Listening questions: musical
Listening questions: historical
There are three formal in-class examinations in MUSI 2120: Midterm I,
Midterm II, and the Final. These examinations are cumulative.
Midterm I normally covers Chapters 1-7;
Midterm II normally covers Chapters 1-12, and the Final is cumultative,
covering all the chapters in Jazz. (But NOTE: actual coverage on the two midterms will be announced in class before the examinations.)
All tests will be given in Wilson 402.
Each of the in-class examinations will be a Scantron examination,
offering questions in the standard multiple-choice format. One section
of the test will involve listening, in which you will hear brief
excerpts of recorded performances (from the required listening) and be
expected to answer questions pertaining to those examples.
Questions in the multiple choice format will cover a wide
range of material, including:
Terms and definitions. E.g.: "A riff is best defined
as: a)...... b)....... c).......", or "The form of the piece
Historical information. E.g.: "Which of the following
musicians appeared on recordings with Duke Ellington in the 1920s?
a)...... b)....... c)......." or "This club was on New York's
52nd Street in the 1940s: a)....... b)........... c)........."
Style. E.g., "The style of this piece is best described
as: a) avant-garde jazz b) bebop c) fusion d) New Orleans jazz"
Musician identification. E.g., "Duke Ellington
was: a) a swing bandleader b) a New Orleans clarinetist c) a student
in MUSI 212"; or "The swing bandleader who composed 'Concerto
for Cootie' and 'Mood Indigo' was a) Duke Ellington, b) Jelly Roll
Morton, c) King Oliver, d)
Content of required reading. E.g.: "To which major jazz
figure was Gary Giddins referring when he wrote:.....(etc).?"
Because multiple choice questions are inherently deceptiveasking
you to sort out the one right answer from three or four plausible wrong
answersI often prefer to ask the questions backwards.
I might, for example, ask: "Which of the following was not involved with
the modern jazz movement known as bebop?" In this case, I will provide
you with several right answers (i.e., musicians who were
involved with bebop), and will expect you to correctly identify the single
A significant number of the questions asked on each test
will refer to musical examples played at the time of the examination.
These examples will drawn from the required listening on the web.
The questions will be of several different kinds.
Listening questions: musical
In the first two assignments (Basic Musical Concepts
and Forms), you will learn a number of musical ideas, many unique
to jazz. I will expect you to understand these ideas well enough to answer
"objective" questions about them (as above). But it is not enough to memorize
definitions of "riff," or "polyphonic texture," or "blues form." I also
expect you to hear these ideas. You must be able to recognize
the presence of these musical concepts when they occur in your required
listening. This is as true for their presence as for their absence--i.e.,
when a piece does not use riffs, does not have a polyphonic
texture, or does not use blues form.
The format for such questions will be multiple-choice. E.g.:
Listening questions: historical
Beginning with the first historical assignment, we
will shift the focus away from musical technique per se to understanding
the music from a historical perspective. When you listen to the listening
required for all subsequent assignments, you will still be expected to
recognize musical concepts. But you will also need to recognize important
jazz figures and the distinguishing characteristics of major jazz styles,
and to situate these styles and performers within a historical framework.
Please note that what follows does not apply to
the listening for the first two assignments (Basic Musical Concepts and
Forms). For that music, you will only need to answer questions about musical technique,
including form (i.e., blues vs. 32-bar AABA).
As we proceed through the course, I will highlight the contributions
of major jazz artists. Please note the word "major": I do not expect
you to memorize every artist on every recording! But I do expect you not
only to recognize the names of the major figures in jazz history, but
also to identify them when you hear them.
For all performers, the format will be multiple-choice.
This may seem difficult, since some performers sound very much like one
another. But in general, I construct the question carefully. I do not
include two musicians on the same question whose styles are too closely
related. So please bear in mind that if you cannot immediately identify
the correct artist, you may well be able to narrow the field by removing
those who seem implausible.
Throughout the course, I will be situating the music within
broad concepts of "style"--the broad artistic movements that have marked
jazz's history. Examples of such styles are New Orleans style,
classic blues, boogie-woogie, swing, bebop, cool,
hard bop, avant garde, and fusion.
Many of the examples on the examinations will be specifically
chosen to exemplify one of these major jazz styles. In this case, the
format will be multiple-choice. E.g.: "The style of this excerpt is best
described as: a) classic blues b) swing c) bebop d) New Orleans style."
All of the performances you will listen to on the required
listening have clearly established dates: i.e., the year of recording.
I do not expect you to memorize all of the dates of these recordings!
But I do expect you to fit the evolution of jazz within a chronological
framework. You should know that recordings of New Orleans jazz are most
likely to come from the 1920s, swing dance-band recordings from the 1930s
and 1940s, avant-garde recordings after 1960; and so forth.
The usual format for testing such knowledge is multiple-choice,
contrasting the actual date of a recording with several obviously wrong
dates. E.g., for a recording of New Orleans jazz from 1923, the question
might read: "The date of this performance is: a) 1907 b) 1923 c) 1936
d) 1949 c) 1960."
In general, I do not expect you to be able to identify
a tune by title from listening to it! It is sufficient to know that a
given performance is, say, by Duke Ellington, or an example of New Orleans
style. I do expect you to be able to associate major performers with some
of their most famous recordings--to know, for example, that Duke Ellington
wrote and performed "Mood Indigo," while Coleman Hawkins recorded 'Body and Soul." But I do not
expect you, on hearing (for example) Duke Ellington's "Conga Brava," to come up with the
Make-up Exam Policy
The date of the midterms and final are given in the syllabus. Students
should make every effort to accommodate these dates in their schedules.
There is no right to a make-up exam for the midterms, although in most
cases an alternate date can be arranged.
If conflicts between exam dates and important scheduled
activities arise (e.g., travel to official University functions, family
weddings), the student should notify the instructor as early in the semester
as possible. Other circumstances (serious illness, family emergencies)
cannot be so carefully managed. But it is again the responsibility of
the student to notify the instructor as soon as possible. Beyond a certain
point (usually after the exams have been returned), make-up exams will
no longer be scheduled. In some cases, students may have to withdraw from
The date of the final exam cannot be moved.
In an emergency, a student may receive an incomplete for the semester
and take the examination by the deadline mandated by the University (usually
by the beginning of the following semester). It is up to the student to
apply for the incomplete with the Dean's Office (or appropriate officials
in other Schools). Furthermore, it is up to the student to schedule the
make-up examination before the required deadline. Failure to complete
the requirements of the course before this deadline will automatically
result in the grade of "IN" [incomplete] turning into an "F."
Organize your studying around the listening, which after all is
the primary source material for the class. The various verbal materials
(readings, class notes) are only meaningful in relationship to the
Make a habit of relating the written material on musical style
directly to the sound. If you try to place a particular recording
in its historical context while listening to it, you will remember
it betterand you will understand the historical and/or technical
aspects better as well. At the same time, don't take all the fun
out of it. You should listen to the music at least once purely for
the aesthetic experience before trying to place the music within
the cultural and technical contexts discussed in class.
Concentrate on mastering musical concepts. For many students, this
will prove the most challenging aspect of the course. Remember that
you are primarily responsible for the evolution of the music, which
requires understanding how each style differs from the next. Social
and cultural context is vitally important, and will receive its
proper emphasis in the class. But make sure that you grasp the musical
Don't be overwhelmed by the amount of material in the xeroxed readings.
I have provided you with a sampling of the finest writing on jazz,
and it necessarily contains more material than you can reasonably
be expected to master. Rely on the lectures for a sense of what
the important issues are on a given topic.
Remember: you don't need to learn everything about a given recording.
It's not important to know the exact date as long as you can place
it within 5-10 years. In most cases you will not be asked for specific
titles. You don't need to know the names of all the musicians on
the recordings as long as you know the most important performers.
You should continue to ask yourself technical questions as you
listen: what is the form of this tune? what techniques (call and
response, riffs) are being used? what kind of improvisation is being
used (melodic paraphrase, harmoic, modal, "free")?
When reviewing the listening: don't try to listen to the music
straight throughit will all "run together" that way. Approach
the material topic by topic. Decide, for example, that you're going
to review material on New Orleans jazz. You should then listen only
to examples of New Orleans jazz, and relate them to the written
information that you have (from the web site, the assigned readings,
and class notes).
Do not put off listening until the last minute! Almost
every student I have talked to who has tried to do that has found
that after a while, everything begins to sound the samenot
a recipe for success. Listen to the material as it is discussed