MUS 113 Syllabus Fall 2019

Class Syllabus

This is an outline and a rough schedule of the reading and listening assignments I will give over the course of the semester. It is subject to change at any time.

Keep in mind that we may spend more time on some sections of the class than on others.  Treat this schedule as a general guide to what we will be covering at certain points in the semester.


CRP=course reading packet


Prepare the following reading and listening assignments on your own for each class date listed below.

Be ready to discuss the assigned reading and listening for each day.

For the blog post assignments, you are expected to read all linked content and listen to all linked audio/video.

Aug. 27:
First class. Syllabus and expectations explained.
For next class, read and be ready to discuss:
 “How To See Race,” Gregory Smithsimon (CRP)
Leslie Fiedler, “Come Back to the Raft Ag’in, Huck Honey!” (CRP)
Journal Assignment #1: See
Due in class on September 5.

American Folk Music and Cross-Cultural Encounters
Aug. 29:
“The Appropriation of Cultures, Percival Everett (CRP)
“Way Up North in Dixie” by Howard and Judith Sacks (CRP)

Sept. 3
“Sinful Songs of the Southern Negro,” John Lomax (CRP)

African Musical Forms and the Songs of the Enslaved
Sept. 5
“Sinful Tunes and Spirituals,” Dena J. Epstein (CRP)

Sept. 10
“The Sounds of Slavery,” Ethan J. Kytle and Blain Roberts (CRP)
Journal assignment #2:
Find an example of “slave music” in a film.
Is it diegetic or non-diegetic?
What narrative purpose does it serve in the film? What emotion do you think it’s meant to convey?
Do you think the music is “authentic”? Why or why not?
Due in class on on Sept. 17.

Sept. 12:
Sean Murray, “That ‘Weird and Wonderful Posture’: Jump ‘Jim Crow’ and the Performance of Disability” (CRP)

Sept. 17:
Journal Assignment #3:
Is blackface always demeaning?
Can it ever be performed respectfully? If yes, is it still blackface? Or is it something else? If something else, what is it?
Do you agree with the idea that blackface minstrelsy was not just about “theft,” but also about “love”? Explain.
List a contemporary example of blackface or blackvoice.
Due on Sept. 26.

Spiritual folksong
 Sept. 19:
“The Sorrow Songs,” W.E.B. DuBois (CRP)

Secular folksong
Sept. 24 – Sept. 26:
“Self-Pity in Negro Folk-Songs,” John Lomax (CRP)
Music examples (CRP), p. 135-145
Journal Assignment #3 due Sept. 26.

The Blues
Oct. 1:
The Blues: A Secular Spiritual,” James Cone (CRP)
“Skip James’ Hard Time Killing Floor Blues,” Eddie Dean (CRP)

Oct. 3:
White Tears, Hari Kunzru (excerpts, CRP), p. 140-162

Oct. 8:
White Tears, p. 163-172

Oct. 10:
White Tears, p. 173-194
Midterm Paper Assignment: Write a 5-7 page paper (typed, double-spaced, 12-point font) tracing the relationship between prison songs and the blues. Make sure to address the following questions:
Why and what did the prisoners sing?
Do prison songs and the blues share themes?
How and why did the blues evolve from its roots in the Southern sharecropping system to the Northern cities?
Why is the blues so important?
Give specific examples from each genre you discuss.
Due on October 22.

Oct. 15: NO CLASS

Classical Music
Oct. 17:
“Playing Beethoven in the #BlackLivesMatter Era,” Kira Thurman (CRP)
“Home,” Langston Hughes (CRP)

Oct. 22:
Mid-term paper due.
“The Rediscovery of Florence Price,” Alex Ross (CRP)
Journal assignment #5:
Is “Black Classical” a genre unto itself? Why or why not?
Are the contributions of black composers to classical music unique to their race/culture/ethnicity? Explain.
Is there a “black sound” in classical music? Explain.
Use your close listening and observations of the Binghamton Philharmonic concert on November 9 to inform what you write. Give specific examples.
Due in class Nov. 12.

Ragtime and Gospel
Oct. 24:

Oct. 29:
“Jazz on the Edge of Change,” David Sager (CRP)

Oct. 31:

Nov. 5:
“Strange Fruit: The First Great Protest Song,” Dorian Lynskey (CRP)
“The Hunting of Billie Holiday,” Johann Hari (CRP)
Letter from Tallulah Bankhead to J. Edgar Hoover (CRP)

Nov. 7:
“The Modern Scene,” LeRoi Jones (Amiri Baraka) (CRP)

Nov. 9: 7:30 PM at Forum Theater, Binghamton: Binghamton Philharmonic presents “Simone, Ellington, and Parks.” ATTENDANCE IS REQUIRED! Make sure to get a program and use it to take notes! SEE JOURNAL ASSIGNMENT #5 UNDER OCT. 22.

Rhythm and Blues
Nov. 12:
Journal Assignment #5 due.
“Why Do Whites Sing Black?” Mike Daley (CRP)

Soul, Funk, Afro-futurism
Nov. 14:
Integrated Bus Suggestions, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (CRP)
“What We Want,” Stokely Carmichael (CRP)
Look Out, Whitey! Black Power’s Gon’ Get Your Mama! Excerpt, Julius Lester (CRP)
Journal Assignment #6: See
Due in class on November 26.

Nov. 19:
“Mothership in the Key of Mars,” Ytasha Womack (CRP)
“The Afrofuturism Behind Black Panther,” Brent Staples (CRP)

Rap, Hip Hop, and Remix Culture
Nov. 21:
“The Story of Stagger Lee,” Timothy Lane (handout)
Get Your Ass in the Water and Swim Like Me excerpts (CRP)
Final Paper Assignment: See

Nov. 26:
Journal Assignment #6 due.
“All Aboard the Night Train,” Tricia Rose (CRP)

Dec. 3:
“Black Nationalism and Rap Music,” Errol A. Henderson (CRP)
“The Revenge of Emmett Till: Impudent Aesthetics and the Swagger Narratives of Hip-Hop Culture,” James Braxton Peterson (CRP)
Excerpt from The 21st-Century Minstrel Show, Raphael Heaggans (handout)
Journal Assignment #7:
Pick one genre: jazz, soul, or rap.
How has that genre engaged with social issues?
Give specific examples of artists and music.
Due in class on Dec. 10.

Dec. 5:
“Misogyny in Rap Music,” Ronald Weitzer and Charis E. Kubrin (CRP)
“Doing 55 in a 54,” Jennifer Lynn Stoever (CRP)
 “Trauma,” Interview with Meek Mill (CRP)
“Prisoners Need a New Set of Rights,” Meek Mill (CRP)

Dec. 10:
Journal Assignment #7 due.
“Social Activism in Popular Culture: A Critical Review of the Disparate Responses to Beyoncé’s 2016 Super Bowl Performance,” Davidson and Dobris (CRP)

Dec. 12:
“What the White Boy Means When He Says Yo,” Charles Aaron (CRP)
“The End of an Aura: Nostalgia, Memory, and the Haunting of Hip Hop,” Roy Christopher (CRP)

Dec. 16:
No class; put it in my mail slot in the music office!