(MUHI002) Jazz: An International History



Course starts: to be confirmed
Price £150.00:

Tutor(s): Dr Bob Lawson-Peebles
Course Code: MUHI002
Level: Non-accredited, non-credit bearing
Assessments/Exams: None. Throughout the course you will be given ideas and questions to respond to in the online discussion area. Participation in online discussion is encouraged, but not compulsory.
Duration: 12 weeks
Estimated Student Study Time: 4 – 6 hours per week, including reading, are recommended, but time spent is flexible and at your discretion.
Fee: £150.00
Pre-Requisites: None. No academic qualifications or experience of studying English literature are required, only a strong enthusiasm for the subject.
Delivery: Online Distance Learning
Late Entrants: If this course is not full by the start date then late entrants will be accepted for up to two weeks after the start of the course. As a late entrant you can choose to catch up on the material you have missed or you can skip the missed weeks and concentrate on the material at the point where you join the course, but unfortunately we cannot offer fee reductions or course extensions for late entrants.
Recommended Reading**:

  • Mervyn Cooke & David Horn, eds., The Cambridge Companion to Jazz (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002).
  • Stuart Nicholson, Is Jazz Dead?  (London: Routledge, 2005).
  • Alyn Shipton, A New History of Jazz (Revised and Updated Edition; London: Bloomsbury, 2013).
  • John F. Szwed, Jazz 101: A Complete Guide to Learning and Loving Jazz (New York: Hyperion, 2000).
  • Robert Walser, ed., Keeping Time: Readings in Jazz History (2nd Edition; New York: Oxford University Press, 2014).

Required Reading**: None.

**Please note: All courses are subject to sufficient numbers of students registering before they are confirmed as running. Therefore, after booking your place you are advised not to purchase any texts until you have received confirmation that the course is running.

This course was previously taught by Dr Bob Lawson-Peebles when it was offered by the University of Exeter*. If you studied it with the University of Exeter* you might not wish to study it again with Learn for Pleasure as although we have revised and updated our courses where necessary, it will likely be substantively the same.


Jazz is a worldwide, international form of music which, from its very beginning, fused African and European musical styles and techniques into something that was quite new and often regarded as a symbol of musical revolution – even political and cultural revolution.

It spread rapidly from obscure origins in the United States because of contemporaneous developments in the technologies of travel, publishing and recording. These innovations meant that although jazz is a minority music it nevertheless had immense impact, not only on popular music but also on the culture of globalisation.

This course begins with a session that looks at the roots and meanings of jazz. The first known use of the word – as referring to a form of music – occurred in 1913, and during the remaining twentieth century many styles of jazz appeared, taking their place alongside, and often in competition with, earlier forms.

The course is therefore arranged not so much chronologically, but more as a set of themes examining the various styles as they emerged, as well as the international contributions to their development. The course material draws on the University of Exeter’s* collection of jazz recordings and books – possibly the largest university collection outside the United States.

Together we will explore and discuss the history of jazz. Whether you are a newcomer to the genre, or you have some familarity with it but would like to develop your understanding and appreciation, you are very welcome to join us. As a student on this course you will not need to know how to read music, and technical terms will be explained as the course proceeds.

Syllabus Plan

Week01: Jazz and its Antecedents.
Week02: Take me back to New Orleans.
Week03: Bix Beiderbecke and the Jazz Age.
Week04: Louis Armstrong and the emergence of the great Jazz soloist.
Week05: Jelly Roll Morton, Duke Ellington and the Jazz composer.
Week06: The Swing era.
Week07: Django Reinhardt and Jazz as a global phenomenon.
Week08: Jazz singing.
Week09: Bebop: Charlie Parker & Dizzy Gillespie.
Week10: Cool: West Coast, Gerry Mulligan & early Miles Davis.
Week11: Miles Davis & Jazz Fusions.
Week12: Is Jazz dead, or has it moved to a new address?

Learning Outcomes

At the end of the course you should:

  • Have some grasp of the history of Jazz and the problems that it involves.
  • Be able to identify the different Jazz styles and recognise the great soloists.
  • Have confidence to develop your own appreciative listening and reading.