Comparative Literature | Lyrics and Popular Song
C251 | 14615 | Prof. David Hertz


*fulfills A&H and CS requirement*
11:15-12:30 TR

The course will explore all sorts of popular songs, from the late
nineteenth century to now. We will mostly concentrate on the great
American songwriters, including such as figures as Irving Berlin, Cole
Porter, Jerome Kern, Duke Ellington, Hoagy Carmichael, George
Gershwin, Harold Arlen, Johnny Mercer, the Beatles, Stevie Wonder, Bob
Dylan, and Bruce Springsteen.  Particular attention will be given to
the era of the “standards,” sometimes described as the period of the
American Songbook. We will now and then move abroad to study French,
Italian, Argentine, Brazilian and Mexican songs. Our target in all
cases is the same: 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, and its means
of production and distribution. Most of the time, we will focus close
attention on the work of 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 Edith Piaf, Billy
Holiday or Frank Sinatra. Or we will discover that the performer and
creator are sometimes the same person, as in the case of Jacques Brel,
the Beatles, 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 material 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. There will be some live performance, and
some recordings.  Attendance is required.