Student Comments


These are comments written by students in "Anthropology 148a: The Language and Culture of Art (The Culture of Jazz Aesthetics)" at UCLA. They were originally sent to Prof. Duranti via e-mail.

(Editorial note: the messages are reproduced as close as possible to the way they were written. No attempts have been made to change spelling or punctuation. Material between brackets has been added. Two brackets with three dots inside -- "[...]" -- mean that part of the message has been edited out. Some of the messages can be made a better sense of by matching the dates of the messages with the syllabus for the course).

Date: Wed, 21 April 2004

[...] More importantly, I just wanted to mention how amazing our jazz class is. The music I've always listened to my whole life has been fairly mainstream rock, and a little sprinkling of whatever else has been popular. Last year I started teaching myself the guitar, and finding blues records to listen to and practice on. Though jazz has always seemed like an amazing world, I've always been too intimidated by it. Just like I always thought classical musicians to be arrogant about their genre of music, I thought jazz was the same way. I'm learning through your class, that jazz is all about audience. The musicians who have come to play for us have such an appreciation for us as audience members and they know the majority of us aren't musicians. I am learning about the accessibility of the genre of music as a listening experience and as a culture. Though it seems a "complicated" form of music, musically, it is one that can be understood by anyone no matter what the level of musical training, because it is about communication - between the players, and between the players and the audience. I am beginning to feel like I am learning to "understand" jazz, and what it's really about. It is not an untouchable form of music at all. Rather, it's just another language, players conversing with each other freely, only in a language that can be understood by anyone. My question to you, professor...I know you're a jazz guitarist...are we gonna get to hear it? [Signed]


Date: Tue, 03 Dec 2002 01:35:49 -0500

Dear Professor Duranti, Ok, so this is the email I've been so hesitant to send you all quarter. Heck, I'm not even sure why. I'm not sure exactly how I happened to end up getting so behind in homeworks, especially because they were not all that difficult, but somehow it happened. It's funny too, because I really enjoyed the class. Maybe it hasn't shown in the work I've handed in, but being a musician who's not a music major, this class was the first time I've got to hear musicians speak on music firsthand. Which was amazing. I dunno, even the things they said weren't necessarily things I hadn't heard before or already inherently understood about music, but for some reason just to hear it said by such seasoned musicians legitimized everything I thought about music. I play the guitar, and the music I have created these past few weeks has been above and beyond anything I thought could come of myself. In fact, I can remember specifically the day and moment in class when Professor Burrell played "Be Yourself." The room was filled with such a presence that I couldn't do anything but sit there and fall into the music. And I saw it, I saw Professor Burrell playing himself so masterfully on the guitar. I wasn't analyzing how complex the stuff was that he was playing, or comparing myself to him. I just took what I heard as being a product of the soul of the musician playing. It just made so much sense. Needless to say, I went home that day, locked myself in a bathroom with my guitar, freed my hands, freed my head and just played. And what a session it was! I finally understood myself on the guitar. I finally saw what it was that was natural to me. I could hear myself in the guitar. For the last few weeks I've come in a way to master my own instrument and find my own voice. Perhaps not because I have mastered all there is to know of technique and style, but just because I came to a certain realization...That I am and can only expect to be as good a musician as I am in the moment I'm playing. And what a simple concept!! How could I have missed that one? I'm sorry I haven't turned in the assignments. But I've been there for most of it. I've watched and I've listened and I've learned. But I realize that, yes, I am in college and in college there are assignments due and grades to receive. I think I'm missing about 3 or 4 of the assignments. And I'd really hate to fail a class that I've enjoyed so much. So I don't know what to do... I've done the final, which I think turned out really well. Now I just need to know what I can do to possibly not fail this whole class. I'm still willing to do the assignments and take only partial credit for them. Or perhaps even just weigh my final moreso than the homeworks. I dunno, I'll leave that up to you. In any case, I just wanted you to know that I'm not dead; I haven't been braindead and apathetic to this class. So email me back, or perhaps I'll even be brave enough to approach you in class tomorrow. Haha, we'll just have to see how that plays out!! But thanks for reading this, and I hope I've conveyed myself properly (written word is not my favored mode of personal expression). See ya in class tomorrow!