New York University’s Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music in the Tisch School of the Arts has announced that the Grammy-winners Harry Weinger and Ahmir “?uestlove” Thompson will co-teach a new course for its students this spring that will explore what makes a music album a classic.
“In our continued quest to bring the professional work to the classroom, we're thrilled that Harry and ?uestlove will be co-teaching this groundbreaking new course,” said Jeffrey Rabhan, chair of the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music. “It is an incredible opportunity for our students and I'm confident that all involved will be enriched by this experience.”
The course, entitled Topic: Classic Albums, will look at a series of subjective examples of classic albums (in many cases albums that the instructors hold dear), and deconstruct how and why those albums have come to be considered as seminal in the trajectory of popular music. Among the albums that may be discussed: Sly & the Family Stone’s Stand! and There's A Riot Goin’ On; Aretha Franklin’s Lady Soul; Led Zeppelin’s IV; The Eagles’ Hotel California; Marvin Gaye’s 70s albums, from What's Going On to Here, My Dear; Prince’s Dirty Mind; Michael Jackson’s Off The Wall; Public Enemy’s It Takes A Nation Of Millions to Hold Us Back; Beastie Boys’ Paul's Boutique; and Mary J. Blige’s My Life. Moreover, it will deconstruct the music, the production, and the marketing of these albums, putting them in social and political context and exploring the range of reasons why they have garnered classic status.
The concept for the course, explains Associate Professor Jason King, came from a controversial summer 2012 NPR op-ed piece in which one of its interns claimed that Public Enemy's landmark 1988 album It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back does not live up to its hype as a classic album. In the comments section of that op-ed ?uestlove challenged the intern to do more research to figure out why the album indeed warrants its classic status. “We'd already been hoping to bring in ?uestlove as an instructor,” said King, “but his comments on the NPR blog gave me the idea that he'd be perfect to co-teach a course precisely on that subject, what makes an album classic or not.”
A veteran of the entertainment industry, Harry Weinger is a multiple Grammy-winning reissue producer, writer, and educator who is currently vice president of A&R for Universal Music Enterprises, the catalog reissue arm of Universal Music Group. Among his works Weinger is noted for producing the successful reissue series “Funk Essentials,” the subject of numerous national articles including a five-star review in Rolling Stone, and The New York Times named his 4-CD box set Star Time a definitive overview of the music of James Brown, one of the “Top 25 Recordings of the 20th Century.” A cum laude graduate of Ithaca College with a BS in Communications, Weinger was music director of the school’s nationally recognized radio station. In addition to his adjunct courses at NYU, he has delivered talks on music history and the music business at Princeton University, Duke University, Washington University at St. Louis, and others.
Ahmir “?uestlove” Thompson is the unmistakable heartbeat of The Roots, Philadelphia’s most influential hip-hop band. The Grammy award-winning musician's indisputable reputation has landed him musical directing positions with everyone from D'Angelo to Eminem to Jay-Z. He is the musical director for Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and his beloved Roots crew serves as house band. A potent musical archivist and informal scholar, Thompson serves as one of the most highly visible public intellectuals in popular music today.
The Classic Albums course is just one example of the types of groundbreaking courses offered at the Clive Davis Institute. Examples of others this fall include: a course on Apple taught by Eliot Van Buskirk of Evolver.fm; a course on Freddie Mercury taught by Jason King; and a look at the 25th anniversary of Paul Simon's Graceland album taught by Ashley Kahn, author and professor.
The Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music is the first of its kind to provide professional business and artistic training toward a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. The undergraduate program is designed to provide professional training for students who aspire to succeed as creative entrepreneurs in the music industry. The program bears the name of its chief patron and advisor, Clive Davis.