Just a few hours ago I finished my very first lecture at my very first post PhD job. And it was exciting, let me tell you. I have the rare privilege of teaching the very stuff that matters most to my research. It's great!
In the past few weeks I've been culling together my materials for this class and a few things occurred to me about the nature of teaching pop music classes, especially those classes that rub up against the present. At a certain level, we must consume pop culture at an accelerated rate approaching hyper-consumption. Those of us who work in that vague temporal period known as "Music of the 20th Century and Beyond" must somehow keep up with the ever-changing pop cultural landscape through consumption. This is a pop cultural landscape increasingly characterized by ever-changing niche markets and sub-sub-genres where the mainstream isn't as central as it was just five or ten years ago (let alone what it was during Michael Jackson's hey-day). Those of us who work on music from different parts of the world have an even greater challenge of keeping up with pop culture shifts in multiple places. It can be a bit dizzying.
Some of us are really savvy at navigating this new cultural landscape. We read music blogs, twitter and what have you. We pay attention to what we hear on our favorite TV shows and we keep up with our students' tastes as much as possible. Some of us are also pop music producers/performers and through that practice, we are always involved in what's going on. Or we try to be. It's a talent that I very much wish I had, but alas, I do not as of yet. As a blogger (and twitterer) and active user of the internet, I consume and listen as much as I can. But as an academic and a specialist, I often feel pressured to turn on that giant fire hose of pop culture at specific times to be as efficient as humanly possible. It's a common dilemma: there just isn't the time to hear all the great stuff that there is out there.
So how do we do it? Where do we set our limits? Apart from the basic ethical dilemmas of piracy (and a legal system that treats file-sharing as a very serious crime), I always feel myself turning into a hyper-consumer in the weeks leading up to a new class. (All of this doesn't even begin to approach the problems of making these examples accessible to students... but I digress.) I don't want the examples I cite to be dated or "played out," but I also don't want to compromise the arguments I wish to craft over the course of the term. It's a serious dilemma. Any ideas from the peanut gallery of professing pop scholars?