SYLLABUS, Spring 2021
Précis: This course examines the development of American popular, vernacular
music, especially in the 20th century, with attention to the special, and very
American, syncretism of European and African musical cultures.
Our subject is large and complex; it may be viewed through many lenses:
ethnomusicological, sociological, historical, economic, and political. To gain full
understanding of popular music today, one must to know its roots, the musical
styles from which today’s popular music has grown out of that of our cultural
past. The course only touches on jazz, though jazz certainly originated as popular
music for dancing. Instead, we will be examining those musical styles that do not
require sophisticated musical understanding either of performers or of listeners,
those that are modern equivalents of the folk music traditions that have always
nested in human communities.