The World Through New Orleans Syllabus

SEMN295/MUSC295 The World Through New Orleans

Romare Bearden, New Orleans: Ragging Home, 1974

Fall 2022
Dr. Beau Bothwell

Class: Tuesday/Thursday 2:10-4pm
Office Hours: M 10-11am, T 4-5, W 10-
11am. Or by Appointment.
Office: Fine Arts 128


As the physical reality of New Orleans has been shaped and reshaped by topography and climate, settler migration and indigenous displacement, enslavement and commodification, so has its music been shaped by the successive legal, economic, racial and political regimes that accompanied these changes. In crafting musical tools to help navigate local realities, New Orleanians established some of central elements of African American music—and through it much of the popular music of the contemporary world.

The class begins with a sampling of New Orleans’ constitutive musical cultures –both indigenous and those imported from Africa, the Caribbean, and Europe–before narrowing towards a brief history of music in New Orleans. Finally, we expand into an examination of how that music has been heard, consumed, and adapted around the world.

Statement of course goals

The goal of this course is to introduce students to a variety of ways of thinking about music, developing their ability to analyze, discuss, and write about music as a force in people’s lives, and in the creation, maintenance, and disruption of human hierarchies (political, racial, sexual, economic…)

Through an examination of the aesthetic priorities, philosophical bases, and social imperatives that underpin the act of music-making in New Orleans, students will explore music as a site for the expression and contestation of issues of identity, individuality, community and difference. Studying musical practice as it is instantiated and theorized locally in New Orleans, participants in this course will learn to hear, analyze, and write about the embedded assumptions of their own, native musical cultures with a more critical and nuanced ear.

Through weekly writing assignments and a final term paper, students will develop their ability to research and write about music in cultural and historical context.

New Orleans Cluster

This course participates in the Mellon-funded Humanities Integrated Locational Learning (HILL) curriculum and contributes to a “Beyond Kalamazoo” Cluster focused on New Orleans with three other courses: ARTX225 Public Art and Its Publics (Dr. Christine Hahn), ANSO426 Lest we Forget: Memory and Identity in the African Diaspora (Dr. Espelencia Baptiste), and ENGL490: NOLA Divided: Race in the Big Easy (Dr. Shanna Salinas.) While these courses will function independently, they are united by their engagement with New Orleans as a historical and contemporary site, as well as the way they draw from humanistic inquiry to construct justice-based notions of land, place, and belonging in response to humanistic concerns and social inequities (i.e., systemic racism, body and border policing, economic inequity, global warming, etc.). Students registered for the New Orleans cluster courses are eligible to apply for a partial-unit experiential social justice research seminar in New Orleans (November 26th – December 2nd, 2022). More details on the seminar and application process is included at the end of the


This course will be primarily discussion-based, and students should come to class ready to discuss and ask questions about daily reading and listening assignments. Students will also be asked to prepare weekly writing assignments and occasionally to lead discussion of readings or listening examples. In order to contextualize and prepare students for the readings, some class time will be spent in short lectures on historical background and musical terminology.

Assignments and Evaluation

Students will be evaluated according to the following criteria

15%Participation in class discussions and general level of preparation for class.
15%Quizzes, designed to gauge both class preparation and ability to put aural concepts into practice.
30%Short writing assignments (see below)
40%Final Project (see below)

Course Website

All reading and listening assignments will be posted on the course website. This is the site you should be checking frequently.
password: hotfives
Moodle will be used exclusively to post grades.

Required Texts

Sublette, Ned. The World That Made New Orleans: From Spanish Silver to Congo Square. Chicago: Lawrence Hill Books, 2008.

Stooges Brass Band, and Kyle DeCoste, Can’t Be Faded: Twenty Years in the New Orleans Brass Band Game. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2020.

Short Writing Assignments

Each week, students will complete two regular written responses to the reading and listening assignments, one short (1.5-2 pages, due Tuesday) and the other extremely short (2-4 sentences, due Thursday).

Tuesday Short Response: Weekly short responses will require students to demonstrate engagement with the reading and listening material and will take various forms depending on the topics covered. The criteria and mode of evaluation for each of these assignments will be discussed in class. (1-2 pages)

Thursday Shorter Response: Short responses will consist of a comment posted on the course website, in which the student will 1) clarify an aspect of the reading or define a word that people might have some trouble with (including a reference if necessary) and 2) Ask a question about some aspect of the reading.

Assignments are due either over email (short) or on the course website (shorter), by midnight the evening before class.

Class Participation

Participation will be evaluated on the following criteria:

A: You contribute to class frequently (almost every session, though I don’t expect everyone to be “on” every day). Your comments reflect excellent preparation, build from the comments of others and/or offer direction for the discussion. If you were not in the class, the quality of discussion would be diminished markedly.

B: You contribute to class sometimes. Your comments reflect good preparation, sometimes build from the comments of others and/or sometimes offer direction for the discussion. If you were not in the class, the quality of discussion would be diminished.

C: You contribute to class rarely. Your comments reflect adequate preparation, occasionally build from the comments of others and/or occasionally offer direction for the discussion. If you were not in the class, the quality of discussion would be diminished somewhat.

D: You contribute to class very rarely or not at all. As a result, there is little or no basis for evaluation. If you were not in the class, the discussion would not be changed.

Also D: You contribute to class but your contributions reflect inadequate preparation and offer no direction for the discussion. If you were not in the class, the discussion would be improved

Required Music Streaming Service

This semester, we will primarily be using Spotify ( and Youtube as our music portals, supplemented by online databases accessed through your Kalamazoo login, as well as a variety of online resources. All students should sign up for a (free) Spotify account.

Attendance Policy

Students are expected to attend every class session. In the event that you must miss a class due to religious observance, illness, family emergency, etc…, please provide notification as soon as possible, preferably in advance of the absence. After two unexcused absences, each subsequent absence will result in a 4% reduction in total course grade.

Statement on Academic Integrity

Acts of academic dishonesty are prohibited. Cheating includes, but is not limited to: (1) use of any unauthorized assistance in taking quizzes, tests, or examinations; (2) use of sources beyond those authorized by the instructor in writing papers, preparing reports, solving problems; or carrying out other assignments; (3) the acquisition, without permission, of tests or other academic material belonging to a member of the College community; (4) engaging in any behavior specifically prohibited by a faculty member in the course syllabus or class discussion. If you have any questions about these policies, please ask, and refer to the guidelines here:

Statement on Learning Difference

Any student with a learning difference who needs an accommodation or other assistance in this course should make an appointment to speak with me as soon as possible. Please do feel free to reach out as soon as possible.

An Important Tip for The Rest of Your Life

Whenever you send an assignment to a professor, a resume to a potential employer, or a request to a new contact, you should assume that this person receives dozens (or hundreds) of files as attachments every week. As such, it is in your interest to title your file in such a way that it is easy to track and identify at a glance. Using very specific filenames will also make your life much easier down the road when you are trying to find an old file.

Good Filename: MyName__Week1Response_Sept2022.doc
Bad Filename: Assignment1.doc

Good Filename: MyName_NewOrleansBoucePaper_10Oct22.pdf
Awful Filename: NewOrleans.pdf

Good Filename: MyNameResume_PositionTitle-CompanyName_2Nov24.prf
No Good, Terrible Filename: Resume.pdf

If you send me a filename similar to the bad examples above, you will receive a reply
email consisting entirely of “what.huh?”


In addition to the assigned draft sections and preliminary assignments that every student will complete as they work towards their final project, I am happy to review early drafts of final papers, provided that I receive them at least five days in advance of the due date. This is to ensure that I can review and comment on drafts with enough time for students to revise and improve their work before the final deadline. Remember that the act of submitting an early draft doesn’t achieve anything on its own; rather it is the act of revision in response to reader comments that helps all of us improve a piece of writing.

The [Imaginary] Final Paper – Designing a Research Project at Multiple Scales

Early on in the term, each student will decide on a topic of interest for their research paper. This can be an individual artist, a particular recording, a dance, a physical site, a historical event, or a stylistic feature of a musical subgenre or practice. While you are not limited to a specific range of subjects, you should choose a concrete person/place/thing/event (rather than a more abstract concept) that is embedded in an existing musical culture of or related to New Orleans. The subject does not need to be geographically restricted to New Orleans itself.

The task for this project is not to “write a paper” about the subject. Rather, each student will develop a bibliography, discography, and potential research agenda that could be used to explore a variety of questions about the subject. These questions will range in type, from the factual to the theoretical, and in scope, from the type of question that might make an interesting footnote to the type of question that would be the basis for a scholarly monograph. You will not, importantly, be asked to actually complete more than discrete elements of this research agenda. Thus you will construct a bibliography that is larger than what you could possibly read in a 10 week term, and will detail potential research methodologies and practices that you will not be able to undertake during the Fall.

The point of this project is not only to explore the topic at hand, but to begin to ask questions about knowledge production and what counts as knowledge on this topic:

What kinds of knowledge are valued and understood as knowledge within the musical culture in question here? Who counts as a knowledgeable listener in this setting? How is that knowledge acquired, transmitted, or created? What kinds of inquiry would be relevant to understanding this subject? What methodologies or humanistic or social-scientific research are appropriate or useful for the exploration of this topic? What kinds of research are possible? Feasible? Ethical?

In the process of constructing a general overview for this subject you will write several abstracts for hypothetical academic papers and non-academic articles based on smaller-scale subsets of this imaginary research agenda. At the end of the term, you will give a preliminary presentation on one of these small-scale questions related to your topic.

The timeline for the term project will be as follows.

Week 4: Students select a research interest
Week 6: Abstract 1 Due.
Week 7: Abstract 2 Due.
Week 8: Student and Professor agree on final grading rubric.
Week 9: Mock exam due.
Week 10: Abstract 3 Due – Class Presentations

Final Paper Due

Monday, November 21.

3000 words (about 12 pages) Times New Roman/12-point font/Double-spaced
Annotated Bibliography (criteria will be discussed in class)
Annotated Discography (criteria will be discussed in class)


Your final project will be assessed according to a rubric that we will discuss and agree upon in class. Since each member of the seminar will be investigating very different topics, each student will contribute one specific parameter to the rubric (in consultation with Prof. Bothwell) upon which they will be evaluated. This parameter should be specific to the content of your project, and how well you are able to compile, analyze, and communicate material in a way that is specifically appropriate to your chosen musical culture.

Draft Timeline for the Quarter

Week 1

Tuesday – Introduction to the course

Thursday – Indigenous Bayou
Readings: World that Made New Orleans Ch. 1-6

Week 2

Week 2 Items Due

Thursday, Shorter Response 1

TuesdayCan’t Be Faded
Part I

Thursday Reading: World that Made New Orleans Ch. 7-16
Tang Masters of the Sabar: Wolof Griot Percussionists of Senegal (excerpts)
J.H. Nketia Role of the Drummer in Akan Society (excerpts)
Baraka – Blues People – excerpts
Listening/Language Assignment:
A) Wolof and Mande (Senegal/Gambia)
B) Akan and Aja (Ghana/Benin/Nigeria)
C) Kikongo (Angola)

Film Viewing: The Language You Cry In

Week 3: Music in 19th Century New Orleans

Week 3 Items Due

Tuesday, Short Response 2

Thursday, Shorter Response 2

World that Made New Orleans Ch. 17-22
Ostendorf Sounds American: National Identity and the Music Cultures of the Lower Mississippi River Valley, 1800-1860. (excerpts)
Listening Assignment: France and Spain

Reading: Can’t Be Faded – Part II, III
Cuba and its Music selections
Film: Buckjumping

Week 4: Music in 20th Century New Orleans

Week 4 items Due

Tuesday, Short Response 3

Thursday, Shorter Response 3

Reading: Barker and Shipton. Buddy Bolden and the Last Days of Storyville. (excerpts)
Armstrong, Louis. Satchmo: My Life in New Orleans. (excerpts)
Keeping Time readings: “The Location of ‘Jass’” “Whence comes Jass”
Jelly Roll Morton Interviews

Thursday – N.O. Piano:
Professor Longhair, Jelly Roll Morton, Allen Toussaint, James Booker, Fats Domino, Ellis Marsalis Jr., Henry Butler, Dr. John, Sweet Emma Barrett,
Readings: Can’t Be Faded Part 4

Week 5: Selected Autobiography (on Reserve)

Barker, Danny. A Life in Jazz. Illustrated edition. New Orleans, Louisiana: Historic New Orleans Collections, 2016.

Battiste, Harold, and Karen Celestan. Unfinished Blues–: Memories of a New Orleans Music Man. 1st ed. New Orleans, La: Historic New Orleans Collection, 2010.

Bechet, Sidney. Treat It Gentle: An Autobiography. Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press, 2002.

Bethell, Tom. George Lewis: A Jazzman from New Orleans. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1977.

Week 6: Music in 20th Century New Orleans*

Week 6 Items Due

Tuesday, Short Response 4, Abstract # 1

Thursday, Shorter Response 4, Shorter Response 5

Reading: Can’t Be Faded – Part IV.

Reading: TBA

*Possible artists include: Louis Moreau Gottschalk, Edmond Dede, Buddy Bolden, Jelly Morton, James Brown Humphrey, Lorenzo Tio, Sr., the Original Dixieland Jass Band, Kid Ory, King Oliver, Johnny Dodge, The Original Tuxedo Orchestra, Sidney Bichet, Danny Barker, Jellyroll Morton, Armand Piron, Sam Morgan, Louis Nelson, George Lewis, Danny Barker, Al Hirt, Pete Fountain, Louis Prima, Mahalia Jackson, Moses Hogan, Professor Longhair, Antoine Domino, The Lasties, Vernon Wilson, Roy Brown, Roy Price, Champion Jack Dupree, Smiley Lewis, Tuts Washington, James “Sugar Boy” Crawford, Huey “Piano” Smith, Guitar Slim, Lloyd Price, Little Richard, Allen Toussaint, Ernie K-Doe, Irma Thomas, Aaron Neville, Benny Spellman, Chris Kenner Earl King, Clarence “Frogman” Henry, , Oliver Morgan, Cosimo Mattasa, Harold Battiste, Earl Turbinton, James Black, , Tami Lynn, Richard Payne, Willie Tee, James Rivers, The Marsalis Family, Dave “Fat Man” Williams, Edward Frank, James Booker, Dr. John, Willie Tee and the Wild Magnolias, Big Chief Jolly, the Neville Brothers, Dennis McGee, Sady Corville, The Hackberry Ramblers, Harry Choates, D.L Menard, Doug Kershaw, the Balfa Brothers, Bruce Draignepont, Michael Doucet, Zachary Richard, Clifton Chenier, Stanley Dural and Buckwheat Zydeco, Wayne Toups, C. J. Chenier, Master P and No Limit Records, Birdman & Mannie Fresh, Juvenile, Turk, Lil Wayne, Trombone Shorty Olympia Brass Band, Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Rebirth, Soul Rebels (Thanks to Sanford Hinderlie for his larger list of N.O. musicians)

Week 7

Week 7 Items Due

Tuesday, Abstract #2

Thursday, Shorter Response 6

Reading: Kehrer Queer Voices in Hip-Hop, chapter 4 “Nice For What”: New Orleans Bounce and Disembodied Queer Voices in the Mainstream
Miller – Bounce: Rap Music and Local Identity in New Orleans. excerpts


Week 8: The World that New Orleans Made – Export, Tourism & Consumption

Week 8 Items Due

Thursday, Rubric Selection

Von Eschen – Satchmo Blows Up the World (excerpts)
Regis, Helen A. “Producing Africa at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.” African Arts 46, no. 2 (June 2013): 70–85.
“Second Lines, Minstrelsy, and the Contested Landscapes of New Orleans Afro-Creole Festivals.” Cultural Anthropology 14, no. 4 (1999): 472–504.

The Music of Courtney Bryan

Week 9: The World that New Orleans Made

Week 9 Items Due

Tuesday, Mock Exam Assignment
(Students will write a final exam and grading key, as if they were the instructor in a course devoted to the topic of their final paper.)

Roots in Reverse: Senegalese Afro-Cuban Music and Tropical Cosmopolitanism. (excerpts)
White, Bob W. “Congolese Rumba and Other Cosmopolitanisms.” Cahiers d’études Africaines 42, no. 168 (January 1, 2002): 663–86.

Feld, Jazz in Accra (excerpts)
Lilley, The Musical Artistry of Bheki Mseleku. (excerpts)

Week 10

Week 10 Items Due

Monday, November 21: Final Projects

Tuesday: Final Presentations

Thursday: Final Presentations


In January, Kalamazoo College received a three-year Mellon grant (For information about the grant, see the grant announcement.) Entitled Humanities Integrated Locational Learning (HILL), this initiative examines how many problems of our time can be analyzed through the lens of location and dislocation. To develop a deeper knowledge of these disruptions (physical, psychological, social, linguistic, and more) with the aim of generating the potential for change, HILL supports the formation of class clusters linked to specific places within and beyond Kalamazoo. Our course contributes to a “Beyond Kalamazoo” Cluster focused on New Orleans, comprised of the following courses: ARTX225 Public Art and Its Publics (Dr. Christine Hahn), ENGL490: NOLA Divided: Race in the Big Easy (Dr. Shanna Salinas), ANSO426 Lest we Forget: Memory and Identity in the African Diaspora (Dr. Espelencia Baptiste), SEMN295/MUSC295 The World Through New Orleans (Dr. Beau Bothwell). While these courses will function independently, they are united by their engagement with New Orleans as a historical and contemporary site, as well as the way they draw from humanistic inquiry to construct justice-based notions of land, place, and belonging in response to humanistic concerns and social inequities (i.e., systemic racism, body and border policing, economic inequity, global warming, etc.)

After the conclusion of the quarter, cluster faculty and selected students will extend the classroom to New Orleans for a 7-day, fully-funded* study away experience (includes airfare, housing, and meals). During this partial-unit experiential social justice research seminar in New Orleans (November 26th – December 2nd, 2022), 4-5 students from each cluster course will undertake individual and collaborative research within and across the disciplinary knowledges acquired in their respective courses in order to produce a supradisciplinary research project. The trip will prioritize place-based learning, humanities-based inquiry, and social justice problem-solving via relevant site visits, partnerships with local community organizations, and student-led discussion and reflection. At the end of the trip, students will
publish their research on a digital humanities website.

Application process: Interested students will need to submit an application and a research proposal to the HILL site ( by October 3rd (4th week Monday) at 5pm ET. In it, students will be asked to address the following questions:

1000-word proposal that addresses the following questions:

  1. What is your research area of interest? Please highlight subject matters, themes, texts, etc. from
    your cluster course for support.
  2. How does New Orleans’s “placeness” (history, geography/landscape, culture, etc.) pertain to
    your research interest? How do you see the theme of “location and dislocation” at work?
  3. How does your research interest connect to relevant social justice concerns?
  4. Review the websites of our confirmed community partners: The Whitney Plantation; People for
    Public Art; Junebug Productions; and Lower Nine. How do you see your research interest aligning
    with at least two of these organizations? What appeals to you about these organizations and
    their work in the community?

Optional research and past experience questions:

  1. Review the Historic New Orleans Collection’s exhibitions, special collections, and digital archives.
    Are there particular materials that relate to your research interest? If so, please explain their
  2. Have you had any experiences that may have prepared you for this experiential research
    seminar? Please detail any past research (individual or collaborative), service-learning courses,
    and/or experiential learning engagement you identify as relevant.

*Please note: Previous research experience and/or experiential learning engagement are NOT required and will not positively or negatively impact your selection.

Community Partners

Whitney Plantation Museum

People for Public Art

Junebug Productions

Lower Nine

Historic New Orleans Collection

Applications will be reviewed by cluster faculty in conjunction with the Center for International Programs. Participants will be chosen based on potential collaborative research intersections across cluster courses and the importance of New Orleans as a site. Those selected for the experiential research seminar in New Orleans will be notified no later than October 7th (4th week Friday).

Selection for the New Orleans Cluster Seminar will require the following mandatory commitments:

  • Additional preparatory work throughout the term to prepare you for site engagements in New Orleans. You will be provided with a seminar syllabus after cohort selection is finalized.
  • Weekly meetings with your research group (held weeks 5-10 on Mondays during common time, Hicks Banquet Hall West)
  • Attend information sessions with community partners (TBA)
  • Meetings with the HILL Digital Humanities Coordinator, Bruce Mills
  • Submission of pre-departure materials, due 7th week Thursday.
  • Attend an orientation meeting, 10th week Wednesday (4:15pm DE 305)
  • Write and submit a group project research proposal
  • Individual or group seminar experiential reflection blog, video, interview due [TBA]
  • Research project, due first week Monday in Winter quarter, with revision and approval in consultation with cluster faculty and DH Coordinator finalized 2nd week Friday.

Additionally, a $4,500 summer research stipend for June-August 2023 is open to all students, with priority given to students who want to return to New Orleans after the cluster trip or students who participated in one of the four New Orleans cluster courses in 2022. More information is available on our website.