"As Real as Rain": The Blues and American Culture
Spring 2016 quarter
“The blues is no joke. The blues is real as rain.” – David Ritz, music writer
This program will provide an introduction to, and overview of, that magnificent and enduring American art form we know as “the blues”: its musical elements, African and African American roots and precursors, historical and stylistic evolution, major practitioners, and its influence on other musical genres (most notably, jazz, rhythm & blues, rock & roll, rock, and rap/hip hop). Equally importantly, we will examine its impact on American culture and, among other ventures, apply a blues theory of aesthetics to U.S. literature in general, and African American literature in particular.
Our primary written text will be the anthology, Write Me a Few of Your Lines: A Blues Reader (Steven C. Tracy, editor). Additional written texts will include biographical and autobiographical selections, fiction, poetry (including music lyrics), and scholarly articles on the blues. Weekly film screenings will include a range of fiction works and documentaries such as Martin Scorsese’s critically acclaimed series, The Blues: A Musical Journey. Finally, there will be extensive listening assignments that will provide the soundtrack for our journey from Africa to the southern United States, to the urban North, throughout our nation, and across the globe.
We will devote two weekly seminars to close readings of written texts, films, and music. In addition to short weekly writing assignments, students will produce a final project that will help them refine both their expository and creative nonfiction writing skills. There will be a weekly open mic opportunity for musicians—whether aspiring or experienced—to play and share the blues, as well as a three-day field trip to a major Pacific Northwest blues festival.
Fields of Study
Preparatory for studies or careers in
Location and Schedule
Offered during: Day