Draw The Music
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.”.
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.
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.
Forum member Uck.