Spring 2019

Jazz Film: Improvisation, Narrativity, and Representation

Listed in: Film and Media Studies, as FAMS-375  |  Music, as MUSI-225

Moodle site: Course


Jason Robinson (Section 01)


(Offered as MUSI 225 and FAMS 375) Jazz occupies a special role in the development of American film. From The Jazz Singer (1927), the first American film that included synchronized sound, to the sprawling Jazz: A Documentary (2001) from Ken Burns, filmic representations of jazz speak to fundamental ways that Americans negotiate difference and imagine national identity. This course examines the relationship between jazz and American culture through three modalities: improvisation, narrativity, and representation. How might jazz improvisation influence the construction of film? Is there an "improvised film"? Moreover, jazz musicians often speak about "telling stories" through their music. How might this influence narrative structure in film and inform the ways that stories about jazz musicians are constructed in film? How might this influence narrative structure in film? And how might these stories about jazz musicians reflect larger debates about race, gender, sexuality and nationality? Assignments will include guided viewing of several important jazz films, required reading, and a series of essays.

Spring semester. Professor Robinson.


Artistic Practice, Fine Arts for Non-majors


2020-21: Offered in January 2021
Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Spring 2019, January 2021