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POP Goes LIM College

5/11/2012

Students dress the part for their final presentations in new Arts & Communications elective course

At the conclusion of the semester, students in Professor Amanda Hallay’s Pop Century course (which is a history of popular music in the postwar era) formed into groups for their final presentations and each group was required to research and then teach a class on a musical genre not already covered in the course. 

And to demonstrate their understanding of the symbiotic relationship between popular music and fashion, students also had to dress in a style that reflected the genre they were teaching.

“The presentations were amazing,” said Professor Hallay, “as were the outfits. I learned so much!”

Heavy Metal and Progressive Rock
The Heavy Metal and Progressive Rock group handled their subject with humor, and showed up in class looking like extras in ‘Spinal Tap’ with leather jackets, Pink Floyd and Metallica t-shirts and (in the case of Stevie Lynn) a big, ‘Hair Band’ hair-do.

Taking the class from Heavy Metal’s origins in the industrial city of Birmingham, U.K to the Death Metal (and Christian Metal) of today, the class may not have been crazy about the actual music, but enjoyed the informative and spirited presentation. The group started a lively class discussion as to how gender-specific Progressive Rock actually is, with everyone concluding that Yes and Pink Floyd offered ‘music that only boys can enjoy.’

Country and Western 
The Country and Western (C&W) group required two class periods to cover the complicated history and sub-genres of C&W, and looked as if they’d just ridden in from Nashville in their denim and flannel shirts. Taking their classmates from early Western Swing through to Country’s relationship with early Rock n’ Roll and – ultimately – to today’s Contemporary Country, the group did a spectacular job at untangling a complex genre.

Bossa Nova and Tropicalia
The Bossa Nova and Tropicalia group took the class to the heart of Brazil with their exhaustive research on Brazilian music of the 1960s – and their psychedelic tropical attire. From the smooth lounge style of Bossa Nova to the weird, highly politicized psychedelia of the Tropicalia movement, the group told the class how much they had come to admire the incredibly brave, young musicians of Tropicalia, some of whom were actually imprisoned and tortured by Brazil’s military dictatorship for performing their ‘subversive’ music.

Reggae and Caribbean
Annysia and Imondre handled Reggae and Caribbean music as a duo, and on a chilly, rainy Thursday, transported the class to the balmy beaches of Jamaica. Everyone thought they knew about reggae until Annysia and Imondre broke the complicated genre down, explaining the difference between Dub, Old School and Dance Hall, with Annysia giving the class a thorough mini-history of Jamaican political history to explain the genre’s relationship to politics. Imondre handled the other main Caribbean musical export (Calypso), and they both looked great in their red, green and gold attire and Jamaica t-shirts.

Hip-Hop and Rap
The Hip-Hop and Rap group got their ghetto on with hoodies, gold chains, and a LOT of ‘attitude,’ taking the class from the highly politicized rap of the late 1970s through to today’s Gangsta Rap, explaining in detail the evolution of the genre and the meaning behind rap’s oft-hermetic lyrics. They also covered different styles in deejaying, sampling and ‘scratching.’

Europop
Coming to class in colorful techno gear, glo-stick jewelry, and A-Ha t-shirts (kindly on loan from staff member Cheryl Szakach), the group did an excellent job explaining Europe’s place in the history of Pop, taking the class from the French ‘chanson’ of Edith Piaf and Charles Trenet through to French music luminaries such as Jacques Brell and Serge Gainsbourg, and then exploring the influence of Swedish pop (from ABBA to A-Ha, and from Aqua to The A-Teens), stopping off to examine the ‘rave and techno’ movement that originated in Europe and then swept the world.

“It was a fabulous end to the first semester of Pop Century said Professor Hallay. Other highlights of the semester included a special guest lecture by Eric Schmeltzer, political analyst, CEO of Schmeltzer PR, and Fox News regular, who explained the relationship between politics and pop from Roosevelt’s first campaign to our upcoming election.

“Teaching this class for the first time made me really understand how important music is. It is the perfect reflection of the culture that listens to it, and – as such – helps us understand the relationship between what people listen to and what they like to wear,” said Professor Hallay.

“So many fashion concepts – such as ‘punk’ or ‘grunge’ – were born of musical movements, and how can we truly understand these concepts in fashion unless we first understand the music that inspired them?” she continued. 

Throughout the semester, the class enjoyed learning about genres of music they were unfamiliar with and exploring their relationship to culture, politics, art, and fashion – yet the final presentations were Professor Hallay’s favorite part of the course, especially the costume aspect.

“I like all genres of music, so I didn’t dress up”, said Professor Hallay. “Although I did steal a glo-stick bracelet from the Europop group.”



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