Amusements & Useful Devices from K. A. Wisniewski
Colleges are like old-age homes; except for the fact that more people die in colleges.
For me, the environment to write the song is extremely important. The environment has to bring something out in me that wants to be brought out. It’s a contemplative, reflective thing … Environment is very important. People need peaceful, invigorating environments. Stimulating environments.
An artist has gotta be careful never really to arrive at a place where he thinks he’s at somewhere. You always have to realize that you’re constantly in a state of becoming.
Ah, but I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now.
God, I’m glad I’m not me.
The semester has finally come to an end. And I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have had the experience of teaching two incredibly unique upper-division courses this time round (and in two different disciplines: English and History): “Mulberry, Mummies & Marshes: The History of Paper” and “Bob Dylan”. I’ve documented a lot of the workshops and course sessions for the history of paper course here and on the course blog: http://mulberrymummiesmarshes2017.wordpress.com/. But I’ve only briefly noted the Dylan seminar with a post of the first few weeks and a list of my favorite Dylan covers.
The real challenge in the Dylan course was time. How much time should be spent on early Dylan influences and on music in general before the 1960s? How could I best balance in-depth listening and analysis of the music and related projects with the music, radio, media, politics, and culture of the respective period? How can we manage a balance between discussion and analysis of music with lyrics, with historical, literary, and biographical elements, and with live performances? In the end, I did a little bit of everything, and learned a lot myself, and I’m still wondering if there was ever a next time, what would the class look like.
I’m still thinking about just how much both music and Dylan changed, evolved over the course of the first eight to ten records. And how music–the industry, production, politics, and the listening of it–has changed today. Teaching music and musicology was a new element for me. And just listening to an entire album was a new process for students. I was overwhelmed with the interest and support I received from students in offering listening sessions to these albums outside of regular class time, and was excited to assign, listen to, and distribute to the class an album of original songs produced by students at the end of the year.
On Dylan, I’m still amazed and inspired by just how productive he was over the course of these first years (and throughout his lifetime). I’d argue that no other artist (maybe excluding David Bowie) evolved as much in such a short time as Dylan. Thinking aloud: Eight albums (released about every six months) in five years . . . and then I think: He was only 20-years-old when the first album was released! How do we get from “Blowin’ in the Wind” (1962) and “The Times They Are a-Changin'” (1964) to “Subterranean Homesick Blues” (1964) and “Like a Rolling Stone” (1965) to “Rainy Day Women” (1966) and “All Along the Watchtower” (1967)!!!
While I continue to reflect and enjoy the canon of work here, I wanted to visually share my initial schedule (and the bones of the syllabus, if you’d like). As always, those interested in a copy of the syllabus, I’m always happy to share with colleagues, near and far. You can contact me through my Projector site. In the meantime, it’s cold outside. Stay inside, turn on the kettle, and put on a Dylan album. Record, Cassette, CD, MP3, some online platform or service . . . it’s all good!