Black Music: Black Music Division (a 50 year retrospective) (MHI2238.01)

Michael Wimberly

Beginning in the Fall of 1974 through the spring of 1984, Bill Dixon, a Bennington music faculty member, American composer, and visual artist who was a seminal figure in free jazz, implemented a curriculum entitled Black Music: Black Music Division. This menu of courses introduced innovative pioneers of music who contributed to the lexicon and history of the black experience in America. Initially, Black Music courses were listed in the curriculum as extra-divisional or interdisciplinary courses from 1968- Spring 1974. Dixon boldly defended an affront from the administration who were not in favor of the teachings of Black Music as a separate entity from the general music curriculum. Students engaged in these courses rallied to defend Black Music Studies during that period, which is documented in the archives. After Fall 1985 courses were listed in the curriculum under Music. Black Music: Black Music Division concentrated on music composition, improvisation, visual art, poetry, literature, dance, and performances that reflected the immense contributions that were often overlooked and unpraised in comparison to the western aesthetic. Dixon’s compositions, teachings, and innovative approach to creative music boldly addressed a multitude of issues in the wake of the Civil Rights, Feminist, and Black Power Movements. This ever-evolving course reflects on the social, political, and cultural content created as an outcry from artists Nina Simone, Billy Holiday, The Last Poets, Amiri Baraka, Max Roach, Nickki Giovani, Basquiat, Public Enemy, Spike Lee, to present day performers, writers, and content producers and countless others.

The Bennington archives housing Black Music: Black Music Division is a portal for students to investigate how these movements instigated an awakening in the artistic and political community that inspired a revolution that continues today. These archives contain documentaries, photos, video, recorded, and written words from former students, faculty, and visiting artists. Students will have the opportunity to research how Black Music embodied itself here at Bennington College through this 50-year retrospective.

Learning Outcomes:
• Learn about the history of Bennington College's Black Music Division and its many practitioners of color who have participated in contributing to its curricular exploration and development.

• Learn how to navigate archives, evaluate findings, and critically frame questions while advancing one’s understanding of the black experience.

• Participating while contributing to the advancement of the Black Music: Black Music Division – 50 year Retrospective and Reimagined future

Delivery Method: Fully in-person
Course Level: 2000-level
Credits: 2
Tu 10:30AM - 12:20PM (Full-term)
Maximum Enrollment: 25
Course Frequency: Every 2-3 years

Categories: 2000 , All courses , Black Studies , Fully In-Person , History , Two Credit
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