Spring 2010

The Blues Muse: African American Music in American Culture

Listed in: Black Studies, as BLST-53  |  Music, as MUSI-08


Jason Robinson (Section 01)


(Offered as Music 08 and Black Studies 53 [US].  This course examines the relationship between blues music and American culture. Using Amiri Baraka's influential 1963 book of music criticism Blues People as a central text, we will explore ways in which the "blues impulse" has been fundamental to conceptions of African-American identity. At the same time, we will trace the development of African-American music through its connection to West African musical traditions and through its emergence during slavery and the Jim Crow South. Our investigation will survey a number of precursors to the blues work songs, spirituals, and minstrels and see how these impacted early blues styles, including delta blues, classic blues, and early blues-oriented gospel practices. The blues played a fundamental role in the emergence of new popular musics in the 1940s and 1950s, most notably rock and roll. Embedded within these new musical practices were ideas about African American modernism, urbanity, and self-representation. Culminating in an examination of hip-hop culture, we will analyze the connection between African-American musical practices and larger debates about race, class, gender, and ethnicity. We will see how the blues serves as a mode of activism, how blues musicians engage questions about racial and ethnic identity through music making. Two class meetings per week.

Requisite: Music 11 or consent of the instructor. Limited to 25 students. Spring semester. Visiting Professor Robinson.

If Overenrolled: Priority based on class year.


Artistic Practice, Fine Arts for Non-majors


2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2010