This group focused on the artistic movement of Jazz, Motown, and the Transformation of American Culture from 1959-1975. Our resources include books, music recordings, music transcriptions, documentaries, music videos, scholarly articles, poetry anthologies, visual art, biographies, autobiographies, speeches, journals, children’s books, essays, and Web sites. Some of the resources, such as the jazz transcriptions, may require specialized knowledge in order for them to be useful.
In the words of the prolific Peter Griffin, “It doesn’t matter if you’re black or white. The only color that really matters is green.” Notwithstanding the music industry’s rampant racism, the clearest view of how African Americans transformed popular music between 1959 and 1975 is through the lens of commerce. Scrutinizing the relationship between creators and consumers opens up a broad view of both visual and auditory arts. The sources we selected range from cover art and an Andy Warhol silkscreen to books on the industry’s backroom deals and the Billboard Hot 100 to a retrospective Boyz II Men album on Motown’s history and an NPR special on Jimi Hendrix for kids.
At the center of our Institute this summer has been a recurrent question: What is music? This section addresses that question through the lens of criticism, which we have defined broadly as the meanings that people have made of the jazz and Motown music we studied. Criticism, in this sense, is a record of the various answers that have been given to the question of what music is.