#pmpsjs20 course calendar

 About the Course Calendar

Texts are to be read/watched/listened to for day they are listed. For example, Schneider is to be read for Friday, January 17. Homework in addition to texts will be presented in yellow. The schedule is subject to change; it is your responsibility to check it regularly.

Week One: Introductions & Case Studies

M 1/13: Case Study 1: Jimi Hendrix, “Star Spangled Banner” (1969)

Assignment for Wednesday, January 16
Please read through the syllabus and come to class with any questions you have.

Please watch the following videos on time signatures, music scales, and emotions:

W 1/15: Case Study 2: “Star Spangled Banner” sheet music (see Readings page); Community of Learning; Introductions

Assignment for Friday, 1/17
Please read and annotate Schneider on “Born in the U.S.A.” While reading, I’d like you to pay close attention to how Schneider is using external sources. Note when you think Schneider is using the source to illuminate a point, to disagree with something the author is claiming, and when building his own ideas on another author’s ideas.

I’d also like you to pay attention his discussion of “rhetorical indirection” and to the form content dyad he is advocating for in the piece.

We will listen to the 1984, 1982, and 2018 versions of BITUSA in class on Friday.

F 1/17: First Listen Friday: Case Study 3: Bruce Springsteen, “Born in the U.S.A.” (1984), (original recording, 1982), (Broadway version, 2018); Schneider (2014) on BITUSA; BITUSA lyrics
Hand out Reading Response Assignment

Extra Credit Announcement
The African American History Museum in Philadelphia is having a series of events for MLK Weekend 2020, Friday January 17 – Monday, January 20. These include:

Journey: Sounding Resistance with Ruth Naomi Floyd & Special Guests
Sunday, January 19, 1 – 2:30 p.m.
$2 General Admission Tickets
Ruth Naomi Floyd
In a time of willful blindness, the prophetic words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. reminds and inspires us to focus, educate our communities, and act for justice. The African American Museum in Philadelphia invites you to join jazz vocalist and composer Ruth Naomi Floyd, along with special guests Diane Monroe (violin), Ewuare X Osayande (poet) and Warren Cooper (vocals), on a journey of song and poetry that speaks to the knowledge and wisdom gained from the decision made by Dr. King and countless other civil rights activists to read, write, sing and resist.

Monday, January 20
MLK Memorial Concert (3pm – 5pm)
Details to be added once they are released.

Week Two: On Understanding Songs and Music

M 1/20: Class Canceled — MLK Day

Assignment for Wednesday, 1/22
Please read the Reading Response Assignment and make sure you have received an invite to a GoogleDoc that Bill sent to you by noon on Saturday. If you did not receive it, please email Bill right away — and email any questions you have.

Please read Rosenthal and Flacks’ (2011) chapter, “Aretha Franklin Sings to Charlie Manson” (see the readings page) and complete your Reading Response on the following:

Schneider and Rosenthal and Flacks consider how to most effectively approach having a nuanced understanding of a piece of music, by considering the relationships among lyrics, the delivery, the songs, the performance, the artist, the listener, among others. In your response, I’d like you to try to coalesce their discussions into a unified approach to understanding music, especially protest and socially conscious movements. What do we need to consider in order to get to as close an understanding of a song as we can?

We will discussion both articles in great detail on Wednesday.

W 1/22: Schneider; Rosenthal and Flacks, “Aretha Franklin….”; notes-schneider-rosenthal-flacks.docx
Reading Response 1 Due

Assignment for Friday, 1/24
Please watch the documentary, Strange Fruit: The Biography of a Song (2002, 57 minutes). You may need to log in to Kanopy with your SJU email to be able to watch it. The documentary gives background information about the song’s creation, the era in which it was written, its effect on the Civil Rights movement, and why it is still important today. Note that the documentary depicts graphic images and descriptions of lynching and includes the use of racist language, ideas, and images in the presentation of historical events. If you need to pause while watching, please do, and if you need to skip those sections, please do.

I’d also like you to spend some  on the Monroe Work Today web site, which documents lynchings and other white supremacist activities in the United States (1834 – 1964). Make sure you click on the link to the interactive Map and zoom in to see the individual events.

We will listen to “Strange Fruit” in class on Friday and talk about it and the documentary.

There is no Reading Response due, though I invite you to come to class with some prepared reactions to the film. If you did not complete Reading Response 1, it must be completed by Friday. And if you did not include a Reflection section in the your response, please go back to yours and add it. As per the assignment, the Response is 30 points and the Reflection 20 (out of 50 total), so you want to be sure you have both. Please also create clear headings for each so I know which is Response and which is Reflection.

If you have any questions, please let me know.

F 1/24: First Listen Friday: Billie Holiday, “Strange Fruit” (1939); Strange Fruit documentary; Strange Fruit Lyrics

Week Three: Black Song Tradition Pre-Civil Rights Movement

Assignment for Monday, 1/27
Please read Kerran Sanger (1995) Selections (Part 1) and Reed Selections (Part 1), which are on the Readings page, and compose a Reading Response in response to the following:

Please discuss the complex relationship among music, identity, history, and community in the Black community, including how you think “Strange Fruit” challenges that relationship. Be sure to reference/quote from both Sanger and Reed.

We will discuss both readings and “Strange Fruit” in detail in class on Monday.

M 1/27: Sanger on Black song traditions; selections from Reed on Civil Rights Movement; notes-sanger-reed.docx
Reading Response 2 Due
Hand out Podcast Assignment

Hand out Podcast Assignment, Part 1: Listenings

Assignment for Wednesday, 1/29
Please listen to the following two radio stories

Then listen to the songs on the course Spotify Playlist, starting with “Lift Every Voice and Sing” by Ray Charles (if you are not able to listen to it, no problem; we’ll listen to this on vinyl in class) through “O Mary Don’t You Weep” by Bruce Springsteen. Notice that Rene Marie’s version of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” is set to the tune of “The Star Spangled Banner.” You’ll see there are multiple versions of many of the songs the list. This is to give you an understanding of the range of interpretations and settings for the songs, as well as the various artists who have sung them over 100 or so years. Pay attention to the artists and, if interested, try to find out about who they were and when they performed. Really engage with the music.

There is no written prompt, but I’d like you to pay attention to your reaction to the various sources of meaning within each song (vocals, community, lyrics, etc.), as well as how the songs compliment and/or complicate the readings from Monday and earlier in the semester. And how they differ (or compliment) “Strange Fruit.” Further, I’d like you to choose one of the songs after from “Oh Freedom” to “Oh Mary” and do some background research on it. Try to look beyond Wikipedia, though it is a good place to start.

And, if you feel inspired, sing along with some of the songs, nice and loud. See how that affects your reaction to the song. These songs were, after all, meant to be sung.

Please read through the Podcast Assignment Overview and the Podcast Assignment, Part 1: Listenings and email Bill any questions you have. Your first Listenings post is due by 11:00 pm Friday.

W 1/29: “Lift Every Voice and Sing”; Underground Railroad and Freedom Songs; freedom-songs-exercise

Assignment for Friday, 1/31
Please read Lynskey on “We Shall Overcome,” which is available on the Readings page.

F 1/31: First Listen Friday: “We Shall Overcome”; Lynskey on “We Shall Overcome”; Analyzing “We Shall Overcome” Sheet Music; Circle of Fifths (pdf); Note Resolution Chart (pdf) (see Readings page); harmonics-instruction.docx (updated)
First Listen (Potentials) Due by 11:00pm
Hand out Podcast Assignment, Part 2: Proposal

Week Four: Civil Rights Movement & “We Shall Overcome”

Assignment for Monday, 2/3
Please read Rosenthal and Flacks (2011), “from You Can’t Scare Me…” and Sanger (1995) “Selections (Part 2)” (Note: pages 49 and 50 are repeated in the PDF) and complete a reading response for the following prompt:

The readings discuss the emotional connections individuals get when a song is heard within the context of a defined movement, such as the Civil Rights Movement or the anti-apartheid movement. But, what happens when a protest or social justice song is released that isn’t part of a defined movement? For example, the Vietnam War was over in 1975, and with it the anti-war movement, but “Born in the U.S.A.” was written in 1982 and released in 1984. Or, the Civil Rights Movement has been over for decades, but “This is America” came out in 2018 and had similar themes. How are we to understand those songs? Are they still part of a movement even though the movement is over? Or, is there something else at work that allows listeners to have an emotional and perhaps transformation relationship with the song?

This is the first week where Reading Responses are not required (you have to choose 7 of the remaining responses). However, all students are expected to complete the readings and be prepared to discuss them. If it becomes clear that students who are not completing responses are not doing the readings, all responses will become required. So, please complete the readings so we can have a robust, informed discussion.

Please also recreate the harmonic analysis process we completed in class with “We Shall Overcome.”

Please also read very carefully the Podcast Proposal.

If you have any questions, please email me.

M 2/3: Sanger on collective singing; Rosenthal and Flacks on social movements and song; notes-for-sanger2-rosenthal-flacks-ch1.docx (Shakira & J. Lo’s FULL Pepsi Super Bowl LIV Halftime Show)
Reading Response 3 Due

Extra Credit Announcement
Tuesday, Feb 4, 11:00 – 12:30, screening of Stranger Fruit
Watch the trailer for Stranger Fruit.

Assignment for Wednesday, 2/5
Please read the liner notes by Reagon (1997) and listen to all the songs on the Readings page under the heading “Civil Rights Songs for 2/5.” Make sure to read the liner notes descriptions for each song I have asked you to listen to, as well.

Using Reagon (1997), Sanger (1995), and Rosenthal & Flacks (2011) as guides, I’d like you to come to class with a list of 5 ways at least one of the songs on the list make real the authors’ descriptions of music in the Civil Rights movement. Come with another list of ways some of the songs might be doing something different than what the authors mention.

W 2/5: Songs from Voices of the Civil Rights Movement; Reagon CD insert; notes-for-reagon-sanger2-rosenthan-flacks-ch1.docx
Podcast Proposal Due on Protest Anthems Web Site by 11:00pm
F 2/7: First Listen Friday and Harmonic Analysis: “This Land is Your Land,” “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” “Deportee,” “Take Me Home Country Road”; Circle of Fifths (pdf); Note Resolution Chart (pdf) (see Readings page); harmonics-instruction.docx (updated)
Second Listen (Context and Connection) Due

Week Five: Folk Movement & “This Land is Your Land”

Assignment for Monday, 2/10
Please read Cantrell (2018) on folk music and Garman (2000) on Woody Guthrie’s politics, and listen to Anderson’s Studio 360 on “This Land is Your Land”:

(Important note: Several large sections of the Cantrell and Garman pieces are covered up so you don’t need to read them. They appear as covered up when viewed online. But, if you print your readings, depending on your settings, the full text may appear. Make sure you don’t read the sections you are not asked to read.)

If you are completing Reading Response 4, please respond to the following prompt:

When describing what functions as “political music,” Rosenthal and Flacks introduce a term “C. Writing Mills called a ‘sociological imagination’: It helps musickers to see the social roots in what might otherwise be felt as individual stories or problems. It identifies collective and structural arrangements—who has power? who does the work? who gets the payoff? who decides?—as the origin of what is usually felt to be one’s personal situation” (p. 20). They continue that “political music implies, suggests, or openly states that existing arrangements are not natural, normal, or eternal, but the result of previous human decisions and arrangements, and thus susceptible to change” (p. 20). They continue on, but I won’t repeat it all here. I encourage you to re-read pages 20 and 21 to see the full context.

For this post, then, I’d like you to consider the “sociological imagination” in “This Land is Your Land” by seeing how Guthrie’s politics make their way into the song. I’d like you to follow by considering how and why folk music is a particularly adept genre for music that engages the “sociological imagination.”

If you have any questions, please let me know.

M 2/10: Woody Guthrie, “This Land is Your Land” (1940); Cantrell on folk music; Garman on Guthrie; Studio 360 on “This Land”; “This Land of Your Land” lyrics (.pdf); notes-guthrie.docx
Reading Response 4 Due

Assignment for Wednesday, 2/10
Please listen to the songs on the course Spotify Playlist, starting with “This Land is Your Land” by Woody Guthrie, through “Po’ Boy” by Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee. The songs in this list contain songs by artists mentioned in the Garmen reading and the Studio 360 radio story, as well as “Deportee (Plane Crash at Los Gatos” which was written but never recorded by Guthrie, as sung by his son Arlo Guthrie, Odetta, Dolly Parton, The Highwaymen, Sandra Velásquez, and Tish Hinojosa. In 2013, NPR did a story on The People Behind Woody Guthrie’s “Deportee,” which you might be interested in listening to. You can also see the original 1948 AP newspaper article.

I’d like you to choose one of the below artists from the list and do some background research on them: Leadbelly, The Carter Family, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Sonny Terry, Brownie McGhee, or Odetta. Come to class ready to talk a bit about the one you chose.

In class, we’re going to chat about the songs and folk music, and maybe listen to some records.

W 2/12: Listening to and talking about folk music; “Deportee” harmonic analysis
F 2/14:First Listen Friday: “If I Had A Hammer”; Harmonics Quiz
Second Listen (Content and Connection) Revision/Update Due

Week Six: Blacklisting and the 1960s

Assignment for Monday, 2/17
These readings are going to transition us from Civil Rights into Vietnam, mostly through the lens of Pete Seeger. Please first watch from 33:00 – 1:03:00 of Brown’s documentary, Pete Seeger: The Power of Song (you’re welcome to watch the whole thing, of course, but are only required to watch the portion; just after 1:03 the doc moves to his environmental causes, so if you care about environmental issues, you might want to keep watching). Then, Jarnow’s few pages on the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) and Lithwick’s post, “When Pete Seeger Faced Down the House Un-American Activities Committee.” The post contains the complete transcript of Seeger’s testimony, which you don’t need to read in full, but I encourage you to read at least a part of. Please also watch Harry Belafonte’s speech inducting Pete Seeger into the Rock and Roll Hall of fame as a way to see what one civil rights icon thinks of Pete’s impact; it also connects back to the HUAC activities. I’ve also added songs to the Spotify playlist that are mentioned in the readings, as well as others that exemplify Seeger’s work over his career. Take a listen.

If you choose to complete Reading Response 5, please respond to the following. In the documentary, Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul, and Mary, says that Pete Seeger embraces “folk music as a tool for justice and consciousness and caring that became a model for all of us.” In your response, I’d like you to write about how we see that playing out in Seeger’s songs (name a few specifically), his response to the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), and his overall approach to music. Try to connect your discussion to our readings on the freedom songs of the Civil Rights movement as a tool for building movements.

M 2/17: Jarnow on blacklisting; Seeger documentary and HUAC testimony;
First Listen Friday on a Monday: Pete Seeger, “If I Had a Hammer” (1962); notes-for-seeger.docx
Reading Response 5 Due

Assignment for Wednesday, 2/19
Please listen to the songs on the Spotify Playlist from Nina Simone, “Mississippi Goddam” (1964) to Gil Scott-Heron, “Whitey on the Moon” (1971). These are going to close out our discussion of songs directly connected to the Civil Rights movement and prepare us for the Anti-Vietnam War movement for next Monday. The represent a variety of genres, from jazz to funk to spoken word. Spend some time with them, focusing on the music alone, the lyrics alone, and the vocal delivery. You might look them up and learn a bit about their significance.

I’d also like to you read the poem, “The Underground Railroad,” by Philadelphia poet Ewuare Osayande, who has given us exclusive permission to read and discuss the poem (see the Readings page). I heard Mr. Osayande read the poem at the MLK event at the African American Museum and contacted him afterward.

There is no reading response, but I’d like you to think about how these songs exist within a lineage of the Civil Rights Movement and how his poem especially speaks to the role of music in the African American experience (especially, Hendrix’s “Star Spangled Banner.”

W 2/19: Closing out the civil rights movement, from Nina Simone to Gil Scott-Heron
Third Listen (Genre) Due

Extra Credit Announcement
There are two events coming up that directly relate to what we are discussing in class.

First is the Day of Dialogue, created in response to the incidents of intolerance and hate that have happened on campus over the last two years. The Day of Dialogue takes place Thursday, Feb 20, from 12:30 – 6:00. Participants can go to one of many sessions and events. Please see the complete schedule and register online.

The second is a one-hour symposium hosted by the Music Department on African American Music in Philadelphia.


We will be walking over to the Foley Center as a class on Friday, but if you stay for the whole time you can be eligible for extra credit.

F 2/21: Podcast topics and background research
Sat 2/22: Fourth Listen (Social Criticism) Due

Week Seven: Podcast and Lineages: LGBTQ+, Immigration, Economic Anxiety

Assignment for Monday, 2/24
On Monday we’re going to take a brief break from the music so we can discuss the podcast project some more, particularly in terms of background research. In preparation for that, I’d like you to listen to the following radio stories. Please note the themes and lyrics in some of these podcasts could be traumatizing. If you need to turn one off and move to another, that is fine):

When listening to the stories, I’d like you to pay attention to and note the musical, oral, and textual sources being used. I’d also like you to think about how the story moves from one place to the next. And think about how the music itself is being used. We’ll discuss these and other things in class.

M 2/24: Discuss Background Research and Podcasts
Discuss Background Research Assignment

Assignment for Wednesday, 2/26
I have swapped the due dates for Reading Response 6, which will now be due Friday, and the Fifth Listen, which will now be due Wednesday by 11:00pm.

Wednesday, we are going to talk about lineages — that is, how songs on similar subjects are connected to one another. We’re going to focus on a three lineages: economic anxiety, immigration, and LGBTQ+.  I know some of you are focusing on those subjects for your podcast; do not use the songs we will be listening to for your Fifth Listen. When listening, look for overlap in themes and how each song is treating subjects similarly or differently.

On the Spotify playlist:

Economic Anxiety: “How Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live” by Blind Alfred Reed to “Death to My Hometown” by Bruce Springsteen.

LGBTQ+: “Walk in the Wild Side” by Lou Reed to “Born this Way” by Lady Gaga.

Immigration: “Sinaloa Cowboys” by Bruce Springsteen to “God Bless America” by JS Ondara

To prepare for Friday, on Netflix please watch the documentary: Woodstock: Three Days That Defined a Generation. The prompt will be posted by Wed.

W 2/26: Lineages: Economic Anxiety, Immigration, LGBTQ+; notes-for-lineage.docx
Fifth Listen (Connection and Lineage) Due

Assignment for Friday, 2/28
On Friday we are going to start discussing songs and ideas connected to counter-culture, beginning with the 1960s and, next week, moving through punk movements starting in the 70s.

Please watch on Netflix the documentary: Woodstock: Three Days That Defined a Generation, and listen to the songs on the Spotify playlist starting with Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind” (1963) through John Lennon’s “Imagine” (1971). (1971 was a pivotal cut-off year for music, as in the summer of 1972 The Eagles released “Take it Easy,” effectively telling everyone to chill out, and essentially signaling the end of anti-war movement.)

I’d also like you to read the lyrics to the song “Where Was Jesus in Ohio?” which Springsteen wrote in the days after Kent State shootings (where 4 unarmed student protesters were killed by members of the Ohio National Guard—click on link you don’t know what I’m referring to). He sang it once that is known of, as a member of his band at the time, Steel Mill, at The String Factory in Richmond, VA, probably on 19 or 20 June 1970. Miraculously someone recorded it, and you can listen to the audio on YouTube, but the quality is poor.

You’ll notice I have added Jimi Hendrix’s “Star Spangled Banner” again, as I’d like to discuss the poem, “The Underground Railroad,” by Philadelphia poet Ewuare Osayande. Please re-read it so you have it in mind.

If you choose to complete Reading Response 6, I’d like you to discuss how the songs and the documentary exemplify the insecurity and transformational nature of times, such as in the lines from Dylan’s “The Times They Are A Changin'”:

Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don’t criticize
What you can’t understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is
Rapidly agin’.
Please get out of the new one
If you can’t lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin’.

Focus on more songs than just Dylan’s.

If you are behind on your Reading Responses and are so included, you can double the length of this response to make up for one of your missing responses. Just indicate in your response that you are doing so. This cannot stand in for a future reading response.

F 2/28: Woodstock Documentary; Anti-War songs from 60s-present
Reading Response 6 Due

Week Eight: More on the 1960s Punk, from 1970s to Pussy Riot

M 3/2: Bob Dylan and Counter Culture
W 3/4: Work on Background Research
F 3/6: Class Canceled Post-Woodstock to 1971: “War,” “Ohio,” “What’s Goin’ On?” and “Imagine”


Spring Break — March 9 – March 13 (extended to) 18

Course Updates
Significant changes to the schedule and due dates have been made as a result of moving the classes online. Please take note below and on the Projects page and update your calendars accordingly.

I have also reduced the time length of the podcast to 8 – 10 minutes (from 10 – 14 minutes).

Unless otherwise stated, class will meet in a Zoom meeting during every regularly scheduled meeting time. To access the class Zoom meeting space go to: https://sju.zoom.us/j/9222597171.

Some classes will also include a GoogleDoc that you write in while talking in online breakout groups, just as you would face to face in class. Other times we will just meet in the GoogleDoc. I’ll let you know based on how things are going online and at home.

Week Ten: Getting back to things

F 3/20: Meeting in Zoom to talk about the rest of the semester; Punk:  The Damned, (Meet the Beatles cover; “Help” [1965]); notes-for-punk.docx

Week Eleven: Riot Grrrl, Pussy Riot

Assignment for Monday, 3/23
Please listen to the songs by Bikini Kill and Bratmobile on the Spotify playlist (4 short songs total), find their lyrics online so you can understand what is being sung, and read Darms and Fateman along with the Riot Grrrl Examples (note: 70+ pages—scroll down until you see that heading). You might try to keep the zine examples open as you read so you can move back and forth between examples and articles. Darms’ essay serves as the introduction to the important Riot Grrrl Collection book and Fateman’s is a short memoir-type piece about her experience with the riot grrrl movement that also appears at the front of the book.

If you choose to complete this response, I’d like you to consider the Riot Grrrl examples and the authors’ discussions by looking at them in terms the “sociological imagination,” which we have written and talked about before. As a reminder, Rosenthal and Flacks introduce a term “C. Writing Mills called a ‘sociological imagination’: It helps musickers to see the social roots in what might otherwise be felt as individual stories or problems. It identifies collective and structural arrangements—who has power? who does the work? who gets the payoff? who decides?—as the origin of what is usually felt to be one’s personal situation” (p. 20). See the full passage for a complete definition.

Screenshot and include at least 2 examples from the zine examples in your discussion.

M 3/23: Darms; Fateman; and Riot Grrrl zine examples; notes-for-riot-grrrl.docx
Reading Response 7 Due

Assignment for Wednesday, 3/25
Please read Zolandz (2012), watch “How Pussy Riot’s Punk Prayers Became a Movement” (6 minutes), and watch the videos under the Pussy Riot Videos for 3/25 heading on the Readings page. We’ll discuss these in class on Friday.

The videos are often political, sexually explicit, and emotionally charged. If any of them makes you uncomfortable for any reason, please don’t hesitate to stop watching, fast forward, and/or move on to another. For the videos in Russian, watch with the Captions On.

W 3/25: Readings on and music by Pussy Riot

Assignment for Friday, 3/27
For Friday, we shift from punk to hip-hop, starting with Public Enemy’s 1989 anthem, “Fight the Power,” written for Spike Lee’s movie, Do the Right Thing. It has a lineage that includes the Isley Brother’s 1975 of the same name. We will be staying with hip-hop for the rest of the semester.

In preparation for First Listen Friday, I’d like you to complete the following in order (and by “complete,” I mean, listen to the whole songs, watch the full videos, read the full readings, etc.—I am aware that many of you are not):

  1. Listen to Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power” on the Spotify Playlist (it is just after “Cool Schmool”). Write down initial reactions to the music, vocal delivery, and lyrics (do a search for them).
  2. Listen to The Isley Brother’s version, also on the Spotify Playlist, just below “Fight the Power”.
  3. Read the short article, “How we made Public Enemy’s Fight the Power.”
  4. Watch the full version of the video:
  5. Re-listen to Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power,” noting any change in your thoughts about the song based on the additional text read, watched, and listened to in steps 2-4.

If you are behind on your Reading Responses, you might turn this into another Reading Response by composing an extended version of part 5 above. Number it 7a.

F 3/27: First Listen Friday: “Fight the Power”; notes-for-fight-the-power.docx

Week Twelve: Fear of a Black Planet

Assignment for Monday, 3/30
This week we begin the looking at rap and hip-hop, which will take us all the way through the rest of the semester. We begin with Public Enemy’s second album, Fear of a Black Planet (1990). Please complete in the following order:

  1. Listen to the whole Fear of a Black Planet album, paying attention to the music and the lyrics, noting the number of samples and alternate sources.
  2. Read Rolling Stone‘s and Melody Maker‘s original review of the album from 1990. The Melody Maker  review has been transcribed onto a blog.
  3. On Netflix, watch Season 1, Episode 4, of Hip-Hop Evolution, “The Birth of Gangsta Rap” (46 mins)
  4. Read Lakeyta Bonnette on the cultural foundation of black politics.

If you choose to complete a reading response, I’d like to you to consider the following. In the Melody Maker review, Simon Reynolds writes that “the angry questions that seethe in [Public Enemy’s] music, in the very fabric of their sound; the bewilderment and rage that, in this case, have made for one hell of a strong, scary album.” What questions are Public Enemy asking and how do they connect to the ideas that “The Birth of Gangsta Rap” and Bonnette raise about the time period and black politics? How do these questions connect back to other songs we have listened to and movements we have discussed?

M 3/30: Public Enemy, Fear of a Black Planet; Bonnette; notes-for-public-enemy.docx
Reading Response 8 Due

Assignment for Wednesday, 4/1
If your group didn’t finish the discussion questions, please complete them on your own and prepare to discuss them in class on Wednesday. I’d also like you to watch on Netflix, Season 1, Episode 3, of Hip-Hop Evolution, “The New Guard” (48 mins).

W 4/1: Continuing with Fear a Black Planet

Assignment for 4/2
Please read the Podcast Transcript assignment and come with a list of 3 – 5 questions have.

F 4/3: Talking about the rest of the semester. On Radio Stories; discuss podcast transcript
Hand out Podcast Transcript Assignment

Week Thirteen: Podcast Transcripts

Assignment for Monday, 4/6
Please listen to “F*ck Your Ethnicity” (which is from Section.80 [2011], which Tim has been writing about) and the whole of To Pimp a Butterfly. Both are on the Playlist. Please note Lamar’s and Beyonce’s songs contain explicit language and repeated use of the n-word.

M 4/6: First page written; on timelines

Assignment for Monday, 4/8
We’ll be talking about To Pimp a Butterfly again, and moving on to “DNA.” from Damn, which Sami has been writing about (it is on the playlist).

Please read Vaidhyanathan (2001) and McLead and DiCola (2011) on sampling (the latter is only 2 pages and is about the finances of sampling), and watch this video on the samples in Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly:

If you’d like to complete a Reading Response, I’d like to to discuss the social, politics, and/or creative implications of the samples that Lamar using. Focus on one or two and reference Vaidhyanathan, as needed.

W 4/8: Kendrick Lamar and sampling
Reading Response 8a Due
F 4/10No Class: Easter Break

Week Fourteen: Lemonade Movie and Album as Multimodal Social Statement

M 4/13No Class: Easter Break
T 4/14: Class Meets: Lemonade the movie

Assignment for Wednesday, April 15 Tuesday, April 14
Please watch in full the movie that accompanied the release of Beyonce’s Lemonade. When watching, I’d like you to start making a list of all the social justice-related themes that invoked, overtly or subtly, by the film. Take a screenshot of one such instance and have it with you in class on Tuesday, ready to talk about what that scene is evokes.

If you choose to complete the response, please paste in your screenshot and discuss what your image and discuss what social justice issue(s) that scene invokes, while looking to at least one of our prior texts to discuss it as a form of protest and/or social commentary.

W 4/15: Lemonade the movie; notes-for-lemonade.docx
Reading Response 9 Due

Assignment for Friday, 4/17 Wednesday, 4/15
Please watch the video for Beyonce’s (2011) “Run the World (Girls),” which Margaret has been writing about. Rewatch the “Sorry” and “Formation” sequences of the movie, as well as Beyonce’s “Formation” SuperBowl performance. We’ll continue our conversation from Monday and focus on these videos, as well, with Margaret starting us off by talking about Beyonce’s feminism.

F 4/17:  More on Lemonade

Week Fifteen: More on Lemonade

M 4/20: Class Not Meeting

Assignment for Wednesday, 4/22
The readings for Friday will be our final readings of the semester. They are, quite possibly, the most important readings we’ll be doing. There is a lot here and there’s a lot to consider. Please do your best to cover it all. They are our last readings and we want to end that on a high note.

We will also be ending with a song that perhaps embodies all we have been talking about this semester, Beyonce’s “Freedom” from Lemonade. You might want to watch her performance of the song at the 2016 B.E.T. Awards (with Kendrick Lamar), which is just mind-blowingly good.

At the beginning of the semester when we created our ecology of meaning list — that is, all the things that create meaning for songs in addition to the lyrics — one of the items on the list was the credits. Well, in the credits to Beyonce’s “Freedom” we see:

freedom credits


The story of Prisoner 22, and 100s of prisons recorded by the Lomaxes, and all of the Lomax’s recordings, is a fascinating one—one with significant ethical, creative, and financial implications.

I’d like you to read “Alan Lomax, Beyoncé, And Sampling Sounds From The Jim Crow South” by Christine Worthman (2016), making sure to listen to each of the samples linked to in the article: “Collection Speech/Unidentified Lining Hymn” and “Stewball.” Go back and re-listen to “Freedom,” listening closely for the samples.

Then, I’d like you to listen to the following radio story:

Finally, please read Stone (2015), which is an online academic article, so it is more complex and involved. Please listen to each of the recordings embedded in the article.

If you choose to complete Reading Response 10, please enter into the conversation about the ethics of the Lomax’s activities when recording the songs of the prisoners and what you think of the sampling of such work by Beyonce (and other artists). Make reference to the readings and radio story, as needed.

W 4/22:  Lemonade Credits and Ethics
Reading Response 10 Due
F 4/24: Class Not Meeting

Week Sixteen: Student Podcast Songs

Assignment for Monday, 4/27
For Monday’s last class of the semester, please bring with you a list of 5 things that protest songs do when they are at their best.

When creating this list, go back to the readings from early in the semester on movements and try to combine what we talked about with those with the latter songs of the semester when we were talking about individual songs, concept albums, and sampling practices. Be ready to share your list with class.

If you need another reading response, you can turn this assignment into one.

I’d also like you to listen to “We Are Alive” by Bruce Springsteen from 2012, which is on the Spotify playlist.

M 4/27: Wrapping up the semester
Reading Response 11 Due
W 4/29: Class Not Meeting

Comments are closed.