Thursday, December 17, 2009

Listening While Grading

This following is the soundtrack of my life these days:

Ennio Morricone's The Mission: This is the soundtrack to the movie of the same name. Quite simply, some of the most breathtakingly beautiful music ever composed. This album made me love the oboe. The emotional rise and fall of the compositions carries its listener from abject despair to rhapsodic joy... just like grading.

The Staple Singers' Stax Profiles: One of the best of the "best of" genre albums. The Staples believe in God, which means they also believe in sin, and their songs remind me that even the very best of us can be very bad, as the very worst of us can sometimes be very good... an insight confirmed by grading.

James Taylor's Mudslide Slim: This is the album that includes the song "Hey Mister, That's Me Upon The Jukebox"-- a kind of self-reflective, overly-indulgent-of-its-own-sadness, autobiographical song that somehow manages to utterly fuse the boundary between a story about myself and a story about something else. Sometimes that elision is pretentious and maddening, sometimes it's endearing and touching... just like in student papers I'm grading.

ABBA's Gold: Disco at its best. ABBA, like Michael Jackson, mastered "pop" music in the following way: they are able to take completely familiar and formulaic lyrics/tune combinations and, without the obvious addition of anything else, make them rise above their like. Sometimes the very best student papers do that as well... an insight gained through grading.

Gilbert and Sullivan's The Pirates of Penzanze: One of my favorite pieces of musical theater, The Pirates of Penzance is a story about the myriad adventures that ensue as the result of a simple, mundane misunderstanding. Frederick, the main character, was born on February 29 (in a leap year), but was contracted as an apprentice to a Pirate King until he turns 21. In the 21st year of his life, is Frederick really only 5 years old and, thus, still contractually bound to a life of piracy? Oh, the hilarity!... just like the kind that results from basic student misunderstandings, in papers that I grade.

Various Artists' No Depression: Anthology of alt-country music, inspired by the now-defunct music magazine entitled No Depression (itself named after The Carter Family's song). At exactly 73% through the stack of ungraded papers, I find that I am most in need of some promise of another life, another place, after all of this suffering and misery... the suffering and misery that is grading, that is.

Marvin Gaye's The Very Best of Marvin Gaye: What is the question that most consistently comes to dominate my consciousness about 8 pages through a 12 papge paper? Why, it's the one penned by Marvin Gaye: What's goin' on? What's goin' on? What's goin' on? What's going' on? ... and what is grading, after all, but the final determination of the answer to that question?

Lucinda Williams' Live @ the Filmore: Lucinda's voice, her songs, her je ne sais quois all combine to produce an aural phenomenon that can only be described as "rode hard and hung up wet." Hard drinkin', hard livin' and hard lovin' make for great music and an even greater, eminently acute insight into the human soul. What else does that?... grading.

1 comment:

Ideas Man, Ph.D. said...

Lately I make my way through my music readers which includes Christophresh, Pitchfork and NPR all songs considered. A study could probably done of how much a student's grade depends on how much I like what I'm hearing.

BTW Ideas Girl LOVES ABBA (as do al the Ideases). We let her watch Mama Mia (the musical version I loved, the film version was dreck) and she was in heaven.