Posts Tagged ‘Music’

By Paul Gaszak, English Faculty

Last week, when I introduced the Turtle’s weekly theme of Top 10 Song of All-Time, I said part of the purpose was to celebrate “the diversity of musical tastes.”

And the tastes were certainly diverse.

The Turtle Top 10 Lists appear in the new issue of The Eagle! Read it at

The Turtle Top 10 Lists appear in the new issue of The Eagle! Read it at

Five authors, five lists, and (unless I am mistaken) only ONE song was mentioned twice: Frank Sinatra’s version of “The Way You Look Tonight” made my Honorable Mentions list and was in Dr. Peter Stern’s Top 5. My Top 25 songs included, arguably, 12 or more genres of music. I wasn’t trying purposefully to be eclectic; those are just my tastes in music. Yet still, only one match.

There is a reason why I find this lack of matches interesting.

When people are getting to know someone new – colleagues, friends, dates, whatever – there are some typical topics that come up: favorite movies, TV shows, and music. In several of my classes, I even do an icebreaker that involves sharing our favorites in those categories. My reasoning is that this info is a nice, safe starting point: it is not too personal, it reveals a little bit about ourselves, and it potentially provides some points of commonality.

As we share this info, it seems like it should have value. We value and love our music; it is a part of our daily lives. Music attaches to moments in our memories. It, sometimes literally, becomes the soundtrack to our lives. It must have value, right? Thus, when we hear someone else likes the same music, there is an initial inclination to think this hints at a deeper connection.

Likewise, if meeting a date, people may later tell their friends, “He/she had GREAT taste in music!” (Which is really just a biased, narcissistic way of saying, “They like the SAME music as me!”) This connection wants to be a hint at compatibility.

However, this information about musical tastes turns out to be largely irrelevant in establishing any kind of relationship with another person.

I consider all of the Turtle Hall of Famers who compiled song lists to be my friends. I love them all: I enjoy working with them, hanging out with them, talking to them. There were some songs on their lists that I also like, or even love. There were some songs and artists that I utterly detest. But, generally speaking, our musical interests are radically different.

Beyond them, I don’t know anyone in my personal world who would have a list of songs that shaped up exactly like mine: not family, not people I’ve dated, none of my friends.

Yes, there may be particular artists or songs that we have in common, but my unique set of favorites is just that: unique. And the lists from the other Turtle HOFers were also unique.

If we used the lists as some kind of personality test before knowing each other, it might suggest we are all too different to get along. Yet, we do get along.

As time has gone on, I’ve grafted musical tastes from other people onto my own. I think we all do this. Likewise, others have come to know and love new music through me.

And that, I believe, is the true value of the lists we created last week. It wasn’t for readers to see which author they most identify with, or which author they believe has the “best taste” in music. The lists simply do not work as a compatibility or personality test. Rather, the lists were an opportunity for diversity and sharing; it was an opportunity to expose people to artists, songs, and genres they may not have otherwise taken a look at.


By Jenny Jocks Stelzer, English Faculty. 

So, I am totally on vacation right now, but, I’m writing this piece to make sure my Turtle peeps don’t hate on me too much. They are all on campus in a freezing-cold downtown Chicago building while I lay on a beach in Michigan right now, trying to keep sand out of my iPhone.

My list comes from my recent weeks of repeats on my iPhone. If you know me well, you’ve seen me (or can imagine me) singing and nodding my head while biking my kids to camp, biking to work out at the YMCA, or biking to bikram yoga.

Disclaimer: My list is only 5 songs long. Come on! I said I’m on vacation!

1. “My Favorite Song” by Chance The Rapper featuring Childish Gambino. Frankly, I would make this Chicago youngster’s mix tape my entire “favorite” list of this summer as it is trippy, sweet, dirty, and confused. Just like growing up. It images (15)makes me feel like a kid. And like I’m in trouble. Big trouble. My real fave on the album right now is “Lost” with Noname Gypsy. Sooo bad. Sooo good.

2. “Kinda Outta Luck” by Lana Del Rey. Summertime favorites have to make you feel like you’d do something you wouldn’t. I wouldn’t, of course, but Lana kinda makes me wanna.

3. “Go Home” by Dessa. A nod to the sad-bastard aesthetic. This song, and Dessa’s voice, makes me weak in the knees and flat-out crushes me. And I love it. Plus, this white-girl rapper is the girl I want to be. Check out “Sadie Hawkins” for a taste of her flow.

4. “I Am a God” by Kanye West. I know: he makes better beats than rhymes. He’s pure ego. He’s made better albums (well, maybe), and white, feminist chicks like me aren’t supposed to like him. But: God. Damn. The rhymes on the Yeezus album are dope, its a punch-in-the-face contemplation on race and exploitation, and, it embodies one thing I LOVE about hip-hop. Unabashed masculinity, anger, and sexuality. God. Damn.

5. “Gold” by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. Really. What do I want in my music? JOY. Macklemore delivers in all of his work (even the serious stuff, which is totally poignant, personal, and heartbreaking). This song is pure, nod ya head, shake ya booty JOY. It’s theme-song worthy for a girl like me.

Okay, that’s it. You already know about my devotion to JT (his album is my current vacation soundtrack) and as I wrap this up, I’m still giggling about “what rhymes with hug me” as I slip my earbuds back in and end this summer on the beach with a little more joy.

By Tricia Lunt, English Faculty. 

The title comes from a request made by a guest (whose name I’ve long forgotten) at one of the innumerable parties my roommates and I hosted at 136 East Norwich, our college house at The Ohio State University.  Whenever I play DJ, I abide by those immortal words.

The list below is slightly odd, and certainly doesn’t really reflect my day-to-day musical listening habits. My tastes tend toward the unpredictable. For example, I am an unadventurous eater, but my favorite cuisine is Indian, and my favorite dishes are pho and sushi. This exotic list belies the fact that I have oatmeal with raisins for breakfast every morning. Perhaps favorites require that special quality which elevates them above the mundane. Favorites are special; they command our attention. They must be heard. So, for me, the definition of a “favorite song,” means when the song is over, I want to play it again, and I often do. Maybe you will, too.

Here are just ten of my favorite songs

“Ain’t Nothing Wrong with That,” by Robert Randolph and the Family Band

I play this song during class on occasion just to destabilize my students. It is a spectacular jam with a positive message, which is nice.

Love this video, too.  

“Black Betty,” by Ram Jam

Honestly, I didn’t know the artist of this song was until I looked it up. I will forget the name, but that bass line—unforgettable.

“Delirious,” by Prince

If the velocity with which Prince begs, “Girl U gotta take me 4 a little ride up and down
In and out and around your [leg],” doesn’t do it for ya, nothing will.

*No link because Prince doesn’t do free music. Album Prince 1979 by Prince, web grab

“Everybody Knows,” by Leonard Cohen

Smoky, acerbic, and devastating.

“For Once in My Life,” by Stevie Wonder

This (faulty) syllogism essentially sums up my feelings about Mr. Wonder.

God is Love

Love is Blind

Stevie Wonder is Blind

Stevie Wonder is God

“Howling for You,” by The Black Keys

I’m a sucker for the Blues sound. As I have said at countless Black Keys concerts, their music makes me feel like my body has been transformed into warm molasses.

The hilarious music video doesn’t hurt.

“Killer Queen,” by Queen

You had me at Freddie Mercury.

“Midnight Train to Georgia,” by Gladys Knight & The Pips

I have a reasonable singing voice, and a surprising amount of rhythm, but I find it categorically impossible to sing along because Gladys Knight’s phrasing is freakishly difficult and ultimately astonishing. And as far as heartbreak goes, I’m on board.

“Rock Me Right,” by Susan Tedeschi

Oh, lordy, I heard her belt this song as the opening number on a second stage at Lillith Fair, when my world was young. She is an extraordinary musician, and, oh, that voice!

“Sweet Nothing,” by Calvin Harris featuring Florence Welch

This is my current favorite, and I’ve got the uncontrolled, thrashing dance moves to prove it.

Tomorrow morning, I will be devastated for forgetting a crucial favorite, but of the many wonders making the 21st century a marvelous time to live, at practically the moment I think of it, I am able to listen to a favorite song.

By Michael Stelzer Jocks, History Faculty.

When Paul Gaszak approached me about his idea to do a ‘favorite songs’ series of posts, I thought “what a great idea.”  As I sat down to start compiling my list, I realized it was not going to be as easy as I initially assumed.  Some dilemmas:

  • What were my criteria going to be?  Favorite songs spanning all genres?  Should I add Beethoven, and/or Miles Davis to the list?
  • Should I pick recent songs that have lately become favorites, or old standards that I have loved for years?
  • Can I have a favorite song by an artist I don’t like that much?

I realized something interesting about my music tastes.  I really don’t focus upon songs as much as I do albums. I think I would have had a much easier time compiling a list of my favorite albums, or even favorite bands, than favorite songs. Nonetheless, I persevered and came up with a list.  It is 1.) made up solely of rock/pop/r&b and 2.) composed of songs that I have loved for at least 5 years.

Here it is, ordered chronologically from oldest to most recent.

  • Gimme Shelter, by The Rolling Stones, 1969: ‘The Beatles or the Rolling Stones?”  That is the classic rock and roll question. I love both bands, but I can’t say there is ONE Beatles song that is my favorite. So, I chose Gimme Shelter by the Stones because it just seems to encapsulate the late 1960’s.  It is unfortunate that the Stones are now the symbol of geriatric rockers because they were once bad-ass rebels.  Just goes to show that real rock is the art of  rebellious youth.

  • My Cherie Amour, by Stevie Wonder, 1969: This is simply a perfect love song. It is impossible not to put a smile on your face. Your body just sways when Stevie starts to sing.
  • London Calling, by The Clash, 1979: I needed some punk rock.  This has always been my favorite Clash song. Not an original choice, but when the hard-driving guitars hit in time with the pounding drums, you gotta move.
  • Welcome to the Terrordome, by Public Enemy, 1989: Still one of my favorite rap songs, by one of my favorite rap groups. Chuck D was/is incredible. Politics, anger, poetry.
  • Waterfall, by The Stone Roses, 1989: A perfect pop song. Between 1988 and 1990, The Stone Roses created incredibly infectious music.  I highly recommend their eponymous 1989 debut album for 11 perfect pop songs much like the one I chose.
  • Sennen, by Ride, 1991: Ride is mostly forgotten today, but twenty years ago they captured the ‘shoe-gazing’ flash of the early 90’s. Wall-of-sound production, jingly-jangly guitars, whispered lyrics.  Love it.
  • Lover, You Should’ve Come Over, by Jeff Buckley, 1994:  Jeff Buckley released the album ‘Grace’ in 1994.  Three years later, while working on his second album, he drowned in the Mississippi River. A tragic ending for an artist with incredible potential.  Here is a live version of my favorite song from his finished masterpiece.
  • Paranoid Android, by Radiohead, 1997: Ah, what Radiohead song to pick?  I will go for this one simply for the line, “Ambition makes you look pretty ugly, kicking screaming Gucci little piggy.” Another live version.  Radiohead is amazing live.
  • Via Chicago, by Wilco, 1999: For me, Wilco is an ‘album band’ more than a ‘song band’. Their albums have been great, but I can’t say many of their songs would be in my top ten.  However, Via Chicago is an exception.  My wife makes fun of me for liking ‘sad bastard’ music, and I would say this song definitely fits into that category.
  • The Way He Sings, by My Morning Jacket, 2002: My Morning Jacket does something different with each album.  Though I also enjoy their more experimental stuff, this shows their melodic chops.

So, there you go.  I don’t often listen to many of these songs at this point in my life, but they go up on my all-time favorites. I intentionally avoided more recent music because I can’t be sure my favorite song of this year will still be a favorite in 2014. However, there are a couple songs that look promising.   You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb by Spoon, Laredo by Band of Horses, Helplessness Blues by Fleet Foxes, Skinny Love by Bon Iver, Green Aisles by Real Estate, Dance Away by Smith Westerns or Lazuli by Beach House have a good chance of making this list in the future. We will need to wait and see.

By Paul Gaszak, English Faculty

This week on The Flaneur’s Turtle, we are celebrating the summer music season and the diversity of musical tastes by sharing our Top 10 Favorite Songs of All-Time! Each author will have their own list and their own criteria for their Top 10.

For my list, I used gut reaction to pull 45 finalists out of my entire music collection. From there, I mulled over some hard choices to narrow the list to 35, then 25, then finally my Top 10. Like everyone, I have my “Flavor of the Week” songs I’m addicted to, such as “Beautiful” by Ben Rector, “Happy” by Pharrell Willliams, and “Little Games” by the Colourist. But songs with such an ephemeral standing in my active playlist did not make the cut. My Top 10 are songs that have stood the test of time and I continue to love them as much as I always have, or even more.

Paul’s Top 10 Songs (alphabetical order by artist)

“Like the Rain” by Clint Black (1996)
Arguably the most sentimental and “cheesy” song in my Top 10, but I care not! This is one of my favorite songs to sing along with, and it has solidly connected itself to many great memories in my life.

“I Go Back” by Kenny Chesney (2004)
I can’t NOT sing along with this song whenever it comes on. It is a tribute to music’s power to connect us to memories and moments in life.

“Showtime” by Electric Six (2007)
Electric Six is my favorite band, and “Showtime” is the short, ridiculous starter to many of their live shows. Non-fans who are unfamiliar with E6’s brand of quirkiness and humor may not get this song, but fans at the shows are ready at the first sound of the opening guitar riff – and at the sight of lead singer Dick Valentine gracing the stage in a purple cape with the word “SHOWTIME” written on it in sparkly letters. Ridiculous and amazing.

“Life, Love, and Happiness” by Brian Kennedy (1996)
I’ve been listening to this song for years, and I still get chills during the intro of the “Live in Belfast” version as the audience is clapping along and Kennedy and his band harmonize on, “Oh, don’t let go again. Because it’s your life, love, your happiness.” (Since you’ve likely never heard of Brian Kennedy, here is an American-popularity-level equivalency for this Irish artist: he is a a judge on Ireland’s version of the “The Voice.”)

“Mudhouse” by Bob Schneider (2006)
Bob Schneider is a legend on the Austin, Texas music scene whose catalog of music is more eclectic than any other artist I’ve encountered, with amazing songs ranging from hard rock to jazz to salsa. “Mudhouse” is a fun, acoustic Hip Hop/Rap song that is a hit at his live shows.

“You Raise Me Up” by Secret Garden w/ Brian Kennedy (2002)
Before “You Raise Me Up” became a global hit that was covered by literally hundreds of artists, including Josh Groban’s very blah version here in America, it began as a song from the Norwegian new age duo Secret Garden with lead vocals from Irish vocalist Brian Kennedy. I stumbled upon the song when it was released in 2002 and instantly loved it (and then, as a consequence, found my way to all of Brian Kennedy’s music). The song proliferated through countless covers and went from unknown to overexposed, but it is the original – and any version led by Kennedy – that is still the best.

“Mission Temple Fireworks Stand” by Paul Thorn (2002)
I don’t even know what to say about the silly, upbeat, amazing gospel-country-rock-ish tune. It is possible you’ve come across a slightly better known cover version by country band Sawyer Brown w/ Robert Randolph.

“Recovery” by Frank Turner (2013)
Frank Turner is an English folk-punk singer-songwriter (that combo will make more sense when you listen to the song) whose energy and resonant lyrics are captivating. He is better known in the UK than in America, but I won’t be surprised if that changes very quickly.

“Somebody Like You” by Keith Urban (2002)
I adamantly defend Country music, because most people who criticize the genre prove just how little they actually know about it within just a sentence or two, by saying something stupid like,  “All country music is just sappy songs about your truck breaking down and your dog running away.” Any real fan of music knows that sweeping generalizations and negative stereotypes about ANY genre just don’t hold up. And when defending Country, one of my prime contemporary counterarguments is Keith Urban. While he has the country twang in his voice (though he’s from Australia), and he has some classically country instruments in the band (banjo, anyone?), his lyrics are fit for any pop-rock song. Beyond that, check out Keith on the guitar during his mid-song solo. The man can absolutely, flat out shred. Country fans know this. Country haters, on the other hand, are missing out on one of the premier guitarists working today.

“Set Me Free” by Velvet Revolver (2003)
The now defunct super group Velvet Revolver wasn’t around long, but they made some incredible music in their short time together, including 2003’s “Set Me Free.” Scott Weiland’s growling, robotic verses are layered atop Duff McKagan’s vicious bass, all paving the way to the soaring choruses. The song is then punctuated by one of legendary guitarist Slash’s finest, and most aggressive, solos.

Honorable Mentions – The Rest of the Top 25 (alphabetical order by artist) 

“Hard Workin’ Man” by Brooks & Dunn
“Mind’s Made Up” by The Frames
“Sad Sad City” by Ghostland Observatory
“Dust N’ Bones” by Guns n’ Roses
“Billie Jean” by Michael Jackson
“Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” by Michael Jackson
“Canned Heat” by Jamiroquai
“Feels Just Like It Should” by Jamiroquai
“Little L” by Jamiroquai
“99 Problems” by Jay Z
“A Better Man” by Brian Kennedy
“40 Dogs (Like Romeo and Juliet)” by Bob Schneider
“Tumblin’ Dice” by Bob Schneider
“The Well” by The Silent Comedy
“The Way You Look Tonight” by Frank Sinatra

By Paul Gaszak, English Faculty

On Monday, I made the short trip from Chicago to Milwaukee to see one of my favorite musicians, Frank Turner. As with many of my favorite singers/bands, he was playing a mid-sized venue (this one being the conveniently named Turner Hall) packed with several hundred devoted fans.

I arrived a few hours early so I could eat before the show. As I left the parking garage next to the venue,  I saw Frank walking back to his tour bus from the next block over and then hanging out with a handful of people, either crew or band mates.

I did a double take, but mostly this didn’t strike me as unusual. As a fan of several lesser known artists, I’ve had countless sightings like this one, because these artists don’t need to hide backstage from rabid, adoring legions. Rather, I’ve seen them by their tour busses, or watching the opening acts with the crowd, or having a drink at a nearby bar after the show.

And I have a policy to not approach them.

Frank Turner

My point-of-view at Frank Turner’s show.

I was heading in the direction Frank had just come back from, but I walked past with no fanfare and no acknowledgement. A few hours later, I would be right near the stage being a fan: singing, dancing, taking pictures. But for now, I treated him like any other stranger on the streets of Milwaukee.

I almost always make this decision about celebrity close encounters, but I’ve never thought out why I act this way.

Until now.

1. Remember – celebrities eat lunch, too: As a teacher, I can empathize with celebrities in one small way: some people in our audience (the students) forget that teachers still exist when not “on stage” in class. We aren’t chained to the lectern; we eat lunch, we have friends and family, we need sleep. Likewise, maybe Frank was relaxing pre-show or coming back from lunch on the same street I was heading toward. He didn’t need me bugging him. Our time for interaction is during the show.

2. Respect, but don’t idolize: A decade ago, I saw comedian Lewis Black at the small Zanies Comedy Club in Vernon Hills before he got famous and started headlining theaters. Afterward, he was at folding table in the back selling his CD. No one was approaching. As I exited past him, I paused to shake his hand and said, “Great show.” He smiled and said thanks. I didn’t orchestrate some attempt to go talk to him, and I wasn’t being a fanboy looking to repeat my favorite punchlines back to him. I didn’t want pictures or autographs. We were in proximity and I quickly acknowledged that I enjoy and respect his work. End of transaction.

3. Do I honestly have anything to say?: One of my favorite authors, David Sedaris, packs theaters for hilarious readings of his works. Before and after his shows, he signs books and meet fans. Oftentimes the line is hundreds deep. The one time I saw him at the Paramount Theater in Aurora, IL, he was sitting alone at a table by the front entrance when I arrived. I could have walked directly up to him, but I didn’t. This is a man whose work I adore, whose writing I try to emulate, whose literature I teach in my classes – yet still, I had no pressing questions or statements for him. So, what was I going to say? “Hey, I love your writing.” No kidding – I’m at the theater, aren’t I? Likewise with Frank or any other artist, do I honestly have anything of value to say to them that they don’t hear from hundreds of other fans at every stop on tour?

4. What if they suck?: Normally, I separate my feelings about an artist from my feelings about their work. But with my absolute favorites, I am nervous. What if they are mean or rude or dismissive? What if they say something stupid that I disagree with? What if they are generally unlikable? I fear that would ruin, or at least severely harm, my ability to enjoy their work in the future.

So, after a truly Wisconsin meal of a bratwurst, cheese curds, and some brews, I headed back to the venue and took my position at the foot of the stage. When I saw Frank this next time, it was a far more fitting situation for our interaction.

By Michael Stelzer Jocks, History Faculty. 

A couple days ago the New York Times ran a story about the re-dating of an ancient flute found in modern day Germany.  The flute, made of bird bone and mammoth ivory, was thought to be 36,000 years old but more recent dating has pushed the age of the flute to roughly 43,000 years old.  This is the oldest musical instrument known, though that doesn’t mean it was the first musical instrument.  Absence of evidence does not mean evidence of absence.  I have no doubt that buried deep within caves of Africa there exist remnants of even more ancient musical instruments that early humans crafted and used.

Lascaux Cave Bull

Though there may be older ones waiting to be found, a 43,000 year old flute is pretty darned ancient.  To put this into context, the famous cave art at Lascaux was probably completed 25,000 years after this flute was utilized. This is more than just an interesting side-note in the New York Times Science section, or in the world of archeology. This flute says something important about humanity.  Such an amazing finding provides evidence that music is as ancient as any human artistic expression and that human nature is inherently musical. Symbolic language is usually the trait scientists identify as to what makes humans different from other animals, but music cannot be far off. In fact, evolutionary archeologist Steven Mithen believes that human language and human music are very much interrelated. Though this is a controversial idea, there is no debating that the symbolic use of music provides another example of human uniqueness.

Knowledge of the flute raises the inevitable question: What did these ancient Europeans use music for? That we may never know, but it sure is fun to guess.  A safe assumption would be that music was central to proto-religious and spiritual rituals; perhaps it was utilized to calm nerves and entrance listeners, especially infants; or, maybe music was used for entertainment and dance.   It doesn’t seem like a big stretch to believe that dance went hand in hand with this ancient instrument. Dance has probably been with us for as long as music, though, of course, there will never be any physical remnant found that proves this to be the case.  But just as music is a part of all human cultures, dance and physical reactions to music are as well.  It doesn’t matter who you are, it is darned near impossible not to have a kinetic reaction to music as it is played.  Tapping of toes, drumming of fingers, whistling, humming; these things come naturally.

I would go so far as to argue that dance is an inborn human response to music. If this seems doubtful to you, crank up some beats for the nearest infant you can find.  The smallest children are enthralled by music, and will move rhythmically when some tune catches their attention.  I know this first hand, since at 6 to 9 months old my daughters loved playing drums, blowing flutes, and hitting piano keys, while swaying or shaking rhythmically to the sounds they made. Children develop this desire even before they have the ability to speak words.  I am sure 43,000 years ago, some prehistoric parents were amazed to figure this out; or, maybe they were simply relieved to realize a good way to keep their baby occupied was to let him pound on the ole’ reindeer hide drums.