Comparative Literature | Lyrics and Popular Song
C251 | 1123 | Hertz, D
Section meets COAS Arts & Humanities requirement
Section carries cultural studies credit
Class Meets: 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 stylists 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, Wonder, and
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.
Assignments: there will be a short prospectus and an expanded final
paper (the two can be interrelated). Two quizzes (midterm and
final). Readings: assigned reading for each class is a must.