Course Description

This class will study American culture through three styles of music: hip hop, country, and jazz. Our main perspective will be from ethnomusicology, the main method of inquiry will be ethnography, and a significant part of the class will be dedicated to online discussion. Students will conduct their own ethnographic research projects during the course of the semester and present their findings to the class. While culture will be the main focus, the class will also explore the music itself. Certain cultural areas of interest will include identity, ideology, gender issues, capitalism, and power.

This course fulfills the MSU Core 2.0 RA requirement or 3 credits of the fine arts or humanities requirement in Liberal Studies.

Meeting Place and Times



David Charles teaches in the School of Music, the College of Letters and Science, the American Studies Program, and the Liberal Studies Program at Montana State University. He has also taught in the Wunderlust Program. He had his first professional experience as an organist, choir director, and freelance pianist in South Carolina. He earned a Bachelor of Music degree in composition and theory from the University of South Carolina, where he studied jazz piano and composition with Bert Ligon, composition with Dick Goodwin, and piano with John Williams. He earned a Master of Music degree in ethnomusicology from the University of Texas at Austin, where he studied under Stephen Slawek (who is an acknowledged disciple of Ravi Shankar) and Gerard Béhague. While at UT, he also studied composition with Donald Grantham and was the keyboardist for the Afropop band Easy Motion Tourist. He taught piano privately to young people and adults for many years, first in Austin and then in Bozeman. In and around Bozeman, he has performed a variety of styles of American popular music with Nathan Anderson, Luke Flansburg, Jake Fleming, Haley Ford, Mike Gillan, Adam Greenberg, Jerrad Highman, Sean Lehmann, Weston Lewis, Isaiah Morales, Scott Morales, Kelly Roberti, Leif Routman, Eddie Tsuru, Lenny Woodward, and many others. His primary interests are African-American music and culture as well as the music and culture of North India.

Tuition and Fees

If you are accepted into a qualified online program, see the appropriate MSU Online Only Tuition and Fee table.

If you are also taking a face-to-face course, please refer to the MSU Fee Schedules.

Required Books/Materials

  • Hip-Hop Revolution: The Culture and Politics of Rap
    Edition: first
    Author: Jeffrey O. G. Ogbar
    Publisher: University Press of Kansas (2007)
    ISBN13: 978-0700616510
    ISBN 10: 0700616519
    Price new: $18 (Less expensive used copies and electronic versions should be available online.)
  • Real Country: Music and Language in Working-Class Culture
    Edition: first
    Author: Aaron A. Fox
    Publisher: Duke University Press Books (2004)
    ISBN 13: 979-0822333486
    ISBN 10: 0822333481
    Price new: $17 (Less expensive used copies and electronic versions should be available online.)
  • Saying Something: Jazz Improvisation and Interaction
    Edition: first
    Author: Ingrid Monson
    Publisher: University of Chicago Press (1998)
    ISBN 13: 978-0226534787
    ISBN 10: 0226534782
    Price new: $29 (Less expensive used copies and electronic versions should be available online.)


Textbooks are available from most online retailers or the MSU bookstore.

Computer Requirements:

  • Internet access
  • A device and browser that pass the system check for Brightspace LE, MSU's learning management system.

For More Information

For course information, please contact David Charles.

How to Register

You must be accepted as a student to Montana State University to take this course.

Learn how to apply.

After your application has been accepted, you will register via MSU's online registration system, MyInfo.

Registration requires a PIN number. Learn how to find your PIN.

Once you have your PIN, learn how to register through MyInfo.