Thursday, April 19, 2007


Dan’s been throwing out this idea of staying musically relevant as prime component of the teacher’s toolbox. He advises we all make use of RSS feeds, i-tunes, and the like. I can’t get on board. I listen to records I keep in milk crates and CDs I keep in duffle bags. My record player is named Sally, and I constantly lose and reacquire those plastic yellow disks that keep the 7-inchers turning, the design of which would make for a tremendous tattoo if that particular light bulb had not already lit up over the heads of a veritable army of borderline dirty, thrift-store clad, under-nourished youth, both here and elsewhere.

Still, music plays a role in my class, one I’m thinking of expanding.

See, I’m a big fan of the weekly cycle. Each week my students are required to master a grammar/writing skill, a reading strategy, a word part, a graphophonemic pattern and corresponding spelling words, and a thematically relevant vocabulary list. The above are displayed, introduced, developed, practiced, and assessed in remarkably similar ways throughout the thirty-six weeks of the year.

To this list I’m thinking of adding a certain style of music, or prevalent artist, that would expand my students’ conception of music beyond the exhaustive categories of “rock,” “rap,” “country,”
and “Mexican.” I just need 36 different categories.
  1. 1920s Blues
  2. 1950s rock’n’roll
  3. 60s hippie rock
  4. 80s power pop
  5. 80s Monster Ballads (nuff said)
  6. Accoustic folk punk
  7. Beatles
  8. Billie Holiday
  9. Blue Note era Jazz
  10. Boston College Millennium Mix (Bruce, Billy, Guster, Dave, Ice Cube)
  11. Bruce Springstein
  12. Chucky Mingus
  13. Dance/ Electronica
  14. Do-wop-wop
  15. Females and their pianos (Tori, Sarah, Fiona, Regina)
  16. German classical
  17. Highly edited contemporary hip-hop
  18. Jimi Hendrix
  19. Johnny Cash
  20. Old-school hip-hop
  21. Otis Redding
  22. Outkast
  23. Ramones and their derivatives
  24. Reggae
  25. Rockabilly
  26. Salsa
  27. Ska (the first version)
  28. Trendy MTV style emo

So I need eight more. Genre or artist. Help me help them.


Blogger Jeff said...

Afropop (NOT the same thing)
Christy Moore

8:14 PM  
Blogger Dan Greene said...

Bob Dylan

Phish / Dead (if you have 20 minutes to listen to a tune)

Rock en Espanol

Tom Waits

10:15 PM  
Anonymous mrc said...

My suggestions:
1. turntablism
2. trip hop
3. mashup

11:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

New Age (Kitaro, Windham Hill, Narada)

7:28 AM  
Blogger allen said...

Big band.

7:51 AM  
Anonymous tim said...


8:26 AM  
Anonymous Dan Meyer said...

Man how'd Outkast score its own slot? Chuck them in favor of some world hip-hop which is way more relevant to How Things Are than our current overproduction fad. French hip-hop in particular -- the voice of incendiery riots -- is pretty hot right now

Fun stuff. You're kind of a relic though, ain'tcha? If this ever escapes Fun Brainchild status, be sure to blog about it.

9:19 AM  
Blogger Parentalcation said...

Digable Planet

1:45 PM  
Anonymous caroline said...

What is hip? Funk! (I'm the mom of a trumpeter in the San Francisco School of the Arts Funk Band.)

5:00 PM  
Blogger Liz said...

Ok, so I am old, white, and lame. The future Clark University student (whoot) has been listening to the group Orishas a lot. Cuban. Santeria. Fusion. Check it out.

Me: I've been a huge fan of Israel Kamakawiwo since my stepson gave me his CDs for that winter holiday. N Dis Life will move your kids, you bet.

Malcolm John Rebennack Jr. (Dr. John the Night Tripper, Mac Rebennack): recommended album: Gris Gris

Alan Stivell -- live at l'olympique.

6:51 PM  
Anonymous Larry Strauss said...

Along with the "Blue Note era jazz:"

Charlie Parker, almost an era unto himself, a singular musical revolution on the alto. Some records came from personal tape recorders smuggled into clubs and the quality is dubious but anything on Verve or Savoy is hi-fidelity if not stereo.

Also Mingus and Monk, Coltrane and Pharoah Sanders -- guys who pushed the limits every time they played.

Finally -- to prove once and for all what an old fart I am -- Frank Sinatra.

My own students, in South Central LA, roll their eyes and cover their ears when I play them Witchcraft or Plenty of Nothin -- then then ask me to play more and sometimes burn them a Sinatra CD.

According to some music critics, Sinatra, Louis Armstrong, and Billy Holiday (and I would add Ella and Sarah Vaughen) changed vocal music in the Twentieth Century with their phrasing and improvisation and gave birth to the modern style of singing to which from which all contemporary pop music has been influenced.

8:21 AM  
Blogger TMAO said...

Rory: Digable Planets is currently on the classroom rotation. Big time.

Dan Greene: Bob is in. And by the by, how come my former students who are advanced on their Algebra test as 8th graders hafta retake Algebra at your school? Inquiring minds want to know.

Jeff: I don't even know what that is. But I'm gonna find out.

Liz: Orisha is in. Hot stuff. Hot.

mrc: You get two. Turntablism and Trip Hop. Any suggestions on the former?

Anon: You get Dixieland, but I'm including Dixieland punk rock that week.

Larry: I'm down with the Jazz. We've got a Blue Note week, AND a Mingus week. I really love the chaotic Mingus stuff. I get fired up. Kids stare.

Dan: Outkast gets in because during that 6-month period in 6th grade when I wasn't sure what was going on in my life, I bought three "gangsta" albums: Cypress Hill, Black Sunday; Dr. Dre, The Chronic; and Outkast, southernplayalisticcadillacmusic. Ah, memories.

Also, I think it would be fun to play "Hey Yeah," for an entire week.

Tim, do you have some Indie that won't annoy me? And you're right, we need some Grunge. Green River, Mudhoney, Nirvana, AiC, but only PJ's first album will be spun. And no Soundgarden. That's metal, not Grunge, geographic similiarites notwithstanding.

Two more.

2:20 PM  
Blogger Jules the Crazy said...

fascinating idea! i know i need some more musical education.

my contributions:
--definitely 90s grunge/alternative (if you do that you can include soundgarden?)
--gregorian chant (we did some of this in a high school humanities class and i loved it)
--harp singing (i just found out about this and it's really interesting! historical too)
--what about performance/related classical music? like the nutcracker, or peter and the wolf, where there is music and a well-known story.
--french-language rap (it's funny but also very topical, with a sub-genre of algerian/african french songs)

i'm really intrigued by your one-week instruction in those other topics--is that school mandated or did you create that on your own? do you have to fit that into existing reading/writing workshops? i try to do as much as i can with these things, but something always gets pushed aside, and it's usually those things you do. i would love to get more info on all this! my email is exbaristagirl at hotmail dot com.

2:23 PM  
Blogger Nancy Flanagan said...

So--I have actually done this "music genre of the week" thing. Which may not seem surprising, since I am a music teacher. However. Not many music educators do a lot of classroom listening, either for pure pleasure or even for analysis. Most music teachers follow the rehearse-rehearse-perform model, unfortunately. But I digress.

Your list is light on art music (what some might call "classical" music) although I noted your intention to do the German classics. (Got a thing for Wagner?)
That's a little mystifying.

You cannot move forward without Bach, the most intelligent and prolific-on-many-fronts composer. Or Mozart. What were you thinking? If Mozart were alive today, he'd be front and center in Outkast. That, in itself, is a lesson: Mozart's music was pop music, his sonatas were Top Ten list in Salzburg.

How about a week of the great film composers? Herrmann, Rosza, Kamen, Copland, Bernstein, Danny Elfman, even John Williams. This is particularly nice because the music sounds familiar, somehow--written to evoke a particular emotion. How DO they do that?

Bravo. I salute you for doing this.

12:01 PM  
Blogger leyla said...

Mos Def

12:30 PM  
Blogger rpnorton said...

Alt/country - Uncle Tupelo!

1:56 PM  
Blogger La Maestra said...

My musician friend helped me build a list of musicians/music of the week that I used in my 4th grade classroom for a few years. I arranged it in (roughly) chronological order to help students see how musical traditions and musicians built on one another. We started at the top and moved to the next one after a week. Here's my list:
ancient chinese music
cole porter
billie holiday
ella fitzgerald
tito puente
ravi shankar
celia cruz
babatunde olatunji
little richard
kayhan kalhor
early rap
rock en español
orishas/spanish hip-hop

I ended up changing it a little bit - collapsing some of the classical and jazz week and adding new ones that I didn't document. I included weeks about a whole genre and weeks about a single musician. I introduced the music/musician on Monday, we listened to that music all week during transitions, etc. and students could write up a little report about the music/musician, too, to share on Fridays if they wanted. (I can post the form I made up for that if anyone wants it.) Students loved a week I made up that tried to show early rap and how it evolved. They also liked the weeks about ancient Chinese music and and Indian music (Ravi Shankar) and Persian music (Kayhan Kalhor). We talked about instruments and rhythm and so much more - and it only took about 10 minutes of instructional time each week. I stopped doing it so purposefully because, with my school's PI status, even those 10 minutes a week can't fit into my schedule easily enough. I still find ways to squeeze in some of this, though, and I would definitely add a week on reggaeton, too, if I were doing it now. And maybe The Carter Family or Hank Williams or something like that.

7:27 PM  
Blogger La Maestra said...

And for 80s/90s alternative rock, how about The Pixies? Seems high-energy and easy enough to make PG.

Also what about Brazilian stuff - samba and/or bossanova and/or tropicalia? Students who speak Spanish like realizing that they can figure out the words.

La Maestra Chronicles

7:38 PM  
Blogger KauaiMark said...

Dire Straits...

12:52 PM  
Blogger Ivory said...

Include the american regional classics - blue grass, zydeco. How about some acoustic guitar? Struntz and Farah, Gypsy kings, Hapa. Or electric - Lenny Kravitz, Joe Satriani, Steve Vai.

7:47 PM  
Anonymous mrc said...

hSuggestions for turntablism: Cut Chemist, Invisibl Skratch Piklz, Kid Koala, X-Ecutioners.

11:56 PM  
Anonymous bec said...

category: y'allternative
artist: Dashboard Saviors

7:21 AM  

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