chalkboard music

Waaaaaaay back in high school, when my hair was shorter and I was much smarter, we used to get to calculus class 10 minutes or so early. Odd, you might be thinking. Why would anyone do that? Though I confess to being a professional nerd now, it was not for intellectual reasons. It was purely social. We were in awe of what I would consider the third or fourth golden age of modern music: the Seattle sound. Our calculus classroom had chalkboards on all four walls and several of us-- mesmerized by the likes of Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Mudhoney, Mother Love Bone, Smashing Pumpkins, Alice in Chains, and Soundgarden (and the girls liked ex-Pixie Paul Westerberg)--would write as many lyrics to as many songs as we could think of in long strings covering all four boards. We attempted to complete an entire song or two before the teacher walked in, screamed at us, and proceeded to erase what we considered our best attempts at performance art. Sometimes she would miss one of the boards and we'd go on sniggering to ourselves through class. Humming would quietly erupt during lulls. Sometimes a number of hums would join together in impromptu chorus. They seemingly emanated from nowhere and everywhere at the same time. The camaraderie was great. The music was amazing. But certainly these things were in part--perhaps entirely--products of being 17, of driving, of trying to get girls and trying to get into college. Of being an upperclassman in an elite class at a crappy high school. We were free to be "cool nerds" at the top of our class (which was not a great one) and revel in something that seemed to set us off from our peers who could neither understand/appreciate the angst and irony of Nirvana nor deal with abstract mathematics. So it was just hormones and hubris. The music had nothing to do with it. Or did it? So I finally got Sufjan Stevens' Illinoise and all I can say is that it makes me want to put up chalkboards in my house and write the lyrics in long lines around and around and around. I want to have a class full of a dozen Sufjan fanatics humming along to "Concerning the UFO..." in front of a teacher who believes ABBA was the last great moment in music. And then I want a movie made about our generation staring Kyra Sedgwick, Bridget Fonda and Matt Dillon with cameos by Eddie Vedder and Chris Cornell.


Blogger John McCollum said...

Wow. Your generation must have been really fun.

8/29/2005 12:16 PM  
Blogger Andy Whitman said...

Not to be too picky, but Smashing Pumpkins were from Chicago, and Paul Westerberg was in The Placements (from Minneapolis), not the Pixies (from Boston).

And The Pixies pre-dated the "Seattle sound" by a good five years, and really provided the inspiration and impetus for bands like Nirvana.

My favorite Seattle band: The Posies, who sounded nothing like any of the above.

All that said, I have to applaud anybody who wants to scrawl Sufjan Stevens lyrics on a chalkboard. I can see how Sufjan would have that effect. I hope you get to check him out at Calvin College. BTW, Ken Heffner and Kate Bowman Johnson, who head the Arts/Entertainment festivities at Calvin, are two of the finest, most forward-thinking folks you'll find on any Christian campus. I hope you get to meet them, too.

8/29/2005 2:34 PM  
Blogger Andy Whitman said...

Re: the Placements, that should be the Replacements.

8/29/2005 2:34 PM  
Blogger Joshua said...


the 12th is out, i'm working that evening.

when they make a "singles" for our generation it should have the cast of "stand by me" in it.


8/30/2005 9:56 AM  
Blogger e said...

john--yes. you old timer you.
andy--though factually accurate, your corrections are beside the point. the point is that i can't remember the point because the music i was listening to was too damn loud and i lost most of my brain cells.

but it was fun. and i only slightly regret most of it.

thanks for the corrections :-)

jnf--another time, then. i'd have him autograph my chest, but the zena tattoo would get in the way. :-)

8/30/2005 10:43 PM  

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