While music has always been an integral aspect of my life, I don’t play any instruments, am unable to read music, and can have pretty significant stage fright. For those reasons, I never imagined taking a music course at Whitman. Yet when I saw an opening in the course Meet The Beatles, I immediately added it to my class schedule for the Spring semester.
I grew up listening to The Beatles. In fact, I’m quite certain my father made it a priority that I understood who they were and how influential they had been to the 1960s and to Rock’n’Roll before I was in middle school. Their albums were constantly playing during car rides to school and in the living room on weekends but, although I had most of their songs memorized, I had never analyzed the band and their evolution in the way my new music class explores.
Taught by Professor Doug Scarborough, the course delves into The Beatles’ career, their music, and social impact. Taking a historical, musical, and sociological perspective, the class is interested in advancing recording technologies, movements such as Beatlemania, the music industry, and ‘60s youth culture. Materials for the course have included topics such as the development of the unique Beatle sound, the often underestimated power of their young female fans, and the history of the band before and after their arrival in America. Students in this course listen to a Beatles’ album each week, eventually hearing every official Beatles song in order of release. There are no prerequisites for this class and you do not need to have any background in music theory, yet the information presented allows students to examine the structure and detail of the music and recording techniques thoroughly. Sometimes, if we are lucky, our professor even explains a concept by playing the piano for us.
In Meet The Beatles we push beyond the historical facts to explore other themes such as The Beatles’ interaction with normative masculinity, or the ways in which the band’s evolving complexity within their lyrics mirrors its socio-historical context. I have analyzed how understanding Beatlemania as a constructed force and not a teenager-charged fluke allows us to notice it is interwoven with significance for women and generating universal social change. I have speculated about the motivations of Paul McCartney and John Lennon in their songwriting evolution- hoping to discover explanations for why their song themes shifted so drastically in their later years. For my latest assignment, I researched the use of animal sounds in the music of the Beatles and its position within popular culture. The informative and engaging course material in Music 140 has not only been fun to learn, but has greatly expanded my knowledge of The Beatles and 1960 America. Singing my favorite Beatles songs have become enriched with further awareness of their specific place in history. If you are passionate about music but unsure about taking a music class at Whitman, perhaps intimidated by a lack of natural talent, Meet The Beatles may be your perfect match.