ISP B10: Sounds of the City: Living Musical History in New York
Fall 2011
Thursday 8:10-10:40
Room 208
Profs Bazinet ( and Prof. Friss (
PDF Syllabus

Contact information for ISP Admin and Writing Tutors:
Bertha Peralta-Rodriguez, Program Counselor & Coordinator (
Priscilia Acuna, Program Secretary (
Liz Balla ISP Writing Tutor (

Course Description:
In this course we will examine the musical history of New York City from the 1960s up to the present day. Using an ethnographic lens, we will analyze texts, films, and music, and conduct an oral history project. Along the way, we expect to not only investigate New York City’s musical history, but also to think critically about historical ethnography and, in general, the disciplines of ethnomusicology and history.

Course Objectives:
• Students will formulate questions, prepare a research plan, and implement an experiential research project with a musical group in NYC
• Students will explore the history of a musical community in NYC from interdisciplinary perspectives
• Students will demonstrate a fluency with the methodological approaches of ethnomusicology and history
• Students will examine, analyze, and interrogate primary and secondary sources
• Students will marshal evidence and methods from different disciplines in support of an argument
• Students will analyze and interpret a wide variety of texts and genres in written, aural, visual, and electronic formats

ISP, John Jay, and Course Policies:
• 3 absences (for whatever reason) equals a final course grade of ‘F’
• 3 latenesses equals 1 absence
• Over ½ hour late equals 1 absence
• Students with a documented, ongoing serious health issue—which may affect their attendance—should speak with a member of the faculty and the program counselor.
• Grading Scale:
A, A- Excellent
B+, B, B- Very Good
C+, C Satisfactory
C-, D+, D, D- Poor
F Fail
• Plagiarism will result in automatic failure of the class. “Plagiarism is the presentation of someone else’s ideas, words, or artistic, scientific, or technical work as one’s own creation. Using the ideas or work of another is permissible only when the original author is identified. Paraphrasing and summarizing, as well as direct quotations, require citations to the original source. Plagiarism may be intentional or unintentional. Lack of dishonest intent does not necessarily absolve a student of responsibility for plagiarism. It is the student’s responsibility to recognize the difference between statements that are common knowledge (which do not require documentation) and restatements of the ideas of others. Paraphrase, summary, and direct quotation are acceptable forms of restatement, as long as the source is cited. Students who are unsure how and when to provide documentation are advised to consult with their instructors. The Library has free guides designed to help students with problems of documentation.”
• Late Papers will be penalized one letter grade for each class until the paper is submitted.

Class participation/quizzes: 25%
Paper 1: 10%
Paper 2: 10%
Paper 3: 10%
Paper 4: 10%
Paper 5: 10%
Final project: 25%

Reading list:

Ray Allen and Lois Wilcken, eds., Island Sounds in the Global City

Michael Azerrad, Our Band Could be Your Life: Scenes from the American Indie Underground, 1981-1991.

Jeff Chang, Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip Hop Generation.

Lewis A. Erenberg, Steppin’ Out: New York Nightlife and the Transformation of American Culture, 1890-1930.

Charles Keil, Urban Blues.

Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain, Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk.

Patti Smith, Just Kids.

Christopher Washburne, Sounding Salsa: Performing Latin Music in New York City

End of the Century: The Story of the Ramones
Style Wars

Assignments (All of these assignments will be explained in more detail before they are due):

Fieldnotes: Once students choose a research subject, they will keep a weekly log of their fieldnotes, detailing interactions with their research subjects, observations, and potential difficulties.

Concert report: Students should watch their research subjects perform at least once. They will write a concert report capturing and documenting the experience of the performance.

Interview transcript: Students will record an interview with their research subject(s), and write a transcript of the interview.

Liner/Program notes: Students will act as if they are producers, band members, or critics, and write either liner notes for a recording or program notes for a performance of their research subject(s). Students will need to engage not only the music, but also the biographies and social histories of their research subject(s).

Final project: The final assignment will include a written and oral component and will be based on the semester-long research project.

Other writing assignments (inside and outside of class) will be given throughout the semester.

It is imperative that students check their email regularly, as that is the main way your professors will communicate with you. There are no excuses for missing email from professors.

Schedule of Classes and Assignments

9/1/11: Introduction – Why Study Urban Music?

9/8/11: How to do Ethnography
Watch a slideshow about conducting ethnographic research.

9/15/11: Early 20th Century New York History and Music
Writing Assignment #1 Due: Describing a Performance
Erenberg, Steppin’ Out (Chapter 8, “Into the Jazz Age)
Duke Ellington Orchestra, Cotton Club, Harlem, 1931:

9/22/11: Primary Source Research
Visit to the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts

9/29/11: No Classes

10/6/11: The 1960s
Writing Assignment #2 Due: Project Abstract
Keil, Urban Blues (Chapter V, “Big Bobby Blue Bland On Stage”)

10/13/11: The 1970s
McNeil and McCain, Please Kill Me (Chapters 17 and 22)
Smith, Just Kids (“Separate Ways Together”)

Film: End of the Century: The Story of the Ramones

10/20/11: The 1980s
Writing Assignment #3 Due: Concert Report
Azerrad, Our Band Could be Your Life (Introduction and Chapter 7, “Sonic Youth)
Chang, Can’t Stop Won’t Stop (Chapters 4, 6-8)

Film: Style Wars

10/27/11: The 1990s
Washburne, Sounding Salsa (Chapter 4, New York Salsa and Drugs)

11/3/11: The 2000s and Today
Slate Magazine Article about Ipods

11/10/11: Race and Ethnicity
Flores, “Recapturing History: The Puerto Rican Roots of Hip Hop Culture,” in Island Sounds in the Global City
Writing Assignment #4 Due: Interview Transcript

11/17/11: Immigration
Kasinitz, “Community Dramatized, Community Contested: The Politics of Celebration in the Brooklyn Carnival” in Island Sounds in the Global City
Writing Assignment #5 Due: Liner/Program Notes

11/22/11 (Tuesday classes follow Thursday schedule): Gender
Washburne, Sounding Salsa, (Chapter 5, “La India and the Masquerading of Gender on the Salsa Scene”)

11/24/11: Thanksgiving

12/1/11: Presentations

12/8/11: Presentations
Final Project Due

Finals Week: Student Conferences and Reflections