Professor Roland Kushner asked me back to do a session with his freshman class called For the Sake of the Song, an exploration of folk music and music in general. Last year’s class was pretty powerful and I really looked forward to doing it again. I was glad that I went back through these posts to figure out what I did last year, and that turned out to be a very good starting point for this year. Some very curious observations came out of this afternoon.
I started with My Girl, and, amazingly enough, most of the kids didn’t recognize it from the opening bass line, showing that not everyone remembers this tune. I insisted that they sing along on the chorus (setting them up for discussion later on) and it went well. We then dissected the tune as to why it worked. Simple, singable, repetition, pleasant theme, rising melody in the chorus, key change. A good and spirited discussion. We also talked about why some found the tune less-than memorable, citing predictable changes and no bridge.
I followed with Here Comes the Sun, as I did last year. We talked about the brightness of the melody, the descending motif in the bridge, the capo up the neck changing the tone of the guitar. Again, great back and forth.
I was curious as to what they considered to be strong songs in contemporary music and, surprisingly most kids said they don’t listen to modern pop music. We went around the room and talked about a song that they really latched onto and why it made an impression. I asked that they make a You Tube of that tune to share with me and each other. This idea came out of the blue, and made for a good teaching moment.
I followed with a Dylan tune, prompted by Roland, since they were about to do some reading on the Nobel Laureate. The recent election pointed me towards A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall, so I printed out copies of the lyrics and asked them to pick out a line that resonated with them. I then launched into the song, having only worked it up this morning.
It went well and as we discussed each person’s defining line, it came back to me and I found that I was moved by “I met a young girl, she gave me a rainbow.” It’s a fairly dense and dark song but was surprised by the hopefulness in that particular line, something that I was looking for during the last 24 hours of gloom.
I followed with Lessons from Pete that laid out my philosophy. As we wrapped up the class, I thanked them for allowing me to exchange ideas with them – I said that I was actually high from the experience. I was. Roland agreed that the class was too short. I wanted to discuss how the music is passed around these days, and I didn’t get to reflect with them how they experienced the class. Hopefully, Roland will pass their comments on to me so I can get some feedback.
I was pleased with the way I was able to open up conversations in the room, draw information out of everyone. These kids were pretty hip and I tremendously enjoyed the experience, learned a few things myself and stretched my brain. I could be a professor, you know.