1970s · music

bebop to hip hop course returns quieter

Today I completed the first draft of my Bebop to Hip Hop Syllabus for Fall 2017 .

It is quieter than last fall’s syllabus.

It is also more traditional (i.e. there are more essays and exams than I have ever had. Arrgh. There will be lots of grading).

But this could change. A syllabus is like a piece of writing. Even a published book is just another draft.

This is an anxious time. I want to lessen the anxiety in the air.  Music will help (dancing does, too. Look at that smile on Michael Jackson’s face in the video above).

But familiarity helps, too.

I have noticed some of my students feeling calmer when a class does not appear to be too different from what they have seen in the past. I like to go out on limbs. Sometimes that is scary for those around me.

I take this cue while trying to also take some risks and help our students to become active learners, as is said. Next semester, they will get a chance to create an original beat using their smartphone. They can write lyrics, too. The end product must tie in with some topic addressed in the course. There are many in this next iteration, which hovers around the late 1960s and the entire decade of the 1970s.

I was drawn to this window because it seems to reflect great change, or some way to see change in this country. It is also a window into which hip hop performers often reach for music samples. Why do the funky beats of the late 1960s and early 1970s resonate? What does that groove signify in a world trying to make room for people of varying backgrounds? All this as a war rages, a President steps down, jobs and people leave urban centers and television, music and movies become places of refuge.

Bebop figures in so long as it gives us a starting place. During the Second World War, jazz musicians, among them African Americans like Thelonious Monk took more risks in how they approached their instruments. Improvisation was the name of the game. Something similar happens when young men in the Caribbean and New York pick up a microphone and vinyl records in the 1960s and 1970s.

I’ll sort through all of this with my students. I am a child of the 70s.

childhood mississippi
Me standing on the right of my mom. My brother is on her left. We are visiting family in Mississippi. So, late 1960s-1970s.

We will take a cue from the music and people we study and reflect more.

If we are lucky, we will smile more, realizing that we have survived so much and we will continue to survive because human beings do that

Meanwhile, on heavy rotation: the latest Tribe video…


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