MUSI 212--Essay #1
Thursday, 6 October 2005

By this point in the semester, we have explored several distinct kinds of jazz style, from New Orleans jazz to swing. Each style has made its own use of musical materials--improvisation, composition, rhythmic groove, texture, specialized jazz techniques ("blue notes," timbre variation, collective improvisation, riffs), and the distinctive use of form and structure. Furthermore, individual musicians have brought their own skills to bear on the music they create.

In this first paper, we would like you to use music analysis to concentrate on a pair of pieces; at the same time, we would like you to use analysis in the broader context of an argument.

Each of the pairs of recordings listed below is related in some way--by style, performer, or time period. Relying primarily on your analysis of musical sound, construct an argument that links or contrasts them. The argument may be social or historical in nature (e.g., the projection of black identity during the time of the Great Migration), or it may relate to a few points of musical style that you choose to focus on. Regardless, your argument must relate directly to the music you listen to. You may cite, as you wish, broader concepts of biography and style derived from class; but ultimately, bring your argument to bear on the uniqueness of the individual examples.

Use your music analysis to describe short segments of each performance in detail, citing specific examples with CD/mp3 timings. Be specific in your writing by using the musical vocabulary introduced in class to articulate your points. (For a list of terms, see "Definitions" on the web site.)

NOTE: if you choose a pair that includes Jelly Roll Morton's "Dead Man Blues" or Duke Ellington's "Mood Indigo," be aware that there are two different versions: the version on Ken Burns Jazz, and a different version on the web site. Either is useable, but you must identify which one you choose!

  1. King Oliver's "Snake Rag" and Jelly Roll Morton's "Grandpa's Spells"
  2. *Fletcher Henderson's "Hotter than 'Ell" and *Duke Ellington's "Cotton Tail"
  3. *Jelly Roll Morton's "Dead Man Blues" and his "Doctor Jazz"
  4. *Louis Armstrong's "West End Blues" and *Jelly Roll Morton's "Dead Man Blues"
  5. *Duke Ellington's "Mood Indigo" and his "Concerto for Cootie"

A few disclaimers: