Why taking Jazz History is kick-a** during finals week
So it’s finals week. You make it to the BYU testing center, nervous but eager to get your test over with. But your last final isn’t on chemistry or advanced calculus or business or even English. No, you’ve taken jazz history this past semester, and it’s time to take the final listening ID test. You grab your bubble sheet and question booklet as the testing center worker also hands you an MP3 player. As you enter the testing room, tension fills the air. Hundreds of students around you are taking tests, scratching their heads in a desperate last-minute plea to pull off whatever grade they’re shooting for.
You take a seat. To your right is a girl trying to define some sort of chemical bond structure. To your left, a guy sweating and desperately punching numbers into a calculator to solve some sort of physics question. Ahead of you, a small freshman apparently trying to remember exactly which state nullified the tariff of 1833. These are not happy faces. These are faces of determination, desperation, concentration. Complex problems need to be solved; complex formulas need to be applied; obscure facts need to be remembered. Some of this strikes you as you take your seat, hoping beyond hope that you’ll be able to do as well these uber-serious fellow students of yours.
As you plug in your headphones you take special notice of the silence that permeates the air. Aside from pencil scratchings, calculator-button-pushing, and an occasional cough, the room is dead silent. Some of these students have already been here for an hour or more, some of them will still be here for another two hours. Sweating, writing, praying, all in dead silence.
But then your switch on the MP3 player.
Suddenly filled with energy, you note that the entire testing center atmosphere seems to have lost all of its anxiety. The test isn’t just surmountable, it’s now AWESOME!
What is the name of this piece? “Time Check!” BOOM!
Who was the bandleader? Buddy Rich! BOO-YAH!
When was this piece recorded? 1973, y’all!
The guy on your left is still frantically pushing buttons. A student takes a seat behind you, fully prepared to spend the next three hours writing a long-involved essay about human rights in South Africa. Meanwhile, you turn to the next example in your test!
When was this piece recorded? 1977! Aw, yeah!
What important jazz genre does it exemplify? It’s fusion, b**tches! (justified by the album that launched the fusion movement)
Who wrote it? Joe Zawinul! He was Austrian, but that’s not part of the question! DIG IT!
The next few examples fly by as you get more into it! John Coltrane! Chick Corea! Ornette Coleman! Modal improvisation! Postbop pentatonic solo techniques! And, of course, MILES DAVIS?!? Each answer seems to flow right out of you, doing these pieces justice. You’re excited! You’re pumped! You’re going to pass this test, and you’re gonna do it in style!
Finally, the last example plays, you answer the last question, and you turn the MP3 player off. The girl on your right is still drawing molecular bond diagrams, the student behind you has barely started the first paragraph of an essay, and the guy on your left is still working that calculator. Each of them are furiously working, filled with anxiety and stress. They have to solve complex, impersonal problems while in the hated testing center. But you got to listen to Buddy Rich!
Suck on that, business majors!