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Kids Draw The Music

Inspired by a recent article in San Francisco’s East Bay Express wherein Rob Harvilla asked fifth graders to illustrate their impressions of Radiohead songs, we decided to conduct an experiment of our own. We visited Kate Rice’s fifth-grade class at Goodwright Middle School and, instead of Radiohead, we played them several selections from a mixed bag of artists and asked them to illustrate their impressions.

In Da ClubWe decided to break the ice with 50Cent’s “In Da Club”. Several of the boys began to bob with the music and chanted along excitedly with the stanza “I’m into havin sex, I ain’t into makin’ love…” We assumed the children wouldn’t know what the line meant but were informed by Miss Rice that, as a few of the more animated boys had children of their own, they most assuredly knew what the song was about.

Mars Volta BunnyAt Miss Rice’s request, we switched to something a little less topical, critically lauded rockers the Mars Volta. The band’s neo-psychedelic sounds were greeted with blank stares and a few epithets from the back of the classroom. One child who didn’t lay her head down on her desk or stare blankly out the window was Britney Pruitt. So as not to disturb her, we asked Miss Rice to shed some light on why Britney was interpreting Mars Volta by drawing a rabbit. “She just likes ‘bunnies.’ It’s practically all she ever talks about. Frankly, I’m a little sick of hearing about it. And just between you and me, I think she’s a little s-l-o-w.”

The DarknessIn an attempt to rouse the class we switched to UK sensations The Darkness. The sound of heavily distorted guitars was greeted by most of the class with approval. This initial reaction changed somewhat with the start of the first verse. The children exchanged puzzled looks and some expressed confusion as to the singer’s gender. “This lady sounds funny!” laughed one child. We did notice one student sketching a picture. Curious, we asked Cody Mayers what his drawing represented. “That’s my Uncle Ron.” Mayers told us that his Uncle Ron listened to “music like this.” Curious as to why he used the past tense we asked Cody to elaborate. Mayers explained that his Uncle Ron “borroweded (sic) stuff” from members of the Mayers household without returning it. “He lived with us until my dad hit him but I wasn’t allowed to go down in the basement to look for my Play Station.” As Miss Rice was unavailable to correct Cody’s grammar, we informed him that his uncle obviously “stoleded” his Play Station to support a methamphetamine and Cover Girl habit.

Toby KeithFew artists have stirred controversy in quite the way that Toby Keith has. Rather than stir up more debate, we were interested to see how the class would interpret “Beer for my Horses.” One of the Mars Volta’s most vocal detractors, Keyshawn Green, immediately requested another Hip-hop song. Intrigued, we asked Keyshawn if he disagreed with the selection based upon Keith’s fiercely patriotic stance or, perhaps, his support of the war in Iraq. His response (wherein he typified Keith as “some ol’ cracker-ass bow-shit”) earned him a quick trip to the principal’s office.


Sheryl CrowMiss Rice asked us if we could finish our experiment quickly before the tensions in the classroom escalated any further. Within a few moment’s of Sheryl Crow’s First Cut is the Deepest, Cody Rosen offered his opinion that “only people’s Nanas” could enjoy Crow’s brand of Americana. Sensing our discomfort, young Cody then asked me if we enjoyed her music. We responded that we did and, without thinking that our opinion might adversely influence the class’, we attempted to explain. Before we had a chance to elaborate on an off-hand statement we had made about the application of a post-modern sensibility to what is more commonly thought of as a traditional genre, Cody asked our age. We responded “38.”.

Unable to quell the subsequent pandemonium, Miss Rice hurriedly thanked us for our visit, apologized again for the behavior of her students and pointed us toward the door.

Here for you now are the few interpretations that Miss Rice was able to salvage and hand-deliver to us at a tiny bistro near her nicely appointed and surprisingly spacious apartment.

Thanks to RRC Forum member Uck.

 

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