July 10, 2008

Comparing Cultures through Pop Music

Grade: 9 – 12

Class: Geography

You can tell a lot about a person by the music that they listen to. In this lesson students will compare the 10 ten songs in the United States (according to http://www.billboard.com/bbcom/charts/chart_display.jsp?g=Albums&f=The+Billboard+200) to the top 10 songs in Europe (according to http://www.billboard.com/bbcom/charts/chart_display.jsp?g=Albums&f=European+Top+100+Albums). This will help students see the similarities and differences in cultures between the United States and Europe. Hey, maybe were not so different.

Activity:

Go to www.billboard.com and look up the top 10 songs in the United States for that week. Have students go through the top ten songs and write do for each song if they have heard it before and a summary of what it means. After students have had time to write about each song, talk about the songs as a whole together as a class. Talk about patterns in the music (ie. Are all ten songs in the same genre? Or are they from different genres? Are the songs sexual in nature? Violent? Peaceful?). You may choose to listen to some of the songs in class.

After looking at the top ten in the United States, once again go to www.billboard.com and look up the top ten songs in Europe. Have the students once again go through the songs one by one and write down whether or not they have heard the song and a summary of what it is about. If many of the songs are different that in the US it may be a good idea for students to listen to them before talking about patterns. Once again talk about the patterns in the European top 10.

After analyzing both top ten songs. Compare the two. What do they have in common? How are they different? What do the similarities and differences tell us about the cultures of the US and Europe? End the lesson with students writing a personal reflection on what they have learned in this lesson. Were they surprised by anything?

Discussion: Should students be allowed to listen to music in school?

Grade: 9 – 12

Class: US History (Current Event)

Many schools do not allow students to listen to ipods/mp3 players at school (in fact teachers and staff members confiscate them when they see them). This discussion will help students see both sides to the issues and decide for themselves if listing to music in school is a good idea or not.

Activity:
Before class, arrange the desks/tables into a circular pattern (students should be able to see each other during the discussion). When class begins introduce the subject and tell them that we will be having a discussion. Tell the students that the only way this will work is if only 1 person talks at a time. Also tell students that as a teacher your job to going to be to listen, but you will make points if the conversation lulls or if both sides of the issue are not being addressed.

Tell students that before we start the discussion, you need to jot down on a ½ sheet of paper your opinion on this question “should students be allowed to listen to ipods/mp3 players in school?? (This will ensure that everyone has something to say)

Have students discuss for 30 minutes or so depending on the length of your class. Jump in only when things get out of hand or to steer the conversation in another direction.

After the discussion have students write a professional letter to the school principal or other administrator telling them their perspective on the issue as a student. The goal of the letter is to inform, maybe persuade and maybe even bring about change.

If time allows have volunteers read their letters aloud.

The Iraq War Found in Popular Music?!!!

Grades: 9 – 12

Class: US History

Activity:
Challenge the students to think of songs that they currently listen to that have lyrics about the Iraq War. Give students 5 minutes to brainstorm. After about 5 minutes have students share what they came up with. Write their ideas on the board.

Tell students that there is actually a lot of popular music that talks about the Iraq War. You probably listen to it every day but do not realize. Tell students that today we are going to listen to 4 songs about the Iraq War and analyze their lyrics. Hand out song lyrics for each song.

Songs: (These are only suggestions)
Toby Keith “American Soldier?
System of a Down “B.Y.O.B? (*Edited Version)
Linkin Park “Hands Held High? (*Edited Version)
John Mayer “Waiting for the World to Change?

Play each song one by one. While students are listening have them follow along on the lyrics page and have them underline or circle lyrics that deal with the Iraq War. After each song is done discuss as a class. For one or two songs you can also have the students discuss in small groups first and then bring the discussion to the whole class (This will allow students who are shy the opportunity to voice their opinion in a small group and feel more comfortable, in addition it gives the students a chance to form their own opinions before the teacher steps in).

After listening to and discussing all songs, have students nominate the song that they felt was the most meaningful and explain why (Students can write on the back of their lyrics page).

Extra Credit Opportunity:
Tell students to keep their ears open for more songs about the Iraq War. If you hear something, print out the lyrics and write a ½ page analysis of the song/lyrics (like we did in class).

Defining a Generation

Grades: 9-12

Class: US History (Current Events)

Music has been defining generations for years. The 1950’s were defined by the soulful jazz of Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, and Bing Crosby. The 19960’s were defined by “Beetle Mania? and the King himself Elvis Presley. The 1970’s was all about the “hippie rock? of bands like The Who, Led Zeppelin and Janis Joplin. The 1980’s were defined by the music stylings of Madonna, Prince and Michael Jackson.

Activity:
In groups of 3-4 have students discuss what genre of music and individual artists/bands defines the 2000’s decade. Tell the groups that they must come to a consensus when it comes to their decision. When groups are finished they need to write down what they have come up with and a ½ page explanation of why they chose the genre/artists they did.

After all groups are finished, have each group share what they came up with (they should give the genre/artists that they nominated and their explanation). As students are sharing write their nominations on the board. After all groups have shared challenge the class to look at what everyone has come up with and come to another consensus as a class as to what is the final music that defines the 2000’s generation.

If there is time left in the period, give each student a ½ sheet of paper and have them write a personal refection about the music that was chosen by the class to define their generation. How did the final decision differ from the one their small group cam up with?

July 8, 2008

Music Review

Music reviews help people know whether or not a CD is worth buying, explain the meaning behind the songs and gives a professional’s opinion of the music itself. That being said there are many different ways that music critics go about reviewing music, some do not hold anything back, while others take a more neutral stance. This raises the question what makes a good music review? To answer this question, I looked at a few music review sources online. The first was http://www.rollingstone.com/reviews, this is an online version of the Rolling Stone magazine available in print at stores. The second site I visited was http://www.blender.com/guide/rArchive.aspx?itype=1&sb=new. This is also the online version of a popular magazine. The third site I visited was http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/news/music/cl-powers-sg,1,3671619.storygallery. These reviews were authored by Ann Powers a female lead pop music critics.

What makes a good music review?

In my opinion a good music review does exactly that, reviews the music. They don’t “rip the artist a new one? they evaluate the music. A good music review needs to come from a neutral stand point. Looking at the music for what it is (not for what its not) and comparing that to other things so that the reader will understand what the album is all about. Music critics also need to be neutral when it comes to genre. This is difficult to do because naturally people are drawn to what they like and repelled from what they don’t like musically speaking. However a music critic needs to understand that even if they personally do not like the genre, there are people out there who do like it and they deserve to have a review that gives them information about whatever music they may buy. Going along with “not ripping the artist a new one,? I think that a good music review values the artist for who they are as people and the efforts they have put into their music. The music industry is a very difficult one to get into and even more difficult one to stay in, knowing that I think that artists deserve respect when critics are reviewing their music. As a consumer it is very difficult to read reviews that really lay into the artist, because I think of artists as people and people do not deserve to be put down. Looking at a few of the reviews at http://www.rollingstone.com/reviews, I really liked that the critiques uses the artists own lyrics to make their points about themes and styles of the album. It made me feel like the critic new what they were doing and they weren’t just making things up. In my opinion Rolling Stone did a better job with their music reviews than did Blender. I really got the feeling the Rolling Stone was reviewing the music (not just the artist) and they came from a neutral view point. I felt like the reviews on the Rolling Stone site were actually helpful, they gave positives as well as the not so positives. The Blender site http://www.blender.com/guide/rArchive.aspx?itype=1&sb=new on the other hand felt more negative. I read a review on the artist 3 Doors Down (their self titled CD) and it really made the CD sound awful. They did not give any examples of lyrics or content that made the CD so bad, which made me question the professionalism of the review. Personally I have listened to the CD and liked it, so I guess my taste is just bad. These two sites really made me see that there are differences in the ways in which music critics go about reviewing music. While it was hard to compare Ann Powers’ reviews to the highly commercial Rolling Stone and Blender sites because they did not review the same music (or the amount of music), I liked Ann’s reviews because they were also from the more neutral stand point. She gave a lot of background information, which helped me understand the artist and the music.

My Music Review

Linkin Park’s third album “Minutes to Midnight? with new producers Rick Rubin and Mike Shinoda takes what you know about Linkin Park and cranks it to the max. The band spent a lot of time searching for the perfect sound for this album and they have reached it. Their sound is a mix of alternative rock, pop and techno. This sound will make just about everyone happy. The musical tracks on the songs are hardcore, yet catchy. Even better than the music are the lyrics. The songs are not just a bunch of music they relay a message. “Hands Held High? and “The Little Things Give You Away? express the bands feelings on the Iraq War, the reaction to hurricane Katrina and President George W. Bush. Lyrics from the song “Hands Held High:? “the rich wage war, but it’s the poor who die? challenge people to think about what is really happening in the Iraq War and to look for patterns such as this. Lyrics from “The Little Things Give You Away:? “all you ever wanted was someone to truly look up to you and six feet underwater, I do? voice the opinions of many in New Orleans and challenge people to think about how the disaster was handled. “What I’ve done? is a soldier’s refection of what he/she has done in the name of war. The main chorus of the songs says “what I’ve done, I’ll face myself to cross out what I’ve become, erase myself and let go of what I’ve done.? The music video that accompanies the songs really does a good job of relaying the message of the lyrics. These songs would be perfect to use in the classroom for lyric analysis. The best thing is that students are probably already familiar with the band and the songs, but they probably never taken the time to actually listen to the words and connect to the meaning. Connecting the songs from this album to US History/current events will help students feel more connected to the songs as well as the lesson. Every time a student hears one of these songs on the radio, they will think of the lyrical analysis they did in class. Who knows they may even share what they’ve learned with a friend! One thing to watch out for however, when using this album in the classroom is the explicit language. Linkin Park feels the need to sprinkle a few “F-Bombs? in their lyrics, so be sure to use the edited version. If you like music that not only sounds good, but also has meaning to it’s lyrics, you will like this album. A teacher who uses this album in the classroom will validate popular music as a source of information to the students and more over create a bond with the students. However, it is also important to realize that Linkin Park's take on current events is only 1 opinion. It is a more liberal view on the issues and this should be made known to the students. I good idea would to balance this more liberal point of view with a more conservative persective.

When all is said and done, this is a great album. Everyone should be allowed to vioce his/her opinion on the World and this is Linkin Park's version. Whether or not you agree with the lyrics is up to you (and hoepfully your students).

July 1, 2008

American Idol

It seems as if people either love the television show American Idol or they hate it. There are people who can’t get enough of “idol,? they watch every week, vote, blog about the results, go out and buy the contestant’s CD’s and more. There are others who claim to hate the show, blog about how much the show “sucks? and intentionally try to get people to vote for the worst people just to mess up the show. Either way you look at it tens of thousands of people audition for the show, even more watch it and it is all the buzz at offices. To get more information about American Idol I read the article http://tvbythenumbers.com/2008/05/15/most-american-idol-viewers-over-age-35-ans-other-idol-data/3787. This article shatters the idea that only teens and pre-teens watch American Idol. There is just something about a show that gives the “Average Joe? the opportunity to make it big that has caught the world by storm.


The website http://tvbythenumbers.com/2008/05/15/most-american-idol-viewers-over-age-35-and-other-idol-data-data/3787 says that most people who watch American Idol are age 35 and older. To some degree this is surprising, because it would make more sense that teens would be the primary audience because the contestants are usually younger and teens are big consumers of popular music. The technology used to vote the quickest is also geared toward teens (I know very few people over the age of 35 that know how to send a text message). In addition, the audiences shown on the shows are typically teens. They seem to swarm the stage as the contestants sing and they hold signs of their love and/or support for their favorite contestants. On the other hand, it makes sense that the older generations are watching American Idol because they probably have kids who are also watching Idol. Now that I think of it, quite a bit of the music that the contestants sing when they get down to the top 20 or so are classic artists like the Beatles and Andrew Lloyd Webber. The website tvbynumbers.com also says that 50% of people who watch American Idol are between the ages of 18-49. That is a huge range and shows that Idol has done a good job of making the show attractive to just about everyone.

So what is it about American Idol that makes it so popular? Is it the embarrassing auditions that happen in the beginning of the show? Do people like getting their entertainment from seeing people who can’t sing? Is it that people like to judge the contestants performances? Is it that people like hearing what the expert judges (Randy, Paula and Simon) have to say about the contestants? Is it that by the end of the show there will be a “winner? and someone will have the chance to become famous? Or is it that people are afraid of being out of the loop, so they watch just to stay connected and to have something to talk about at work? There is just something about it that keeps people watching. Even those who claim to hate the show watch it so that they can talk about how much it “sucks.? www.VotefortheWorst.com is a website for people to construe the outcome of the show, so that the worst contestants stay on the show instead of the best. This can only be the work of people who do not like the show because it “screws? deserving people out of the opportunity to succeed. Nobody can forget Sanjaya Malakar from Idol season 6. He was obviously a very weak and not to mention inexperienced singer who advanced farther on the show than many who actually had talent. This raises questions as to the fairness of the voting and the accuracy of who is named the “best singer.? Despite all of the drama that ensues the show, it is a great opportunity for those on the show and great entertainment for those of us who watch at home.

As for me, I am one of the people in the “can’t get enough? category when it comes to American Idol. I am not one of those obsessed fans who votes multiple times a week, blogs about the show, goes to the concerts, and auditions for the glory of being on the show. I just enjoy watching the show. It is hard to say exactly what I like best about the show, but it would have to be the mix of the horrible first auditions and the awesome final performances. I also like that ordinary people get the opportunity to make it big on the show, it is not about celebrities that get everything they want handed to them on a silver platter, it is about regular people. My husband and I usually watch the show together and make bets on who we think will go home each week (the loser usually has to make dinner or buy Dairy Queen).

June 30, 2008

Hip Hop Music in the Classroom

To investigate the roll of hip hop music and culture in the classroom I read three articles and reviewed three websites. Hip Hop is a “genre of music typically consisting of a rhythmic style of speaking called rap over backing beats performed on a turntable or DJ? (http://www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hip_Hop_music). While this style of music is extremely popular with students, it is not necessarily considered to be the high quality “standard based curriculum? that teachers are supposed to be using. The website http://www.flocabulary.com/teachers/html brings hip hop to the standards. The creators of the website have designed a program to bring the necessary (standard based) curriculum to life through hip hop music. The website http://www.tolerance.org/teach/activities/activity.jsp?ar=815 also brings curriculum to life through videos and other teaching materials. These materials make the point that the issue of tolerance is not just an issue of today, people have had differences throughout history and we should learn through history so we do not repeat it. The article “Digital DJ-ing: Rhythms of Learning in an Urban School? by Jabari Mahiri is an example of how Hip Hop music can be used in the classroom. Above all this article suggests that using Hip Hop in the classroom helps make students feel like they are an important part of the classroom. The article “African American Literacies? by Elaine Richardson suggests that Hip Hop is more than music, it tells the history and the culture of African Americans. Hip Hop is not profanity and violence, it is language, identity and symbolism. The article “What They Do Learn in School: Hip-Hop as a Bridge to Canonical Poetry? by Ernest Morrell and Jeff Duncan-Andrade links rap to classic poetry. This is yet another example of how Hip Hop music can be used in the classroom, without compromising the amount of learning that takes place.

When I first thought about this assignment, I thought “WOW we are going to try to stretch Hip Hop to fit the parameters of the classroom.? I did not believe that Hip Hop could be used to teach anything, it would be just a form of entertainment. After reading the three articles and three websites (listed above) I realize that I was wrong. I never realized the roots and the history behind Hip Hop and rap music. I also never realized that Hip Hop can be more than sexually provocative lyrics and violence. http://www.flocabulary.com/teachers/html showed me that curriculum can be put to a beat and it can be called Hip Hop. Hip-Hop US History is AWESOME! I can not believe that these materials exist and I had never heard of them. I listened to three songs on the website entitled “Let Freedom Ring,? “The Declaration of Independence? and “Ghosts of the Civil War.? These songs were amazing! I definitely think that my students will love the songs and I agree that in time these songs can teach! I love these songs so much that I plan on talking with my principal and hopefully I will be able to use them in the fall.

As I was reading the articles required for this assignment and reviewing the websites I thought of a few ways that I can bring Hip Hop into my classroom:

1) Put students into groups with an assigned topic and have them create a rap that covers their given topic. The students will have the opportunity to use music of their choice of music for the back beat and each group will share their rap with the class.

2) As a tool for memorization, we could develop a rap as a class. For example create a rap to remember the Gettysburg Address or the articles of the Constitution. We would create a rap together and then say the rap at the beginning or end of each class until the students know it by heart. (This is the same concept of songs that we have all sung in Kindergarten that we remember still to this day.)

3) Given a topic such as “heroism, generosity, selflessness,? etc. students can go on a “hunt? for their favorite songs that exhibit these characteristics. The students would pick their song, write an analysis of the songs and then share the song and the analysis with the class.

While I am excited about all of the new information that I received about using Hip Hop music in the classroom, I am still left with a few questions. One concern I have is how do I use Hip Hop music in my classroom when I know that there are students who absolutely HATE Hip Hop? I have had problems in my classroom before where a student will play a rap song on the computer and other kids go nuts. It becomes a verbal argument about why that music “sucks? and why this other genre is so much better. To keep it even, should country and rock music also be used in the classroom?

June 27, 2008

Censorship

To better understand the practice of censorship in popular music, I read an article by Eric Nuzum and listened to two controversial songs. The Eric Nuzum article highlights incidents of censorship from the 1950’s to the new millennium. The reasons for censorship ranged from “too sexually suggestive? to “encourages suicide.? The censorship was done not only by record companies, radio stations and stores, but also towns and schools. The first song that I listened to was “Suicide Solution? by Ozzy Osbourne. As the title suggests this song is about suicide, with alcohol references mixed in for good measure. The second song that in my mind merits censorship was “Cop Killer? by Body Count. Once again the title says it all.

The topic of censorship is one that gets a variety of people fired up, especially students. They feel that it is their right to choose what they want to put into their ears. They feel like “the man? affects their lives enough already (telling them that they have to go to school on a regular basis, they have to pay taxes, have a curfew to follow and more) and that music should be the one thing that they have total control over. This would be a great topic to bring up this students because I think they would have a lot to say, but I fear that the comments will be one sided. This trick would be getting students to understand why music and other forms of entertainment are censored. For this reason it would be a great idea to talk about the issue as a class, but then require students to write a paper highlighting both sides of the argument of censorship. If the students are not required to see the issue from both sides they probably will not take the perspective that music should be censored.

Personally I think that censorship is an interesting topic. It is interesting because I am old enough to see the issue from both sides. I understand the student perspective, but I also understand that one person’s musical expression can be offensive to another person. Eric Nuzum’s article “Censorship? gives a history of censorship from the 1950’s to the 2000’s. I understood some of the reasons why songs were censored, while others made me laugh. I absolutely agree that music that contains profanity, encourages suicide/killing, encourages drug use or is too sexually suggestive should be censored. This is a no-brainer to me. I do not need to or want to hear swear words or sex on the radio. Nor do I need to be encouraged to kill myself or another. While I think that a musician has the right to write whatever they want, I also think that not all songs need to be shared. Music loses its charm when it offends people. On the other hand some of the reasons for censorship made me laugh. It is crazy to think that a student was suspended because he had a t-shirt on that said “KORN.? The name of the bad itself was offensive to someone, so the student was suspended. Nuzum’s article also said that an Indigo Girls concert was canceled by a school principal when he found out that members of the band were homosexual. These two examples of censorship are in my opinion CRAZY. I do not see how the name of a bad or the sexuality of band members are grounds for censorship. So I do see how some censorship is petty, unnecessary and outright wrong. The policy for clothing and language at the school I teach at is “if it offends even one person, it is considered offensive and the clothing/language needs to change.? On the one hand I agree with this policy, but on the other I understand that all people are different. Some people are (in my opinion) overly sensitive and are offended by literally everything. I come back to the idea that censorship is a difficult topic that gets a lot of people fired up.

The two songs I listened to Ozzy Osbourne’s “Suicide Solution? and Body Count’s “Cop Killer? are two songs that I would absolutely censor. I would go even further to say that these are the types of songs that artists have the right to write, but should be kept to themselves. I do not know how these songs could be censored, because the entire song would be bleeped out. I can not imagine that anybody would benefit from these songs. If I were a parent these would be two examples of songs that I would prohibit my kids from listening to.

June 25, 2008

Men, Women and Relationships in Music Videos

To gain information on how men and women are portrayed in music videos I watched three music videos that were made in three very different periods of time. The first video was Criminal by Fiona Apple, this video was released in 1996 and sparked a lot of controversy. The second video was It’s My Party by Leslie Gore, released in 1966. This is not a true “music video? in the sense that the other two videos are, but nevertheless adds information to the lyrics of the song. The third video was How Many Licks Lil’ Kim, released in 2000. All three videos provided a piece of information as to how men, women and the relationships between the two are portrayed in popular music.

Fiona Apple
The song Criminal is one that I remember singing along to as a teen, however I now realize that I never understood it’s meaning. I always thought it was about women being in charge in relationships and breaking hearts like men often times do. I thought that the lyrics
“I’ve been a bad bad girl,
I’ve been careless with a delicate man.
And it’s a sad sad world,
When a girl can break a boy
Just because she can?

(http://www.lyricsfreak.com/f/fiona+apple/criminal_20053670.html)

reflected the fact that the girl took the mans role in the relationship and played the more aggressive part. Now the girl is feeling bad for doing what she did to the man and breaking his heart. Now that I have actually watched the music video that accompanies the song and read the song critique (http://www.imagesjournal.com/issue05/features/fiona2.html), I realize that I have it all wrong. In this case the music video gives more information as to the meaning of the song lyrics. The song that I thought was about a girl, who hurt a guy actually depicts the male rape fantasy. The song critique does an awesome job of breaking down the video frame my frame and explaining the meaning. Fiona Apple is made to be very sexual in the video, not to be confused with sexy. She is extremely skinny, has messed up hair and in barely dressed in most shots. Many of the camera shots in the video are high angle shots that make Fiona look vulnerable. This video and song does not portray men, women and the relationship between the two in a very positive light. In fact women are made to be objects to be abused by men and there is a male dominance non-equitable relationship. This video left be wondering if 18 year old Fiona really meant what she was portraying in the video, or if it was intended to draw attention to the issue as a type of public service.

Leslie Gore & Lil’ Kim
Both of these songs portray women as needing men in some way. Leslie Gore’s song It’s My Party portrays a woman who is consumed by a man and is upset that he is with somebody else. The amount of control that this man/relationship has over the girl is not uncommon but certainly unhealthy. Even more unhealthy than It’s My Party is Lil’ Kim’s How Many Licks. This song and music video portray women as merchandise that can be bought. She goes even further and gives the message that women want to be treated like things and enjoy the sexual promiscuity that come along with that. Although the two videos have similar messages (to different degrees), the videos are extremely different. The women in the Leslie Gore video are fully dressed and dance very conservatively. The women in the Lil’ Kim video on the other hand are barely dressed and dance as if they are in the act of having sex. The camera angles in this video included both low and high angled shots, giving the message that Lil’ Kim is vulnerable (enough to have sex with anyone) and also grand (she can have sex with anyone she wants). It is obvious that music has changed in the time that these two videos were released (1966-2000). In 1966 innocence and monogamy was valued, by the year 2000 experience and making yourself happy are valued by many. The analysis of these two songs makes me wonder where future music will take relationships. It is hard to believe that music and videos can get more graphic than How Many Licks, but who knows? I also wonder what people who grew up listening to Leslie Gore (and others) think about current popular music.

June 20, 2008

Evolution of Music Consumption

It is funny how a person’s music consumption changes over time. To get some background information on this subject I read an article entitled “A Nomad at Home: Pop Music, Pop Culture, and Christmas? by Thom Swiss. This article provided the author’s personal experiences with pop music and culture and how they changed over time. As a child Thom bought an electric guitar and was extremely interested in popular music and culture. His parents on the other hand did not seem to be interested in the same type of culture in fact they were fascinated with all things Christmas. As a result of this discrepancy in interests between parents and child, Thom felt homeless in his own home.

It is crazy to think about my music consumption over time. I think it’s crazy because changes in consumption happen without notice. Before you realize the change has happened and you look back in disbelief. Personally I can think of three distinct phases in my music consumption in my twenty-four years of life.

Music as a Child
As a child I listened to whatever my parents listened to. I can not recall making a personal choice in music before my middle school years. My parents were children of the 60’s and 70’s, as a result listened to all of the classics. Some of my parent’s favorite artists and bands were; CCR, The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Cream, The Steve Miller Band, Tom Petty and many many more. My most vivid memory involving my parents and this genre of music are all of the quizzes that they would give me. My parents loved quizzing me on the title or artist of songs that came on the radio. They would say something like “we will stop and get ice cream if you can name this song? or “I’ll give you a buck if you can tell me who is singing.? (My parents found it especially amused when the name of the band was actually “the Who,? it’s like one of those “who’s on first?? jokes.) Of course there were times when I failed the quiz and got the question wrong, but there were also times when I passed with flying colors. My parents were always so excited and proud when I got the questions right. In hindsight these quizzes gave me an appreciation for this genre of music and a permanent bond with my parents.

Music as a Teen
As a teen I was hooked to my Walkman portable radio. This was the period in my life that I was just realizing that I was an individual and I could make my own decisions. I really felt a connection to hip-hop and pop music. It was as if these songs told the story of my life (or what I thought my life was at the time). A couple of specific memories that I have with pop music in my teens were taking my Walkman to church and making mixed tapes. I don’t know why I remember this, but I can recall bringing my Walkman to activity nights at church on Wednesday evenings. The music that I listened to was by no means church appropriate, but I still brought it and shared it with my friends. I felt cool listening to this music and I felt like sharing this music with my friends was like sharing a part of me. I did not want to mention this but I was also extremely into the band Hanson. My walls were plastered with their posters, I fanaticized about which one of them I would date and I taped every one of their television appearances. I can not say for sure what caused the end of my obsession, but one day it just was not cool anymore.

Music as an Adult
Today music does not play a huge part in my life. Don’t get me wrong, I love music and I like the way I feel when I listen to it, but I think I am too busy to sit around and just listen to music. My main source of music is in the car commuting to and from work. Beyond that I can not remember the last CD I bought or the last concert I attended. It is weird but I find myself listening to music for the words and not just the beat (like I did as a teen). It is fun to listen to songs I haven’t heard in a while and actually listen to the words. Today I like just about all genres of music. I would have a hard time answering the question “what is your favorite type of music?? A question that I would have answered in two seconds as a teen.

June 18, 2008

Teachers & Hollywood Films

How are teachers and the teaching profession portrayed in Hollywood films? To answer this question I watched the film School of Rock and read an article entitled “Top Ten Picks for Great Teacher Flicks? (http://www.educationworld.com/a_admin/admin/admin156.shtml). Overall, I would have to say that there are a variety of different portrayals of teachers in Hollywood films. The film School of Rock with Jack Black portrays a want-to-be rocker who becomes a substitute teacher to make money to pay his rent. This movie portrays a teacher who is very selfish, unprepared and unprofessional. By the end of the movie Jack Black’s character (Mr. S) figures out how to be a good teacher, and connects with the students. The article “Top Ten Picks for Great Teacher Flicks? gives lists and testimonies from people nominating different films that depict great teachers. One film that was brought up in the article is Mr. Holland’s Opus, this film “celebrates the vital and often unseen impact teachers have on the lives of their students.? Another great teacher flick is Stand and Deliver and like Mr. Holland’s Opus it depicts a teacher who truly has a positive affect on his student’s lives (not without some resistance).

I had never really thought about the depictions of teachers in films before this assignment. Thinking back to the many movies that I have seen in my life, I have come to the conclusion that there are actually quite a few movies that depict teachers. One of the most unforgettable films that shows a teacher doing what they (we) do best is Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. The teachers, administration and office staff are all made to be complete idiots. The fact that Ferris Bueller’s teacher would call his name (“Bueller…Bueller…Bueller…?) 5 times before realizing that he was in fact absent, shows his level of intelligence. The administration smarts off to a parent on the phone and is down right unprofessional. None the less it was a great film. Another film that portrays teachers that I really like is Better off Dead. This is yet another film that depicts the teachers as complete weirdoes. The teachers speak in mono-toned voices about subjects that are beyond the average person and yet the students are incredibly engaged. Moreover, one of the male teachers dates the ex-girlfriend of the main character (John Cusack). These films spoof the teaching profession, yet they are incredibly funny. One of the questions posed in this assignment is “do films depicting teachers help or hurt the profession?? I think this question is hard to answer because it depends on how people view movies. Are they watching them for information or for entertainment? Personally I watch movies for entertainment, so I don’t even take the things I see seriously. On the other hand, some people take what they see in films to be factual. I would have to say without a doubt that movies like Mr. Holland’s Opus and Stand and Deliver help the teaching profession. How would they not? They are just that inspirational. Other movies such as School of Rock, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Better off Dead make light of the profession, but I’m not sure that they hurt it. I honestly think that people know that the teachers in these movies are not real. Anyone who thinks back to their own experiences in school knows that Hollywood teachers are not real. On the other hand people may be turned off of the teaching profession when they see some of the things that teachers have to put up with in the classroom. However a person’s own personal experiences in school can do this as well.

Jack Black’s character in School of Rock is one that does not take the profession seriously. He even says himself that substitute teaching is “babysitting.? He values getting paid and slacking off more than the opportunity to teach kids. School of Rock portrays teachers as having the ability to do whatever they want in the classroom, there are no standards to follow. Some of the wonderful things about the film are that Jack Black made learning fun and made each and every student feel important. These are things that all teachers try to do, but often times fall short.

If someone were to make a film about me and my teaching profession I would hope that they would capture my talents as well as my flaws. Above all I think that it is important for everybody to realize that teachers are not perfect. While we try out best we are still human and fall short from time to time. I would hope that my film is a combination of Stand and Deliver, School of Rock and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

June 11, 2008

What is "popular music"?

To answer the question “what is popular music?? I read three articles about pop music around the world. The first article defined pop music from an American perspective (http://enwikipedia.org/wiki/American_popular_music). The article started by explaining just how influential American popular music is to the rest of the world. The article also went into great detail about the progression of the style of popular music throughout American history. The overall idea being that every type of music was once considered “popular? music and what is “popular? doesn’t stay the same. The second article defined popular music from a British perspective (http://gpwu.ac.jp/~biddle/youth.htm). The story behind British popular music is very different from the American version. During the 1950’s there was no such thing as “youth culture.? There was not “pop music? as we know it today. There was no special phase between childhood and adulthood. You people dressed the same as their parents and they shared the same values and customs. Some changes happened in Britain that boosted the economy and led to “Beatle-Mania.? After the Beatles had made it big the phases in the rise and fall of popular music came about. The third article defined popular music from an Arab perspective (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/6666725.stm). It wasn’t until recently that pop culture and popular music existed in the Arab world. Much like in Britain Arab youths and parents listened to the same music. According to the article popular music has taken off in the past 10 (or so) years. The article said that popular music is a “way to connect young people.?

I was surprised to learn that popular music and culture did not always exist in other parts of the world as it has in the United States. I was especially shocked about British popular culture, because I thought that a lot of our popular culture and music steamed from British culture. I noticed a common thread between American and British popular music in that the styles change throughout history. In addition, it seems as if every style/type of music was popular at some point in time. So to answer the question “what is popular music?? I would say everything, music defines generations. Perhaps a better question would be “what is popular music today?? or what was popular music in the 1960’s?? These questions have more direct answers than the more general “what is popular music?? Moreover, I think that the answer to that question varies from person to person. For example, I know a few people who absolutely hate rap music and because of that do not even consider it a valid type of music. So if you asked them to define “popular music? they would not include rap, when it could very well be the most popular type of music to the next person you ask. For some reason I did not give too much validity to Arab popular music, perhaps it is due to the conservativeness of the Muslim culture. I was surprised after reading the article because Arab popular music seems to be very similar to American popular music. I liked that the article described Arab popular music as a “way to connect young people.? This is exactly what popular music does for young people in the United States. The article also describes a “thirst among the young for something new that reflects their lives,? I believe this also exists in America.
My response to these three articles reveals that I did not have a whole lot of background information about popular music in different countries around the world. I guess I always thought that all countries had popular music and culture, but I never really thought too much about the style or details of the culture. This also implies that I have a lot to learn about popular music and culture. So on that note I am very thankful that I am enrolled in this class.

June 10, 2008

Advice

"The best things to hold onto in life is each other." Always make time for your family and never take anyone forgranted. If you do this you won't have anything to regret later in life. Often times we look back at what we "should have done" and wonder "what if" or "if only." Take my advice: don't put things off, do what you feel is right and take care of those around you.

June 7, 2008

Words to Live by

Graduation was this past Tuesday (6/3/08) and one of the graduates who spoke gave some advise that I will never forget. "Life is hard ... but it can't rain forever." This student had a baby when she was a junior and lost the only parent she had ever known in a car accident in April. She graduated Tuesday and it was amazing that through everything she had gone through she could still be positive.

Welcome!

Welcome to my first ever BLOG... I hope everything works...but if not know that I am a "first timer." Enjoy

-Becky