James Falzone, former Senior Lecturer in Columbia College’s First Year Seminar program, was the second CBMR Faculty Fellow (2014-2015). His proposal titled “Performing the Self in Black Music” identified Falzone's use of material from the life and work of artists such as John Coltrane, Albert Ayler, and those associated with Chicago’s own Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians to encourage students to “question, explore, communicate, and evaluate issues pertaining to identity, community, and the nature of artistic practice.”
These are, in fact, major goals of the First Year Seminar (FYS), an intra-disciplinary course required of all first-year students at Columbia College Chicago.
Falzone worked across a range of artistic disciplines in the course he developed, but his background as a practicing musician with training in jazz and contemporary classical music drives his frequent use of music as a means to examine these concepts with students. During his Fellowship, Falzone developed teaching modules, a new course, talks, presentations, and guest artist performances and panels. Falzone notes:
Though I am open to examining a variety of artists and genres, two categories of black music in particular are of interest to my research, sustained by my own artistic practice as a jazz artist and the work I have already begun in the classroom: [the first category includes] Jazz artists of the 1960’s [including those listed above]. These musicians were forging a unique sense of identity within their music, fusing elements of African culture, Western classical music, and early jazz traditions. The [CBMR’s] close proximity to the Chicago-based AACM would make this a particularly interesting research component and I have established relationships with many of these artists for interviews and connections to the CBMR. [Falzone’s second category of special interest is] expressions of the Self in hip hop—particularly in artists who see their music as a means of artistic expression beyond the entertainment industry and include socially conscious lyrics. Of particular interest for me have been black rappers from the U.K., such as Akala, whose music manifests deep searching about issues of identity in relation to his mixed race and the oppressive society he sees around him.
The Fellowship committee, the provost, and the CBMR staff are all impressed with Falzone’s knowledge, curiosity, and commitment to the goals of the fellowship, and the CBMR looks forward to supporting his work.