The Culture of Jazz Aesthetics


Anthropology M142R

World Arts and Culture M136

Ethnomusicology M130

African American Studies C191-5


Moodle Website address:


Instructors: Profs. Kenny Burrell and Alessandro Duranti

Spring 2011 / Tuesday 11-1:50pm / SMB 1325


Office Hours for Prof. Duranti: Wednesday 9-10am in Haines 349 & by appointment (starting week 2)

Office Hours for Prof. Burrell: Wednesday & Thursday 11:30am-1pm in Schoenberg 2866


[Updated March 27, 2011]


This course looks at the aesthetics of jazz from the point of view of the musicians who shaped jazz as an art form in the 20th century. Students will be expected to integrate readings and audio-visual material available on the class website with their experience in the class, where they will have a chance to hear and interact with professional jazz musicians who will give musical demonstrations and answer questions from instructors, students, and other guests. The course combines the analytical resources and historical knowledge of musicians and ethnomusicologists with those of linguistic anthropologists interested in jazz as a cultural tradition that reproduces itself through subtle conventions for communicating aesthetic ideas and values and for collaborating on and off stage. A final assignment will give students a chance to use the knowledge accumulated throughout the course by observing a live concert and writing a report.


Each meeting will be divided into two main parts:


1. interaction/interviews with guests, i.e. musicians, theorists, historians; and live performance/demonstration by musicians. (A few visitors will be allowed in this part of the class)

2. lecture/discussion. (Only those students who are officially enrolled in the class will be allowed to participate in this part of each meeting)


Portions of the class, especially the interactions with the guests, will be videotaped and archived for future study. NO OTHER RECORDING WILL BE ALLOWED BY STUDENTS OR VISITORS.



8 online quizzes based on readings and watching on-line videos (64%)

Final Project (36%)


Quizzes (consisting of several questions each) test your knowledge of the readings and the video for the forthcoming class meeting. Your main goal in answering the questions is to demonstrate that (a) you have done the readings, (b) watched the video, and (c) given some thought to how best to utilize the concepts in the readings or in class discussions for the analysis of the culture of jazz aesthetics. Be as specific as possible. For most questions, you will need to either refer to or quote from the readings, in which case you must provide the name of the author, the year of the publication, and the relevant page number(s). For example, if you were to talk about the photos in the Blue Note covers and want to quote from or refer to Krin Gabbard's chapter in The Cambridge Companion to Jazz , where he talks about the photographer Francis Wolff (who worked with Alfred Lion, the owner and founder of Blue Note Records) you would write: (Gabbard 2002: 337-8). When you refer to statements or events in one of the videos, provide the name of the video, the name of the speaker/performer you are citing, and the approximate time at which they spoke (e.g., “Jazz is…”, Tom Ranier, 07m:50s).


All quizzes will be posted on the Moodle website. Online quizzes can be accessed at any time, but you will be unable to submit a quiz after the deadline (a half-hour before class). You should be able to access the quiz/video multiple times, but be careful to submit your answers only once!


The final project assignment will be due June 6, 2011 at 11am. Assignment guidelines will be posted online several weeks before the due date, and you will turn in your project as a document uploaded online via the class website.



Mervyn Cooke and David Horn (Eds.) The Cambridge Companion to Jazz. Cambridge University Press.

Monson, I. 1996. Saying Something: Jazz Improvisation and Interaction. University of Chicago Press.

Sawyer, R. Keith. 2001. Group Creativity: Music, Theater, Collaboration. Mahawah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Materials distributed in class or posted on the web.



In preparation for class each week, you will be watching an edited video featuring some of the guests and discussions from the first year this course was offered (Fall 2002). Each video can be found online together with the quiz questions for that week. The on-line “syllabus” page in the “Social Sciences Classes” also includes a video interview with Professors Burrell and Duranti in which they explain their conceptualization of the course.


*Please try to have the latest versions of the following installed on your computer:

Flash Player:

Quicktime, use software update for Mac. PC go here:

Also the latest version of your web Browser: Safari or Firefox tend to work best.

The videos will also play on an iPad. – High-speed internet is required.



Week 1: March 29

Jazz is…: A first encounter with jazz as an art form


Readings (for next week):

Hand-outs distributed in class (on "Rhythm Changes") and on basic analytical categories for thinking about the culture of jazz aesthetics.

Krin Gabbard: The word jazz. In Cooke and Horn (Eds.), pp. 1-6.

Mervyn Cooke: Jazz among the classics, and the case of Duke Ellington. In Cooke and Horn (Eds.), pp. 153-173.


Watch (for next week):

Jazz is… video posted on course website.


*Complete reading/video quiz 1 on website.



Week 2: April 5

The Aesthetics of Improvisation in Jazz: Finding Your Own Voice


Readings (for next week):

Sawyer, R.K. Ch. 1 "Introduction", pp. 1-27, and "Jamming in Jazz and Improv Theater", pp. 28-73.

Monson, I. Introduction and Chapter One "Talking to Musicians", pp. 1-25.

Travis A. Jackson: Jazz as musical practice, in Cooke and Horn (Eds.), pp. 83-95.

Ingrid Monson: Jazz improvisation, in Cooke and Horn (Eds.), pp. 114-132.

Handouts distributed in class with bio-sketches of Kenny Burrell and selected discography.


Watch (for next week):

Be Yourself video posted on course website


*Complete reading/video quiz 2 on website (due April 12).



Week 3: April 12

The Rhythm Section: The Roles of the Instruments and the Attitudes of the Players


Readings (for next week):

Monson, I. Ch. 2 "Grooving and feeling", pp.26-72.

Peter J. Martin. Spontaneity and organization. In Cooke and Horn (Eds.), pp. 133-152.


Watch (for next week):

Rhythms video posted on course website.


*Complete reading/video quiz 3 on website (due April 19).



Week 4: April 19

The Great Soloists: Imagination, Individualism, and the Ability to Listen


Readings (for next week):

Monson, I. Ch. 3 "Music, Language, and Cultural Styles: Improvisation as Conversation", pp. 73-96.

Sawyer, R.K. Ch. 3 "Interaction and Emergence: An Interactional Semiotics", pp. 74-96.

A. Duranti and Kenny Burrell. 2004. "Jazz Improvisation: A Search for Hidden Harmonies and a Unique Self. Ricerche di Psicologia. 3, pp. 71-101. [article available in pdf on course website]


Watch (for next week):

Imagination, Improvisation, Adaptability video on course website.


*Complete reading/video quiz 4 on website (due April 26).



Week 5: April 26

The Aesthetics of Jazz Arranging


Readings (for next week):

Sawyer, R.K. Ch. 4 "Group Creativity in the Arts" pp.97-118 and Ch. 5 "Group Creativity as Mediated Action" pp. 119-137.

David Ake: Learning jazz, teaching jazz. In Cooke and Horn (Eds.), pp. 255-269.


Watch (for next week):

Arranging video posted on course website.


*Complete reading/video quiz 5 on website (due May 3).



Week 6: May 3

"Cutting It"


Readings (for next week):

Sawyer, R.K. Ch. 6 "Degrees of Improvisation in Group Creativity " pp. 138-161.

Dave Laing: The Jazz Market. In Cooke and Horn (Eds.), pp. 321-331.

Jeff Pressing: Free jazz and the avant-gard. In Cooke and Horn (Eds.), pp. 321-331.

Stuart Nicholson: Fusion and crossovers. In Cooke and Horn (Eds.), pp. 217-252.


Watch (for next week):

Making a Record video posted on course website.


*Complete reading/video quiz 6 on website.



Week 7: May 10

The Making of a Record that Further Defines the Aesthetics


Reading (for next week):

Monson, I. Ch. 4 "Intermusicality" pp. 97-132.


*No video to watch for next week; no quiz!



Week 8: May 17

A Linguistic Anthropologist Looks at Jazz Aesthetics (online lecture by A. Duranti)


No special guest.

Access the online lecture at:


Readings (for next week):

Monson, I. Ch. 5 "Interaction, Feeling, and Musical Analysis", pp. 133-191.

Duranti and Black article on improv. [pdf available on website]


Watch (for next week):

The Next Generation video posted on course website.


*Complete reading/video quiz 7 on website.



Week 9: May 24

The Next Generation: Being Socialized into Jazz Aesthetics


Readings (for next week):

Sawyer, R.K. Ch. 7 "Collective Ideation: Creativity, Teamwork, and Collaboration" pp.162-189.

Monson, I. Ch. 6 "Ethnomusicology, Interaction, and Poststructuralism" + "Coda", pp. 192-218 .


Watch (for next week):

Shared Knowledge video posted on course website.


*Complete reading/video quiz 8 on website (due May 31).



Week 10: May 31


(Summing up and discussion of final project)


No Special Guests


Final Project due NO LATER THAN Monday, June 6, at 11am online.