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Study Units

Understanding Music

  Though music permeates our lives, the basic “language” of music is often misunderstood. While music can be consumed without its knowledge, understanding what music is, and how it is produced, can profoundly enrich the experience of listening, moving it from a passive to a more active endeavor. This Study Unit begins with the smallest …

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19th Century American Music

  Though music has been a part of the American cultural fabric since its inception, prior to the mid-19th century, the idea of marketing music to the masses was an undeveloped one. This Study Unit explores the early roots of folk music and classical music in America and how each influenced the arrival of the …

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20th Century Folk Music

The primary goals of folk music in the 19th century were utilitarian in nature: to entertain, inform of current events, and give expression to religious fervency. However, in the early 20th century, music created by the common man in the 19th century was collected, recorded, and documented for preservation. About the same time, folksong writers …

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Country & Western

With its roots in the folk music of the Appalachian mountain states, country music has grown to find an evergrowing foothold in American musical culture. Through many sub-genres and variances in instrumentation, country music has evolved for almost a century. During that time, it has broadened to incorporate the sound of western music, popular, rock, …

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Emerging first from the culture of New Orleans, then expanding throughout the world, the musical style of jazz has had a lasting impact on cultures as diverse as America, Japan, India, South Africa, and France. Beginning with the concepts of improvisation and swing rhythms, this Study Unit follows the history of jazz through various eras, geographical …

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Behind the styles of folk, rock ‘n’ roll, jazz, and country & western music is the style of blues. Each of these styles have felt the passion and heartache of the blues during their early years of birth. Their pioneers were well-versed in the structure, melodic and harmonic characteristics of the blues, and utilized the …

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Rock ‘n’ Roll

In the years following WWII, a new demographic emerged in American culture: the teenager. This arrival helped set the stage for a new musical language: rock ‘n’ roll. This Study Unit traces the first decades of rock ‘n’ roll – from its rhythm & blues and country & western roots – in the 1950s through …

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From the streets of American inner cities evolved a culture that was eventually called “hip-hop” and a music which was to be known as “rap”. This study unit traces the music and the culture from the early days of “scratching” and “break-dancing” through the Golden Age, the East Coast/West Coast rivalries, into the mainstreaming of …

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Musical Theatre

  The American stage form known as “musical theatre” descended from early American, British, and European musical stage forms. This unit explores the beginnings of music on the American stage in the 18th century, through the stage spectacles of the 19th century, and into the modern era of musical theatre. During the 20th century, major …

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    Study Units

    An Overview

    Ch. 1: Understanding Pitch

    Ch. 2: Understanding Musical Pulse

    Ch. 3: Understanding Volume

    Ch. 4: Understanding Tone

    Ch. 5: Understanding Melody

    Ch. 6: Understanding Harmony

    Ch. 7: Understanding Rhythm

    Ch. 8: Understanding Bass

    Ch. 9: Understanding Countermelody

    Ch. 10: Understanding Structure

    Ch. 11: Understanding Instrumentation

    Ch. 12: Understanding Tempo

    An Overview

    Ch. 1: 19th Century: Pre-Foster

    Ch. 2: Folk Music by the People

    Ch. 3: Popular Music in its Infancy

    Ch. 4: Stephen Foster – “Father of American Popular Music”

    Ch. 5: The Importance of Stephen Foster

    Ch. 6: Scott Joplin – “King of Ragtime”

    Ch. 7: The Player Piano – Automated Music

    Ch. 8: John Philip Sousa – “The March King”

    Ch. 9: John Philip Sousa – Recording Artist and Activist

    An Overview

    Ch. 1: John Lomax – Recording American Roots Music

    Ch. 2: Woody Guthrie – “Father of Modern American Folk Music”

    Ch. 3: Leadbelly & Pete Seeger: End of the First Wave

    Ch. 4: The Kingston Trio – Beginning of the Second Wave

    Ch. 5: Joan Baez – “First Lady of Folk Music”

    Ch. 6: Peter, Paul & Mary – Balancing the Message

    Ch. 7: Robert Zimmerman – The Beginning of an American Icon

    Ch. 8: Dylan in New York City

    Ch. 9: Dylan after Newport

    Ch. 10: The Importance of Dylan

    Ch. 11: Folk Music in the 21st Century

    An Overview

    Ch. 1: The Roots of Country

    Ch. 2: Bristol Beginnings

    Ch. 3: The Grand Ole Opry

    Ch. 4: Cowboys and the Movies

    Ch. 5: Western Swing

    Ch. 6: Bluegrass: Hillbilly on Caffeine

    Ch. 7: Honky-tonk: Merging Two into One

    Ch. 8: The Nashville Sound: Country-Pop

    Ch. 9: Rockabilly – Country meets R&B

    Ch. 10: Country Feminists Find Their Voice

    Ch. 11: The Bakersfield Sound

    Ch. 12: Austin “Outlaw” Country

    Ch. 13: Neo-Traditionalists at the end of the 20th Century

    Ch. 14: Mainstreaming Country in the ‘90s

    Ch. 15: Redesigning Country in the 21st Century

    An Overview

    Ch. 1: What is Jazz?

    Ch. 2: Before It Was Jazz

    Ch. 3: Jazz is Born!

    Ch. 4: Early Jazz Musicians

    Ch. 5: Louis Armstrong

    Ch. 6: Chicago and Harlem – Hub of 1920s Jazz

    Ch. 7: Big Band – Jazz Swing!

    Ch. 8: Big Band Musicians and Singers

    Ch. 9: Jump Blues and Bop

    Ch. 10: Cool Jazz

    Ch. 11: Hard Bop

    Ch. 12: Free Jazz – Breaking the Rules

    Ch. 13: Fusion – The Jazz-Rock-Funk Experience

    Ch. 14: Third Stream and World Jazz

    Ch. 15: New Age & Smooth Jazz

    Ch. 16: Summary – Jazz Lives!

    An Overview

    Ch. 1: Blues – The Granddaddy of American Popular Music

    Ch. 2: Where Did the Blues Come From?

    Ch. 3: What Are the Blues?

    Ch. 4: How to Build the Blues

    Ch. 5: Classic Blues – The Early Years

    Ch. 6: Delta Blues – Authentic Beginnings

    Ch. 7: Blues in the City – Migration and Power

    Ch. 8: Blues in Britain – Redefining the Masters

    Ch. 9: Contemporary Blues – Maturity and Respect

    Ch. 10: The Relevancy of the Blues Today

    Ch. 1: Timelines, Cultures & Technology

    Ch. 2: Pre-Rock Influences

    Ch. 3: Rock is Born!

    Ch. 4: Rock is Named

    Ch. 5: Doo-Wop

    Ch. 6: Independent Record Labels

    Ch. 7: Technology Shapes Rock ‘n’ Roll

    Ch. 8: The Plan to Mainstream Rock ‘n’ Roll

    Ch. 9: Payola – Rock ‘n’ Roll’s First Scandal

    Ch. 1: Crafting Sound in the Studio/Producers and Hit Songs

    Ch. 2: West Coast Sound: Beach, Surf, and Teens

    Ch. 3: The British Invasion: Two Prongs – Pop & Blues

    Ch. 4: Motown and the Development of a Black Pop-Rock Sound

    Ch. 5: Soul Music: Gospel and R&B in the Deep South

    Ch. 6: The Sounds of Bubble Gum Pop-Rock

    Ch. 7: The Arrival of Folk-Rock

    Ch. 8: Psychedelic Rock ‘n’ Roll

    Ch. 9: Early Guitar Gods of Rock

    Ch. 10: Rock Festivals: The Rise and Fall of Music, Peace, and Love

    Ch. 11: Anti-Woodstock and Shock Rock Movements

    Ch. 1: Technological Breakthroughs

    Ch. 2: Electronic Dance Music

    Ch. 3: Hip-Hop & Rap – An Introduction

    Ch. 4: The Beginnings of Rap

    Ch. 5: Old School Rap – Up From the Streets

    Ch. 6: Rap’s Golden Age

    Ch. 7: East Coast – Political Rap

    Ch. 8: West Coast – Gangsta Rap

    Ch. 9: The Fragmentation of Rap – Pop, Party & More

    Ch. 10: Further Fragmentation – Different Directions

    Ch. 11: The Importance of Rap

    Ch. 1: Musical Stage Productions in America before the 1800s

    Ch. 2: Minstrel Shows and Melodramas

    Ch. 3: Stage Presentations in the Late 19th Century

    Ch. 4: Early 20th Century: Revues and Operettas

    Ch. 5: The Arrival of the Modern American Musical

    Ch. 6: Great Partnerships in Book-Musicals

    Ch. 7: Musical Theatre Composers in the mid-Century

    Ch. 8: Fresh Voices on the Stage in the 1960s

    Ch. 9: Two Dominant Forces at the End of the Century

    Ch. 10: New Voices at the End of the Century

    Ch. 11: New Voices, New Sounds in the New Century

    Ch. 12: Musical Theatre Glossary

    Ch. 13: Is it “Theatre” or “Theater”?

    Study Units also have “Playdecks” – containing hundreds of chronologically organized audio examples of music in the study units, and “Study Qs” for unit chapters.