Netherlands, Utrecht

Pop & Jazz in Society

online course
when 3 August 2020 - 28 August 2020
language English
duration 4 weeks
credits 8 EC
fee EUR 1740

Please note that this is an online course.

In this track we study the social implications of popular music and jazz. We question whether popular music can subvert stereotypical representations of gender, sexuality, and ethnicity; and how improvisation, notation, and social interaction function in jazz performance. Over the course of 4 weeks we analyze a range of popular musicians in order to question whether their artistic output offers the potential to resist hegemonic social structures; and critically engage with jazz performance and its wider context through an analysis of audio (visual) recordings, films and sheet music.

The first two weeks we will closely examine a number of popular songs and place these within the broader history of popular music and politics. The analytical scope will include careful attention to music, video, lyrics, and in particular to the interplay between these dimensions. To this end, you will read a selection of cutting-edge academic publications by musicologists as well as by prominent authors from other disciplines, including bell hooks, Paul Gilroy, and Jack Halberstam.

Our analysis will be a collective and highly interactive endeavor. With open discussions, presentations, and position papers we open each other’s ears and eyes to different perspectives on the social position and responsibility of popular music. We will most likely not reach a conclusive synthesis with regard to popular music and politics; the primary aim is to develop theoretical tools and critical insight to examine diverse case studies and their subversive potential.

The third and fourth week we will study jazz improvisation and its social interactions. Through an interdisciplinary approach we will discuss the meaning of jazz in different contexts. We will critically engage with different aspects of jazz performance, including improvisation and composition as well as jazz as mediated through recordings, internet, film and literature.

By listening to key jazz recordings and reading texts, you will become familiar with important conventions in jazz, such as improvisation, swing, leadsheets, big bands, call and response and trading fours. You will get to know musicians and the ways in which their music played a role in political debates, social change as well as popular culture.

We will listen to musical examples and visit a jam session. After the course, participants will be able to visit Rhythm Changes (27-30 Aug, Amsterdam), Europe’s largest jazz studies conference. Reduced fees are offered to participants of this course.

Course leader

Wouter Capitain, MA & Dr. Loes Rusch

Target group

Students interested in popular / jazz music and politics, including students from music studies as well as from (for instance) gender studies, media studies, postcolonial studies, and cultural analysis. Basic knowledge of general music theory is recommended, since some of our course materials will include discussions about musical details.

Course aim

The aim of the course is to gain better understanding of the social role of popular songs and conventions of jazz by: developing theoretical tools and critical insight to examine how popular songs subvert and reinforce stereotypical representations of gender, sexuality, and ethnicity; and gaining an understanding of the conventions of jazz as well as of the key theoretical approaches and debates in the field of jazz studies.

Fee info

EUR 1740: Course fee
EUR 650: Housing fee (optional)

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