January 31, 2013


Bebop: Evolution or Revolution?

May 8, 2012

By Tom Barry,  Associate Professor of Social Sciences

From the earliest sounds of jazz coming out of New Orleans and its Congo Square, jazz has undergone much change.  Such changes, as with other areas of life, are a reflection of the historical landscape and its people, emerging technologies related to the production of music, as well as audience desires.

In the early 1930s, swing arose as jazz’s dominate form. As its name indicates, swing music “swings” by putting a shorter beat after a longer beat.  Aside from its music form, swing music was big band music.  Conductors such as Benny Goodman, Count Basie, and Fletcher Henderson orchestrated and directed their troupe of musicians.  Audiences were drawn to this sound and the energy coming from a stage with a band leader front and center.  While swing chartered new territory, it was politically conservative.  The major players in the music industry, including various companies located New York City’s Tin Pan Alley, popularized and standardized jazz.  Rather than seeking and rewarding innovation, the industry fostered replaceable, reproducible sounds.  The conservative nature of swing is also visible in the style – dress, mannerisms, and demeanor – of its musicians.

While swing music would get audiences stomping their feet and out on the dance floor, performers desiring artistic autonomy found it quite stifling.  Band leaders, the industry, and the audience directly and indirectly limited musicians to performing the notes on the page, denying them the space to explore and innovate.  Black musicians traded this limitation to gain status, freedom, and wages that were difficult to find elsewhere in a racially regressive society.  But after joining an orchestra, many found the wages were insufficient compensation for the exhaustive touring schedule.  The demanding work schedule, coupled with the inability to find much reprieve while traveling across a Jim Crow South and Midwest, left many in search of other options.

When performing in New York and other Northern urban centers, musicians found comfort in off-the-beaten-path clubs.  Musicians such as Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, and Thelonius Monk took their desire to experiment, explore, and expand music boundaries of the possible and impossible to the nightclub.  One of the most well known clubs was Harlem’s Minton’s Playhouse.  At Minton’s and other clubs, these musicians were able to toss out the restrictions of swing and play what they wanted without being constrained by  either their big band boss or an audience desiring conventional sound.  In the wee hours of the morning, as the sun began to rise, musicians pushed the boundaries of jazz conventions, subverted the hierarchy of composer as Chief Executive Officer and performer as worker, and in the process created a new form of music called bebop.

Much debate exists among academics, critics, and jazz supporters about whether bebop was an evolution, an almost inevitable outcome from the trajectory of New Orleans style jazz to swing and beyond, or a revolution, a sudden, dramatic and paradigm shifting break from jazz and swing.  In The Birth of Bebop: A Social and Musical History, Scott Knowles DeVeaux addresses arguments from both sides of this coin.  Rather than claim he has the answer, DeVeaux seeks to understand each position and who advances it.  Jazz writers, historians, and critics often take the evolutionary viewpoint.  These folks argue that bebop stands on the shoulders of earlier jazz and swing greats by moving the music in new but somewhat easily traceable directions.  The revolutionary perspective is espoused by those who view bebop as a music springing from a well of a racist society and oppressive music industry that brought musicians together who broke conventional musical codes and forged not just new ground but a new planet.

In the end, there is merit for both positions.   It was evolutionary in the sense that bebop musicians used their knowledge of and experience in jazz and swing to take these earlier forms to a new place.  But it was also revolutionary both in terms of its social-political origins as well as how it shattered the institutionalized limitations placed on what musicians could do with their music.

From left to right: Thelonius Monk, Howard McGhee, Roy Eldgridge, and Teddy Hill c. 1947

My Daily Read: Brett Yost

April 12, 2012

Brett has been teaching as a part-time Instructor of Mathematics at COCC for six years.  Brett has a Bachelor’s in Mathematics from Princeton University. 


ConXn: What is the first thing you read in the morning?

Brett: The online New York Times is probably the only consistent thing I look at each morning.  I follow at least 15 blogs religiously but they update irregularly or infrequently.  I do feel that the best journalism is being done on nontraditional outlets like blogs but the New York Times is still worth following.

ConXn: What newspaper and magazines do you subscribe to or read regularly? What do you read in print versus online versus mobile?

Brett:  I subscribe to the online editions of the New York Times and Orion Magazine.  I regularly look at various climbing, bicycling and gardening/homesteading magazines  when I’m in the library or happen across them other places.  I also really like the magazine Adbusters which I contribute to because I believe strongly in commercial free media.  We used to get the weekly version of the Guardian in the mail, which is my favorite newspaper, however it is very expensive and always a week behind on current events.  We don’t get any print media delivered to our home anymore. – whoops except I forgot Games Magazine, which is not available online.

ConXn: What books have you recently read?

Brett:  Most recently I finished this years Novel Idea pick Rules of Civility as well as Home Game by Michael Lewis about his experiences as a new parent.  Currently I’m reading Searching for Whitopia, a look at living in gated communities.  Recent memorable reads include Guitar Zero, Welcome to Your Child’s Brain, from Conception to College and the The Compass of Pleasure, all about learning and the brain. Also The Spirit Level and Farm City, Education of an Urban Farmer.

My 7 year old daughter and I have been reading the Ramona books by Beverly Cleary.  I have found these exceptionally well written and poignant and I’m really struck by how wonderful it has been to experience these with her.

ConXn: Has your reading of professional journals changed in the past 10 years? If so, how?

Brett: I don’t really read any journals.

ConXn: Do you use Twitter?

Brett: No, I don’t have a cell phone and don’t know anything about Twitter.  It seems like it has become important with the Occupy movement and the Arab Spring and other activism like the Susam G Komen/ Planned Parenthood flap, but I’m totally out of the loop on Twitter.

ConXn: Do you blog?

Brett: no

ConXn: What are the guilty pleasures in your media diet?

Brett:  Some of the blogs I follow are mostly entertainment.  There are a lot of good puzzles and logic games online.  I watch a little TV each week.  I listen to some of the entertainment shows on OPB but I don’t support them financially anymore because NPR news shows make me so angry.  So I feel a little guilty about that.

My Daily Read: Peter Myer

March 14, 2012

Peter has been teaching as an Adjunct Instructor of Art at COCC for years. He has a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Ceramics and Printmaking from The University of South Dakota and a Master of Fine Arts in Ceramics from the University of Oregon.

ConXn: What is the first thing you read in the morning?

Peter:  I go online to Slate headlines, Doosebury, then arts section. Then Breaking News at the Atlantic site. I usually read one article and bookmark longer pieces for later, which occasionaly get read.

ConXn: What newspaper and magazines do you subscribe to or read regularly? What do you read in print versus online versus mobile?

Peter: The Atlantic, Art in America, Art Forum, Book Forum, Dwell, Outside, and the Source as a ‘newspaper’. I read the New Yorker when I get a hand me down copy and check out Ceramics Monthy from the library. Most of these print sources have things online that I check once in a while, particularly Dwell and the Atlantic.

ConXn:  What books have you recently read?

Peter: I read something from The Thinking Eye by Paul Klee nearly everyday. He systematically explicates visual thinking. Very dense but ultimately understandable in small doses. I’ve been at it for 5-6 years.

I recently re-read Animals, Men, and Myth by Richard Lewinsohn. It’s a natural history of the often bizarre relationship between humans and animals.

Korean Buncheoung Ceramics from Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art is the current book I’m into.

Do any stand out? The Korean Buncheoung Ceramics is direct, fresh, whimsical and amazingly contemporary for work done in the 15th and 16th centuries.

ConXn:  Has your reading of professional journals changed in the past 10 years? If so, how?

Peter: Art in America makes sense to me now but after 3-4 years I still have to wade through Art Forum. I think it is a publication geared toward art critics more than artists, but there is usually one or two lines per issue that resonate for me, so I keep plugging away.  Ceramics Monthly and Clay Times are easily skimed by comparison.

ConXn: Do you use Twitter?

Peter: No. Those social media sites are probably valid but they scare me; they seem like time vampires.

ConXn: Do you blog? 

Peter: No

ConXn: What are the guilty pleasures in your media diet?

Peter:  Mystery short stories. I really enjoy a good longform article on practically anything but don’t allocate time to read them as much as I would like.  David Foster Wallace’s, The Weasel, Twelve Monkeys and the Shrub, about John McCain’s primary campaign in 2000, is the last such story I’ve read.

My Daily Read: Tony Russell

February 16, 2012

Tony is an Assistant Professor of English.  He has a Ph.D. in English from Purdue University and has been teaching at COCC since 2010.

ConXn: What is the first thing you read in the morning?

Tony: When I wake up in the morning or just settle down for the evening, I read the BBC Mobile. (This, of course, is aside from whatever is on the side of the cereal box, which is usually something to remind me that I am still fat and that I don’t get enough fiber in my diet.) On average, I will read 18-20 BBC articles a day—from global headlines to sports. I prefer the BBC because the stories are well researched. They provide a lot of background information that I don’t find elsewhere, and this has contributed much to the ways in which I understand global affairs.

ConXn: What newspaper and magazines do you subscribe to or read regularly? What do you read in print versus online versus mobile?

Tony: My wife and I are crazy coupon people (oh yes, we have the baseball card sleeves, binders, and everything), so we subscribe to the Bulletin. I confess, however, that I don’t read much of it—perhaps a front page item or two. I will on occasion pull articles from the Outdoors sections for ideas on new outings and what not, but for local news, I usually read my KTVZ.com app on my iPhone—if there’s nothing good on the BBC, LeMonde, CNN, MSNBC, or The Onion.

For magazines, I often subscribe to The New Yorker, and I’m an on-again off-again Scientific American subscriber. Secretly, I am enthralled by astrophysics, biology, and clinical psychology. Oh, and I really like stories about orangutans that use iPads, which in the long run only makes me angry because Santa neglected to fill my stocking with an iPad this year. I even bought an extra-wide stocking to accommodate for the width of the iPad. What’s more, I felt that my desire was benevolent. I only want an iPad so that I can transfer my paper-based subscriptions to digital, thus preserving the delicate balance of our planet and preserving said orangutan habitats. Sometimes Santa makes it hard to believe.

ConXn: What books have you recently read? Do any stand out?

Tony: If I rattled off a list of the books I have read in the past month or so, it would sound terribly eclectic, and I suppose it is. But I can’t be the only person that reads in categories, if you will. For instance, there are things I read purely for pleasure, those I read to better my teaching, those I read to better my courses, and those I read to remind me why physics is best read when dumbed down (see Scientific American above).

For pleasure, I am on an Alan Furst kick. If you like spy fiction or historical fiction, Furst is at the top of the list. Furst writes about Europe during the 1935-1945 period and claims to write as though he were writing the books during that period. That’s nice and all, but you’ll find plenty of twenty-“Furst” century Western liberalism that casts doubt on his claim. But don’t let that deter you. I zoomed through Dark Voyage (2005) last month and am halfway through The World at Night (1996) now.  Dark Voyage was a great yarn about smuggling Allied equipment on a merchant ship through Nazi-infested waters, but if you’re trying out Furst, read The Polish Officer first. (I’m not giving anything away.)

For reading to improve my teaching, I read Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers and Carol Dweck’s Mindsets based on Julie Keener’s excellent retreat talk. Both are wonderful, and I feel like my teaching has improved because of my reading. I had a lot of deep-seated beliefs about my role in the classroom and about ways to motivate students, and I found that many of those things just weren’t as effective as I thought.

ConXn: Has your reading of professional journals changed in the past 10 years? If so, how?

Tony: I would say, yes, definitely. I think I was much less discriminate about what I would read before. I sort of soaked everything in I could. I had some favorites, but the more I’ve become interested in certain topics, the more I find that I can only really read about them in a limited number of publications. For instance, I used to find the Journal of Popular Culture fluffy and unpredictable, but now I find many things that inform my teaching. I’ve also sort of embraced its quirkiness. After all, popular culture is varied, sporadic, and impulsive; it’s also quite ever-changing. Further, I would echo a previous post from Carol Higginbotham in that I also find more and more that I am looking in professional journals for better ways to teach things or to reach my students more than I have in the past.

ConXn: Do you use Twitter? If so, whom do you follow?

Tony: When Pear Analytics stated in their 2009 analysis of Twitter that 40% of tweets were “pointless babble,” I knew I needed to get onboard. This term I have a Twitter feed running in my WR 122 Blackboard courses where I suggest possible articles for my students’ research papers (#COCCWR122).  I tweet under the furtive name of WrProf, which I was surprised was still available. In light of my recent experiences, I have composed the following haiku:

My students don’t use
Twitter. Seems like writing profs
Don’t like to either.

ConXn: Do you blog? If so, why?

Tony: Blogging’s a tough one for me. I like the idea. In fact, I really want to do it, but like so many other online time-takers/wasters, I feel like it would consume me. Then again, I felt that way about Facebook, and I seem to control that addiction just fine. I’m a “social Facebooker.”

ConXn: What are the guilty pleasures in your media diet?

Tony: I teach pop culture classes, so it’s hard for me to feel guilty about anything really. I get to read cool books either way—spy novels, detective novels, graphic novels. I suppose I might say that I love Jane Austen novels or that I think Charlotte Brontë is four times the writer than Emily Brontë—or better, that Villette is everything that Jane Eyre wishes it were—but I’m far too proud to admit or divulge anything like that.

So I suppose the only thing I feel guilty about is the fact that I don’t let myself get away from books. Even when I exercise, I’m at the very least listening to a book. Yes, as I make my rounds about the COCC track, rather than raging against the machine, I’m “reading” The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s The Idiot, or John Buchan’s Greenmantle; and I’ve listened to all of them for free from the LibriVox project. This project only records titles are in the public domain (pre-1923), but I have enjoyed these books so much, that I began volunteering as a reader this year.

(For reference, I don’t listen to my own recordings—but only because I haven’t recorded Villette—yet.)

My Daily Read: Andria Woodell

February 2, 2012

Andria is an Associate Professor of Psychology.  She has a PhD in Experimental Psychology from the University of Arkansas and has been teaching at COCC since 2004.

ConXn: What is the first thing you read in the morning?

Andria: I check my phone and read NPR headlines, MSN headlines, News and Weather App headlines and then Facebook for the real news.

ConXn: What newspaper and magazines do you subscribe to or read regularly? What do you read in print versus online versus mobile?

Andria: I have subscriptions to a few psychology journals that I don’t get to read until the break. Most magazines I read are those passed down to me by other faculty or I grab while working out. I have a preference for Runner’s World, National Geographic, and cooking or gardening magazines. I am not a good runner, cook or gardener—but they are good escapes and I like to think that maybe one day I will become a good runner, cook or gardener when I have time and use all these tips they are telling me.

ConXn: What books have you recently read? Do any stand out?

Andria: When teaching my Violence and Aggression class during the year, I gravitate to fluffy, mindless sci-fi books. I have been reading the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher. Accidentally discovered them a while back for a road trip and have had fun reading them.

ConXn: Has your reading of professional journals changed in the past 10 years? If so, how?

Andria: I found that they are much more interesting to read when I am not being forced to do so in order to make a deadline for a research paper. They make 100X more sense now and I actually like going through them to find things to launch discussions in class. In terms of what I read, still mostly psychology journals like the APS Observer or the Psych Bulletin.

ConXn: Do you use Twitter? If so, whom do you follow?

Andria: Nope. I am attempting to become a luddite and I have been trying to actually move away from technology since I am so immersed with it during the school year.

ConXn: Do you blog? If so, why?

Andria: Nope. No time and my Violence and Aggression class makes me a little wary about how accessible people are via internet. However, I have been journaling the past year in this thing called a notebook with something referred to as a pen. It has been fun to keep up with my adventures this year even though I have discovered that my handwriting is atrocious.

ConXn: What are the guilty pleasures in your media diet?

Andria: I do peruse the entertainment tab in MSN to keep up on what is happening in the surreal world.  Occasionally, I have accidentally stumbled upon marathons of the Millionaire Matchmaker that I find absolutely fascinating in a social psychology/train wreck sort of way.  Good fodder for class discussions and psychological analysis.

My Daily Read: Michele DeSilva

January 19, 2012

Michele is the Emerging Technologies Libarian at the COCC Barber Library.  She has a B.A. in Liberal Studies from OSU and a MLIS  from University of Washington.  She has been with COCC since 2006.

ConXn: What is the first thing you read in the morning?

Michele:   I’m not a loyal newspaper reader, so the first thing I read every morning really varies from morning. Some mornings, the first thing I read is my work email, but I prefer to start the day with something else, usually whatever book I happen to be reading at the moment.

ConXn: What newspaper and magazines do you subscribe to or read regularly? What do you read in print versus online versus mobile?

Michele: I regularly read and subscribe to The New Yorker, The Paris Review, and Poetry. I read all of those in paper. I actually really like newspapers, and I will occasionally buy The New York Times in the store, but mostly I just look at it online a couple of times a week. I don’t think I could ever subscribe to a newspaper, because I wouldn’t have time to read it every day. I can’t even keep up with The New Yorker, which comes out every week.

ConXn: What books have you recently read? Do any stand out?

Michele: I’ve been on a re-reading kick lately, especially of Victorian novels. I re-read Middlemarch and enjoyed it thoroughly. Right now, I’m reading Sanctuary, by William Faulkner and How Fiction Works by James Wood, so I guess that gets me out of the Victorian era.

ConXn: Has your reading of professional journals changed in the past 10 years? If so, how?

Michele: Oh, it’s definitely changed for me, in that I didn’t read professional literature 10 years ago at all, and now I do. I started reading the library literature about five years ago, so I’ve pretty much always kept up with it online rather than in print.

ConXn: Do you use Twitter? If so, whom do you follow?

Michele:  I use Twitter for the Library, but I don’t use it personally. I had a personal account for a little while, but I never really got into it.

ConXn: Do you blog? If so, why?

Michele: I occasionally write an entry for ConXn (this blog) and regularly write for the Library’s microblog, InfoSprinkles. One summer a couple of years ago, I kept a blog for our garden, because family members were really interested in it, but that’s it for personal blogging. I write a lot (in an old-fashioned paper journal), but I just don’t feel compelled to post it online.

ConXn: What are the guilty pleasures in your media diet?

Michele: I don’t feel too guilty about anything in my media diet. It’s not like everything I read is high-brow or great literature (I like a good mystery occasionally, or something similarly escapist), but I’m happy with the balance I’ve struck. More than feeling guilty about the media I consume, I feel guilty about taking the time to sit down and read because I feel like I should be doing something else more productive. Fortunately, I can usually ignore the guilt and enjoy my reading.