Tag Archives: music

The 23 Enigma

“In Tangier in 1960 the Beat writer William Burroughs met a sea captain called Captain Clark, who boasted to him that he had never had an accident in twenty-three years; later that day Clark’s boat sank, killing him and everyone on board. Burroughs was reflecting on this, that same evening, when he heard a radio report about a plane crash in Florida: the pilot was another Captain Clark and the plane was Flight 23. From then on Burroughs began noting down incidents of the number 23, and wrote a short story, 23 Skidoo.

Burroughs’ friends Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea adopted the ’23 Enigma’ as a guiding principle in their conspiratorial Illuminatis! Trilogy. Twenty-threes come thick and fast: babies get 23 chromosomes from each parent; 23 in the I-Ching means ‘breaking apart’; 23 is the psalm of choice at funerals; and so on. All nice examples of selective perception or, as Wilson put it, ‘When you start looking for something you tend to find it.’ The composer Alban Berg was also obsessed with the number, which appears repeatedly in his opera Lulu and in his violin concertos.”

Excerpted from: Rogerson, Barnaby. Rogerson’s Book of Numbers: The Culture of Numbers–from 1,001 Nights to the Seven Wonders of the World. New York: Picador, 2013.

Aretha Franklin

Aretha Franklin: (1942-2018) U.S. popular singer. Her family moved from Memphis to Detroit when she was 2. Her father, C.L. Franklin, was a well-known revivalist preacher; his church and home were visited by such luminaries as Aretha’s aunt Clara Ward, Mahalia Jackson, B.B. King, and Dinah Washington. She made her first recording at 12. At first she performed only on the gospel and ‘chitlin’ circuits, but in 1967 her powerful and fervent voice took the country by storm in a string of songs including “I Never Loved a Man,” “Respect,” “Chain of Fools,” “Think,” and “Natural Woman.” Her later albums include Amazing Grace (1972), Sparkle (1976), Who’s Zoomin’ Who (1985), and One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism (1989). She was the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Excerpted/Adapted from: Stevens, Mark A., Ed. Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Encyclopedia. Springfield, Massachusetts: Merriam-Webster, 2000.

The Weekly Text, 24 June 2022: Summer of Soul Lesson 4

Here is the fourth and final lesson plan of the Summer of Soul unit I wrote earlier this year. This lesson opens with this short reading with three comprehension questions on the concept of “a seat at the table,” i.e. joining in decision-making processes, particularly where those decisions concern oneself. The mainstay of this lesson is this reflection and assessment guide for discussion and note-taking at the end of this unit.

Because this is it. You now have access to all four lessons in this unit. If you expand this, or otherwise change it, I would be very interested in hearing what you did. I wrote this unit quickly to capitalize on student interest (Summer of Soul won the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature at the 94th Academy Awards in 2022). Even as I presented the unit, I recognized that there is a lot of room to expand and improve this material.

If you find typos in these documents, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

Bessie Smith

“Bessie Smith: (originally Elizabeth) U.S. blues and jazz singer, one of the most distinctive stylists of classic blues and the most successful black entertainer of her time. Born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Smith sang popular songs as well as blues on the minstrel and vaudeville stage. She began recording in 1923 and appeared in the 1929 film St. Louis Blues. Her interpretations represent the fully realized tradition of the rural folk tradition of the blues to its urbane structure and expressiveness. A bold, supremely confident artist with a powerful voice and precise diction, she became known as ‘Empress of the Blues.’ She died from injuries sustained in a car crash, having apparently been refused treatment for reasons of racial prejudice.”

Excerpted/Adapted from: Stevens, Mark A., Ed. Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Encyclopedia. Springfield, Massachusetts: Merriam-Webster, 2000.

The Weekly Text, 17 June 2022: Summer of Soul Lesson 3

If you’ve been following along for the past couple of Fridays, then here is the third lesson plan of the Summer of Soul unit I wrote last spring to take advantage of high interest in that superb documentary and the events it records and assesses. To carry out this lesson, the third of four, I begin with this short reading with three comprehension questions on the Baby Boomer generation as a do-now exercise. The primary work of this lesson involves this truncated reading on Woodstock and its accompanying discussion guide and note-taking worksheet.

If you would prefer longer-form materials on Woodstock, you’ll find those here. Otherwise, that’s it for another week.

If you find typos in these documents, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

Dizzy Gillespie

Dizzy Gillespie: (originally John Birks) (1917-1993) U.S. jazz trumpeter, composer, arranger, and bandleaders, one of the primary innovators of bebop. Born in Cheraw, South Carolina, Gillespie was influenced by Roy Eldridge and played with the big bands of Cab Calloway, Earl Hines, and Billy Eckstine before leading small groups in the mid-1940s. He pioneered bebop with saxophonist Charlie Parker and pianist Thelonious Monk. Bringing this approach to his big band in the late 1940s, Gillespie popularized the use of Afro-Cuban rhythms in jazz. Alternating between large and small ensembles for the rest of his career, his virtuosity and comic wit (in addition to his puffed cheeks and trademark 45° upturned trumpet bell) made him one of the most charismatic and influential musicians in jazz.

Excerpted/Adapted from: Stevens, Mark A., Ed. Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Encyclopedia. Springfield, Massachusetts: Merriam-Webster, 2000.

The Weekly Text, 10 June 2022: Summer of Soul Lesson 2

The second Friday of June 2022 brings from Mark’s Text Terminal the second lesson plan of the Summer of Soul unit I wrote this spring to capitalize on the interest in this superlative documentary–especially when it won a much-deserved Oscar for Best Documentary Feature and accrued similar honors at just about every film festival held in North America in 2021. This lesson accompanies a viewing of the film: I composed these ten questions to guide viewing of the film in order to meet the unit’s learning objectives, which is an investigation into why the 50 hours of footage shot at the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival never took a “seat at the table” when film production budgets were handed out.

That’s it. No do-now; students just jump right in to a viewing of the film. The third lesson will appear next Friday.

If you find typos in these documents, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

Dexter Gordon

Dexter (Keith) Gordon: (1923-1990) U.S. tenor saxophonist, one of the most influential saxophonists in modern jazz. Born in Los Angeles, Gordon played in the big bands of Lionel Hampton and Billy Eckstine in the early 1940s, later working in small groups with Charlie Parker, Tadd Dameron, and fellow tenorist Wardell Gray. He was incarcerated on narcotics charges in the early 1950s, and moved to Denmark in 1962. A starring role in the film Round Midnight (1986) revived his career.

Excerpted/Adapted from: Stevens, Mark A., Ed. Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Encyclopedia. Springfield, Massachusetts: Merriam-Webster, 2000.

Motif

“Motif: One of the dominant ideas in a work of literature; a part of the main theme. It may consist of a character, a recurrent image, or a verbal pattern.”

Excerpted from: Cuddon, J.A. The Penguin Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory. New York: Penguin, 1992.

Soul Music

soul music: Style of U.S. popular music sung and performed primarily by black musicians, having its roots in gospel music and rhythm and blues. The term was first used in the 1960s to describe music that combined rhythm and blues, gospel, jazz, and rock music and that was characterized by intensity of feeling and earthiness. In its earliest stages, soul music was found most commonly in the South, but many of the young singers who were to popularize it migrated to cities in the North. The founding of Motown Records in Detroit and Stax-Volt in Memphis did much to encourage the style. Its most popular performers include James Brown, Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, and Aretha Franklin.”

Excerpted from: Stevens, Mark A., Ed. Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Encyclopedia. Springfield, Massachusetts: Merriam-Webster, 2000.