CentreTerm 2015: Prof. Bosco’s first-year students study politics through the lens of music
While every CentreTerm class challenges students to push their intellectual boundaries and consider new perspectives, first-year studies courses are an especially effective introduction to Centre College’s rich, stimulating liberal arts environment. Designed exclusively for first-year students, these CentreTerm seminars serve as the ideal launch pad for delving into higher-level academic work.
One of nearly 25 different first-year courses offered this CentreTerm is Assistant Professor of International Studies Robert Bosco’s Music and Politics class, in which students consider music in its broad political and social context.
“There are many, many ways in which music is political—from lyrics to genre to instrumentation, and even melody and rhythm,” explains Bosco (pictured above, right). “We connect these aspects of music to political themes, such as class politics, race, war, religion, generational change, gender and the government.”
Students have analyzed a broad range of musical genres, including punk, hip hop, country, rock, bassa nova, heavy metal and more. Through the political analysis of music, the course also introduces students to some important political theorists, like Plato, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Theodor Adorno, as well as to concepts such as nationalism, civil society and globalization.
“I want students to understand that politics is wider than just government or what politicians say,” notes Bosco. “I also want them to see that every choice musicians make, from instrument to tone, texture, volume, genre and, of course, lyrics, is deliberate. So the politics of it gets very fine-grained.”
The course is primarily discussion-based and consequently students remain deeply engaged in the course. Each Friday of CentreTerm, Bosco holds an “open mic” session in which students provide their own critical commentary on a song of their choice.
“Studying music and politics together has been really eye-opening for me,” reports first-year Sam Winkelman. “The ‘chart toppers’ are a great way to understand a country’s insights, and lyrics and stage performances can really clue people in to the way a nation thinks.”
“Music has always been a part of everyone’s lives throughout history, so it is a good way to chronicle time periods and events,” agrees first-year Melissa Mann. “Music connects people in a different way than anything else does.”
According to Bosco, a love of music has certainly connected the entire class, including him.
“During CentreTerm, the students and I explore and think through concepts together,” says Bosco. “I find myself saying ‘we’ the whole time instead of ‘you.’ We think through the political nature of music together.
“CentreTerm is an equalizer, and I think that is very healthy,” he adds.
Learn more about CentreTerm.
by Caitlan Cole