This course will examine how aesthetic notions of authenticity, realness, and truth came to inform the experience of jazz and blues and how these same notions helped to inspire the world-wide dissemination of popular music according to the forces of entertainment capitalism. Discussions and listening will pay particular attention to the early formation of jazz and blues as world genres, which, despite their associations with rural life in the U.S. South, principally emerged in urban, metropolitan contexts as symbols of modern culture and style.
The course will work from multiple sources: readings (principal), listening, and small, group-research projects. Topics will include: Robert Johnson, Leadbelly, and the cult of authenticity; the search for blues and jazz origins in African music; global jazz expansionism and the rise of U.S. imperialism; anticolonial and neocolonial musical movements in Africa, the Caribbean, and Europe (Fela, ska, London two-tone, Tokyo blues bands, K-Pop); Chicago blues and the rise of black entrepreneurship; blues and jazz in the contemporary world. Requirements will include a final, research paper or comparable exercise.