Editor's note: This is part of an occasional series in
which reporters drop in on interesting classes throughout
the university's eight academic divisions. Suggestions are
The course: Bebop, Modernism and Change. 3 credits.
Offered at Homewood by the Center for Africana Studies in
the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences.
The instructor: Floyd W. Hayes III, a senior
lecturer in the Department of
Political Science and coordinator of programs and
undergraduate studies in the Center for Africana Studies.
Hayes' teaching and research interests include black
politics and political philosophy, urban politics and
public policy, educational policymaking and politics,
leadership studies and the politics of jazz. In addition to
his many published works, Hayes is preparing the fourth
edition of his anthology, A Turbulent Voyage: Readings
in African American Studies, and is working on another
book, "Domination and Ressentiment: The Desperate Vision of
Richard Wright," which will examine Wright's social and
Meeting time: 2 to 3 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays,
Syllabus: "Jazz is a marvelous subject that needs
more attention from those of us who seek to understand the
history, meaning and significance of the music," Hayes
says. This seminar explores the social and political
content, meanings and intent of jazz music in general and
bebop music in particular. While the major historical focus
is from the 1940s to the 1960s, the seminar also examines
the broader history of black progressive music, or jazz,
and its impact on the social transformations of modern
America. Bebop, as an intellectual and musical system,
embodied and reflected the political and social conditions
of the turbulent times — the frustrations,
aspirations and subversive sensibilities of a progressive
group of black American musicians.
Course work: To encourage an open dialogue and
participation, Hayes requires that each student take a turn
leading a class discussion about that session's reading
assignment. Throughout the semester, each student must
write three five-page "thought papers" focused on an issue
in the reading. Students are also required to write a
20-page research paper on a topic directly related to jazz,
modernism and social change, which will be presented to the
class. Jeannette Pierce, one of the university's
librarians, has created an online research guide for
students, which can be accessed at
Required reading: If You Can't Be Free, Be a
Mystery: In Search of Billie Holiday, by Farah Jasmine
Griffin; Blues People: Negro Music in White America,
by LeRoi Jones (Amiri Baraka); Dizzy: The Life and Times
of John Birks Gillespie, by Donald L. Maggin; The
Jazz Cadence of American Culture, by Robert G.
O'Meally; and What Is This Thing Called Jazz? African
American Musicians as Artists, Critics and Activists,
by Eric Porter.
Overheard in class: "There's a connection between
bebop and the ideal of political democracy. Black people
are always trying to get America to live up to its
principles. And the organization, dynamics and music of
bebop are a concept of democracy. Bebop was a group of
musicians who all have a chance to shine through solos.
Miles [Davis] might start playing, but suddenly he just
stops. Then the sax can come in, and then the drums. The
melody goes around and around that way and at the end of
the piece, they all come back together. But it's democratic
because each player gets to do his or her own thing."
— Floyd Hayes
Students say: "The topic of the course jumped out at
me as I am a jazz drummer myself and my favorite music is
bebop. Dr. Hayes' course has been great so far! His speech
is so dynamic as his voice can be heard ringing throughout
Gilman Hall. At times in class he seems to trail totally
off subject; however, what he speaks about always ties into
the topic message. He really knows his history as he
constantly spews off facts on a multitude of subjects. Dr.
Hayes reviews and stresses bebop as an integral part of the
social time, rather than mere ragtime entertainment."
— Warren Mason, 21, a senior from Silver Spring,
Md., who is majoring in public health