“Music Plays Different Roles in our Lives ” How music has impacted ECC staff

Jenna McKee, Staff Writer

Music is a daily staple for most students; listening to music accompanies those walking to class, studying for a test or just sitting in one of the lounges. As often as students are seen listening to their favorite music on campus, it’s easy to forget how important music can be to teachers. 

Geoff Pynn, the head of the ECC philosophy department, has a wide range of musical interests, from Earl Sweatshirt and Juice WRLD to bands that use pipe organs and N64 gaming consoles to create sound.

“One of my favorite artists is this woman who records pipe organs, playing just one note for 30 minutes,” Pynn said. “I love experimental music. There’s also this guy, ‘Look Mum No Computer,’ who took 64 game boys, detached the screens and made one giant screen, each connected to a keyboard, and played notes through the game boys.”

Pynn also expressed his nuances on the idea of ‘good’ music and the industry. 

“I think there’s good music in everything,” Pynn said. “I don’t like or dislike genres. Good music is music that takes the rules of its genre and uses that to make something really memorable or strange or causes you to have a certain emotion. There’s a lot of music that’s just made because it’s gonna sell a lot. It’s very immediately {attractive} and captures a sound of the moment; people know it’s gonna get played in the club. A lot of it is really soulless. It’s like marvel movies: It’s something some big company test focus grouped and put out for you to buy. It doesn’t feel.”

Pynn went on to explain that if he feels a song has soul, it’s good. 

“I don’t wanna be blanket and say that just because a piece of music came from [a commercial] source that it’s bad, because the entire Phil Spector Mo-Town sound was built by executives rather than ground up, but sometimes they get it,” Pynn said. 

David Zacker, a professor for the ECC humanities department, recalls the first time he was introduced to music that impacted him. 

“I remember listening to AC/DC back in middle school,” Zacker said. “There was this guy that lived across the lake from me, in Michigan. In the winter the lake froze over so we could walk across. One day I invited him over, and he walked across the lake with his AC/DC album in his hand, plugs in the music, and I’m like, ‘wow that’s cool’”

His current music taste varies from 80’s new wave, Frank Sinatra, The Eagles, Led Zeppelin and The Black Eyed Peas.

“Music plays different roles in our lives,” Zacker said.

Zacker will put on different artists for different activities, such as working out or grading papers, but also takes into account the value of liking music you can make yourself.

 “One genre I spent a lot of time with when I was younger was that folky sound with a lot of guitar [think James Taylor] because the ability to be able to play that kind of music when I got my guitar brought me closer to the music, and made the music itself more interesting,” Zacker said. “Even with stuff I’d listened to for years but never knew how it was made, suddenly being able to make that music made the music sound so different.”

Erin Menig, the ECC geography and geology professor, finds importance in specific musical resonance and relaxation.

“I’ve recently sought out multicultural music,” Menig said. “I don’t like anything that has dissonance. Anything that’s used in a minor key is not something I’ll seek out at all… I don’t listen to music to get excited, I use it to relax. I feel like life’s already too complicated.” 

Adam Schlipmann, the professor of multiple music-related classes at ECC including Rock and Roll Appreciation, Hip-Hop Appreciation, Song-Writing, Beat-Making as well as hosting an electronic music ensemble values physical copies of music such as records. 

“I can actually have a tactile artifact that I bought from this artist,” Schlipmann said. “It makes me feel more invested in the music, and I’ll have to seek it out. If I just let Spotify play I’m gonna run across a bunch of songs that I never really absorb, so being able to say that a song comes off of… the third album from this artist makes me feel more tied to the art that the artist made.” 

Schlipmann expands this notion with thoughts on digital listening tools like Spotify.

 “It depends on what kind of relationship you want to have with your music,” Schlipmann said. “It’s okay to just sit down and let it play and not know what’s coming up next, but there’s also something to be said about putting music into context; if an artist is gonna make an album, maybe a bigger idea is going on and I want to try and understand that sometimes too.”

Schlipmann’s favorite artists span from folk-influences like Joni Mitchell and Neil Young to more Lofi-Electric sounds like Klur. In terms of hip-hop though, he says his relationship with it is ‘interesting.’ 

“I lived in a very conservative family and had a conservative upbringing, so hip-hop music wasn’t really all that popular or all that welcome,” Schlipmann said. “I remember the first time I heard a Public Enemy album… all of a sudden there’s this big voice of Chuck D coming out with the rhymes and Flavor-Flav in the background like ‘yeah boy!’ as the hype man. It was like nothing else I’ve ever heard before. That was the moment that hiphop music hooked me in.”

With the evolution of the genre, Schlipmann became apprehensive about listening.

“Then I got jaded with it when I felt like it wasn’t staying true to the art-form in the early 2000’s and 2010’s,” Schlipmann said. “But recently, I’ve gotten back into it, and I’m trying to appreciate all of it and take it all in, even the stuff that I’ve missed.”

Listening to music also ties more into the songwriting process for Schlipmann. Katie Pruitt’s songs he uses to get into the zone of songwriting. 

“It’s a really simple song in structure, but it’s also really effective in the way that it’s delivered…” Schlipmann said. “When you’re teaching songwriting that’s one of the things that you try to get across first and foremost. Simplicity and repetition are often best.”

His favorite song is currently “Follow” by Ritchie Havens.

“It’s an old song, the artist is from the Woodstock era, but I only came across it a few years ago,” Schlipmann said. “I knew of Ritchie Havens but I didn’t know the song because it’s kind of far down in one of his more popular albums. I didn’t know it was there- but I listened to the song and it’s really powerful and effective. If you’re looking for a really great old-timey song to listen to, I recommend it.” 

Schlipmann reflected on one of his most impactful experiences with music internationally.

“I got to conduct a band on top of the great wall of China,” Schlipmann said. “There’s nobody really there except the tourists, but you look out over [the land], and you’re a day away from your regular home… standing on the great wall of china with a bunch of people making music. It was really powerful and great.” 

Wrapping up his conversation, Schlipmann reflected on his overall musical journey. 

“All of these different shows and concerts I’ve seen that have transformed me in some way and transformed my interests; music has been a central figure in making me appreciate the things that I do, and it’s the art form that’s allowed me to do these things,” Schlipmann said. 

Peter Han, the associate professor of humanities courses at ECC says, “post-rock and trance are great for grading papers.” 

Han’s music taste follows a more modern trail with Tory Lanez, Grimes, Lionel Richie, Kanye West, NCT, LOONA, Playboi Carti, Future, 21 Savage, Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Bark Psychosis in his top list. 

As for music that doesn’t peak his interest musically, Han said, “I think it was the philosopher Jacques Derrida who said that by feeding his cat each morning, he’s choosing not to feed the starving cats around the world. So if I had to choose musical artists to starve, it would have to be from the Wimpy-Indie and Reggaeton genres’.”

Country Music: The ECC Staff Debate 

When asked about what music the staff hated, almost every conversation turned into a deep dive into country music and its different subgenres. 

“My go-to to hate is country music, but one of my most listened to songs is a country song,” Zacker said. “The roots of rock I listen to are country rock.” 

Pynn dug deeper into the subject: “I don’t like a lot of corporate country, but when I do listen to it sometimes I have fun. Another reason I like music is because it’s crazy, and you can go ‘what the heck is this?’” 

Menig shared her switch from country hatred to love, as Christian Kane is her favorite artist. 

“A while ago I would shun [country] but I realized there’s actually good music,” Menig said. “Christian Kane is both a musician and actor. I liked him first as an actor then as a musician.” 

Similar to Pynn’s, Schipmann has mixed feelings about country music.

“I don’t despise it, but it’s just that I don’t get much from it and maybe that’s a little bit of not knowing it and not being as exposed as I should be,” Schipmann said. “Underground country and old country music, I’ll still listen to that. I listen to Jimmy Rogers all the time and that’s as old school country as it gets. But because of my blindspot to modern country, I’ve missed a lot of great artists like Jason Isbell and Chris Stapleton who are examples of why I tell myself ‘you shouldn’t cut yourself off’ because those are two really great artists and I didn’t fall into them until much later than I should have.”