October 28th, 2001
Cole Porter: You're the Top
Lesson Overview

Overview:

Cole Porter was unique among songwriters of his day. Unlike most songwriters during the Jazz Age, he was not Jewish; he came from a privileged background; and even though he wrote a song a day, selling them had no impact on his economic survival. His lyrics are intelligent and witty, and his tunes are complex, moving from minor to major chords smoothly and often spanning a great range so fluidly as to challenge the best singers. After watching AMERICAN MASTERS’ “Cole Porter: You’re the Top,” students will explore the elements that made Cole Porter truly unique. They will develop a sense of the stimulating company the Porters kept through a brief study of the personalities of that era. Students will also dissect lyrics in order to examine the breadth of allusion and wit that characterize a Cole Porter song, and will explore the influences on Porter’s music through an examination of American musical theater from 1910 to 1939.

Grade Level:

9-12

Time:

  • two hours of independent research and writing by students
  • approximately one hour to watch the selected clips from “Cole Porter: You’re the Top”
  • two class periods to present and synthesize results of research
  • two hours or two class periods to analyze and rewrite the lyrics to “You’re the Top”
  • two hours or two class periods to read and respond to articles about Gilbert and Sullivan and Tin Pan Alley

Subjects:

Music, Language Arts, American History

Learning Objectives:

Students will be able to do the following:

  • selectively read resources to gather information
  • synthesize information from a variety of sources
  • use Internet and library resources
  • write an essay in response to a prompt
  • contribute to a classroom discussion using their own research and information gathered from their peers
  • compare cultural references from the early 20th century
  • critically read and evaluate resources

Standards:

National Standards:

MCREL MUSIC, Level 4, Standard 7
Understands the relationship between music and history and culture.

MCREL THEATER, Level 4, Standard 6
Understands the context in which theatre, film, television, and electronic media are performed today as well as in the past

MCREL ARTS AND COMMUNICATION, Level 4, Standard 5

Knows a range of arts and communication works from various historical and cultural periods

MCREL HISTORICAL UNDERSTANDING, Level 4, Standard 2
Understands the historical perspective

MCREL UNITED STATES HISTORY, Level 4, Standard 21
Understands the changing role of the United States in world affairs through World War I

MCREL UNITED STATES HISTORY, Level 4, Standard 22
Understands how the United States changed between the post-World War I years and the eve of the Great Depression

MCREL LANGUAGE ARTS, Level 4, Standard 4
Gathers and uses information for research purposes

MCREL LANGUAGE ARTS, Level 4, Standard 7
Uses reading skills and strategies to understand and interpret a variety of informational texts

MCREL LANGUAGE ARTS, Level 4, Standard 8
Uses listening and speaking strategies for different purposes

Salinger

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