Music, TV and comics are the things of our lives. We take them for granted, but they surround us and inspire us.
To prepare you for the University of Colorado Boulder, we offer this challenge—watch CU Boulder professors Adam Bradley, Richelle Munkhoff and William Kuskin discuss pop culture and ask yourself: What's your "hook"? What fires up your imagination and why?
Professor Adam Bradley
Here are two songs to get you thinking about the importance of studying silence.
Song #1: Joanna Newsom's "The Book of Right-on" is from her 2004 debut album, released when she was 22 years old. It's a stripped down affair. One woman. One instrument. One voice. That's all you hear. There's so much air around the notes she plucks on her harp, which makes her voice and the words she sings all the more striking and strange: "I killed my dinner with karate / Kick 'em in the face, taste the body / Shallow work is the work that I do." Where do you notice the silence?
Song #2: Desiigner's "Panda" was released in late 2015 by the 18-year-old rapper from Brooklyn. Without a record contract, he buys a trap beat from a 22-year-old producer from Manchester, England, named Menace for the grand sum of $200. He puts out a song on YouTube and Soundcloud about how the grille on a white BMW X6 looks a bit like a cuddly black and white bear. Kanye West hears it and puts part of the song on The Life of Pablo then signs Desiigner to his label. A few months later, "Panda" has sold over a million copies and hits No. 1 on the Billboard charts. How did this happen? What did Kanye hear? What do so many millions around the world hear? Listen for the moments when the song comes to rest, when it approaches silence. What work does the silence do?
Professor Richelle Munkhoff
If you’ve never seen "Breaking Bad," check out the AMC website. The whole show is great, but by looking at the AMC website you can get a feel for the setting and character. Think about how much we learn about the character from these brief snippets. For example, the RV featured in the first episode is a quintessential symbol of the middle-class family vacation, but here its dilapidated exterior masks a dangerous interior. The show mixes humor with fear and a deadly foreboding (especially if you are a viewer who has watched "Malcolm in the Middle" and know Bryan Cranston from his goofy role on that show). We also are firmly established in the landscape from the opening shots. What do we learn about the setting? How does it play off of these other themes?
The Poem: If you'd like to know a little bit more about the poem "Ozymandias" by Percy Shelley, check out this webpage from the British Library. You can read the poem, or listen to it being read with much less pizazz than Cranston's version!
Professor William Kuskin
Superman's origin from the first appearance of Superman, Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster, Action Comics #1, June 1938.
Batman's Origin by Bob Kane, Bill Finger and Gardner Fox, Batman #1, Spring 1940. A slightly different version of this same story appeared in Detective Comics #33, November 1939.
A more modern update by Jim Lee, Jeph Loeb and Alex Sinclair, in Batman: Hush. Note the similarities and differences from the original version. Which tells a better story and why?