African American Music and Culture: Focus on the Blues

ANTH 517

Fall Semester, 2003

(The Year of the Blues)

 

Dr. Wayne E. Goins (wgoins@yahoo.com)

Dr. Harriet Joseph Ottenheimer (mahafan@ksu.edu)

 

 

Course objective: To gain an understanding of the origins, growth, and development, plus the social, historical and cultural contexts of the blues, including its place in and influence on American music and culture.  To blend anthropological and musicological approaches to understanding the music and culture of the blues.

 

Policy statement on plagiarism and cheating: Plagiarism and cheating are serious offenses and may be punished by failure on the exam, paper, or project; failure in the course, and/or expulsion from the university. For more information please refer to the appropriate section (Academic Conduct) of the Student Life Handbook.

 

Honor System: Kansas State University has an honor system. You are expected to do your own work. We expect all of the work that you do in this class to be your own.

 

Requirements:

            Readings: A collection of readings will be available for purchase at the Arts and Sciences Copy Center. New materials will be added to the collection as time permits and student interests suggest. Please check with the Copy Center on a weekly basis for updates to the collection.

            Discussions: You must read each week's assigned readings before coming to class. You must come to each class prepared to question, discuss, and critique the readings.

            Viewing: In addition to video clips shown in class we expect you to watch all installments of the PBS series of films on the blues (currently schedule to air Sept 28-Oct. 4). There will be questions from this series on at least one of the exams.

            Exams: There will be four exams. You must take all four of them. No excuses except in cases of documentable emergency.

            Concerts: You will be expected to attend and write about at least one blues concert during the semester. We will let you know which concerts are approved. We will also recommend other concerts to you as we hear of them.

 

Recommended:

            We highly recommend doing as much additional reading, film viewing, concert attending, and radio listening as you are able to manage. We will notify you of opportunities and make suggestions as we learn of them, but you should feel free to ask us for specific suggestions tailored to your own particular interests.

            We also recommend exploring the PBS website devoted to celebrating the Year of the Blues http://www.pbs.org/theblues/theproject.html. There will be continual updates to the material on that site, as well as links to additional helpful sites for learning about the blues.

 

Grading:

            Four exams @ 150 points    =   600 points

            PBS series exam questions  =      200 points

            Blues concert report            =     200 points

      Total                                              1000 points

 

Disability Statement: If you have any special requirements that we need to know about please let us know immediately.

 

 

 

Course Calendar

 

Weeks 1-8: Beginnings and Contexts

---Week 1 (August 20) Introductions, Expectations, Guidelines, Assignments (Goins & Ottenheimer)

---Week 2 (August 27) Musican and Cultural Foundations: Africa, Europe, & the Middle East (Ottenheimer)

---Week 3 (September 3) American Beginnings: Combinations and Conditions (Ottenheimer)

---Week 4 (September 10) EXAM (Identify and discuss examples of musical and cultural elements, styles)

---Week 5 (September 17) Social & Cultural Contexts of Blues: Performers & Performances I (Ottenheimer)

                        (racism, oppression, the 'crossroads' idea, blues as ritual, blues as communication)

---Week 6 (September 24) Social & Cultural Contexts of Blues: Performers & Performances II (Ottenheimer)

                        (men and women in blues, performers as professionals, lyrics, autobiographies)

---Week 7 (October 1) Blues as Social Commentary; Appropriation & Voice; Review for exam (Ottenheimer)

---Week 8 (October 8): EXAM (short essays discussing contexts, themes & issues; questions from PBS series)

 

Weeks 9-16: Focus on URBAN Blues

---Week 9 (October 15) Introductions, Expectations, Guidelines, Assignments (Goins & Ottenheimer)

---Week 10 (October 22) Blues Form & Respective Players (Goins)

---Week 11 (October 29) Harmonica Players, Guitarists, Pianists, Vocalists (Goins)

---Week 12 (November 5) EXAM (identify and discuss examples of musical & cultural elements, styles)

---Week 13 (November 12) Blues in Pop, Jazz and R&B, Rock (Goins)

---Week 14 (November 19) The Modern Era Bluesmen (Goins)

Thanksgiving Break

---Week 15 (December 3) Review for exam (Goins)

---Week 16 (December 10) EXAM

 

 

The PBS series

 

Sunday Sept 28: Feel Like Going Home (Martin Scorsese)

Monday Sept 29: The Soul of A Man (Wim Wenders)

Tuesday Sept 30: The Road to Memphis (Richard Pearce)

Wednesday Oct 1: Warming by the Devil's Fire (Charles Burnett)

Thursday Oct 2: Godfathers and Sons (Marc Levin)

Friday Oct 3: Red, White and Blues (Mike Figgis)

Saturday Oct 4: Piano Blues (Clint Eastwood)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

N.B.---We reserve the right to make changes to the syllabus and course overview as necessary.
Weeks 1-8: Beginnings and Contexts

 

Week 1 (August 20):

Introductions, Expectations, Guidelines, Assignments

(Goins & Ottenheimer)

lecture/discussion: defining the blues

music: various

assignment: bring a definition of the blues, bring one or two examples on CD; read everything, come to class prepared to discuss, question, challenge.

 

Week 2 (August 27):

Musical and Cultural foundations: Africa, Europe, & the Middle East: (Ottenheimer)

 

READINGS

Joseph E. Holloway "The Origins of African-American Culture." In, Joseph E. Holloway, ed. Africanisms in American Culture (Bloomington & Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1990), 1-18.

(optional: Richard Waterman: "African Influence on the Music of the Americas." In, Sol Tax, ed. Acculturation in the Americas (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1952), 207-18.)

Paul Oliver: "African Influence on the Blues." Living Blues 8 (Spring 1972): 13-17.

David Evans: "Africa and the Blues." Living Blues 10 (Autumn 1972): 27-29.

Paul Oliver: "Echoes of the Jungle?" Living Blues 13 (Summer 1973): 29-32.

Portia K. Maultsby: "Africanisms in African-American Music." In, Joseph E. Holloway, ed. Africanisms in American Culture (Bloomington & Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1990), 185-210.

Harriet Ottenheimer: "Comoro Crossroads: African Bardic Tratitions and the Origins of the Blues." Human Mosaic 26(2) (1993): 32-38.

Paul Oliver: "Afterword" (included in reprinted version of Savannah Syncopators). In, Paul Oliver, ed. Yonder Come the Blues. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001) 114-128.

 

LECTURE/DISCUSSION

1. defining the blues: why it's important to have a baseline

2. finding the blues: using combination of anthropological and musical insights

--from anthropology: relativism, holism, comparison, fieldwork; structure, function, identity

            retention, acculturation, reinterpretation, syncretism, polychronicity

--from music: melody, harmony, rhythm, structure, function, role

            melisma, blue notes, call & response vs dialogue, polyrhythm, polymeter

3. searching for blues in all the wrong places; the overall influence of Africa on America

--Africa & Europe (musically, culturally), the slave trade, bardic traditions, Bantu cultures

--the Waterman-Oliver-Evans debate (misplaced focus?)

 

LISTENING/VIEWING

1. what is blues? - use Fruteland Jackson's "Blues 2.0"  is is blues? Why? Why not?

compare: Cousin Joe: "Life is a one way ticket" or a Muddy Waters or a Robert Johnson AAB

--lyrics--expressive, personal

--poetic structure AAB

--harmonic structure I IV V

--vocal/melodic style: shout style

 

2.Where are these elements from? What other elements come from those places? How can we find out?

  Critical Listening & reading

            from music: melody, harmony, rhythm, structure

            from anthro: holistic, comparative, fieldwork-based: structure, function, identity

                        retention, reinterpretation, syncretism

            from both: polychronicity vs monochronicity  (use CHERNOFF)

start with comparison of bardic styles

            european (Jean Ritchie?)

            mideastern (Om Khalsoum)

            west african (Bai Konte) --- www.coraconnection.com

            east african (Inzouddine) -- comoro blues

 

then more examples exploring range of possibilities, there and here:

lyrics (subject matter--not always possible)

            personal--impersonal

            complaint--moral

 

structure (verse, through compose, call response, dialogue)

verse (or progressive)

            European - use clancy or folk stuff

            comoros women's tari

through composing  (Son House calls this 'long meter')

            Bai Konte, Herbie Hancock

            Tutsi praise song, Go down ol Hannah

            how come my dog don't bark?

call/response

            african work song

            comoros ??

            mardi gras indians

dialoguing

            Inzouddine

            any blues and guitar example, or cousin joe

 

rhythm (polychronicity, monochronicity)

polychronicity

            Chernoff

            w afr xylophone or drumming

            comoros ndzedze

            Video: Wadaha (also Dagomba?)

            professor longhair

            mardi gras indians

 

vocal style (melisma and shout)

melisma

            call to prayer

            Tutsi praise song again

            comoros mzumara

            aaron neville

 

repeat bardic styles--what do you hear now? can you identify something different from same areas?

            european different example

            mideastern ??)

            west african (??

            east african (?? (tanzania?  Zanzibar??)

 

3. The issues: slavery, Bantu influence, Oliver-Evans, Ottenheimer,

 

 

 

Week 3 (September 3)

American Beginnings: Combinations and Conditions (Ottenheimer)

 

READINGS

LeRoi Jones: "Slave and Post-Slave." In LeRoi Jones, Blues People (New York: Morrow, 1963), 50-59

LeRoi Jones: excerpt from "Primitive Blues and Primitive Jazz." In LeRoi Jones, Blues People (New York: Morrow, 1963), 60-70.

David Evans: excerpt from "Folk and Popular Blues (Origins of the Blues Form)" David Evans, Big Road Blues: Tradition and Creativity in the Folk Blues (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1982), 41-48.

Harriet Ottenheimer: "Blues in the Heartland: African-American Music and Culture in the Middle West. In Gerald Early, ed. Black Heartland: African American Life, The Middle West, and the Meaning of American Regionalism (African and Afro-American Studies Occasional Papers Series Vol 1, No. 2, 1997): 16-36.

David Evans: "Goin' Up the Country: Blues in Texas and the Deep South. In, Lawrence Cohen, ed. Nothing But the Bloues: The Music and the Musicians (New York, London, Paris: Abbeville Press, 1993) 33-85

Bruce Bastin: "Truckin' My Blues Away: East Coast Piedmont Styles." In Lawrence Cohen, ed. Nothing But the Bloues: The Music and the Musicians (New York, London, Paris: Abbeville Press, 1993) 205-231.

 

LECTURE/DISCUSSION

slavery (small farms, plantations, cities), compared with other American and World systems

slave songs (hollers, shouts, spirituals), play-party songs

post emancipation music (minstrelsy, ragtime, jubilee singers, singing societies)

European and African contacts and interinfluences

 

LISTENING/VIEWING

field hollers (esp texas+burundi comparison)

worksongs (esp call-resp styles to compare with african examples), shouts, lining out

ragtime & 1800s pop tunes

delta, texas, piedmont blues styles

urban heartland blues styles (esp prof longhair for polychronicity)

segments from Leadbelly film (the competition scene in the Memphis bar?)

Comoros: video of dancing the 'gabusi', (west Africa? dancing in Dagomba?)

 

Week 4 (September 10)

exam

(identify and discuss examples of musical & cultural elements, styles)

 

Week 5 (September 17)

Social and Cultural Contexts of Blues: Performers and Performances I (Ottenheimer)

(racism, oppression, the 'crossroads' idea, blues as ritual, blues as communication)

 

READINGS

Richard A. Peterson. "Market and Moralist Censors of a Rising Art Form, Jazz" Arts in Society, Censorship and the Arts, Vol. 4, No. 2 (1967).

Julio Finn: "Robert Johnson at the Crossroads" In, Julio Finn The Bluesman: The Musical Heritage of Black Men and Women in the Americas. (London, Melbourne, New York: Quartet Books, 1986) 210-223

Gayle Dean Wardlow: "Stop, Look, and Listen at the Cross Road" In, Gayle Dean Wardlow Chasin' that Devil Music: Searching for the Blues. (San Francisco: Miller Freeman Books, 1998) 196-206.

Pleasant Joseph: "Messin Around" In, Pleasant "Cousin Joe" Joseph and Harriet Ottenheimer Cousin Joe: Blues from New Orleans. (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Pressm 1987) 62-80.

Daphne Duval Harrison: "Riding 'Toby' to the Big Time" In, Daphne Duval Harrison Black Pearls: Blues Queens of the 1920s. (New Brunswick and London: Rutgers University Press, 1988) 16-41.

Harriet Ottenheimer: "Catharsis, Communication and Evocation: Alternative Views of the Sociopsychological Functions of Blues Singing. Ethnomusicology 23:1 (1979): 75-86.

 

LECTURE/DISCUSSION

racism, oppression, life in the South, accommodating

the crossroads myth, blues and religion, blues and preaching, blues and ritual, blues and communication

 

MUSIC/VIDEOS

Son House - anything

Willie Brown - East St. Louis Blues

Robert Johnson - Cross Road Blues, Hellhound on my Trail, Stones in My Passway

Honeyboy Edwards - reminiscences, anything else

Video: from Crossroads: segment about meeting devil at the crossroads

 

Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, Sippie Wallace, other early blues women

BB King - How Blue Can You Get?

example of preaching?

Video of Cousin Joe: interaction with audience, talking, encouraging....

 

Week 6 (September 24)

Social and Cultural Contexts of Blues: Performers and Performances II (Ottenheimer)

(men and women in blues, performers as professionals, lyrics, autobiographies)

 

READINGS

Richard K. Spottswood: "Country Girls, Classic Blues, and Vaudeville Voices: Women and the Blues" In, Lawrence Cohen, ed. Nothing But the Bloues: The Music and the Musicians (New York, London, Paris: Abbeville Press, 1993) 87-105.

Daphne Duval Harrison: "'Wild Women Don't Have the Blues': Blues from the Black Woman's Perspective. In, Daphne Duval Harrison Black Pearls: Blues Queens of the 1920s. (New Brunswick and London: Rutgers University Press, 1988) 62-111.

Harriet Ottenheimer: "Life-story Narrative as Reflexive Ritual (Blues for “Ed”)" Human Mosaic 28:2 (1994): 60-64.

 

            lecture: men and women in blues, performers as professionals, lyrics and autobiographies

            music: women's lyrics vs men's lyrics, humorous blues (cousin joe), sexual innuendo in blues (roosevelt sykes, rufus perryman, ma rainey)

            video: segments from Crossroads (image of singer as professional); cousin joe at piano (from New Orleans video), possibly some of wild women video?

            assignment: watch the first three installments of the PBS series, come to class with questions, critiques, discussion points.

 

The PBS series: first three installments

            Sunday Sept 28: Feel Like Going Home (Martin Scorsese)

            Monday Sept 29: The Soul of A Man (Wim Wenders)

            Tuesday Sept 30: The Road to Memphis (Richard Pearce)

 

Week 7 (October 1)

Blues as Social Commentary; Appropriation & Voice; other Issues; Review for exam (Ottenheimer)

 

READINGS

Finn? They took our music type stuff?

Garon on appropriation

James H. Cone. "The Blues: A Secular Spiritual" In James H. Cone, The Sprituals and the Blues: An Interpretation (New York: Seabury Press, 1972; reprinted New York: Orbis Books, 1991), 97-127.

Harriet Ottenheimer: "Writing Cousin Joe: Choice and Control Over Orthographic Representation in a Blues Singer's Autobiography." Unpublished Manuscript 1997-2003.

 

 

            lecture: blues as protest music? Josh White and Leadbelly and the New York leftist crowd?

            what does it mean to appropriate the music of others? what's being appropriated?

            taking financial advantage, how the record companies mistreated the musicians, how cover artists made so much more

            researching the music, rescuing? the music, discovering? the music

            czech blues, what's different? if anything (is it possible to get a cd of petr?)

 

            music: Bessie Smith (backwater blues) Ma Rainey, Broonzy (black get back, bourgeois blues), Leadbelly? Otis Rush Cousin Joe (railroad avenue, sip in mississippi), David Dee

elvis covering thornton,

            video: ?? from crossroads. note that the music student wins the battle, saves the bluesman's soul?

            assignment: watch the remaining installments of the PBS series, come to class with questions, critiques, discussion points. expect questions from the series to be on the exam.

 

The PBS series: remaining installments

            Wednesday Oct 1: Warming by the Devil's Fire (Charles Burnett)

            Thursday Oct 2: Godfathers and Sons (Marc Levin)

            Friday Oct 3: Red, White and Blues (Mike Figgis)

            Saturday Oct 4: Piano Blues (Clint Eastwood)

 

Week 8 (October 8): Exam (short essays discussing key contexts for blues, themes & issues in context)

 

Weeks 9-16: Focus on URBAN Blues

Week 9 (October 15) Introductions, Expectations, Guidelines, Assignments (Goins & Ottenheimer)

            Overview of Urban Blues: The Main Players and Instruments

            Lecture: The Significant Regions for Blues in America

            Chicago (Chess, Alligator Records; Muddy, Wolf, Buddy Guy)

            Texas (Walker, Collins, Rush, SRV, Hopkins)

            Kansas City (jazz blues, riffs, J. Rushing, piano blues)

            West Coast (Grateful Dead, Collins, Psychadelic, Cream, etc.)

            video: Muddy Waters documentary

 

Note: Blues Masters at the Crossroads: Series of Concerts in Salina Oct 17 & 18.

 

Week 10 (October 22) Blues Form & Respective Players

            lecture: Strick Metered, Rhymed & Measured vs Unrestricted Form:

                        Lyrics

                        Music

                        Form

                        Instrumentation

            music: Lighnin' Hopkins, Jimmy Reed, John Lee Hooker, B.B. King, Albert King

            video: taken from artists listed above

 

Week 11 (October 29) Harmonica Players, Guitarists, Pianists, Vocalists

            lecture: Blues Music and Practicality of the instrumentation

                        Portability

                        volume

                        range

                        timbre

                        cost

            music: selections chosen from wide variety

            video: segments from Albert Collins

 

Week 12 (November 5) Exam (identify and discuss examples of musical & cultural elements, styles)

 

Week 13 (November 12) Blues in Pop, Jazz and R&B, Rock

            lecture: Blues in the Mainstream of Pop Culture

            music: selected cuts from Presley, Beatles, Hendrix, Dylan, Stones, Prince, Led Zeppelin, Clapton,

            video: segments from above names

 

Week 14 (November 19) The Modern Era Bluesmen

            lecture: The Influence of SRV, Guy, Clapton, Raitt, Cray

            music: current tunes to be selected from Raitt, SRV, Guy, etc.

            video: segments from SRV, Clapton, dvd,

 

Thanksgiving Break

 

Week 15 (December 3) Review for exam

 

Week 16 (December 10) Exam