Classic Vinyl class traces music’s role in American culture

April 12, 2018

Troy University students are getting a crash course in pop music’s cultural power thanks to the John M. Long School of Music.

Classic Vinyl: Rock and Roll Revisited is a general studies course that takes students of all backgrounds on a trip through the modern history of popular music, and its relationship with society and culture.

“It’s almost a small sociology course packaged within rock music,” said Dr. John Jinright, who teaches the course. “There are so many real issues we can talk about, from racial issues to socioeconomic issues to corruption in the government and music industry, so many topics we like to grab for a day or two and wrestle with.”

Despite the course’s title, it deals with a variety of music genres, including everything from gangster rap to rockabilly.

The course uses open educational resources, including YouTube videos, to keep costs low for students.

“We find it works well, because you can just about find anything in rock history through YouTube,” Jinright said. “We also use a text that gives an international perspective of American rock and popular music.”

Students have reacted positively to the class since it started a few years ago.

“We listen to as many of the groups mentioned in the text as possible, because it immerses students in the story,” Jinright said. “We get a wide variety of students, and not everyone is happy every day – if we’re listening to disco, for instance — but there’s something here for everyone. I’ve had very positive feedback from students.”

The lessons are less about the musicians and more about the issues their music represented.

“This is not a history class, so you’re not memorizing band members or dates, but you’re wrestling with the issues the music is about, things that impact the music industry and the listeners,” Jinright said. “There’s a topic about copyright law, where we find that culture keeps building on itself. Culture is built on the past, and I enjoy introducing students to that so they have a little respect for artists in the ‘30s, ‘40s and ‘50s who paved the way for what we have now.”