MUS 254 Charlie Parker and the (R)evolution of Modern Jazz

Last offered Spring 2014

In the 1940s, Jazz turned a corner, transitioning from the functional and popular music of the swing era to the increasingly complex art music known as bebop. The practitioners of this new sub-genre were seen not as showmen or entertainers, but (in the words of poet Ralph Ellison) as "frozen faced introverts, dedicated to chaos." This class will survey the life and music of that decade's most pivotal figure, the brilliant alto saxophonist Charlie "Yardbird" Parker (1920-1955). The ubiquitous graffiti slogan "Bird Lives" that heralded his untimely death still rings true today, as his influence remains undimmed. In recent decades his music has become a cornerstone of jazz pedagogy, and increasingly is considered to represent more of an evolution than a revolution in jazz history. We will focus on Parker's musical development, with a particular emphasis on his study and musical apprenticeships with some of the major soloists of the swing era. Through score study, guided listening and composition assignments, the class will examine and practice applications of Parker's melodic, harmonic and rhythmic innovations. We will evaluate, compare and contrast examples of contemporary theoretical scholarship concerning his improvisational vocabulary. Parker's broader cultural significance and the intersections between his music and parallel artistic, social and political movements will also be addressed. While our focus will be on Charlie Parker, the class will also discuss the contributions made to modern jazz by his most prominent collaborators, including Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, and Bud Powell. Additionally, we will consider his influence on subsequent generations of musicians by investigating personal anecdotes as well as the work of several "first generation disciples," such as Cannonball Adderley, Jackie McLean and Ornette Coleman. The class will culminate in a final multimedia project in which the students will explore Parker's musical influence on contemporary jazz musicians.
Class Format: lecture/discussion
Requirements/Evaluation: weekly reading, listening and musical repertoire learning assignments, class participation including written responses to discussion prompts; brief transcription and or composition assignments
Additional Info: midterm and final exam, (both largely listening based); final multimedia interview project and presentation
Additional Info2:
Prerequisites: musical literacy sufficient to deal with material (MUS 103 suggested) and/or permission of the instructor
Enrollment Preference: Music majors, Jazz musicians
Department Notes: MUS Group A Electives--classes 2015 and 2016
Material and Lab Fees:
Distribution Notes:
Divisional Attributes: Division I
Other Attributes: MUS Group A Electives
Enrollment Limit: 19
Expected Enrollment: 10
Class Number: 3920
MUS 254 LEC Charlie Parker/Modern Jazz Division 1: Languages and the Arts Kris Allen
MUS 254 LEC Charlie Parker/Modern Jazz Division 1: Languages and the Arts Kris Allen
MUS 254 LEC Charlie Parker/Modern Jazz Division 1: Languages and the Arts Kris Allen
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