Music Theory Question
Choose TWO (2) of the following questions to answer in short essay format. Each essay should be no more than 600 words, so think carefully about your approach and write clearly and concisely. Make sure to construct an essay and not merely respond mechanically to the questions asked in the prompt. In each essay, you must cite at least one reading, one lecture, and one audio example. All references should be parenthetical and in the body of your text, citing lectures by number, readings by author’s last name and page number, and audio recordings by artist and song name and track timing (as needed). There is no need for the sources cited section since all materials being referenced must be from the course. There is no need to restate the question, just reference it by number. All work will be screened for potential plagiarism issues by Turnitin.
1. What musical, social, and technological changes occurred after World War II with respect to blues and blues culture (your response should at least reference various ‘push’ and ‘pull’ factors of the “Great Migration”)? How are rhythm and blues and rock-and-roll related? What issues surfaced (or were hidden) in the transition from one style to the next? Give a few specific examples to support your argument.
2. There have been several significant “revivals” of interest in the blues, beginning in the 1930s/40s as folklorists searched to discover and preserve rural blues, in the 1960s as American and British fans rediscovered the music, in the 1980s following the popularity of The Blues Brothers, and again in and around 2003 celebrating “100 years of the blues” (with the release of the Martin Scorsese documentary). What are some salient issues that surround these revivals? In other words, what are the overlapping—and at times conflicting—motivations of blues musicians, fans, collectors, promoters, researchers, advertisers, record labels, and more? In your answer, touch on some of the main issues and discuss at least one example from this Unit in some depth.
3. In what ways was Jimi Hendrix the most ‘authentic’ and ‘inauthentic’ blues musician of his generation? What aspects of his stage show and music played with these preconceptions? Are there lessons from Hendrix’s music/career that could be extended to the modern-day? Explain.
4. How did Janis Joplin’s experience as arguably the only female rock star at a time when rock was an all-boys club affect her life and music? What was the patriarchal discourse around rock music and female sexuality at that time? Are things different now? In what ways might patriarchal ideas continue to shape and inflect various contemporary music genres? Give at least one specific example.
5. What is the state of the blues today? Why, according to some critics and scholars, was the late 1960s a “high-water mark” for interest in the blues? Has an interest in the blues waned since that time? Or how might we argue for the increased relevance of the blues and a ‘blues ethos’ in the contemporary moment? In your answer please identify and discuss at least one song (outside of the course) from the last decade or so that you believe comments powerfully on the social reality of our time. This does not have to be a “blues” song, only something you think makes an important commentary on the times. Explain your thoughts and provide reasons for your choice. In your discussion, you should also highlight at least one blues song we’ve looked at in the course that commented compellingly on its times. Do you think historians 50 or 100 years from now will be discussing the song you chose in similar ways?