TRYING TO RESTORe THE VALUE OF SOCIETY’S FAVORITE ART FORM
Hey all! We are continuing our merry journey of listening to our choices as the best songs from each year of our lives. And, now we get to the year when I turned three and Jason turned two (clearly ages known for their keen musical discernment), 1975!
Ah, 1975! A time known for historically high gas prices, the disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa, the invention of the VCR, and the end of the Vietnam War. Jaws ruled the movie theaters, and Bill Gates registers the trademark for Microsoft. Good times a-plenty!
And while we were all enjoying those wonders, we could jam out to these classics:
Chosen by me:
"Love Will Keep Us Together" - Captain & Tennille - He refused to admit it during the listening session, but Jason and I both picked this one!
"Rhinestone Cowboy"- Glen Campbell - Sheer, unadulterated schmaltz, but I have a glorious memory of playing musical chairs to this song at one of the first birthday parties I remember going to, so, it has a warm, fuzzy place in my heart.
"Kung Fu Fighting"- Carl Douglas - I just cannot resist a goofy novelty song! At least I hope this was intended as a novelty song...
"At Seventeen" - Janis Ian - A poor man's Joni Mitchell, but still lovely
"Lady Marmalade" - LaBelle - I think making the cat dance with me during this one was my favorite part of the listening list. And likely the cat's least favorite...
"I'm Not Lisa" - Jessi Colter - So gosh darn sing-along-able that you almost forget what a devastatingly low self-esteem is glamorized by the lyrics
"Please Mr. Please" - Another sing-along favorite, much to my husband's annoyance!
"Killer Queen" - Queen - Also chosen by both of us, because OF COURSE IT WAS!!!
"Black Water" - The Doobie Brothers - A fun song, but I think it might be more of a guy thing (actually, I think thatr's the case with a lot of these)
"Ballroom Blitz" - Sweet - Ok, this is epic...
"Feel Like Makin' Love" - Bad Company - This is definitely my favorite of their songs
"One of these Nights" - The Eagles - I mean, I like the Eagles as much as the next guy, but this does not stand out to me as one of the greats
"Why Can't We Be Friends"- War - I just wish the words to this song could be a little more repetitive (as if that were possible), but it does have an awesome groove!
We are about the venture into the age of disco! I'm so excited!
So, afficianados of 1975, what did we miss?
Hubby and I began working our way through the music of our lives, systematically going through songs, year by year, and choosing examples to share.
Our selection criteria:
It should be something we enjoy but don't hear often
It should not be something so closely associated with a time that one might hear it on the soundtrack for a period movie
(For me) The goofier the better!
We each pull up the Billboard Top 100 of the year in question and pick and choose.
Now, the funny thing about this one is that Jason kept saying he couldn't find anything. I thought he was just being picky until Matt Baumer shared this with me: "Week-By-Week Proof That 1974 Was the Worst Year in the History of Modern Music" www.rebeatmag.com/week-by-week-proof-that-1974-was-the-worst-year-in-the-history-of-modern-music/?fbclid=IwAR11xwNGv93iLZmBJ0plN0zmLt__oBRQfx3Clz-9qlrHr8lGtpETKDcn9x0
Nonetheless, we soldiered on!
"Seasons in the Sun" - Terry Jacks So sappy, yet so catchy!
"The Streak" - Ray Stevens I'm astounded that all three years we have covered so far have novelty songs in the Top 100!
"Jungle Boogie" - Kool & the Gang So much fun!
"Annie's Song" - John Denver This song will remind me of Kerri Hilbelink until the end of time!
"Let Me Be There" - Olivia Newton John A karaoke classic!
"Sundown" - Gordon Lightfoot I heard this on a tv show a few weeks ago (I don't remember what it was...) and became re-obsessed
"If You Love Me Let Me Know" - Olivia Newton John More happy karaoke memories!
"Radar Love" - Golden Earring Cuz yeah!
"Please Come to Boston" - Dave Loggins Corny as heck, but I just love it!
"Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" - Elton John My all-time favorite of Sir Elton's!
"I'll Have to Say I Love You In a Song" - Jim Croce One of the great voices of the decade!
"Bennie & the Jets" - Elton John another great one!
"The Joker" - Steve Miller Band The pompatus of love
"Rikki Don't Lose that Number" - Steely Dan
"Help Me" - Joni Mitchell I don't know how I missed that one!
"Tell Me Something Good" - Rufus Or that one!
"I Shot the Sheriff" - Eric Clapton British boy reggae at its finest!
1972 and 1973
It's been a really long time since I've written anything here, but it seems like social distancing and isolation have gotten the better of me, and I thought I might share the results of a listening project we have been doing at home to while away the hours.
Hubby and I began working our way through the music of our lives, systematically going through songs, year by year, and choosing examples to share.
Our selection criteria:
It should be something we enjoy but don't hear often
It should not be something so closely associated with a time that one might hear it on the soundtrack for a period movie
(For me) The goofier the better!
I pull up the Billboard Top 100 of the year in question and pick and choose.
I have no idea what Jason is doing because he's already grabbed a few songs from outside the given years
So, as I am a little (more like tiny, really) bit older, we started with the year of my birth, 1972
"Brand New Key" - Melanie (it never fails to make me smile!)
"My Ding a Ling" (Live) - Chuck Berry (like I said, the goofier the better)
"Mother and Child Reunion" - Paul Simon
"Freddie's Dead" - Curtis Mayfield
"Vincent" - Don McLean (which Jason also chose and was then compared to a recent cover by James Blake)
"Brandy" - The Looking Glass
"Doctor My Eyes" - Jackson Browne
"Listen to the Music" - Doobie Brothers
"Saturday in the Park" - Chicago
Then we moved onto the year of Jason's birth, 1973
"Frankenstein" - Edgar Winter Group (complete with recounting the story of my mom talking about listening to this song through headphones)
"Little Willy" - The Sweet (or is it just Sweet? Debate away!)
"Rocky Mountain High" - John Denver (accompanied by our mutual exclamation of love for all things John Denver)
"Monster Mash" - Boris Pickett and the Crypt Kickers (which led to hearing "Mashed Potato Time" by Dee Dee Sharp, as they are essentially the same song, which itself led to "Please Mister Postman" by the Marvelettes for the same reason)
"Hocus Pocus" - Focus (wherein Jason proclaimed the Gary Hoey cover superior, which I simply cannot support, due to the utter lack of yodeling, epic flute solos, and accordion)
"Kodachrome" - Paul Simon
"Free Bird" - Lynyrd Skynyrd (I vehemently argued that this was entirely too cliche for a list such as this, but, he was holding the remote, so I was denied my veto rights)
"Money" - Pink Floyd (great song, but, same response...)
So, what did we miss? What did we include that we shouldn't have?
I already have my lists for 1974 and 1975 ready, and we'll probably have our next listening session tonight. Until then, stay safe and have fun!
Listening My Way Through Chris Smith’s 101 Albums That Changed Popular Music 3. Birth of the Cool– Miles Davis (1957)
I will admit right from the start that I was not looking forward to listening to this album. Prior to listening to it in its entirety, the only tracks I had heard before were “Moon Dreams” and “Boplicity.” Both of these were a bit too mellow for my taste, and they had rather turned me off from the notion of cool jazz, which I equated with “boring.”
So, what is cool jazz, and, if it was only a temporary stop on Davis’s stylistic journey, can we definitively say that at “changed popular music,” as the title of Smith’s book suggests? Well, yes and no. Cool jazz began to emerge in the late 1940s as a response against the extreme virtuosity of bebop from artists like Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. Cool jazz takes the frenetic pace of bebop and slows it down, eschewing feats of instrumental prowess for a mellow, subdued, muted sound. The harmonic complexities that helped to define bebop as distinct from earlier swing music, however, remained and became even more extreme as dissonances were prolonged and allowed to gel before moving on to other chords. Cool jazz also expanded the timbre of earlier jazz styles, using instruments with a significantly warmer and more mellow sound, such as the French horn, flugelhorn, and tuba.
There seems to be some disagreement on cultural and social message of cool jazz. Novelist Ralph Ellison viewed cool jazz as a response to racial discrimination rampant in 1940s and 1950s America, writing, “One countered racial provocation by clocking one’s feelings in the psychologically inadequate equivalent of a plaster cast – a bulletproof vest – known as ‘cool.’”Later critics, writing after the style has been successfully appropriated by white musicians, attributed the cool sound as an attempt to curtail one’s fear of yet another alarming reality of the age, the Cold War and constant threat of nuclear annihilation. A 1959 critic stated, “Co0ol jazz…reflects the resignation of men who live well, yet know that H-bombs are being stockpiled. Whether cool jazz musicians were suppressing their anger at an unjust society or their fear of one that could end at the touch of a button, it seems that the goal of avoiding excessive expression and projecting an attitude of indifference remained common among cool jazz artists.
Among the earliest artists to experiment with this new sound were pianists Lennie Tristano, Tadd Dameron, and Claude Thornhill, alto sax man Lee Konitz, and, arranger Gil Evans, who would go on to play a huge role of theBirth of the Cool project. Music focused more on sonic experimentation, combining previously unused instruments to create sounds they described as “sensuous” and “pastel.” These clouds of sounds had a rather static quality, owing to the slow tempos, that allowed listeners to simply bask in the sonorities they created.
In Birth of the Cool, Davis would borrow the enveloping effect of Tristano and Thornhill’s music and add his own distinctive ear for harmony and a slightly more active rhythmic base.
So despite my initial hesitation, I was somewhat curious. I only really discovered the wonders of Miles Davis about ten years ago, and I adore Kind of Blue, though I’ve yet to develop a taste for fusion or later jazz. I guess I’d settled on the idea that jazz’s sweet spot for me was in the late 1950s and early 1960s with modal forms of the style.
So, imagine my surprise when I heard Birth of the Cooland discovered that it was far more interesting and harmonically inventive than I had suspected! While the work definitely has a fuller sound than Davis’s later work, the richness of the harmonies definitely marks a departure from the bebop sound, which had dominated jazz in the previous years. But at the same time, those harmonies are not overly traditional. In fact, some critics at the time equated the sound with Impressionist works like those of Maurice Ravel.The inclusion of instruments one would not typically associate with jazz, such as the tuba and French horn, also give the project added weight and color.
Throughout the album the nine instruments work in pairs of high voices (trumpet and alto sax), medium voices (trombone and French horn), and low voices (tuba and baritone sax), along with the rhythm section of piano, bass, and drums. This creates a texture that is almost choral in feeling and envelops with listener with its richness. Davis said of the arrangements, “I looked at the group like it was a choir.”The idea was to create more of a blended sound than virtually all previous jazz styles, which highlighted contrasts in timbre, such as that between a soloist and a full band or between woodwinds, brass, and piano.
While several of the instrumentalists floated in and out of the ensemble, the nucleus of the group was formed by Davis’s work with Gil Evans, who became a kind of den leader for the burgeoning cool jazz movement, offering his apartment to performers who wanted to listen to recordings, discuss the future of jazz and collaborate on new ideas. Evans went on to arrange the songs for the album, though only one of his compositions, “Boplicity” (credited to a pseudonym, Cleo Henry) was released on the recording.
What kind of influence did Birth of the Cool have on later jazz artists? Well, despite the success of the album placing the birth of the cool jazz style squarely in New York, the biggest and most successful artists to continue performing in the style largely came from California, earning the style a new name of West Coast Jazz. West Coast Jazz continued to flourish for decades with artists such as tenor sax man Gerry Mulligan and his notably piano-less quartet, trumpetist Chet Baker, pianist Dave Brubeck, and, perhaps the group with the greatest lasting power, The Modern Jazz Quartet, who released no less than 44 albums between 1952 and 1992. So, even if cool jazz did not stick with Davis as a primary style of choice, I think it cannot be denied that its influence long outlasted its initial brush with fame.
All things being equal despite my original reservations, I found I was intrigued by Miles Davis’s Birth of the Cool. While is definitely at times “too cool” for my tastes, the overall sound is exotic and complex – a true departure from earlier styles of jazz. And while I, for one, definitely prefer the later works of modal jazz like Kind of Blueand John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme and Giant Steps, it is clear that these albums would never have come to exist without this project as a starting point.
Deveaux, Scott and Garry Giddens. Jazz: Essential Listening. New York: W.W. Norton, 2011, 236.
Winthrop Sargeant. Jazz, Hot, and Hybrid, 3rded. (New York: DaCapo Press, 1975), 257.
Miles Davis and Quincy Thorpe. Miles: The Autobiography. (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1989), 118.
Listening My Way Through Chris Smith’s 101 Albums That Changed Popular Music 2. Elvis Presley – Elvis Presley (1956)
Much like my first discussion of this project, exploring Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music, I have a bit of an issue with Elvis Presley’s first album, in that it is not, in fact, an actual album. An album of music is written and recorded as a conceivable whole. Elvis Presley, released by RCA Records in 1956, is comprised of seven songs that RCA specifically gathered together for Elvis to record between January 5-31, 1956, but then it is fleshed out with five tracks recorded between August, 1954 and July, 1955 at Sun Records in Memphis.
While the specifics of these songs and their commitment to vinyl give me pause, this collection, nonetheless, may prove to be the first rock and roll album to ever be recorded. Stylistic debates surround the origins of rock and roll and which song may actually be considered “the first” of the new style is a matter of great contention. It is less my concern to promote Elvis Presley as “the very first rock and roll album” (with all the honors and privileges entitled therein), but rather to view it as a perfect representation of the synthesis that defined the newly emerging style. Elvis Presley demonstrates a masterful blending of country music with rhythm and blues. As such, it may very well be considered the very first album to define the style that we identify as rock and roll, but it certainly approached popular music in a way that had not been seen or heard before.
When I teach the music of Elvis in my popular music classes, I focus on the effortlessness with which he is able to communicate in two musical languages which in 1956, seemed worlds apart. His equal comfort in both country music and rhythm and blues no doubt stemmed from the circumstances of his childhood. The singer was born in Tupelo, Mississippi in 1935, where he first began to play guitar and sing, primarily in the styles of gospel and “hillbilly music,” as country was known at the time. When Elvis was thirteen years old, the Presley family moved to Memphis, and, due to financial constraints, they lived in public housing in a community known as Lauderdale Courts. While, like most places in Memphis in the 1940s, the housing project was segregated, it lay within walking distance of Beale Street, providing the teenager the opportunity to become intimately familiar with the blues music for which Memphis is still known today.
Elvis’s first album is not as stylistically neat and tidy as one might suspect. Of the five tracks purchased and included by RCA that were originally recorded at Sun, only two could be classified as having a strong country influence, while three (“Just Because,” “Trying to Get to You,” and his cover of “Blue Moon”) show a clearly more blue-influenced style. Similarly, the RCA recordings feature two tracks in a more rockabilly, that is country-tinged, style – “I’m Counting on You,” which features the inimitable piano sound of Floyd Kramer, and his cover of “Blue Suede Shoes,” composed and originally recorded by Elvis’s friend from Sun, Carl Perkins. While five of the RCA recordings would definitely be classified as having a stronger blues influence.
Another interesting feature of Elvis Presley is the fact that eight of the twelve tracks on the album were covers previously popularized by other artists, spanning all the way from Nelstone’s Hawaiians, who recorded “Just Because” in 1929 to Little Richard’s “Tutti Frutti,” released in 1955. Other notable artists whose songs appear on the project include Broadway composers Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, Leon Payne, Carl Perkins, Ray Charles, The Drifters, and a 1950s vocal group out of Washington, D.C. intriguingly known as The Eagles. Of course, in the mid-1950s, covering popular songs was a common practice among recording artists, which is why so many songs of the 1930s, 40s, and 50s are better known as “standards,” rather than songs that can be associated with a specific artist. What I find remarkable here is less the fact that RCA opted for a safer approach by recording songs that already had a history and a following, and more the breadth and scope of the songs selected for Elvis’s unique singing style.
Ultimately, for the unfamiliar, I think the thing that will stand out most sharply to a listener in today’s time is the inconsistency of the recording quality between the Sun tracks and those recorded by RCA. I get the impression that RCA was not trying to turn Elvis into, as is often claimed in rock and roll history texts, a “white singer who can sing like a black man.” Rather, it seems, they stumbled upon an artist with a unique ability to blend two styles of music that seemed to stand as potent markers of the racial divides that existed in 1950s America.
While I highly doubt that Elvis himself gave much thought to the socio-cultural implications of his musical stylings (at least at first), it is almost inevitable that his seamless fusion of “white music” and “black music” would launch popular music into a territory that other aspects of American society were not yet ready to explore. It almost seems ironic that it took a poor white kid from Mississippi to be so instrumental in the desegregation of American popular song, but nonetheless, we have Elvis Presley, an album that clearly began to pave the way for the true fusion that is rock and roll.
Listening My Way Through Chris Smith’s 101 Albums That Changed Popular Music 1. Anthology of American Folk Music – compiled by Harry Smith (1952)
As I embark on this process, I think it is necessary to point out that I am struggling with this first entry, based on the simple fact that it is not, by definition, an album. An album is a collection of songs recorded as a unit, sometimes with a connecting theme (though, admittedly, that idea was a long way off when this was conceived). This collection of songs was recorded between 1926-1934 and assembled by avid record collector and artist Harry Smith, drawn from his personal collection of thousands of 78 RPM records and collected with extensive liner notes to provide a pathway for novice listeners through the origins of America’s native musical styles, namely country, jazz, blues, Gospel, etc.
I also feel the need to admit that I have not experienced the entire collection, which was originally released as eight LPs containing eighty-four tracks in all. The original vinyl pressing of this collection, released in 1952, has been out of print for many years, and though the complete box set was released on CD in 1997 and more recently on vinyl (to appeal to the hipster crowd), no inclusive collection has been made available on any of the streaming services I use (Tidal and Spotify), and so I streamlined the listening process by selecting twelve tracks included in the anthology that spanned the variety of styles, artists, and themes represented by Smith’s original collection.
The Carter Family serves to bookend my observations, which is fitting in that they also served as the stimulus for a discussion that ensued between my husband and I after listening to the selections. A.P. Carter travelled from the mountains of West Virginia to Bristol, TN with his wife and sister in 1927 in response to an ad placed by the Victor Talking Machine Company and producer Ralph Peer. The recordings made during the ensuing sessions launched the Country Music industry. In the years that followed, as music publication laws developed in response to the growing recording industry, A.P. delivered many songs familiar among the populations of Appalachia to the doors of publishing houses, allowing him to record the songs and to receive royalties for further uses of the music. While some view this act as an abuse of his Appalachian neighbors, some argue that without Carter’s business savvy, many of these songs may have been lost to time or simply claimed by someone else. As Jason and I hashed over these arguments, he brought up Western art music composers who drew inspiration and borrowed stylistic elements from folk traditions of their homelands, such as Antonin Dvorak and Bela Bartok. I imagine the legitimacy of such “borrowing” is a question of degree – while Dvorak and Bartok used pre-existing music as an inspiration and launching pad for future compositions, Carter seemed content to simply pass off works from his culture as his own compositions. What do you think?
These are the songs I chose to listen to, a bit of background and some insight into my reasoning:
“John Hardy” – The Carter Family
A murder ballad (though, arguably, one of an African American man wrongly convicted) with the theme of redemption, as John reportedly makes peace with God before his execution. The Carters sing with their typical arrangement of Sara on lead vocals with Maybelle and A.P. joining in on the chorus and guitars in the background.
This song is an intriguing blend of traditions, as, while these kinds of ballads were most commonly a part of early blues traditions, this particular song, according to John and Alan Lomax, was most commonly heard among white populations in Southern Appalachia.
“Rocky Road” – Alabama Sacred Harp Singers
As an example of the sacred harp or shape note singing tradition, which takes its name from an 1844 publication of four-part hymns, written out using a distinctive shape system to help singers more easily identify rhythms, this song is characteristically homophonic, largely built using the pentatonic scale, and performed in a declamatory fashion that almost resembles shouting.
“Spike Driver Blues” – Mississippi John Hurt
“Spike Driver Blues” is one of several variations on the legend of John Henry, an African American railroad worker who died during the construction of the Big Bend Tunnel in West Virginia.Accounts vary on whether his death was simply an accident or if he was crushed to death while trying to allow other workers to escape. Other songs telling this tale include “John Henry,” “This Old Hammer,” and “Big John.” Mississippi John Hurt’s take on the legend is a sympathetic one, featuring his intricate guitar strumming and his gentle vocal delivery. The sadness of the story, combined with the sweetness of Hurt’s voice makes this a somewhat uncharacteristic example of the Delta blues commonly associated with figures such as Robert Johnson and Blind Lemon Jefferson.
“Cumberland Gap” – Wade Ward and “Run Run” – Elizabeth Cotton
According to Smith’s liner notes, this banjo solo (Ward) and this guitar solo (Cotton) were discovered and recorded by Alan Lomax during his extensive field work, which captured and preserved much of American mainstream society’s first wide-spread knowledge of the country’s folk traditions from Appalachia and certainly played a large part in influencing later American popular music traditions.
“White House Blues” – Charlie Poole & the North Carolina Ramblers
Representing the American string band tradition, one of the early predecessors of country music, Poole and his Ramblers played primarily banjo, fiddle, and guitar, though between the forming of his band in 1926 and Poole’s untimely death in 1931, due to complications of alcoholism, the members and instrumentation of the Ramblers remained fluid and inconsistent.
This track recalls a story from roughly twenty-five years before it was recorded, the assassination of President William McKinley and the rise to power of Theodore Roosevelt.
“Prison Cell Blues” – Blind Lemon Jefferson
Admittedly, this song it tough to make much from. The recording from 1928, combined with Jefferson’s singing style, make the lyrics extremely difficult to discern, and even once one has determined what Jefferson is actually saying, the meaning is purposefully vague. The protagonist in this song bemoans that fact that he is in jail and cannot convince anyone to set him free or make his situation more bearable. He tells us that the reason his is imprisoned is because of his long-time girlfriend Nell, who “just won’t treat [him] right.” Whether Nell’s indiscretions have led the protagonist to harm her or is she has gotten him involved in illegal activity is never clarified, though in the final verse, he does state, “I hate to turn over and find [Nell] gone,” perhaps eluding to her death or her departure.
“Mississippi Boll Weevil Blues” – Charley Patton
Right around the year 1900, an insect known as the Boll Weevil was first reported in the United States. The insect, having migrated north from Mexico and Central America, decimated cotton crops from Texas to the Atlantic ocean.Songs recounting the insect invasion and its devastating effect on southern agriculture seem to vary – painting the creature as alternately cunningly malicious and innocently ensuring its own survival. Patton’s take on the scourge takes the former stance, claiming that once he has [sucked] all the blossoms and [left] your hedges square,” he will simply move on to find another farm to destroy.
“House Carpenter” – Clarence Ashley
I know this song from Nickel Creek’s 2002 version, released on the This Side album. The story is drawn from a Scottish ballad first collected by Francis James Child in 1860. The tale goes by alternate titles of “The Demon Lover” and “James Harris.” The story recounts that of a sailor, who upon returning from a long journey, finds that his beloved has married another man and has a son. He insists that she leave her new life behind and join him at sea. Shortly thereafter, the boat sinks; killing everyone on board. In some versions of the tale, the sailor is the devil (who destroys the ship in revenge), in others, he is the misguided father of the woman’s child, who in separating mother and son has led her to place a curse on the boat, killing him and herself. Ashley’s version follows the second story, stating that the sailor has been away for “three fourths of a long, long year,” during which time she has married another man and borne the sailor's son.
“Stand By Me” – Sister Clara Hudmon
Sister Clara was one of the founding mothers of recorded Gospel music, recording Rev. Charles Albert Tindley’s hymn “Stand By Me” in 1930. Her recording holds all the markings of traditional Gospel, a simple chordal piano accompaniment, a brassy and boisterous lead vocal, and a background chorus who vocally encourages Hudmon’s singing with shout backs. Hudmon’s recording career took off following her disgraced flight from Atlanta with her husband the Baptist minister, Rev. T.T. Gholston, subsequent divorce, and conversion to Pentacostalism.
“John the Revelator” – Blind Willie Johnson
This call and response number pairs Johnson’s incredibly rough and throaty voice with a soft soprano voice (sung by Willie B. Harris, who may or may not have been his wife) and softly strummed guitar. Johnson’s recording career centered around the singing of blues-influenced Gospel music, and between 1927-1930, he recorded thirty songs which incorporate the singing style, guitar work, and call and response texture closely associated with rural blues music of the same time. ”John the Revelator” describes the work of the apostle John and his creation of the Book of Revelations, which foretells the apocalypse.
“No Depression in Heaven” – The Carter Family
The composition of this song has been attributed to A.P. Carter (who, as previously noted, had a well-known track record of taking publication credit for other people’s music) and James David Vaughan. It was recorded by the Carters in 1936, during the height of the Great Depression, and it claims that the only place one can truly be free of economic uncertainty is in Heaven. The song has been re-recorded many times, most notably by Sheryl Crow, Arlo Guthrie, and Uncle Tupelo.
As is common in Carter Family recordings, Sara sings lead, while Maybelle and A.P. join in on the chorus. The guitar heard in the background here also demonstrates Maybelle’s innovative back strumming technique, which allowed her to simultaneously strum chords and picking a melody over the top.
Ultimately, I was intrigued by the selections for Smith's anthology that I heard and fascinated by the stories behind so many of these songs. The variety of musical styles that Smith compiled, explained, and made available to the public in 1952 clearly influenced many later styles of American popular music, most notably country, blues, folk, and rock and roll.
While the primitive recording technology makes listening for long periods of time somewhat tedious, the collection provides a fascinating window into America's musical past and sheds light on much of the music that followed.
John A. and Alan Lomax. Folk Song U.S.A.: 111 Best Loved American Ballads with Words and Music for Piano and Guitar (New York: Signet, 1947), 363.
“Sacred Harp and Shape Note Singing.” www.fasola.org(Accessed 4/6/2018)
Alexander. “Where Dead Voices Gather: Life at 78 RPM.” http://theanthologyofamericanfolkmusic.blogspot.com/2010/10/stand-by-me-sister-clara-hudmon.html (Accessed 4/11/2018)
Elliot, C. “The Song ‘No Depression’: Where We Came From.” http://nodepression.com/article/song-no-depression-where-we-came (Accessed 4/11/2018)
It's been a long time since I've had the time, inspiration, and motivation to write anything here, but I've recently become excited about a new idea, and I wanted to share it with the world, so here we go...
A few months ago, I received a copy of this book: 101 Albums That Changed Popular Music by Chris Smith (Oxford University Press, 2009). Smith is primarily a music journalist, but he does have a few scholarly works to his credit as well. His selections are interesting for a number of reasons: three selections are not technically albums, so much as collections of songs released together in a package; the selections definitely show a bias toward certain musical styles - only 13 represent styles that would not fall under the wide umbrella term of "rock music" (these include various sub-styles of jazz, folk, and country); the first decade of the 21st century evidently only produced one album on note; and there are certainly certain artists who have been represented but arguably by the wrong album as well as other artists who are either over-represented or fail to make the list at all.
In any event, my plan is to systematically listen to each of these albums and write about the experience, but first, I want to start with the list itself and see what kind of discussion it might generate, so here it is:
Anthology of American Folk Music – various (1952)
Elvis Presley - Elvis Presley (1956)
Birth of the Cool - Miles Davis (1957)
The Weavers at Carnegie Hall - The Weavers (1957)
Kind of Blue - Miles Davis (1959)
Time Out – The Dave Brubeck Quartet (1959)
Muddy Waters at Newport – Muddy Waters (1960)
The King of the Delta Blues Singers – Robert Johnson (1961)
Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music – Ray Charles (1962)
The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan – Bob Dylan (1963)
Please Please Me – The Beatles (1963)
Bringing it all Back Home – Bob Dylan (1965)
Mr. Tambourine Man – The Byrds (1965)
Rubber Soul – The Beatles (1965)
Freak Out! – Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention (1966)
Pet Sounds – The Beach Boys (1966)
The Doors – The Doors (1967)
Surrealistic Pillow – Jefferson Airplane (1967)
The Velvet Underground and Nico – The Velvet Underground (1967)
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – The Beatles (1967)
Are You Experienced – The Jimi Hendrix Experience (1967)
Days of Future Passed – The Moody Blues (1968)
Music from Big Pink – The Band (1968)
Sweetheart of the Rodeo – The Byrds (1968)
Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin (1969)
Kick Out the Jams – MC5 (1969)
Tommy – The Who (1969)
In the Court of the Crimson King – King Crimson (1969)
Trout Mask Replica – Captain Beefheart and His Magical Band (1969)
Sweet Baby James – James Taylor (1970)
Bitches Brew – Miles Davis (1970)
Paranoid – Black Sabbath (1971)
Tapestry – Carole King (1971)
What’s Going On – Marvin Gaye (1971)
There’s a Riot Going On – Sly and the Family Stone (1971)
The Inner Mounting Flame – The Mahavishnu Orchestra (1971)
Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era, 1965-1968 – various (1972)
The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars – David Bowie (1972)
Raw Power – Iggy and the Stooges (1973)
The Dark Side of the Moon – Pink Floyd (1973)
New York Dolls – The New York Dolls (1973)
Head Hunters – Herbie Hancock (1973)
Autobahn – Kraftwerk (1974)
Heart Like a Wheel – Linda Ronstadt (1974)
Toys in the Attic – Aerosmith (1975)
Born to Run – Bruce Springsteen (1975)
Alive! – KISS (1975)
Horses – Patti Smith (1975)
Discreet Music – Brian Eno (1975)
A Night at the Opera – Queen (1975)
Wanted! The Outlaws – Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Jessi Colter, Tompall Glaser (1976)
Mothership Connection – Parliament (1976)
Ramones – The Ramones (1976)
Boston – Boston (1976)
Exodus – Bob Marley and the Wailers (1977)
Saturday Night Fever – various (1977)
Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols – The Sex Pistols (1977)
Marquee Moon – Television (1977)
The Modern Dance – Pere Ubu (1978)
Van Halen – Van Halen (1978)
One Nation Under a Groove – Funkadelic (1978)
Rust Never Sleeps – Neil Young (1979)
London Calling – The Clash (1980)
Back in Black – AC/DC (1980)
Thriller – Michael Jackson (1982)
Future Shock – Herbie Hancock (1983)
Pyromania – Def Leppard (1983)
War – U2 (1983)
Murmur – R.E.M. (1983)
Texas Flood – Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble (1983)
Kill ‘Em All – Metallica (1983)
Born in the U.S.A. – Bruce Springsteen (1984)
Purple Rain – Prince and the Revolution (1984)
Zen Arcade – Hüsker Dü (1984)
Like a Virgin – Madonna (1984)
Raising Hell – Run-D.M.C. (1986)
Graceland – Paul Simon (1986)
Licensed to Ill – The Beastie Boys (1986)
Solitude Standing – Suzanne Vega (1987)
Appetite for Destruction – Guns n’ Roses (1987)
It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back – Public Enemy (1988)
Daydream Nation – Sonic Youth (1988)
3 Feet High and Rising – De La Soul (1989)
Straight Outta Compton – N.W.A. (1989)
Pretty Hate Machine – Nine Inch Nails (1989)
No Depression - -Uncle Tupelo (1990)
No Fences – Garth Brooks (1990)
O.G. Original Gangster – Ice-T (1991)
Nevermind – Nirvana (1991)
Blood Sugar Sex Magik – Red Hot Chili Peppers (1991)
Little Earthquakes – Tori Amos (1992)
The Chronic – Dr. Dre (1992)
Exile in Guyville - Liz Phair (1993)
Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) – Wu-Tang Clan (1993)
Dookie – Green Day (1994)
Not a Pretty Girl – Ani DiFranco (1995)
Odelay – Beck (1996)
Spice – The Spice Girls (1997)
Wide Open Spaces – The Dixie Chicks (1998)
The Slim Shady LP – Eminem (1999)
Elephant – The White Stripes (2003)
Thoughts? What would you take out? What would you add? What would you replace by another title?
A long time ago, a friend told me a joke:
Q: What's the difference between a banjo and a vacuum cleaner?
A: You have to plug the vacuum in before it will suck.
Every instrument has its place. Often the sound of a specific instrument (its timbre) can be a defining characteristic of a certain style of music. For example, if you’ve ever wondered what heavy metal would sound like without guitar distortion, check out this video:
The resulting sound seems like something from a 1960s beach movie rather than befitting a headbanger, but there you are. The sound makes the style. Some instruments have, for a long time, been highly marginalized from the world of rock music (broadly defined). For example:
I suppose the banjo was the first of these to come onto my radar. Artists like Mumford and Sons and Elle King use the banjo to suck an extent that the instrument has become synonymous with their respective sounds (well, until Mumford and Sons last album, anyway). There is no mistaking this music for country or bluegrass, however. In spite of the added sound, the style is still rock. Perhaps rock blended with traditional, Americana, bluegrass-like sound, but nonetheless rock.
“I Will Wait”: Mumford and Sons: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rGKfrgqWcv0
“America’s Sweetheart”: Elle King:
I found myself wondering what would inspire a young musician I this day and age to learn the banjo in the first place. I have to say, I was mildly amused at what I discovered. Mumford and Sons banjoist, Winston Marshall, was once quoted (by a bandmate) as saying that when he first began forming bands “[he] didn’t have a f•••ing idea what [he] was doing,” so he just kind of made it up as he went along, and because the banjo was so rarely used in rock, no one noticed (!).
As for Elle King, her motives were a bit more pure. Having already learned guitar, she began to teach herself the banjo after discovering the music of Earl Scruggs and other traditional bluegrass artists. That said, she does not feel that the instrument needs to be restricted in style. She told Jamie Latty, “It doesn’t have to be country. It doesn’t have to be bluegrass, It’s just an incredibly beautiful instrument that evokes a different kind of feeling when you listen to it.”
Still seeking more of an idea of what draws young people to an instrument typically associated within largely extinct (at least during these artists’ formative years) I sought out the background of Scott Avett, of the Avett Brothers, a band whose style blends bluegrass, punk, ragtime, and pop all into one. Avett describes his connection to the banjo:
I did not start playing it at all until I was 19 or 20 years old… When I did begin inquiring about playing the banjo, and thinking of it as something I might want to play, I instantly felt connected. I think I started playing it because it was reflective of my voice and my need to write songs and find an instrument that was reflective to my voice. There was a presence that’s undeniable about the volume and the shape of the sound that comes out of a banjo, and that presence being so potent and so solid. It was almost like the sound of the banjo was possibly something that I longed for my voice to be like, abrasive at times but also dynamic enough to be pretty, and also very childlike at times and also it would be very strong and big. It was an instrument that’s very self-sustaining.
It was not until the KONGOS that I learned that an accordion could sound funky. There is nothing even vaguely polka-like about this group. In fact, they just rock, really hard. In fact, when I purchased their second album, Lunatic from 2008, I was kind of disappointed at the lack of variety in their sound, but I still love this song…
“Come With Me Now”: The KONGOS: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gz2GVlQkn4Q
Johnny Kongos is the oldest of four brothers, originally from South Africa. Their father, a singer and songwriter, who had a modest success in the 1960 and 70s, encouraged all of his children to study music, and young Johnny initially learned the piano. He transferred his keyboard skills to the accordion to pursue his fascination with global music styles and decided to introduce the instrument into the band’s sound when they needed an unusual sound to fill out the texture on their first album. He further states, “You can’t rock out behind a keyboard.”
So, all of this is good an interesting, but what truly inspired me to write this essay today was a recording I heard this afternoon. Check this out:
“Bohemian Rhapsody”: Jake Shimabokuro: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PB3RbO7updc
DUDE! This is so cool! I heard this and became fascinated by how such a seemingly humble instrument would replicate all of the complex harmonies and textures of Queen’s classic song. This guy rocks a ukulele! How is that even possible?
An instrument most closely associated with Hawaiian music, the ukulele had brief moments of widespread popularity with Vaudeville performers and in country string bands. It is a relatively easy string instrument to learn and play, and thus is commonly heard in musical styles one might perceive as simplistic. The Hawaiian origins of the instrument have contributed to a resurgence in recent decades with performers like Shimabokuro (who grew up in Honolulu) and Israel Kamakawiwo’ole, whose recordings of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and “What a Wonderful World” have been successful as digital singles and Youtube hits.
What differentiates these performers is their degree of skill with the instrument. Kamakawiwo’ole merely strums his uke to accompany his (admittedly lovely) voice, whereas Shimabokuro makes his instrument to things that almost seem impossible. He might almost see his as the Jimi Hendrix of the ukulele, manipulating his instrument in such a way as to create sounds no one has heard before.
Shimabokuro began learning the instrument from his mother at age four. He states on his website, “I fell in love with the ukulele immediately…. You had to pry the instrument from my hands to get me to do anything else.” Good thing, too.
So, what can we take from all of this? I think it is safe to say that in a world of music played on random, radio stations that pride themselves on blending musical styles, and bands that refuse to be labelled, that associating any given instrument with a single musical style no longer works. Whether this is a product of post-modern thinking, the rediscovery of traditional styles of music by younger generations, or hipsters running amok, I cannot say. However, for me, broadening the timbral vocabulary of popular music is a good thing.
What do you think? How do these unusual instruments alter your perception of what mainstream rock music “is”? Is this a step forward in popular music history or just a novelty? What other strange instruments have you heard in rock music?
 Jamie Milton. “Mumford and Sons: ‘Fuck the Banjo.’” http://diymag.com/2015/04/24/mumford-sons-interview-fuck-the-banjo
 Jamie Latty. “Elle King Interview – ‘It doesn’t have to be bluegrass.’” http://blog.deeringbanjos.com/elle-king-interview-it-doesnt-have-to-be-bluegrass/
 Jamie Deering. “Scott Avett Interview.” http://blog.deeringbanjos.com/scott-avett-interview/
 Christa T. for Accordion Americana. “Johnny Kongos – Accordionist, the band KONGOS.” https://accordionamericana.com/2015/09/30/johnny-kongos-accordionist-of-kongos/
 “Ukulele.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ukulele
 “About Jake Shimabokuro.” http://www.jakeshimabukuro.com/home/about/
I saw this article this morning: http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/music_box/2016/08/florence_foster_jenkins_and_the_history_of_bad_singing.html . It discusses the public fascination with “bad singing” and how one is to distinguish the “good” from the “bad.” It seems, as I begin a new semester where I am teaching classes in Aural Skills (sight singing and ear training) and Vocal Techniques and Materials (singing for non-singers), that this is an important topic for me to explore in greater depth.
Most non-musicians seem to suppose that singing is something that all musicians do. I am often asked, “What instrument do you play?” When I respond that I am foremost a scholar of music history and also a singer, I often get the reply, “Oh, you’re just a singer,” as if singing is somehow less of a musical expression than one might create with an instrument. False. Patently and unequivocally false.
As a matter of fact, for many instrumentalists, singing is a very foreign activity. These musicians are infinitely more self-conscious about singing than playing their instruments. I’ve even heard collegiate-level instrumentalists who claim to be unable to carry a tune or match a pitch with their voice. Typically, those claims prove to be far more a product of nerves than a lack of talent.
Why is singing so different from instrumental music-making? In some regards, this is a question that music scholars have grappled with since antiquity. In Ancient Greece, many people were wary and suspicious of instrumental music, due to its power to move one emotionally without words that one could easily point to as the source of their emotional response. Instrumental music was almost seen as a kind of witchcraft. Vocal music, on the other hand, was held in higher esteem, due to a musician’s need to express both musical beauty and convey the meaning of a text.
This debate as to the comparative value of vocal and instrumental music has flipped numerous times over the centuries, and today, I suspect, we have reached somewhat of a stalemate. While for many, vocal music may be viewed as superior, there are just as many who would say the same for instrumental music.
But, that doesn't really answer the question of why instrumentalists would be self-conscious about singing. First off, I suspect, these musicians are clearly more used to expressing themselves musically through their instruments. Further, singing is far more personal. If something sounds “off” on an instrument, it is easy to blame a faulty reed, a sticky key, or even the weather. For singers, we have nothing blame but ourselves. Singing comes from our own bodies, making any flaw or error a reflection of our own shortcomings. That can be scary… especially if a musician is used to being in complete control of his or her instrument.
All of my classes find themselves being asked to sing at one time or another (whether or not each student actually does is another story), but I firmly feel that taking the step to embody a melody creates a deeper understanding of the melody and how it function in a piece. So, they may not like it, but all of my students are expected to sing.
Singing forces a performer to think about breathing, pitch production, words, diction, and expression of text without being able to hide behind an instrument. There is an intimacy between a singer and his or her audience that isn’t possible with an instrument. Some thrive on that close connection, others find it deeply unsettling. Many of my students require a lot of coaxing before they feel comfortable singing in class. It’s kind of endearing, but also somewhat frustrating.
How do music teachers deal with that reluctance? There are plenty of things I have tried. Whether or not they are entirely effective is difficult to say. My first tactic is to inform students that everyone in the room is self-conscious about singing around other. As such, it is a safe bet that each student is so occupied thinking about their own performance and nerves that no one has time or energy to pay attention to them. If that fails, I then inform the quiet singers that if they are making sound but trying not to be heard, their sound will vastly improve if they just give it a chance and sing with proper breath control and posture. If you are making sound anyway, why not make it the best sound it can be?
How then do we judge “good singing” from “bad singing”? In many ways, that might be a subjective thing. Certainly, it is possible to prefer one singer over another, using factors like tone quality, diction, breath control, and choice of repertory as criteria. I prefer not to think terms of “good” and “bad” but rather “correct” and “incorrect.” When a singer is using his or her instrument in a healthy, natural way, the result is better, to me, at least, than a singer who belts, screams, or hisses. I cannot evaluate my students in Vocal Techniques and Aural Skills purely on the beauty of their voices, but instead, I must look to the accuracy of their sound and the degree to which they utilize proper technique.
What makes a singer “bad”? Typically speaking, one identifies poor pitch control as a marker of sub-par singing. The performers mentioned in the article that inspired this discussion typically sing out of tune. Whether or not this was intentional is often unclear (as one might purposefully perform in a way that might be seen as bad in order to gain notoriety on social media – for example, William Hung and the singer of “Chocolate Rain”.
Historically, one figure stands out as the prime example of bad singing – Florence Foster Jenkins – about whom several motions pictures have been made in recent years. Florence Foster Jenkins was a child star who fell out of fame’s graces and went on to become a wealthy New York socialite. She spent much of her later life seeking the love and adoration she received from audiences when she was young, and as such, devoted herself to singing. Unfortunately, any talent she might have possessed as a child had left her, and she was left barely able to match pitches. Nonetheless, her wealth allowed her to purchase time to present lavish recitals in venues including Carnegie Hall, and her performances were well attended by those wishing to gain the good graces of a woman of high social standing and those wishing to laugh at someone they perceived as foolish and delusional in equal measure. As she had long suffered from the effects of syphilis, which she contracted from her first husband, whether or not she could hear the inaccuracy of her singing has been debated. Nonetheless, Jenkins remains a primary figure for those who fetishize “bad singing.”
When all is said and done, singing is both a very personal and a very public thing. While most of us enjoy singing in private (in the car, in the shower, etc.) the idea of doing so outside of that intimate space is almost frightening. When we do take that step, however, we fear being judged on something that comes directly from our own bodies and the feeling of attack that comes with it. While it is surely easier said than done, I would assert that simply allowing ourselves to indulge in the joy of singing should be all anyone can ask for.
You know you want to. The mere mention of Florence Foster Jenkins inevitably inspires the question, “Can we hear it?” in every classroom in which she has come up (of mine, at least). So, here she is, in all her glory, singing the notoriously difficult Mozart aria from The Magic Flute, “Der Hölle Rache” (aka, the “Queen of the Night Aria”):
A few events of the last few days have inspired my train of thought for today. First off, a new semester begins at West Georgia, so I’ve been dutifully planning courses, writing syllabi, attending meetings, and asking the age-old question: how can I make what I teach relevant to my students? Secondly, happenstance and randomness caused me to tumble on and befriend my grade school music teacher, who inspired me far more than I suspect he will ever know.
With all of these things swimming around in my brain, I find myself thinking about how one becomes inspired to love music. Is it something one is born with? Is it a result of a musically-rich childhood environment? Can an adult discover and develop a love for music?
So, as always when a question inspires me, I take to the internet to see what others have to say on the topic at hand. Not surprisingly, most material concerning one developing a love for music revolves around children, education, parenting, even prenatal care. That said, a quote from (of all sources) Friedrich Nietzsche’s The Gay Science stood out to me:
One must learn to love.— This is what happens to us in music: first one has to learn to hear a figure and melody at all, to detect and distinguish it, to isolate it and delimit it as a separate life; then it requires some exertion and good will to tolerate it in spite of its strangeness, to be patient with its appearance and expression, and kindhearted about its oddity:—finally there comes a moment when we are used to it, when we wait for it, when we sense that we should miss it if it were missing: and now it continues to compel and enchant us relentlessly until we have become its humble and enraptured lovers who desire nothing better from the world than it and only it.— But that is what happens to us not only in music: that is how we have learned to love all things that we now love. In the end we are always rewarded for our good will, our patience, fairmindedness, and gentleness with what is strange; gradually, it sheds its veil and turns out to be a new and indescribable beauty:—that is its thanks for our hospitality. Even those who love themselves will have learned it in this way: for there is no other way. Love, too, has to be learned.
If we take Nietzsche’s thoughts for a fact, than it would seem that truly developing a love of music is somewhat beyond the mental capacities of most children, and so true music appreciation does not occur until much later in life. So, what inspires this love?
I suspect there must, in fact be a combination of all of these factors in play in order to truly inspire a deep love of music. I will use my own experience as an example, but I encourage you to think on your own past and ask the same question: what created within you a love of music? (I would assume that if a reader did not have such a fondness, that they would not bother to look at a website entitled appreciatethemusic.com, so keep in mind that assumption is a factor).
THE AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL TANGENT, I.E. AN EXAMPLE:
Some of my earliest memories involve music of many different styles: my parents loved the hard rock of the 1970s, my paternal grandmother played piano and sang old folk songs (she even yodeled, which is awesome!), my maternal grandmother was a classically-trained pianist, present and highly diverse part of my upbringing, and, like many children, it never occurred to me that anyone else’s environment would be any different. I was encouraged to sing from a very young age, and I recall being taught all kinds of songs as a young child.
When I began school, I had a wonderful music teacher (enter, Mr. Rippl), how not only taught us about singing and playing rudimentary instruments, but regularly took the time to play recordings of art music and to ask us what we thought of them (Can you imagine, as a 5-10-year old child, what a rare treat it is to have an adult actually take time to listen to your opinions on anything, let alone something as subjective as music?). I distinctly recall, sitting on the floor, listening to Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty Waltz and Copland’s Rodeo and talking about the images the notes elicited.
I suspect these early childhood experiences instilled in me a longing to make music a constant companion in my life, but I cannot honestly say that I harnessed the skill, patience, and desire to engage as deeply as Nietzsche seems to think is needed until much later. I’m not sure I can honestly say that I have formed a Nietzschean love of music until my first round of graduate school. By that time, I would certainly have called myself a musician: I had sung in choirs and musicals all through junior high school and high school, had earned a Bachelor of Music degree in college, and had moved halfway across the country to pursue a Master’s degree in Vocal Performance.
But it wasn’t as a singer that this lightning bolt moment occurred. It was in a 20th century music theory class. The moment that “what [was] strange… shed its veil and turn[ed] out to be a new and indescribable beauty” involved Schoenberg, atonality, and the twelve-tone system. Due to an off-hand comment from the professor, I suddenly understood that this noisy, foreign, uncomfortable music was not simply noise for the sake of noise, but, rather, a response to the uneasy tension of a world sitting on a powder keg in the months leading up to World War I. When life is filled with indescribable tension, it only makes sense that music would be as well.
Boom! Crack! I was going to be a musicologist. Just like that.
NOW BACK TO OUR REGULARLY SCHEDULED PROGRAM:
So, it turns out that I can’t do much to inspire what kinds of musical experiences parents and families provide for their children. And I tried teaching grade school music – for one very unpleasant year – and discovered that it was not for me. So, I don’t have the opportunity to encounter my students until they reach college age. If a young adult has not had the enriching opportunities that I did growing up, is it simply too late to expect him or her to love music? How can I inspire the kind of love that my environment has given me?
I’m hoping that this is where the latest new initiative on campus will come in. My university has recently begun participating in a national campaign to help “raise the quality of college learning” called LEAP (Liberal Education and America’s Promise). Part of this process is to draw connections among courses to encourage students to thinking more broadly about the material they learn in classes, to synthesize information for wider applications, and to think more critically about what and why they learn.
In general education classes, like Music Appreciation and music surveys, I encounter students from all over campus with a wide range of interests and values. It is my hope that showing my classes how music forms a small but vital part of the larger culture and society in which they live will create for them the same kind of lightning bolt that ignited my love of musicology and brought me to where I am today.
So, what do you think? How does one come to truly love music? Can it be taught? Discuss!
Molly M. Breckling holds a Ph.D. in Historical Musicology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her areas of research interest are the songs of Gustav Mahler, popular music, and music history pedagogy. Her goal is to help others listen to music more actively and to develop a greater appreciation for the music that surrounds us every day.