Are You Hearing Me?

I taught a lesson today where I had the kids read and interpret the meaning of Stevie Wonder’s I Just Called to Say I Love You. This happened because our textbook (which is written by Kyrgyz nationals) includes a supplementary section at the back of the 11th form textbook, and for some reason this section is chock full of American classics. The lesson was a success for the most part. Meaning students were engaged, and only paused to look at their phones every ten seconds rather than the usual five. I don’t think I will be writing into education publications anytime soon, but it was a fun lesson. Even better than that though is the fact that the lesson now has me thinking about how I listen to music.

What I mean to say is that I’ve listened to Welcome to the Jungle by Guns N’ Roses at least 300 times, but I still can’t seem to remember the lyrics. I can give out loads of interesting tidbits about the band though. For example did you know that Coma, the closing track off of Use Your Illusion I, has only been preformed live four times? There’s no reason why I should be able to pull that fact out of thin air, and yet the words of a song, that I’ve listened to for more than 1,500 combined minutes, elude me.

When I listen to music the words just sort of melt around me I guess. I hear them, but at the same time I’m just letting the song take me away. Where the song leads and how much the song is story based has an affect on what lyrics I recall. Take The Sweetness by Jimmy Eats World, which is just now finishing up on my iTunes. I have owned that song since at least high school. If I wanted to sing along with the song as it was playing I figure that I could do a passable job cobbling together the words. Take the song away, however, and I’d be absolute rubbish.[1] I suppose that my lyrical difficulties could have something to do with the fact that I have 30,000 plus songs in my music library. Maybe mine is a thoroughly millennial problem in that my attention is divided amongst various songs. However, this thought isn’t exactly comforting I much prefer the idea that how I listen to music keeps me from memorizing lyrics.

Music is less like series of sounds and more like a focusing point that I use at different points throughout the day to keep focused, relax, or just try to stay awake. I’ve always loved musical history in every form other than that of the lyrical. In fact in my college application essay I wrote about how my love for music brought together my love for History and English. [2] Much like my study of English grammar, however, I must admit that remembering lyrics was not a serious focus of said essay. As the great Moris Albert once sang, “Feelings, nothing more than feelings.”[3] The result being that feeling behind the words tends to take center stage inside my head.

Ah well nobody’s perfect I suppose. Just going to have to make do with my copious knowledge of musical history. Tomorrow I’ll find out just how successful my 11th form students were at interpreting lyrics. After last class I assigned them Celine Dion’s My Heart Will Go On for homework. I suppose that I should have a glance at the lyrics, but really what’s the point?

[1] Apologies for the odd word choice I’ve been re-reading Harry Potter of late.

[2] Those of you reading this 40 years from now should refer to my presidental library. I am sure that it is bound to be somewhere in the archives.

[3] Apologies to my English professors for not sourcing this.


3 thoughts on “Are You Hearing Me?

  1. I don’t understand the connection between the song and the supplementary section in the back of the textbook.

    And the kids all have cell phones? iPhones? Wow, that surprises me.

    Loved the discussion of how you listen to music, and how you use music. I’ve never understood how you can listen to music and do schoolwork, or anything like that. I end up listening to the music and not working.

    To each his own, I guess.

    Love to you, Mom


  2. Phones!!!? My coworkers complain about children and phones in the classroom. But old school Tucker has few problems. I don’t allow them and I’m allowed to not allow them. I teach baby ninth graders, and that might be a difference. I give permission to make a call or text occasionally. Or students want to take a picture of notes we’ve constructed together. And often they ask to listen to music on their phones as they work independently.
    But the work is interrupted as the students, too often in my opinion, fiddle with the selection. Words in music clash with words needing to be written from my brain, though student brains are undoubtedly different.
    Interesting the issue is global.
    Hope your assessment is easy to score and that the students have interesting analyses.


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