Music 396: Special Studies in Music History

Miles Davis—An American Original

Syllabus 2000

Elmhurst College

Dr. Mark Harbold

Course Goals
Materials You Will Need
Course Activities & Requirements
Course Schedule
Listening Assignments
Course Policies
Important URLs
How to Find Me


Course Goals

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Materials You Will Need

Required textbook—
Miles Davis with Quincy Troupe. Miles: The Autobiography. Touchstone Press, 1989.
Ian Carr. Miles Davis: The Definitive Biography. Revised edition. Thunders Mouth Press, 1998.

Optional materials—
Martin Williams, ed. Smithsonian Collection of Classic Jazz (SCCJ). Revised edition. Smithsonian Institution Press, 1987.

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Course Activities & Requirements


Your final grade will be based on the following—
 Listening Quizzes  8 @ 2.5%
 Class Discussion  2 @ 10%
 Projects  3 @ 15%
 Final Exam  1 @ 15%

About Assignments and Testing

Listening Quizzes—Eight short (10-20 minutes) listening quizzes, always given at the beginning of a class period. A typical quiz will include excercises in listening identification and description of stylistic and performance features. Quizzes will not be made up (except in case of excused absence). Quiz dates can be found on the Course Schedule below. Click here to see Listening Assignments for this course.

Class Discussion—The primary means we will use to develop skills in research, listening, and “making history.” Half of your discussion grade is based on in-class discussion, the other half on WebBoard discussion. (Click here to go to the WebBoard for this course.) The following formats will be used.

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Projects—Three projects in which you will “make history.” Using skills honed in class discussion, you will assemble and evaluate the historical artifacts most closely related to your area of specialization. Each project adopts a different format, taking you into different areas of jazz research. The three project areas are—

  1. Annotated bibliography—a cooperative project in which you will assemble a comprehensive bibliography (MLA format) of the research materials most relevant to your specialization. Annotations will describe the content and usefulness of each source. All entries will be compiled into a web page that will be mounted on the course web site.
  2. Seminar-style presentation—an in-class presentation focusing on an aspect of Miles Davis’ life and music that is related to your area of specialization
  3. PowerPoint presentation—a multimedia presentation that assembles and interprets significant “artifacts” from your area of specialization
A note on seminar-style presentations: A seminar is a course in which students share responsibility with the instructor for lecture preparation and presentation. A seminar-style presentation is simply an in-class talk given by you on a particular topic. To prepare for these presentations, you do the same research as for a scholarly paper, but since the finished “product” is a class presentation rather than a paper, you will choose and organize your information in a way that makes sense for a face-to-face presentation. For each seminar-style presentation you must create handouts that help your audience follow the presentation. Handouts will provide analytical notes and notated musical examples where appropriate.

Due dates for Projects 1 and 3 can be found on the Course Schedule below. The due date for Project 2 will vary depending on where each student’s presentation fits best into the course syllabus; this due date will be negotiated once you choose your area of specialization. For ALL projects, you must hand in a complete bibliography (MLA format) and discography. Your presentation should be 15-20 minutes long (longer if you use many listening examples).

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Final Exam—The in-class final exam includes both a listening component and a final summary (in essay format) of the research you did in your area of specialization.


Same format as for listening quizzes—listening excerpts will include tracks from Time After Time and from the list compiled by Music 396 students (click here for complete list). Under “Historical Significance,” be sure to identify the style or phase from Miles’ career that each example represents (in addition to your usual reflections on the importance of the performance, the album, and the band).

Research Report

Use the following outline to report on the research you did this semester for Projects 1, 2, and 3.
  • Brief description of your topic.
  • Objectives
  • What questions did you want to answer?
  • What kinds of sources did you hope to find?
  • What answers were you looking for?
  • Research
  • What sources did you actually find?
  • What sources were you unable to find?
  • Which primary sources were most relevant to your topic?
  • What answers did you actually find?
  • What questions were you unable to answer? Why?
  • What sources do you WISH were available, but were hard to find or do not exist?
  • Conclusions
  • Were you able to meet all of your objectives?
  • For those objectives where your answer was yes, explain how you did so.
  • For those objectives where your answer was no, explain why not.
  • Return to Course Activities
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    Aug 29
    Unit 1—Introduction to Jazz Research

    Aug 31
    Unit 1—Jazz History to 1945
    Read—SCCJ booklet, “Jazz Music: A Brief History,” 
       p 7-28
    Sept 5
    Unit 1—History of Jazz Trumpet
    Guest lecturer, Doug Beach
    Sept 7
    Unit 1—Introduction to Miles Davis
    Read—Carr, Postscript, p 555-63
    Specialization Due
    Sept 12
    Unit 1—Jazz Research Orientation Session
    Library, Rm 030
    Sept 14
    Unit 2—1927-1945
    Read—Carr, Ch 1; Miles, Ch 1-3
    Listening Quiz 1
    Sept 19
    Unit 2—1946, Relaxin’ at Camarillo
    Read—Carr, Ch 2; Miles, Ch 4
    Sept 21
    Unit 2—1947, Scrapple from the Apple
    Read—Carr, Ch 2; Miles, Ch 4-5
    Sept 26
    Unit 3—1948, Bird on 52nd Street
    Read—Carr, Ch 3; Miles, Ch 5
    Listening Quiz 2
    Sept 28
    Unit 3—1949, Birth of the Cool
    Read—Carr, Ch 3; Miles, Ch 5
    Oct 3
    Unit 4—1950-52, Dig
    Read—Carr, Ch 4; Miles, Ch 6-7
    Listening Quiz 3
    Oct 5
    Unit 4—1953-55, Walkin’
    Read—Carr, Ch 4; Miles, Ch 8-9
    Project 1 Due
    Oct 10
    Unit 5—1956, Classic Miles Davis Quintet
    Read—Carr, Ch 5-6; Miles, Ch 10
    Listening Quiz 4
    Oct 12
    Unit 5—1957, Miles Ahead
    Read—Carr, Ch 6-7; Miles, Ch 10
    Oct 17
    Unit 5—1958, Milestones, Porgy and Bess
    Read—Carr, Ch 7-8; Miles, Ch 11
    Oct 19
    Unit 5—1959, Sketches of Spain
    Read—Carr, Ch 9; Miles, Ch 11
    Oct 24
    Unit 5—Kind of Blue
    Read—Carr, Ch 9; Miles, Ch 11
    Oct 26
    Unit 6—1960-64, From Carnegie to the Philharmonic
    Read—Carr, Ch 10-11; Miles, Ch 12
    Listening Quiz 5
    Oct 31
    Unit 6—1964-67, Sorcerer
    Read—Carr, Ch 11-12; Miles, Ch 13
    Nov 2
    Guest lecturer, Doug Beach
    Nov 7
    Unit 6—1967-69, Filles de Kilimajaro
    Read—Carr, Ch 12-13; Miles, Ch 13-14
    Nov 9
    Unit 7—Bitches Brew
    Read—Carr, Ch 14; Miles, Ch 14
    Listening Quiz 6
    Nov 14
    Unit 7—1969-71, Live-Evil
    Read—Carr, Ch 15-16; Miles, Ch 15
    Nov 16
    Unit 7—1972-75, Pangaea
    Read—Carr, Ch 16-18; Miles, Ch 15-16
    Nov 21
    Unit 8—1980-83, Decoy
    Read—Carr, Ch 19-20; Miles, Ch 17
    Listening Quiz 7
    Nov 23
    Thanksgiving Recess

    Nov 28
    Unit 8—1984-87, Tutu
    Read—Carr, Ch 21-22; Miles, Ch 18
    Project 3 Due
    Nov 30
    Unit 8—1988-91, Amandla
    Read—Carr, Ch 23-24; Miles, Ch 19-20
    Dec 5
    Project 3 Presentations
    Listening Quiz 8
    Dec 7
    Project 3 Presentations
    Dec 14
    Final Exam, 1 pm

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    Course Policies

    Class Participation

    Attendance and participation are important. Under normal circumstances, tell me ahead of time if you must miss class. In emergencies, present a note from your doctor, the college health service, or the Dean when you return. You can be absent or late up to three times each without penalty; further lateness or absences will count against your final grade.

    Academic Dishonesty

    This course follows guidelines published in the E-Book.

    Elmhurst College Disabilities Policy

    Elmhurst College will make reasonable accommodations for persons with documented disabilities. If you have a disability that may have some impact on your work in this course, please contact the Director of Advising at 103 Goebel Hall (617-3450).

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    Important URLs

    Course WebBoard—

    Course Listening Assignments—

    EC Web-based Email—

    Music Department Web Page—

    Mark Harbold’s Web Page—

    Library Special Studies in Music History: Miles Davis Web Page—

    Miles Ahead: A Miles Davis website—

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    How to Find Me

    If you need assistance of any kind in this course, please contact me. You can see me during office hours, or make an appointment.
    Office Irion 113
    Office Hours MWF 10:30-11:30
    TTh 2:30-3:30
    Phone 630.617.3521
    Fax 630.617.3738

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    Page created 08/18/00 by Mark Harbold—last updated 12/07/00.