One of my unofficial new year’s resolutions was to dedicate some time to learning. Have you heard of MOOCs – massive open online classes? Well, there are MANY online courses on every subject imaginable, hosted from many different institutions and web portals. They are free – if audited, and are taken online from the comfort of your couch. Ten weeks ago I enrolled in a MOOC on Jazz Appreciation on edx.org, along with 11,000(!) other students. I love all kinds of music, but I really didn’t know much about Jazz, and I thought if I learned a bit more about it, its eras and artists, that I might enjoy it even more.
Today I finished the course. I highly recommend it. I now know a bit more about early jazz, swing, bebop, cool, hard bop, modal, free jazz, fusion, and neo-classical eras. I know that Coltrane was THE MAN on tenor sax. I know that Miles varied his music on trumpet to influence many eras. I found out that I really like the pianist Bill Evans and will seek out some of his albums. I understand why Charles Mingus and Thelonius Monk transcend a specific Jazz era. I decided that I don’t care as much for bebop – no offense to Dizzy and the Bird. I enjoy early jazz and modal and hard bop and cool. I can distinguish blues form from AABA form. I can listen for the bass and drums to try to pick out swing from even-8th rhythm. I heard many snippets of a variety of performances from artists that I was already aware of, whetting my interest to hear more by them. And I learned about some of the newest artists to appear on the Jazz stage. Professor Hellmer was great.
All and all, a great class! Aaaaaand, I got an A. :)
openculture.com maintains a list of over a thousand MOOCs here. Take a look, pick one out that sounds interesting, and enroll!