This class will focus on the career-long writing about jazz, blues, rock and R&B of Amiri Baraka (nee Leroi Jones) and the significant impact it has had on cultural politics, scholarship and esthetics from the early 1960s to the present. Baraka’s work as an activist and his gifts as a poet/novelist/playwright/political essayist allowed him to inject considerable lyricism, eloquence, learning and passion into the previously moribund fields of African American music history and journalism. His music writing also affected the tenor of future public advocacy for jazz via the NEA ‘s Jazz Masters awards and Jazz At Lincoln Center.
Sample reading list:
Amiri Baraka, Blues People
Amiri Baraka, Black Music
Amiri Baraka, Digging
Eileen Southern, The Music of Black Americans: A History
Reading for the class will supplemented by listening sessions of music Baraka wrote about as well as the hybrid forms of multi-genre populist/modernist music he predicted in his influential essay “The Changing Same (R&B and New Black Music).” We will view Baraka’s work as a performance poet and playwright with major jazz musicians such as Albert Ayler, Sun Ra, Henry Threadgill and David Murray, assessing that work’s impact on other poets and the evolution of hip hop lyric-writing.