SEMN295/MUSC295 The World Through New Orleans
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)|
All reading and listening assignments will be posted on the course website. This is the site you should be checking frequently.
Moodle will be used exclusively to post grades.
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.
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 (www.spotify.com) 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.
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: https://studev.kzoo.edu/policies/
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.
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
NEW ORLEANS CLUSTER INFORMATION
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 (https://hill.kzoo.edu/) 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:
- What is your research area of interest? Please highlight subject matters, themes, texts, etc. from
your cluster course for support.
- 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?
- How does your research interest connect to relevant social justice concerns?
- 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:
- 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
- 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.
Historic New Orleans Collection
- Oral Histories
- Special Collections
- Current Exhibitions
- Upcoming Exhibitions
- Past Exhibitions (now offsite at River Road African American Museum)
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.