Listening & Learning: February

Pin It

music for studying

February’s Listening & Learning comes to us from Dr. David Gregory, a Professor of History and Humanities at Athabasca University.

Music is one of the cultural fields to which black artists have made huge contributions since the popularity of minstrelsy and spirituals in the late nineteenth century. While jazz is now an international genre, it was pioneered by such great artists as King Oliver, Jelly Roll Morton, Louis Armstrong, Fletcher Henderson and Duke Ellington, to name only a few of the biggest names.

So, in Black History Month, it is most appropriate to celebrate the history of jazz in the twentieth century. And, while you are studying, why not listen to some great modern jazz?

Jazz for studying?

There are different styles of jazz, and I like most of them. But not all seem suitable background music for when one is reading, researching or writing.

For example, I’m very interested in the free form movement and a big fan of Eric Dolphy but his more ‘way out’ improvisations a just too harsh and discordant for studying to. And late Miles Davis, anything from Bitches Brew onwards, is too noisy and sonically insistent to be appropriate. Miles’ great early Columbia recordings, on the other hand, are just perfect. Try Kind of Blue and Sketches of Spain, or the earlier Birth of the Cool.

Chet Baker was another mellow and melodic trumpeter who created fine albums that deserve close listening but also work well as quiet background music. I love his recordings with Gerry Mulligan, such as those collected on The Best of the Gerry Mulligan Quartet with Chet Baker. Another suitable collection is the Pacific Jazz CD The Best of Chet Baker Plays. Other West Coast musicians made excellent recordings with Mulligan, for example another Pacific Jazz CD titled Konitz Meets Mulligan, featuring alto saxophonist Lee Konitz, a leading exponent of the ‘cool jazz’ sound. Davis and Baker, by the way, continued a style of trumpet playing which emphasized tonal beauty and melodic phrasing, a style pioneered in the late 1920s by Bix Beiderbecke. I’d recommend the Beiderbecke CD titled Singin’ the Blues. And one other thought. Of all the modern jazz pianists, Bill Evans was perhaps the most suitable for this gig, so try his excellent album titled Autumn Leaves.

Check in each month

We’ll outline a few musical suggestions to help you with your studies. Just like with your educational pursuits, it may take some trial and error before you find what really works for you. We hope you enjoy February’s selections. 

Guest Blog from Dr. David Gregory

Dr. David Gregory is Professor of History and Humanities at Athabasca University. He teaches mainly European history and music history, and his most recent research is on the history of vernacular song collecting in England and Canada. Athabasca University currently offers nine music courses, including several on the history of popular music that study some of the great black blues and jazz musicians. One more course, on Canadian Folk Music, will soon be added to the list.

Get in Touch

If you have questions about an AU program or service, please contact the information centre.

Note on Commenting

We fully encourage all readers to share their views on our articles and blog posts; we are committed to creating a dialogue and enhancing engagement.

While we encourage a great discussion, we ask you to do so in a kind and thoughtful way — to please keep your comments relevant and respectful. If we encounter a comment that is abusive or defamatory in any way, it will not be published. Spam will not be published.

After thorough consideration, we have decided to no longer allow anonymous comments. We will be using Facebook commenting to discourage the use of pseudonyms.

Lastly, as a result of the implementation of Facebook commenting, previous post comments were disabled. We encourage you to re-comment using Facebook commenting!

Comments