Risultati immagini per clil

Here we are again with a very interesting work, directly written from the students of the “Liceo Scientifico Statale Luigi Cremona“. Please find below the playlist that the 5C selected for this CLIL history class 2017/2018 (How music changed history: Blues, Jazz and Rock’n’Roll).



Elvis Presley – In the Ghetto
The song In the Ghetto, sung by Elvis Presley, was composed in 1969 by Mac Davis and it was originally titled The Vicious Circle, but it seemed to Davis that the desperation in the song was similar to the one in the wartime Jewish ghettos, so he changed it.
It is one of the few socially involved songs Elvis recorded, and it’s about a boy born in Chicago’s ghetto, forced by the circumstances to go down a path of criminality: “he learns how to steal, and he learns how to fight”, “he buys a gun, steals a car” – this will ultimately lead to his death.
The song is expressing a deterministic view of life: the boy had no way to escape his destiny, which was determined by the social environment he was born in. He could have had a different life only if someone had helped him (“The child needs a helping hand Or he’ll grow to be an angry young man some day”). In the Ghetto is criticizing the indifference of the society of that time (“Do we simply turn our heads, and look the other way?”) towards black people; indifference and discrimination were what lead to the awful condition afro-americans lived in in the first place (people born in the ghetto were likely to become criminals just so they could survive), so that’s what needs to be changed in order to give black people more chances at having a normal life.
It’s interesting to underline that the song has a cyclic structure: it starts with a baby being born, and it ends in the same way (“Another little baby child is born in the ghetto, and his mama cries”). On one hand, the fact that this baby is born in the same moment when the boy dies could be seen as some kind of positive balance the universe is trying to restore; on the other hand, the new-born baby has the same destiny as the boy who died.



Billie Holiday – Strange Fruit

Strange fruit is part of a group of the so called “ difficult songs ” .
From the singer to the lyrics, this song is absolutely different from any other one of its time.
Billie Holiday, daughter of two young artists, had a difficult childhood. She moved in New York and started a prostitute career to survive. She had drugs and alchool problems, but this never stopped her. She began her story with music between a brothel walls, where she could listen to Bessie Smith and Louis Amstrong. Her singer career started when se was 15 and at 18 a big producer ( John Hammond ) noticed her and sponsored her two first albums.
She was one of the first black singer working with white women and, even if she was forced to stay in the fitting room until her show and to use a diffrent door to get into the clubs, when she was singing everyone stopped and listen to her. Or at least, this used to happen when she was not playing Strange Fruit. This song had the ability to make people feel unconfortable and. it wasn’t always the feelings that the public wanted to speriment.
Strange fruit is diffrent from her other songs and it was so intense that became an anthem for black civil rights. Out in 1939, it told the real story about black people and their life
conditions. The strange fruit that gives the title to the song is the body of a black man killed
and hanged at a tree, which is a message and a symbol of the victims of racism in the south of the united states. In fact, even if it was forbitten by law, there were a lot of people murdered and the 80% of the victims of 1940 was black, certanly not a coincidence.



John Coltrane – Alabama

John Coltrane was an acclaimed American saxophonist and composer that became an
iconic figure of jazz in the 20th-century. He turned the jazz’s world into the expression of the human need for answers: he used music to make sense of senseless acts.
“Alabama” is perhaps a masterpiece in this regard.
Coltrane wrote the song in response to the bombing that was planted by Ku Klus Klan
extremists in the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham (Alabama); this tragic event
caused the death of four black girls between 11 and 14. Martin Luter King made a moving speech for these martyred children and Coltrane used King’s words as a basement for his song.
Both Coltrane’s music and King’s specchio are passionate, expressing or inducing sadness.
As Martin Luter King speech has a turning point becoming a statement of reniew
determination for the struggle against racism, “Alabama” changes his tone becoming a
Finally we think that “Alabama”s melody expresses both the sadness of that tragic event and the individual human injustice. Infact listening to “Alabama” and reading King’s words together is an incredibly moving experience.



Mahalia Jackson – We shall overcome

“We Shall Overcome” is probably one of the most influent hymn of freedom among afro-american people but also for students who wanted their voices to be listened. This song became very famous and was sung all over the world by many important artists such as Joan Baez, Louis Armstrong, Diana Ross, Bruce Springsteen, Pete Seeger and Mahalia Jackson. Mahalia’s version was the most touching one considering that she sang it during Martin Luther King’s funeral that was a very important person to her and her people.
Due to her story she was strictly connected with this song, her voice was so moving and powerful that Dr. King Jr. himself had described her talent saying that: “A voice like this one comes not once in a century, but once in a millennium”.
Going through history this song has being changed by artists who decided to add or modify lyrics and structure. For instance, Pete Seeger gave his contribution by replacing the word “will” into “shall” in order to “make the mouth opened better”.
The roots of this song are not clear: it may come from Charles Tindley who composed a gospel song that contained the words “ I’ll overcome some day” or maybe from a following gospel song that says “deep in my heart I do believe/I’ll overcome some day”. Even if this song has ancient origins it become popular in 1960s thanks to Pete Seeger. However before the song broke through, it was an unofficial anthem of American Civil Rights Movement. It has had a social importance during the strike of 1946 in Charleston where a group of Afro-American tobacco workers were protesting for their rights. Thanks to the powerful meaning of this song, it was adopted not only by American students, indeed there is a Spanish version used by Galician students against the dictatorship in 1967-68. “We shall overcome” was also used as a rampart of civil rights by black people in South Africa against apartheid.
All in all, this song represents the voice of the whole African-American community that has struggled for ages. In particular it represents the hope for them to achieve freedom, which is an utopian outlook, that “SOME DAY” it will be utopian no more: Mahalia reminds every black people to continue the struggles and overcome this situation all together.



Sam Cooke – A change is gonna come

The 1960s were years of poitical and cultural change in America, not only for the election of the first catholic president, who succeded in launching the first expedition to the moon, but mostly for the birth of the Civile Right Movement, which tried to affirm equality between black and white people using musicians’ creativity too. This is the story of many songs of that time, including “A change is gonna come” written by Sam Cooke and recorded in 1964.
Infact even if Sam Cooke is more famous for have been a play boy and for his strange death (occured when he was only thirty-three) rather than for his carrier, it’s important remember that he was sensitive to social problems and that “ A change Is gonna come” was inspired by a group of young black artist who hoped to raise awarness of their cause.
Here hope and pain coexists, because even if the string section soli at the beginning underlines how he has been struggled since he was “born by the river in a little tent” he doesn’t miss his optimistic dream of a real change.

Being considered as an answer to the questions posed by Bob Dylan in “Blowing’ in the Wind”, “A Change gonna come” recollets the frustration of all African Americans who has left their freedom since too much time and his personal Arrow for the death of his child.



Woody Guthrie – This land is your land

This land is your land is a folk song written by Woody Guthrie. It was composed based on an existing melody in 1940 and then recorded and published only in 1944-45.
it’s considered like a national anthem by the people of the United States, singed by many famous artists like Bruce Springsteen or Lady Gaga, but what most of them do not know is that it was a kind of satiric response to Kate Smith’s hit “God bless America”, indeed the original title was “God bless America for me”. Guthrie had travelled a lot around his country during his youthness and had seen many violence, hunger and prejudice that had led him to think that the heavenly endorsement was still just a dream for the US; this is why he was so bothered by Smith’s that was always playing on the radios talking about a perfect country. He did not only change the title but also some verses, which sounded to angry and ironical, like “as they stood hungry, I stood there wondering if God blessed America for me”.
In this song Guthrie puts together all the typical music of his childhood like church hymns, outlaw ballads, blues, fiddle tunes and popular music.
Personally, we do not enjoy too much this song because it sounds too country and monotonous; although we do like the lyrics and theirs modernity.



Chuck Berry – Roll over Beethoven

The song “Roll Over Beethoven”; is one of the most successful tracks composed by Charles Edward Anderson Berry, mainly known as Chuck Berry. This single belongs to rock and roll genre and, like all the songs from this kind of music, it imparts a revolutionary message. In fact, this is a reaction to classic tradition and it is clearly visible in the title and in some of the lines, such as “Roll over Beethoven // And tell Tchaikovsky the news”. The novelty of this kind of music is underlined by the association of a great composer from the past with the word roll, which reminded the name of this genre. But this is not only a musical reference, because roll is one of the main actions made in dancing this kind of songs. Rock and roll typical dance is individual and based on the absence of particular steps. The freedom of movements and the new way to express the body stress how the revolutionary contents of this music are not limited to composition or musical instruments, but they have also a social dimension. In facts, in the fifties rock and roll becomes youngers genre thanks the subversive potential it communicates with the songs texts and stars’ behavior. In this
period the main attempt of new generations is to obtain freedom and have less social limits or rules than in the past, and rock reflected these ambitions. This concept also emerges in “Roll over Beethoven”, where Chuck Berry used an entire stanza to describe how a girl dances over his track.
Finally, it is possible to say that this famous song completely embodies the soul of rock, because it contains all the main characteristics of this genre and it even recognizes the origins of this music, as clearly as it emerges in the continuous references to blues.



Risultati immagini per music and history

Di quale meravigliosa ERA DELLO SWING stiamo parlando? – What really was THE SWING ERA?


In 1937, LIFE published Margaret Bourke-Whites ‘American Way’ photograph.


Il titolo di questo articolo vuole ovviamente essere una piccola provocazione, da parte di un appassionato di musica e ballo degli anni ’30 e ’40 (in particolare), che è però anche un docente di storia. Non ho potuto infatti fare a meno di notare una certa nostalgia nel mondo Swing odierno, che non riguarda solo gli aspetti musicali, ma spesso anche il costume e la società della prima metà del Novecento.

Ritengo utile allora fornire un breve riepilogo per punti di quelli che sono stati alcuni aspetti importanti di quei decenni, che non andrebbero sottovalutati e che dovrebbero essere presi in considerazione, prima di cadere in un troppo facile atteggiamento di nostalgia e rimpianto per i tempi irrimediabilmente perduti (e in molti casi è il caso di aggiungere: per fortuna).

Non pretendo di essere obiettivo, ma un minimo informato sì (e aperto alla discussione e al confronto). Questo articolo quindi non parla di musica, ma di aspetti sociali, storici e culturali degli anni ’20, ’30 e ’40, cioè l’epoca in cui fiorì la musica Hot Jazz e Swing che amiamo tanto.




Distinguiamo innanzitutto, un po’ sommariamente invero, tra i decenni in oggetto. L’inizio del Novecento, fino agli anni ’20, fu un periodo di fioritura per diversi movimenti culturali innovativi, anche in campo musicale (con il Jazz). Le cosiddette avanguardie storiche adottarono spesso come colonna sonora le manifestazioni più moderne provenienti dagli Stati Uniti. Anche a Mosca, centro dell’Unione Sovietica, in questo periodo si diffusero band e ci furono tour di importanti artisti neri. Berlino, Parigi, Mosca, Londra si distinguevano come capitali culturali ricettive e aperte, seppure in un periodo di crisi dovuta all’uscita dalla distruttiva Prima Guerra Mondiale.

Negli Stati Uniti precedenti alla crisi economica del ’29, siamo in piena Jazz Age, quell’epoca di sfrenatezza charleston narrata da Francis Scott Fitzgerald. Ma non dimentichiamo che stiamo parlando di un mondo dorato spesso appannaggio dei soli ceti alto-borghesi della società, mentre il Jazz era nato nei quartieri poveri e a luci rosse di New Orleans e del sud degli USA. Con la migrazione lungo il Grande Fiume dei neri americani dal sud razzista al nord industriale, anche la nostra musica migra e si trasforma a Chicago e poi New York, ma sempre in locali in cui gli afroamericani possono suonare sul palco, ma non sedere tra il pubblico.


Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini in Munich, Germany, ca. June 1940.

Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini in Munich, Germany, ca. June 1940.

I tragici cambiamenti politici che portarono in Europa all’affermazione del nazifascismo in Italia e Germania (e poi nei territori progressivamente occupati o annessi), lasciarono un segno indelebile anche sulle società e sulla cultura di quegli anni. In campo artistico, la spinta trasgressiva delle avanguardie fu arrestata da un dietrofront imposto dal nuovo clima politico. Anche nell’URSS, lo stalinismo riuscì a bloccare l’avanguardia dirompente del futurismo e del costruttivismo. Parziale e iniziale eccezione fu il futurismo italiano, che però fu di fatto neutralizzato sempre più da quel fascismo che ufficialmente lo sostenne in campo culturale. Nella storia del costume, l’Italia in particolare resta una nazione arretrata, in cui il tradizionale bigottismo e maschilismo creano un mix avverso a tante nuove forme di ballo e musica. Il Jazz, pubblicamente condannato e costretto ad autarchiche e ridicole traduzioni, viene apprezzato e tollerato solo per gli strati alti della società (fino al paradosso del figlio del Duce che divenne un famoso jazzista). Lo stesso avviene ovviamente in Germania, dove questa musica è messa al bando in quanto negroide ed ebraica (e rispetto a queste radici tutti i torti i nazisti non li avevano), ma continua a circolare in maniera sotterranea nei club. Le condizioni di vita della popolazione europea diventano progressivamente sempre più dure, con l’approssimarsi del secondo e decisivo conflitto mondiale.


Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana all’EUR (1938-1953), opera di Giovanni Guerrini, Ernesto Lapadula e Mario Romano



Title: Bud Fields and his family at home Creator(s): Evans, Walker, 1903-1975, photographer Date Created/Published: [1935 or 1936]

Passando dall’altra parte dell’Oceano (con quel salto, hop, che compì anche il filonazista Lindbergh in aereo nel 1927) la prima cosa da mettere in rilievo sono le pesanti condizioni di povertà e segregazione in cui vivevano le minoranze negli Stati Uniti. La più celebre è quella afroamericana, ma parliamo anche degli immigrati di origine europea (ed italiana), oltre che dei nativi americani. Con la Grande Depressioni le condizioni divennero più dure per tutta la popolazione e come avviene spesso a farne le spese furono soprattutto le parti più emarginate della società. Come ho già ricordato, il mondo musicale fu un ambito di relativa libertà e proprio per questi tanti artisti di colore scelsero questa strada, ma resta il fatto che nel Sud non potevano andare in tour con le band e che nei locali anche nel Nord dovevano entrare dalla porta di servizio. Tanti dei nostri beniamini musicali subirono ingiustizie e soprusi per il loro colore della pelle (o origine geografica).

Il ruolo che ebbe Roosevelt, uno dei politici più importanti di tutto il Novecento, fu importante non solo dal punto di vista economico (con il New Deal che rimise in sesto la superpotenza nordamericana), ma anche culturale e sociale. Promosse programmi per sostenere la musica popolare e anche le forme considerate del folklore afroamericano (Blues, Jazz). Tante fotografie e registrazioni di quel periodo furono dovute ad iniziative statali nell’ambito del New Deal. Questo uomo politico statunitense è ancora oggi accusato dai suoi detrattori dall’altra parte dell’Oceano Atlantico di essere stato un socialista camuffato (un po’ come dicono che Obama sia di nascosto musulmano).

L’Era dello Swing negli Stati Uniti fu legata anche a questo periodo di risveglio e uscita dalla crisi, la musica giocò un ruolo importante, stavolta per tutta la  popolazione. Giova ricordare anche che l’alleanza tra USA e URSS, insieme ai movimenti di resistenza interni ai paesi europei, liberò il mondo dalla dittatura nazifascista. Con la fine della Seconda Guerra Mondiale e l’inizio della Guerra Fredda invece gli Stati Uniti imboccarono un’altra strada, sia musicalmente che politicamente. Potremmo parlare di Rock’n’Roll e caccia alle streghe anticomuniste (maccartismo), ma questa è un’altra storia, rispetto a quella a cui guardiamo in questo blog.


Title: Washington (southwest section), D.C. Neighborhood children Creator(s): Parks, Gordon, 1912-2006, photographer Date Created/Published: 1942 Nov.

Mi rendo conto della sommarietà di questo riassunto storico, frutto anche ovviamente del mio personale punto di vista. Non volevo però tediarvi, ma solo mettere in luce come dobbiamo andarci piano con la nostalgia, quando dal campo musicale e artistico la trasferiamo ad aspetti sociali e storici di epoche che ci hanno senza dubbio insegnato molto, ma contenevano anche tanti aspetti (anche di mentalità) che tutto dovremmo fare, meno che rimpiangere.

Come sempre, my 2 cents.


Mazz Jazz aka Professor Bop


The title of this article is obviously a little bit provocative, because music and dance of the ’30s and ’40s are my passions, but I’m also an history teacher. I see too much nostalgie around our dance scene, about years that were far from being a golden age, from many points of view. I mean, we can talk about music and enjoy so much this musical period, but come on people, let’s also think about society and culture.

I think it might be useful, in order to avoid and easy and too superficial feeling of nostalgie for the good old times, to write something about those times. I know I’m not objective and it is my personal point of view, but I also think I can say something about the era when Hot Jazz and Swing were born.


First of all, we should think about this: the Twenties and the beginning of the century where more or less everywhere a period full of innovative cultural movements, also in music (with Jazz). This modern music was a soundtrack for many young artists in Berlin, Moscow, Paris and London. Even after the distructions of the 1WW, art and society were generally opened to new hopes and brave initiatives.

In the USA we are, before the 1929, in the middle of the so called Jazz Age, the charleston times told by Francis Scott Fitzgerald. But anyway this was a luxury world for a few people, the high society. Even if Jazz was born in the down south poor suburbs, it became a funny way of living most of all for rich and white people. Migrating along the Mississippi in the north, afroamerican people brought Jazz and Blues with them, into clubs where they were not allowed to sit in between the audience.


Nazifascism in Europe was not only a matter of politics, but also it influenced deeply culture and art. Music too. Avantgarde was killed by a new political trend. Even in the USSR Stalin stopped most of the innovative futurist and constructivist artists. Italian futurism was anyway neutralized by the same fascism that was its political partner. Italy was still a country with a rural and non modern mentality, full of the traditional religious influence and machism too. Jazz was officialy banned as a negro and jewish music, but it was tolerated in Italy and Germany only for the upper class, as a way to have fun and dance. Jazz was still alive in the underground anyway, while life of the people became harder and harder the more 2WW got closer.


On the other side of the Atlantic Ocean (let’s make a hop, like the filonazist Lindbergh by airplane in 1927) first time that comes to my mind is that minorities were living in hard and poor condition of segregation. We know about afroamericans, but the same was for european immigrants and native americans. The Great Depression was making it even worst and the weak parts of society had mostly to face this. Music was somehow a world with more freedom and this is why many blacks choose this career, but anyway they couldn’t tour in the South and also in the North they had to enter from the backdoor. Many of our musical heroes were discriminated and segregated and had difficult times for the colous of their skin (or their ethnical  origin).

Roosevelt was one of the most important politicians of the last century for the New Deal, but also for the cultural and social influence he had. He funded new programs in order to record and promote folk music (and Blues and Jazz were considered like that often), so many photos and records of those times were a New Deal initiative. And we should consider that many people in the US still consider Roosevelt a dangerous socialist leader!!!

The Swing Era was an age of awakening and opening and music had an important part in this, also for everyday life of the common people. Roosevelt, Stalin and the Resistance in Europe gave to the world a future beyond nazifascism, we shouldn’t forget this. What came after? The Cold War, Maccartism and Rock’n’Roll, but this is another story, not included in this blog.

I know this is not a complete historical summary of those days, but my intention was to consider some of the “dark sides” of thos wonderful musical times. We should also think about this, when we talk about vintage society with eyes that are a bit blinded by the fascination of the past.

As usual, my 2 cents.


Mazz Jazz aka Professor Bop