GUIDELINES FOR RESEARCH PAPER
The Research Paper provides a unique opportunity to pursue in greater depth a pertinent jazz film/media phenomenon that might stem from either your disciplinary or personal interests. For example, if you are a sociology or American Studies
-African American Studies
major, you might want to consider the phenomenon of American
ex-patriot jazz musicians (black and white) living and working in postwar Europe as reflected in films such as Paris Blues (1961). If you are political science major, you might consider how “free jazz” became a trope of the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. If you are a feminist looking at how women have been either (mis)represented or largely ignored in jazz films, you might want to write on a documentary such as Anita O’Day: The Life of a Jazz Singer (2007). If you are a Midwest regionalist, you might want to consider how the rich Kansas City jazz scene of the 1930s was recalled and reconstructed by Robert Altman in his feature narrative film Kansas City (1996) or in his pseudo-documentary jam session, Robert Altman’s Jazz ’34 (1997). If you are an art major, you might want to investigate the story of A Great Day in Harlem (1995), a fascinating documentary springing from an iconic photo of jazz musicians that appeared in Esquire magazine in 1958. If you are a cultural historian enmeshed with issues pertaining to the collapse of distinctions between “high art” and “commercial/popular art,” you might want to consider the development of funk and fusion as revealed in performance documentaries featuring Blood, Sweat and Tears, Chicago, or the Brecker Brothers Band.
Here, the intention is to provide as much latitude as possible in order for you to pursue your interests as long as they fall within the bounds of a specifically jazz film/media context. Other possible topics, again, given the requirement to focus them through the prism of jazz film/media include:
1. a study
of the impact of an economic and/or technological phenomenon, e.g. the film industry’s conversion to sound in the late-1920s/early-1930s, and the impact of that transition on the day’s popular music (i.e., big band jazz) during the period as manifested in, for example, the emergence of jazz/big band/popular music shorts or the inclusion of big bands in Hollywood feature films including backstage musicals, etc.;
2. a critical study
of a particular jazz film genre, e.g., the postwar rise of big band leader biopics in the wake of The Fabulous Dorseys (1947); here, you might want to consider more general issues pertaining to the biopic such as historical authenticity vs mythmaking (and, with it, Hollywood’s tacit support or reinforcement of prevailing social-cultural-political values contemporary with the film’s production and release); on the other hand, you might want to focus on a particular issue, e.g., the handling of race and/or gender and “mine” the films from either of those standpoints; from a musical standpoint, you might want to probe the genre’s “construction” of jazz musicians as artists and therefore explore the problems/challenges faced by jazz musicians in arriving at a personal style, balancing the often seemingly contradictory pulls of artistic vs commercial success, and bringing some order to personal lives made abnormal by the rigors of touring, working at night, etc.;
3. a study
of a jazz movement or innovation such as a film’s rendering of the large ensemble needs of swing bands vs the individual virtuosic explorations of bebop as embedded in the narrative-dramatic fabrics of such Hollywood jazz films as Bird and New York, New York.
4. a sociological study
focused on relationships between jazz and film/media pertaining to such issues as the significance of jazz as a means of African
artistic expression in a largely white-dominated society and entertainment-arts industry; the intellectualization and popularization of progressive jazz on campus during the 1950s in the work of “modern” groups such as The Dave Brubeck Quartet or The Miles Davis Sextet; the aesthetic, cultural and political implications of the increasing co-mingling of young blacks and whites through the popularization of jazz in the 1940s-1950s (here, one might want to examine the convergence of jazz and the Beats of the 1950s; or, the growing postwar recognition of jazz as one of America’s unique gifts to world culture, including its use as an “official” U.S. cultural ambassador through the tours of jazz legends such as Louis Armstrong; or, the rise of the black avant-garde and its ideological ties to the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s);
5. an examination of the use of jazz in background scoring for films, television programs, and, most recently, as a signifier of sophistication in TV commercials plugging upscale products and services; alternatively, you might want to consider the connection of jazz with representations of urban night-life, with its dangerous-exciting after-hours milieus, and its gallery of exotic yet generally damaged “night creatures” whose often sordid lives involve crime, drugs, booze, pathologically violent behaviors, and jazzers (some straight, some hooked) often looking for their muses in all the wrong places (e.g., in the popular TV private-eye series, Peter Gunn, 1958-1961);
6. an examination of the jazz documentary, or the use of jazz in experimental and animation films, or the rise of jazz performance videos, or the emergence of jazz educational and instructional videos ranging from Leonard Bernstein’s “Concerts for Young People” to “how-to” videos featuring jazz pros sharing technical inside information with aspiring players.
7. an examination of jazz as it connects to other art forms such as drama (e.g., Jack Gelber’s play, The Connection), or with painting (e.g., Matisse’s series of prints titled Jazz), or with dance.
GUIDELINES FOR THE RESEARCH PAPER
Topic and Method:
The Research Paper should be an intensive and formal 1,250 word examination (about 5 pages, exclusive of Notes and Bibliography) of a significant jazz film/media topic supported by evidence drawn from at least five (5) credible sources. Possible subjects appropriate for scholarly treatment are mentioned above (see “Preamble”).
In preparing the Research Paper, your principal research sources will be books, scholarly articles from academic journals, and periodical literature of the day such as magazine and newspaper articles and/or reviews, as well as primary sources including films, videos and recordings. Please keep in mind that you are assembling a carefully organized Research Paper rather than an impressionistic “reaction” to an individual film, TV show, or “tell-all” bio of a Charlie Parker or Billie Holiday. Therefore, work ahead, hit the library with gusto, develop a do-able theme (and statement of purpose), outline your arguments, and deploy your supporting evidence with clarity and logic, and, indeed, imagination and stylistic elan.
The Research Paper should include the following: A. an Introduction in which you briefly but clearly set forth the research problem, i.e., the paper’s basic theme, and the reasons or rationale for undertaking the investigation (what, in other words, is the significance of the topic?), and a brief indication as to the investigative approach (will your methodological framework be mainly historical, critical or theoretical?; will the paper be organized as a technological impact study
, an economic study
, a genre study
, a sociological study
, a study
of an artistic innovation, or . . . ?); B. the Exposition or body of the paper in which you clearly develop and present your research findings (i.e., the heart of your presentation); and C. a Conclusion in which you summarize your major findings and discuss their implications.
The paper should include appropriate citations of sources used. For style issues pertaining to documenting your citations and sources, please use a recent edition of the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers. Basic concepts should be presented with clarity and vigor through the use of lucid explanations and detailed examples.
The paper must be computer-generated, double-spaced (with 1-inch left and right margins for comments by the graders) and plainly legible (make sure your printer’s ribbon or ink supply is fresh). The length of paper should be 1,250 words (about 5 pages of text, plus the Title Page, and a separate page for your list of Sources Cited or Bibliography). The Title Page should include your name, KUID#, the title of the course, the course number, the name of the instructor (i.e., Prof. Chuck Berg), the name of your contact-GTA, the date of submission, the designation of the assignment (i.e., RESEARCH PAPER), and the specific title of your paper (be sure to give your paper a title reflecting the nature of the topic covered).
Remember, the paper is your representative. Therefore, use several drafts to refine and tighten your presentation. Be sure to proofread carefully to check the logic and completeness of your explanations and illustrations. Employ a dictionary, a thesaurus, and an established style manual such as a recent edition of the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers as your style arbiter.
Warnings: Avoid unsupported generalizations (concretize your general statements and assertions with appropriate supporting arguments and evidence) and rambling (outline your paper so that all parts fit together in a coherently interlocking and logical presentation). Superfluous repetition, along with other mechanical, logical and organizational shortcomings will detract from your goal of communicating precisely and forcefully; they will also detract from your grade. Again, please delimit your topic to a reasonable scope. Save that all-encompassing epic for Simon & Schuster.
I have chosen to research the technical history of sound being integrated into film beginning in the late 1920s and how this occurring parallel to the rise in jazz music, helped the art form bloom into a thriving part of American
popular culture. I will first look at the advancement in technology and investment by studios, such as Warner Bros. in sound recording with the Vitaphone and advances to “sound on film”. I will look at the first appearances of Jazz in film beginning with early films in the late 1920s such as The Jazz Singer and into the 30s with The King of Jazz. In bringing together and stressing the fact that both Jazz and the technological advancements of Sound on Film blooming synonymously allowed for Jazz and equally Jazz’s part in motion pictures, to be such the phenomenon and movement it was in American
Eyman, Scott (1997). The Speed of Sound: Hollywood and the Talkie Revolution, 1926-1930. New York: Simon and Schuster.
Gabbard, Krin (1996). Jammin' at the Margins: Jazz and the American
Cinema. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Crafton, Donald (1999 ). The Talkies: American
Cinema's Transition to Sound, 1926-1931. Berkeley, Los Angeles, and London: University of California Press.
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