Boornazian400x540Teaching Jazz History Out of Order: The Benefits of Organizing Jazz History Curriculum by Topic Instead of Chronologically - Josiah Boornazian

Jazz history unfolded chronologically, but chronology does not necessarily imply teleology or causality. In other words, the fact that certain jazz styles came after others does not unquestionably mean that jazz history followed a fixed course dictated by the perceived inevitability of artistic “progress.” Although it is important for jazz history students to have a foundational understanding of jazz history in a chronological fashion, presenting history on a straightforward, simplistic timeline defined by distinct style periods is not the only way to teach the music of the past.

There may be significant merit in reorganizing the way jazz history is sometimes presented. Musicians, albums, and style movements could be grouped together and studied according to thematically broad abstract topics to stimulate student engagement, independent thinking, and impassioned discussion. Examples include organizing jazz history curricula into nonsequential subjects such as jazz and politics, jazz and gender, jazz and racial identity, jazz and economics, jazz and the government, jazz and authenticity, and jazz and technology.

This lecture will go over how a jazz course might be restructured to cover jazz history alongside topics, with specific examples including Jelly Roll Morton and notions of authenticity in jazz culture, Mary Lou Williams and notions of gender in jazz, and the fallacies of linking free jazz and avant-garde jazz with the Civil Rights Movement in the United States of America.