Comparative Literature | American Music and Theories of Popular Culture
C655 | 1249 | Hertz
11:15-12:30 TR BH 347
Survey of popular songs of Europe and the Americas, including modern
ballads, Broadway tunes, classical jazz standards, country western,
rock, French cabaret songs, Spanish flamencos, Mexican rancheras,
Brazilian ballads, Argentine tangos, and Neapolitan melodies.
Discussion of literary qualities of lyrics in context of musical
setting and performance and independently as literature. Some
discussion of musical stylistics as well. Live performances of
selected works. No previous courses in music or poetry required.
The course will deal with all sorts of popular songs, from the
nineteenth century to now. We will periodically study French and
Spanish songs, and even some German and Brazilian tunes, but we will
mostly concentrate on the great American writers, including such
figures as Porter, Kern, Ellington, Gershwin, Stevie Wonder,
Springsteen. Our target: the varied phenomena of how words and music
come together in the hybrid art form we call the popular song. At
times we will concentrate on the culture that produced the song, or
focus more attention on the lyricist or the composer. Sometimes we
will discover that they are the same person. The great Cole Porter is
a case in point, and Irving Berlin is another fine example. At other
times, we will focus on a great performer, such as Piaf or Sinatra.
Or we will discover that the performer and creator are sometimes the
same person, as in the case of Brel or Springsteen. Lyrics will be
analyzed in relation to the musical structures, and as poetry too.
Most important will be to study the popular song as a complete art
form, using both words and music. Emphasis will be on the 30s through
the 50s, but there will be very recent song materials as well.
No Prerequisites. Varied levels of training in music and poetry are
expected from the students in the class. Independent projects will be
designed to fit the level of each student. Classes will be a mixture
of lecture and discussion. Attendance is required.
Assignments: there will be a short prospectus and an expanded final
paper (the two can be in interrelated.) Two quizzes (midterm &
final). Readings: assigned reading for each class is a must.