Archive for May, 2018

So no guest speakers this week, but we covered a lot of territory: specifically the ’80s underground and the ’90s alternative explosion.

For the ’80s, I presented the students with the big cities and medium size cities which had vibrant scenes: Chicago, Boston, Athens, GA, Portland, OR, Olympia, WA, and Seattle among them (for some reason I didn’t list Minneapolis. It’s the end of the semester. That’s my excuse.)

I shouldn’t be surprised, but this week provoked the strongest negative reactions from the students. Turns out they’re not big fans of the Pixies, Sonic Youth, Husker Du, Scratch Acid, or the U-Men. I get it. This stuff is not particularly accessible, except of course for R.E.M., which they had mixed reactions to.

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(Sonic Youth, CBGB’s 1986)

We then moved on to the ’90s, and my baby Seattle. I talked about the variety of local music that existed, even during the late ’80s heyday of grunge. We covered the usual suspects: Nirvana, Mudhoney, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains (wait, why didn’t you mention Soundgarden, you ask? I have no freaking idea. I did not have them listen to even one Soundgarden song. I’m not sure what happened. Absolute brain fart.) I also gave them a little taste of some of the other Seattle bands of that era, notably Love Battery and the Young Fresh Fellows. They also listened to selections from non-Seattle bands from back then, in particular Stone Temple Pilots and Blind Melon.



The ’90s music seemed to reinvigorate the class (as it reinvigorated me back in the day), which is a big deal since the semester’s coming to a close, the weather is getting nice, and they want to get the hell out of here.

On Wednesday, after talking about the ’90s songs, I asked the students what their most and least favorite selections were. For favorites, a few picked the ’90s, one said the Beatles, another mentioned ’60s San Francisco/Los Angeles. One student said she dug the early blues stuff…which is great. ’80s underground took the near univesral nod for least favorite unit.

I have to say this group was most excellent. They got it. One student mentioned how even though she didn’t like the ’80s indie stuff, she was glad we covered it as it gives her a better understanding of how the music progressed. They really appreciated the guest speakers and the opportunity they had to chat remotely with, and in three cases, meet the musicians in person.

Overall I loved teaching this class. There were no tests, no papers…just weekly song reactions, questions for the guest speakers, and participation in class discussions. I wouldn’t have attempted that evaluation with my intro to US students, but these kids were motivated and excited to learn about the music. I felt testing them on this material would be ridiculous. I wanted them to appreciate the music and it’s context, which would hopefully lead them to a lifetime of musical exploration and enjoyment.

A few students asked if I would do a course covering post-early ’90s music. I thought about it, but I’m not sure I’d be the right guy. I mean, I do have knowledge of the underground music of the ’90s and there was certainly a lot of great music that has happened since Seattle, but I’m not much of an expert on it.

In any event, I hope you enjoyed these blog posts as much as I did writing them.