Music and Downtown New York, 1950-70
01/14/2012 - 02/18/2012
Note: Special Schedule 09:00 AM - 05:00 PM
Music Studios 301
Since the early 20th century, downtown New York has been one of the most artistically vital and creative geographic areas in America, known for its avant-garde, counter, and alternative cultural tendencies. Home or workplace of Upton Sinclair and the muckrakers, Jackson Pollack and the abstract expressionist visual artists, Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and the beat poets, and Merce Cunningham and the modern dancers, Greenwich Village and neighborhoods to the east and south continue to attract a special breed of artists and activists. Musical artists were not only integral to this scene--one can argue that they defined it.
The unique confluence of musical currents in downtown New York in the 1950s and 60s was extraordinary. The intensity, diversity, and critical inclinations of the music communities that lived and worked side by side within the roughly one square mile below 14th Street were unparalleled. In this course, we will study the history and simultaneous flourishing of four distinct music communities that inhabited and shaped downtown New York culture: Euro-American experimentalists (Edgard Varese, John Cage, Lamont Young), an African American jazz-based avant-garde (Cecil Taylor, Ornette Coleman, and Sun Ra), blues and folk revivalists (Leadbelly, Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan), and Lower East Side rock groups (The Fugs, Velvet Underground). Although they had much in common, most notably a drive to create something new that critiqued, countered, or provided an alternative to mainstream American values, they also had significant, even insurmountable differences. Much of the course will be devoted to understanding their points of convergence and divergence, especially in conversation with broader currents of the time (e.g. the civil rights movement and related notions of freedom, shifting youth subcultures, and avant garde aesthetics).
We will read about and listen to recordings of a wide variety of musicians, identify aesthetic trends, and study the local industry that supported them. This will include examining the catalogs of record labels (Folkways, Vanguard, Elektra, ESP), analyzing the environments and bookings of coffee houses, clubs, and concert spaces (Village Gate, Five Spot, Gerde's Folk City, the Electric Circus, the New School), and reading primary local sources, such as the Village Voice (inaugurated in 1955), and the East Village Other (inaugurated in 1965).
This course will involve a Sunday field trip to New York City, eating lunch and perhaps an early dinner. Students will be responsible for their own transportation and food costs.
Enrollment limited to 18 students.
This course is not open to auditors.
Immersion courses are worth three units of credit and are academically as rigorous as a regular term course, only the class meetings are compressed into a very short time. Students interested in immersion courses should be aware that the syllabus usually requires that students prepare for up to a month prior to the first class meeting and complete assignments in the weeks following the course. Please click here for more information about immersion courses.
The deadline to withdraw and receive a tuition refund for this course is Wednesday, January 4, 2012 at 5:00 pm. Please visit our website for a complete list of registration and withdrawal dates for this session.
A syllabus for this course is available at:
Eric Charry (B.M., M.M. New England Conservatory of Music; M.F.A., Ph.D. Princeton University) is professor of music. He is author of Mande Music: Traditional and Modern Music of the Maninka and Mandinka of Western Africa (University of Chicago Press, 2000), and editor of Hip Hop Africa: New African Music in a Globalizing World (Indiana University Press, 2012). He has two books in progress: The Emergence of an Avant Garde in Jazz, 1956-1965 and Downtown: Music as a Cultural Force, New York in the 1950s and 60s. Click here for more information about Eric Charry and click here for more information about his work.
Consent of Instructor Required: No
|Level: GLSP||Credits: 3||Enrollment Limit: 17|
Texts to purchase for this course:
Dave van Ronk & Elijah Wald, The Mayor of MacDougal Street, DaCapo, ISBN 0306814072
Reading Materials are available at BROAD STREET BOOKS, 45 Broad Street, Middletown, 860-685-7323 Order your books online
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