned that impressionable young minds, e.g. Slack, Waxwing and Uncle Bud, might attend and get a weirdly academized view of it all.  :D  Unorthodox views, or the received wisdom, around this topic can be wildly insightful or total b/s, and I hope there's scope for those ideas on the outer fringe.

I have a bunch of weird theories...

Calling it 'blues' is a misnomer, and commencing to teach, discuss and argue about the origin of said misnomer gets one nowhere. The blues is about one thing. According to Son House anyway. According to the denizens of e.g. the PWB list it's something else entirely. History, where known, and music, where it survives, are facts. Everything else is, um, certainly very interesting.
« Last Edit: August 16, 2005, 01:26:59 PM by Rivers »

Offline Stuart

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Re: Blues Taught at the College and University Level
« Reply #7 on: August 16, 2005, 01:50:21 PM »
We certainly don't want to ruin those impressionable young minds with a bunch of academic b/s nonsense! As for misnomers, "you start with the words, then go to the meanings, and once people understand the meanings, you then forget about the words. Show me someone who has gotten the meaning so that I can have a word with him." (A paraphrase of a famous quote--tell me from where.) 

I met Son House back in 1972. Quite an experience.

I'm wasn't trying to spoil anybody's good time or shut down opinions--just put forth the possibility that perhaps this kind of class could be offered at the UW someday.

Offline Rivers

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Re: Blues Taught at the College and University Level
« Reply #8 on: August 16, 2005, 02:02:55 PM »
Good post Stuart.

re. "you start with the words, then go to the meanings, and once people understand the meanings, you then forget about the words", exactly, well put whoever coined that.

I have a natural tendency to intellectualize the topic so was probably projecting. I'd love to do the course actually but would not be the best student due to my own set of passionately-held half-baked theories.

For example, I have a theory about Jimmy Rodgers and Frank Stokes I'd like to tell y'all about...  :P

David

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Re: Blues Taught at the College and University Level
« Reply #9 on: August 16, 2005, 08:10:46 PM »
The "Sociology of Rock and Roll" is a standard course in the Kentucky community college system and does transfer into the universities.  It involves a lot of discussion and lecture about social contexts that gave rise to the many components of the music, and involves a lot of listening to examples.

A course like that on the blues and its role in modern culture ought to be doable AND would introduce a great many young people to the best music.

Emma Lee

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Re: Blues Taught at the College and University Level
« Reply #10 on: August 16, 2005, 09:11:01 PM »
Hm. As Stuart said, if the right people take an interest (like, ideally, professors of ethnomusicology, in the School of Music) it could be done. And it probably wouldn't even require any further academickification of PTCBW. Maybe students have to write a paper about it all (after they recover from the generally high level of sleep deprivation). And of course, the syllabus would consist of reading WeenieCampbell.com cover to cover. But I don't suppose they'd offer grades or any such nonsense (heaven forfend). I'd guess the PT Jazz Workshop is similar to the Country Blues one in overall format, so that could be used as a model for how it works. (And Prof. Slack, you are far too modest.)

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Blues Taught at the College and University Level
« Reply #11 on: August 17, 2005, 07:52:31 AM »
I'm just concerned that impressionable young minds, e.g. Slack, Waxwing and Uncle Bud, might attend and get a weirdly academized view of it all.? :D?

I ain't afeard!

Quote
Unorthodox views, or the received wisdom, around this topic can be wildly insightful or total b/s, and I hope there's scope for those ideas on the outer fringe.

It's even better when interpretive dancers teach geophysics.

I think with any such course, you would have to approach it the way you would others courses in literature, sociology, history, or whatever. I.e., this is not the final word and I'll see what this person has to offer. Who is this teacher? Is she/he a Marxist leftover from the 60s, a new historicist, a brainsucking zombie unleashed on unsuspecting grad students by Jacques Derrida and his ilk? Does she have multiple books published on the subject and are they all full of obtuse academic jargon or can she communicate? Is he "just" a knowledgeable keener (sometimes the best courses or done by these folks) hired as a part-time contract employee? Does he play music? This music?  Did he know any of the practitioners etc etc.

PT workshop for credit is hard for me to contemplate. (2000 words on liver abuse please...)

David

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Re: Blues Taught at the College and University Level
« Reply #12 on: August 17, 2005, 08:59:07 PM »
I don't know about all the colleges and universities in the state, but at the one where I teach the head of the music department teaches the Sociology of Rock and Roll class.  I teach sociology and philosophy and when the course was first being offered I would occassionally come into the classroom to deal with some of the background social theories.  I haven't done that in some time now as our music professor can cover all the relevant social aspects and focuses on what he does best.

I can tell you that the course is one of the first on campus to fill up every time it is offered.  I think the Rock and Roll already has a ready made audience, but a similar course on the blues and its development would draw in the curious and produce a steady flow of new, and young, blues fans.

Sometimes I'm glad that my favorite music is virtually unknown and is not heavily commercialized.  Other times I wish it was more appreciated.  I never wish for the blues to be what rock and roll has become.

Offline Slack

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Re: Blues Taught at the College and University Level
« Reply #13 on: August 17, 2005, 09:39:26 PM »
I'll bet the "Art of the Blues" classes are great class and fill up fast too. What a great way to introduce young folks to this great music.  I think this kind of thing only exists if the Professor has a special interest.  He's turned one of his loves into a class.  First project is to write a blues song.  He relates blues to 'White Stripes" and Hip Hop - that should suck a bunch of students in. Another project is to add something to the website.  I like the perfessors style!

Reminds me.  The only college clas I ever flunked was Music Appreciation (classical music) - I didn't attend many classes, poor time management  :P  And to make it up (at another college) I took a class called "Folk Fiddlin' and Strummin' "  The classical violin teacher (Canadian guy) was a fiddler too - which I think is kind of rare.  In any case, the pre-requisite was that you had to play one other instrument.  By the end of the semester we'd worked up a number of songs as a group and played at an awards ceremony at the college and a couple of bars in town.  They loved us and I got an A to offset the F. ;)

Offline waxwing

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Re: Blues Taught at the College and University Level
« Reply #14 on: August 17, 2005, 10:38:01 PM »
I imagine that at UNC there are quite a few students who already have an interest in the blues due to the efforts of Scott Ainsley, who has basically sidetracked his performing career to concentrate on teaching blues in the public schools. He focuses on revealing the African retentions and getting the kids to create their own blues. I admire him for his efforts as nuch as for his music. Check out his website.
All for now.
John C.
"People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."
George Bernard Shaw

http://www.youtube.com/user/WaxwingJohn
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Willie Brown's Liquor at CD Baby

Offline FrontPage

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Re: Blues Taught at the College and University Level
« Reply #15 on: August 18, 2005, 09:39:43 AM »
Everyone trying to outdo each other citing meaningful ephemera to support some highly dubious point or other.

Sounds like another list that some of us subscribe to!  >:D
Cheers,
FrontPage

Offline Johnm

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Re: Blues Taught at the College and University Level
« Reply #16 on: October 24, 2005, 05:04:19 PM »
Hi all,
I did a presentation last Thursday at my alma mater, Cornell University, for a group combining students from two classes on the blues, one given by the history department and one given by the music department.  I spoke on Blues formal and phrasing archetypes, demonstrating them myself and also playing original recordings for the class.  I also played recordings where the performances diverged from the formal conventions.  I felt like the talk went well, but in fact, the students were a bit hard to read.  For all I know, they may have thought I was fascinating, stupefying or crazy.  Still and all, I was glad I spoke to musical issues, since they are so seldom discussed.  My main hope is that people heard something that they liked well enough to pursue on their own.
All best,
Johnm

Offline cmr

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Re: Blues Taught at the College and University Level
« Reply #17 on: October 24, 2005, 11:15:52 PM »
Hi John
I was wondering how your class was received at Cornell.  Its always hard to get a "read" on students.  Sometimes, even after a decade in the university classroom, its almost impossible to tell what students think about my lectures.  It varies from "wow, that cool" to "who gives a hoot anyway" - just get me out of here.  Perhaps you will get feedback from either the history or music departments.  Cheers, Charlie

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Offline Johnm

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Re: Blues Taught at the College and University Level
« Reply #19 on: October 25, 2005, 10:36:37 AM »
Hi all,
I neglected to mention in my previous post that I am very thankful to my former academic advisor, Professor Richard Polenberg, who is teaching the Blues class out of the History Department, who invited me to adress the combined blues classes at Cornell.  Professor Polenberg's course syllabus is very impressive and includes some source material that is not commonly encountered in discussions of the blues, I think.  Thanks for the points about student groups being difficult to read at times, Charlie.  At the time, Professor Polenberg thought the talk went very well, and I am perfectly willing to trust his forty years of experience as an educator.
All best,
Johnm

Offline markm

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Re: Blues Taught at the College and University Level
« Reply #20 on: October 25, 2005, 11:33:46 AM »
I am sure the students found your presentation informative and insightful.  You have such a personable approach that conveys to your audience that you are genuinely interested in them and are hoping they go away with something useful.  I would have certainly liked to have been there.

Mark

Offline waxwing

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Re: Blues Taught at the College and University Level
« Reply #21 on: October 25, 2005, 11:56:26 AM »
Wow, John, that's really great. I sure would like to go back to Cornell (where John and I graduated in the same year, folks, as we discovered a few years ago) as a guest teacher. I agree with Mark, your teaching style is so infectious, I don't see how even the most jaded appearing 20 something could not have taken something positive away from your lecture/demo. They certainly should have realized that they were listening to someone who understands the subject at hand from both subjective and objective viewpoints as few others do.

Who was the professor from the Music Department? I still bump into David Borden, of Mother Mallard fame, and now a prof, from time to time. This might be an area of interest for him. Would you believe he used to play piano and traps in our dance classes when I was in grad school for acting?

All for now.
John C.
"People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."
George Bernard Shaw

http://www.youtube.com/user/WaxwingJohn
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Willie Brown's Liquor at CD Baby

Offline Johnm

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Re: Blues Taught at the College and University Level
« Reply #22 on: October 25, 2005, 03:30:47 PM »
Hi all,
The professor from the Music Department, John C., was a young woman from Canada who is evidently a great classical and blues pianist named Francesca--I'm sorry to say I can not recall her last name.  It was the first time the two classes had been combined.  I hope they do it again because it seems it might yield some interesting discussions.
All best,
Johnm

Offline Stuart

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Re: Blues Taught at the College and University Level
« Reply #23 on: October 25, 2005, 08:39:37 PM »
John:

I'm sure that your class was great for all those involved. It's hard to gauge (or "read") the students' response when you are only there for one session--there just isn't enough time for teacher-student interaction and feedback. But the fact that you are concerned speaks to your commitment to doing your best for the students, which I am certain you did.

You said that..."Professor [Richard] Polenberg's course syllabus is very impressive and includes some source material that is not commonly encountered in discussions of the blues." If possible, could you pass along some information on his syllabus and materials, when time permits?

I couldn't find any on-line syllabus for the specific Blues course(s) at Cornell.edu, but I did find that Prof. Polenberg is a top-notch scholar and educator. When I get a chance, I'm going to check out his writings on American History.

Thanks Again,

My Best,

Stu

jacksmart

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Re: Blues Taught at the College and University Level
« Reply #24 on: October 26, 2005, 09:44:09 AM »
I am glad to see the university is offering this course. It would be
nice if they would employ some of the artists to enrich the topic
with personal appearances.
Jack

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