A Pair of Geography Playlists for your Monday

Happy Monday, and Happy Finals Week (depending on where you are) everyone. I’ve been fortunate to bring some fun subjects into what’s normally a stressful time for students and faculty alike.

My Globalization class (GEO 121) submitted their 4th paper, which required that they pick a song and pick apart its geographical references. My North American regional class (GEO 350) had a group zine semester project, which they are just submitting today. One group, who focused mainly on the American Southeast, did a zine devoted to music and region. Despite their thwarted attempts to burn a mix CD, they were still able to share their playlist with the class, which I’m passing along here.


GEO 121 Musical Geography Paper Class Playlist

  1. King 180 – ‘I Ain’t Goin’ Back Again’
  2. Sufjan Stevens – ‘Oh Detroit, Life Up Your Weary Head! (Rebuild! Restore! Reconsider!)
  3. Jason Aldean – ‘Crazy Town’
  4. Gordon Lightfoot – ‘The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald’
  5. Rise Against – ‘Help is On the Way’
  6. Kid Rock – ‘All Summer Long’
  7. Toto – ‘Africa’
  8. John Denver – ‘Take Me Home, Country Roads’
  9. The Kinks – ‘Waterloo Sunset’
  10. Israel Kamakawiwo’ole – ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’
  11. Nelly – ‘King’s Highway’
  12. The Manao Company – ‘Drop Baby Drop’
  13. Men at Work – ‘Down Under’
  14. Eminem, Royce da 5’9″, Big Sean, Danny Brown, Dej Loaf, Trick Trick – ‘Detroit vs. Everybody’
  15. U2 – ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’
  16. Logic – ‘Everybody’
  17. Lynyrd Skynyrd – ‘Sweet Home Alabama’
  18. Ray Charles – ‘Georgia on my Mind’
  19. We are the World 25 for Haiti
  20. The Hold Steady – ‘Confusion in the Marketplace’
  21. Arkells – ‘Michigan Left’
  22. Alan Jackson & Jimmy Buffett – ‘It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere’
  23. Highly Suspect – ‘Serotonia’
  24. The Specials – ‘Ghost Town’
  25. Jason Aldean – “Fly Over States’
  26. Shakira – ‘Waka Waka (This Time for Africa)’
  27. The HU – ‘Wolf Totem’
  28. OutKast – ‘ATLiens’
  29. Red Hot Chili Peppers – ‘Especially in Michigan’
  30. Panic! at the Disco – ‘Vegas Lights’
  31. Kid Rock – ‘Detroit, Michigan’
  32. Drake – ‘Know Yourself’
  33. John Denver – ‘Rocky Mountain High’
  34. Jim Jones ft. Fat Joe – ‘NYC’
  35. ‘Tear Me Down’ from “Hedwig & the Angry Inch”
  36. Tony Bennett – ‘I Left My Heart in San Francisco’
  37. Jack White – ‘Just One Drink’
  38. Jay-Z feat. Alicia Keys – ‘Empire State of Mind’

GEO 350 Group Project Playlist

  1. OutKast – “Ms. Jackson” (oooooh)
  2. Lil’ Jon – “Snap Yo Fingers”
  3. Wes Montgomery – “West Coast Blues”
  4. Blind Blake – “West Coast Blues”
  5. Blind Willie McTell – “Statesboro Blues”
  6. Mississippi Fred McDowell – “You Gotta Move”
  7. Garth Brooks – “Friends in Low Places’
  8. Johnny Cash – “Ring of Fire”
  9. Randy Travis – “Forever and Ever, Amen”
  10. Louis Armstrong – “What a Wonderful World”
  11. Nina Simone – “Backlash Blues” (Live at Montreaux 1976)
  12. Nina Simone – “Backlash Blues”
  13. Joe Hertler (CMU alum) & the Rainbow Seekers – “Evening Coffee’
  14. The Velvet Monkeys – “The Creeper”
  15. Scream – “Caffeine Dream”
  16. Fugazi – “Waiting Room”
  17. Charlie Daniels Band – “The Devil Went Down to Georgia”
  18. Lynyrd Skynyrd – “Sweet Home Alabama”
  19. The Allman Brothers – “Midnight Rider”

The Case for “Les Chaises Musicales”

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One beautiful day this July in Montreuil, France, I woke up (a bit later than I’d care to admit; I’m a night owl and I’d had a lot of interview notes to write up) and wandered down toward the Metro station. I bought a sandwich from the pastisserie and wandered over to the park next to the Public Library by the mairie (town hall). The park, always abuzz with activity, afforded few benches which I could sit upon without the mid-day sun blinding me. (Fair notice: if you invite me for lunch and insist that we eat outside, I’ll do it because I’m a grateful person, but I won’t exactly love it; the sun scorches, bugs bite, and the wind blows). I wandered past the library’s entrance looking for a good spot to sit and eat when I heard Johnny Cash’s voice emanating from a nearby grotto. It wasn’t Sun-era Johnny Cash, either; this was dying, recording-in-an-armchair, Rick-Rubin-calling-the-shots, Johnny Cash. The song was “First Time I Ever Saw Your Face” from American IV: The Man Comes Around (2002). Anyone familiar with Johnny Cash’s baritone, especially at this point in his life, could imagine how much hearing it changed my sunny disposition (however slightly; I was so excited for what I was about to discover).

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The library management had placed some lawn chairs out in the grotto and set up a pair of high-definition speaker monitors, blasting an eclectic playlist of 19 songs. An equally eclectic crowd sat and listened to the music. It was amazing. They weren’t talking or treating it as background noise. While some read and others napped, they were all just sitting casually and listening. Some of the selections were mainstream (The Beach Boys’ “God Only Knows”, others weren’t (Calexico’s “Woven Birds”). Some tracks were instrumental (Morton Feldman’s “Variations”), others were vocal (Billie Holiday’s “Summertime”), some hip-hop (RZA’s “My Lovin’ is Digi”), some rock n’ roll (Elvis Presley’s “Blue Moon”), some folk (Woody Guthrie’s “You Souls of Boston”), all strangely transcendent to hear flowing out of a public library’s outdoor PA system.

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The moment I sat down, Nirvana’s unplugged rendition of the Meat Puppets’ “Plateau” started playing, as if they sensed an aging guy in an 80’s hardcore t-shirt had wandered over.

I don’t know how often they do this, but I can’t think of a nicer way to spend a lunch break. If I find the time anytime soon, I would like to bring this to the Knoxville Library and see if they’d like to give it a shot on Market Square or somewhere else central. It’s a great way to both present popular music in a sophisticated way and provide an ostensibly free public service for people who want to engage in public life. As much as I imagine Parisians to be more prone to this, that’s all the more reason to give it a test-run on this side of the pond.