FYS-118 Why Jazz Matters: The Legacy of Pops, Duke, and Miles

Instructor: Professor John William Jones
Department: Sunderman Cons. of Music

Course Description:
This seminar investigates the origins and development of America’s indigenous music through the lens of three iconic jazz masters – Louis Armstrong (1901-1971), Duke Ellington (1899-1974), and Miles Davis (1926-1991). Their outsized personalities and burning energy to succeed inspired countless musicians who followed in their footsteps. We examine such questions as why 1920s society-at-large degraded jazz as a lesser art form and debate the overarching issue of racial discrimination in the arts. What is it about jazz as an improvisatory art form that continues to be so attractive to the masses after 100 years? Jazz-infused Harlem Renaissance poetry, analysis of musical examples from our three main characters, critical essays, vintage film clips, and biographical works are all part of the class experience. A background in music (band, orchestra, choir, or jazz) is helpful but not required.