Comparative Literature | Topics in Inter-Arts Studies
C655 | 8942 | Hertz

Topic: American Music and Theories of Popular Culture
Above section meets with C251
TR   11:15-12:30   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.