"As Real as Rain": The Blues and American Culture

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Spring 2017
Credits per quarter

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Taught by

“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.

Program 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 possible trips to area blues performances.

This offering will prepare you for careers and advanced study in: humanities and education.

Online learning:
  • Enhanced Online Learning - This offering requires access to web-based tools, but use of these tools does not displace any face-to-face instruction.

Scheduled for: Day

Located in: Olympia

2016-04-27New spring opportunity added.