I had a student who made a playlist for his WordPress blog last semester- and I was so impressed, it was a fantastic idea! He insisted on the value of popular music as a text and as a source of information and argument. I am creating an annotated playlist inspired by and in honor of Tyler. You were on to something there friend!

Music has a huge role in our work on this blog. We use it in class, we play songs on the “jukebox” at Dreaming Creek, I reference songs in my own work. This just felt right! These are all texts that inform my work and engage with ideas and arguments in meaningful ways. Enjoy!

  1. Superstar by Charm Farm

This is for CCCC! This is my pandering party song! All comp/rhet peeps are superstars! Andy Warhol! We are beautiful! Alright!

It seemed oddly appropriate for CCCC Pittsburgh! We are very excited to be working together and to be presenting our work together! We want our classes to be exciting places where people get to have fun with their words and ideas. We all want to be doing something good for our students.

2. Umi Says by Yasiin Bey (Formerly Mos Def)

This is the song I start every semester with. “Umi Says” is exactly the sort of message I want to send on the first day of class. There is the “shine your light for the world to see” message, but it is so much more complex than just a ‘say what you have to say, gather your rosebuds while you may’ kind of song! This is a complex narrative about politics, racism, resistance fatigue, and the hard hard work of getting your audience to understand your point of view. I am not starting out with false promises, the work of writing and being engaged is difficult. He even starts out saying “I don’t wanna write this down right now.” He works through to “I hope you feel me from where I am to wherever you are, I mean that sincerely.” And the song ends beautifully with, “You better hold this very moment very close to you (right now).”  I can think of no song more appropriate for the first day of freshman composition. Even though it is old and none of my students know it and most aren’t paying attention.

3. No Children by The Mountain Goats

This is my traditional song to play if I am teaching on Valentine’s Day. It is my own little rhetorical protest. The song puts a very complex and particularly human kind of relationship into words that are clear and detailed. The writer employs parallelism to great effect. He supports his claims with evidence. He shows his audience exactly how he feels. It is a beautiful and strangely loving song.

How often have I hoped that “the rising black smoke carries me away?”

And I heard that Frank’s audio essay on this song made his class cry. So go Frank. And go John Darnielle. And Valentine’s Day is less than a week away.

4. C.R.E.A.M by the Wu Tang Clan

Because you don’t *mess* with the Wu Tang Clan!

I mean, this works as a personal narrative, a statement of belief, and an excellent example of taking something invisible and making it visible. We can discuss capitalistic exploitation in an abstract sense and I can highlight my desire to move away from these structures in my classroom, but I think it is better to just listen to this:

Cash moves everything around me

C.R.E.A.M. get the money

Dollar dollar bill ya’ll

Sums it all up pretty clearly.

5. In the Aeroplane Over the Sea by Neutral Milk Hotel

This is the song I end every semester with. Every cheesy end of the semester slide presentation I have ever done for my students, with my messages of love and pride and hope and wishes of good luck, every one has been set to this song. Deep down in my sad little teacher heart, this song is always playing. It picks up on “Umi Says”– the idea that we will all die one day and we better live it up while we can– so it comes full circle. But this song is terrifying! The image of the speaker making his beloved into some sort of puppet, shoving his hands through their throat to make them speak again. It is language that makes us alive. It moves us. Being human is so complicated and messy. We don’t know what we are doing or what is coming.

We have a few things we can be sure of. We want to hold onto the things we love. We will grow old. We will forget. We are haunted and afraid.

And the kicker, the one I want to send out to every student with as much love and protection as I can:

“But for now we are young, let us lay in the sun and count every beautiful thing we can see.”

This song came out at the end of my junior year of college. I listened to it then and had no idea what was in store. I had no idea how young I was.

I want my students to count all of their beautiful things in my class, as best they can. I hope they have lots and find even more in the years to come.

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