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Unit outline_

MUSC2638: Jazz Riots and Revolutions

Semester 2, 2021 [Normal day] - Remote

This course examines the powerful link between jazz and moments of social revolution in the United States. It illuminates the central role jazz musicians like Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Charles Mingus and Max Roach played in changing hearts, minds and social structures during four distinct historic periods: the Harlem Renaissance, the post-War 1940s, the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and the Black Nationalist movement of the 1960s. Its central focus is on how music can both ride and resist the political energies that charge particular historic moments.

Unit details and rules

Academic unit
Credit points 6
Assumed knowledge


Available to study abroad and exchange students


Teaching staff

Coordinator Hilary Geddes,
Type Description Weight Due Length
Participation Tutorial participation
20% Ongoing Ongoing
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO3 LO2
Assignment Research essay
Due date: 19 Nov 2021 at 23:59
3000 words
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3
Assignment Annotated bibliography
Written task
30% Week 06
Due date: 14 Sep 2021 at 23:59
1500 words
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3
Assignment Research essay introduction
Written task
20% Week 11
Due date: 29 Oct 2021 at 23:59
1500 words
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3

Assessment summary

  • Tutorial participation/demonstrated knowledge of required reading: You are expected to come to this seminar both on time and prepared. Evidence of preparation may include marginalia, insightful criticism or support of positions put forward in the required reading and questions that seek to develop a critical understanding of theoretical concepts outlined in assigned texts. Demonstrated knowledge will be assessed both formally (by way of circle quizzes) and informally (during the course of group discussions). Many of the concepts covered in the assigned readings are complex and you will likely benefit from reading articles and book chapters more than once.
  • Annotated bibliography: You will trace claims about a particular jazz artist or jazz work through a maximum of five and a minimum of three scholarly sources. Your aim is to demonstrate how authors have nuanced or debunked the opinions of their predecessors in relation to the artist/work that you choose. Pay particular attention to the argument each author uses and the sort of evidence they select. This will help you distinguish when authors echo each other and when they provide new insights. The 3-5 texts in your annotated bibliography must build on each other. While it is not necessary that the most recent text cites the initial text, a citation chain must exist connecting all of the texts that you present. Each entry must be preceded by a full citation of the text, formatted in accordance with the Chicago Manual of Style. Students are required to BRING a hardcopy of their annotated bibliography to class in week 6.
  • Research essay introduction: You will write a research essay that grows naturally out of your annotated bibliography. In this essay, you will survey the history of claims made about a particular artist or work, identify a gap or paradox in relation to these claims and propose a way this gap might be filled. The first part of this assignment is the essay introduction, due both in class and online in week 11. For the introduction, you will need to complete the following:

Your first paragraph should read like an abstract, summarizing the state of play, research gap (or paradox), methodology and findings (so what?) of your proposed paper.

Example from class workshop:

The history of jazz is often presented as a succession of musical geniuses and innovators, such as Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker or Miles Davis, who, it is believed, single-handedly invented new styles and genres [State of play]. In truth, there were numerous musicians, composers and arrangers, active in hundreds of bands, who all helped to shape and alter the face of jazz. In the 1940s, a generally overlooked group explored a direction in which they merged turn-of-the-century European idioms and jazz into an ‘American impressionism,’ as it were [Research gap (or paradox)]. In the bands of Boyd Raeburn, Claude Thornhill and Duke Ellington, young composer-arrangers experimented with a new orchestral language [Filling the gap]. Their work turned out to be seminal for the development of the later ‘cool jazz’ genre [So what?] (Van de Leur 2001).

The rest of your introduction should expand on the first two areas:

1.) For example, in relation to the abstract above, our first set of paragraphs after this opening would discuss authors who present the history of jazz as a succession of musical geniuses [State of play]. 

2.) Our next section would point out how recent studies have complicated these readings by showing the influence of not only more minor figures but of economic and political pressures – taking a more socio-cultural approach to the study of the music (the Ramsey chapter read for week four comes to mind here)[Gap]. 

  • Research essay: The remainder of your essay will expand on the third and fourth research steps.

3.) In relation to this model, the next section would discuss how the economic pressures of the late 1940s pushed Raeburn, Thornhill and Ellington to develop a type of music that would reach out to new audiences (discussion of Baker and Floyd would be good here). Musical analysis would go into this section [Filling the gap]. 

4.) The final section would sum up this data and explain how it complicates the standard mythology of jazz - that Miles Davis was the “inventor” of cool jazz [So what?]. 

Hints: Identify what you see as a paradox or research gap FIRST. Then plan what you are going to do. Then draft your opening paragraph.

Assessment criteria

The following assessment criteria are used for written work in this unit of study:

Result name

Mark range


High distinction

85 - 100

Demonstrates high level of initiative in research and reading; sophisticated critical analysis of evidence; high level engagement with theoretical issues, innovative use of reading/research material and impressive command of underlying debates and assumptions; properly documented and written with style, originality and precision.


75 - 84

Demonstrates initiative in research and wide, appropriate reading; complex understanding of question and ability to critically review material in relation to underlying assumptions and values; analyses material in relation to empirical and theoretical contexts; properly documented; clear, well-developed structure and argument with some signs of literary style.


65 - 74

Evidence of broader understanding than pass level; offers synthesis with some critical evaluation of material; coherent argument using a range of relevant evidence; some evidence of independent thought, good referencing. A high credit (70-74) shows some evidence of ability to problematise and think conceptually.


50 - 64

Written work meets basic requirements in terms of reading/research; relevant material; tendency to descriptive summary rather than critical argument; makes a reasonable attempt to avoid paraphrasing; reasonably coherent structure; often has weaknesses in particular areas, especially in terms of narrow or underdeveloped treatment of question; acceptable documentation.


0 - 49

Work may fail for any or all of the following reasons: Unacceptable paraphrasing; irrelevance of content; poor spelling; poor presentation; grammar or structure so sloppy it cannot be understood; failure to demonstrate understanding of content; insufficient or overlong word length.

For more information see guide to grades.

Late submission

In accordance with University policy, these penalties apply when written work is submitted after 11:59pm on the due date:

  • Deduction of 5% of the maximum mark for each calendar day after the due date.
  • After ten calendar days late, a mark of zero will be awarded.

Academic integrity

The Current Student website  provides information on academic integrity and the resources available to all students. The University expects students and staff to act ethically and honestly and will treat all allegations of academic integrity breaches seriously.  

We use similarity detection software to detect potential instances of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breach. If such matches indicate evidence of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breaches, your teacher is required to report your work for further investigation.

You may only use artificial intelligence and writing assistance tools in assessment tasks if you are permitted to by your unit coordinator, and if you do use them, you must also acknowledge this in your work, either in a footnote or an acknowledgement section.

Studiosity is permitted for postgraduate units unless otherwise indicated by the unit coordinator. The use of this service must be acknowledged in your submission.

Simple extensions

If you encounter a problem submitting your work on time, you may be able to apply for an extension of five calendar days through a simple extension.  The application process will be different depending on the type of assessment and extensions cannot be granted for some assessment types like exams.

Special consideration

If exceptional circumstances mean you can’t complete an assessment, you need consideration for a longer period of time, or if you have essential commitments which impact your performance in an assessment, you may be eligible for special consideration or special arrangements.

Special consideration applications will not be affected by a simple extension application.

Using AI responsibly

Co-created with students, AI in Education includes lots of helpful examples of how students use generative AI tools to support their learning. It explains how generative AI works, the different tools available and how to use them responsibly and productively.

WK Topic Learning activity Learning outcomes
Week 01 Jazz histories and unit overview Lecture and tutorial (2 hr) LO1
Week 02 The weary blues - An introduction to double-voiced texts Lecture and tutorial (2 hr) LO1 LO2
Week 03 Moldy figs and modernists Lecture and tutorial (2 hr) LO1 LO2
Week 04 Bebop and revolution (or not) Lecture and tutorial (2 hr) LO1 LO2
Week 05 Hipster cults Lecture and tutorial (2 hr) LO1 LO2
Week 06 Birth of the cool and death of the big band Lecture and tutorial (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3
Week 07 Jazz diasporas: Indigenisation and resistance Lecture and tutorial (2 hr) LO1 LO2
Week 08 Freedom on the march: 1960s jazz activism and the power of "African" rhythm Lecture and tutorial (2 hr) LO1 LO2
Week 09 Intersectionality in jazz studies Lecture and tutorial (2 hr) LO1 LO2
Week 11 Writing workshop Online class (2 hr) LO3
Week 12 Jazz fusion and the "broken middle" Lecture and tutorial (2 hr) LO1 LO2
Week 13 Time travel and teleporliquization - The quantum mechanics of afrofuturism applied to jazz Lecture and tutorial (2 hr) LO1 LO2

Attendance and class requirements

  • Lecture recording: Lectures for this unit of study will be recorded and made available to students via Canvas.
  • Attendance: Students are expected to attend a minimum of 90% of timetabled activities for a unit of study, unless granted exemption by the Dean, Head of School or professor most concerned. The Dean, Head of School or professor most concerned may determine that a student fails a unit of study because of inadequate attendance. Alternatively, at their discretion, they may set additional assessment items where attendance is lower than 90%.

Study commitment

Typically, there is a minimum expectation of 1.5-2 hours of student effort per week per credit point for units of study offered over a full semester. For a 6 credit point unit, this equates to roughly 120-150 hours of student effort in total.

Required readings

  • Week 2: Hughes, L. (1925) The Weary Blues.
  • Week 3: Self-selected as modelled in Week 2 lecture and brought to class.
  • Week 4: Lott, E. (1988). Double V, Double-Time: Bebop’s Politics of Style. Callaloo, 36(Summer), 597–605’ AND ALSO READ Ramsey, G. (2003). Mapping New Modernisms. In G. Ramsey, Race Music: Black Cultures from Bebop to Hip-Hop (pp. 105–11). Berkeley: University of California Press.
  • Week 5: Monson, I. (1995). The Problem with White Hipness: Race, Gender and Cultural Conceptions in Jazz Historical Discourse. Journal of the American Musicological Society, 48(3), 396–422.
  • Week 7: Johnson, B. (2002) The Jazz Diaspora. In M. Cooke & D. Horn, The Cambridge Companion to Jazz (pp. 33-54). Cambridge UK: Cambridge University Press.
  • Week 8: Monson, I. (2007). Activism and Fund-Raising from Freedom Now to the Freedom Rides. In I. Monson, Freedom Sounds: Civil Rights Calls out to Jazz and Africa (pp. 152–98). New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Week 9: Monson, I. (2008) Fitting the Part. In N.T. Rustin and S. Tucker Big Ears: Listening for Gender in Jazz Studies (pp. 267-287). Durham: Duke University Press. AND ALSO READ: Tucker, S. (2008) When did Jazz go Straight? Critical Studies in Improvisation/Études critiques en improvisation, 4(2), 1–16.
  • Week 12: Fellezs, K. (2011). Introduction. In K. Fellezs Birds of Fire: Jazz, Rock, Funk and the Creation of Fusion (pp. 1-14). Durham: Duke University Press.
  • Week 13: Solis, G. (2019). Soul, Afrofutursim and the Timeliness of Contemporary Jazz Fusions. Daedalus, 148(2), 23-35.

Learning outcomes are what students know, understand and are able to do on completion of a unit of study. They are aligned with the University's graduate qualities and are assessed as part of the curriculum.

At the completion of this unit, you should be able to:

  • LO1. evaluate the strengths and limitations of various musicological approaches to the study of jazz
  • LO2. rationalise and utilise various analytical approaches to describe jazz phenomenon within specific historical moments
  • LO3. develop and answer new research questions on particular jazz topics.

Graduate qualities

The graduate qualities are the qualities and skills that all University of Sydney graduates must demonstrate on successful completion of an award course. As a future Sydney graduate, the set of qualities have been designed to equip you for the contemporary world.

GQ1 Depth of disciplinary expertise

Deep disciplinary expertise is the ability to integrate and rigorously apply knowledge, understanding and skills of a recognised discipline defined by scholarly activity, as well as familiarity with evolving practice of the discipline.

GQ2 Critical thinking and problem solving

Critical thinking and problem solving are the questioning of ideas, evidence and assumptions in order to propose and evaluate hypotheses or alternative arguments before formulating a conclusion or a solution to an identified problem.

GQ3 Oral and written communication

Effective communication, in both oral and written form, is the clear exchange of meaning in a manner that is appropriate to audience and context.

GQ4 Information and digital literacy

Information and digital literacy is the ability to locate, interpret, evaluate, manage, adapt, integrate, create and convey information using appropriate resources, tools and strategies.

GQ5 Inventiveness

Generating novel ideas and solutions.

GQ6 Cultural competence

Cultural Competence is the ability to actively, ethically, respectfully, and successfully engage across and between cultures. In the Australian context, this includes and celebrates Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, knowledge systems, and a mature understanding of contemporary issues.

GQ7 Interdisciplinary effectiveness

Interdisciplinary effectiveness is the integration and synthesis of multiple viewpoints and practices, working effectively across disciplinary boundaries.

GQ8 Integrated professional, ethical, and personal identity

An integrated professional, ethical and personal identity is understanding the interaction between one’s personal and professional selves in an ethical context.

GQ9 Influence

Engaging others in a process, idea or vision.

Outcome map

Learning outcomes Graduate qualities

This section outlines changes made to this unit following staff and student reviews.

Based on class feedback, this semester we will focus more on intersectionality as an analytical framework.
  • Disability Services: The University is committed to supporting students to achieve their best possible results. The University’s Disability Services offer a range of services and adjustments to minimise the impact of any disability on your learning experience and to optimise your academic success. Please see: for more information and to register for relevant support.
  • Learning analytics: Participation in this unit of study permits the University to use your learning analytics for the purpose of improving your learning.  This includes data from the Canvas website, and the results of the Unit of Study Survey conducted at the end of the semester. Students should complete the Unit of Study Survey at the end of this unit of study.  Comments and survey results are confidential. Only the Unit of Study coordinator, the Associate Dean (Education), and the Head of School and the Dean can view student comments made in this survey.  It is essential that you complete this survey so that we can maintain the highest standards of teaching at the SCM and the University.


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