course
Rock

May 2009

Reviewer below me was way harsh, but his fundamental argument is right: Oakes is not a good lecturer, and this class was disappointing. I P/F'ed it thinking that it would be awesome and that i couldn't pass up the chance since this was the first time the class had been offered in my four years here. the readings (of which there were waaaaay too many) were great, the lectures were sleep-inducing. He cannot form a coherent sentence, tends to ramble, and makes it incredibly difficult to take notes. oakes himself is a nice (if dorky) guy (he even plays bass in a band that sounds like REM and Guided By Voices put together! how rAWK!), but nice personality does not a good class make. skip this one. if you want to know arcane details about the led zeppelin II recording sessions, read about it on wikipedia - you'll learn more.

May 2009

So Professor Oakes is definitely up there on the list of worst lecturers, but the syllabus he put together was really good. Going to class was basically torturous, and he takes attendance, so you better drag yourself to class or have someone sign you in. You actually have to do alllll the reading he assigns, but it's best to do it right before each test, since you are basically reading aimlessly otherwise. Before each test, he gives study guide questions based on the articles that are really helpful. His tests are really straightforward. but extremely long. He is a nice guy just boring in lectures because never says anything. The readings are really great though. Almost all of them are really interesting. He chose a lot of REALLY random songs to discuss, but that is mostly because he wanted to introduce the class to music that we hadn't heard before. Overall, a pretty harmless class with really boring lectures. Bring your computer and go online to entertain yourself or something. He also blasts the music and if you didn't have a head ache coming into class, you will leave with one...

Apr 2009

WORST class I have ever taken at this college. The subject of the class is rock music, so clearly the subject is not to blame for this miserable experience. Clearly, the X-factor in this equation is Professor (and I use that term as lightly as possible) Oakes. After the first day of class where he promised a discussion format, he set off on a semester long power trip filled with lengthy, boring, and often flat out wrong lectures. The only good parts of the class were when Oakes stopped his flapping bald head long enough to play rock documentaries like "Don't Look Back" and "Gimme Shelter." Oakes is the type of guy who thinks he knows a lot about music but since he is pushing 40 and completely out of touch (and a little bit pudgy) he is the opposite of "cool," and therefore has ZERO clue what he is talking about. I am sure he loves going to bars around Columbia talking to geeky grad students about Yo La Tengo, but that in no way gives him the right to teach a class about rock music. If Oakes' terrible teaching style, awful wardrobe (black shirt, solid color tie, black jeans--wow he's so dark, minimalist, and rock oriented), and overall off-putting demeanor are not enough to deter you from taking this class, just take one look at the work load. By far the heaviest reading, writing, and test work load I have taken at this school. I guess all this is why Oakes always said rock is based on contradictions and irony--it sure is contradictory and ironic that Oakes was able to make a class about music so miserable. Professor Oakes tested my love of rock music, but more importantly, he made me lose my faith in humanity.

Feb 2005

What other course can you walk in and have a song from Guns and Roses or Jimi Hendrix already playing. Surprisingly, Johnathan does an amazing job covering a wide variety of genres in only a one semester course. I am not sure what the other reviewer was talking about, but it was refreshing to see it was NOT a rehash of a bad VH1 show. Rather, this is probably the only Columbia course I have seen in four years where students were eager to attend. I think there was a misconception in the beginning that is was an easy A and some didn't attend at all, and of course were left behind because he mainly tests from lecture notes. If you get a chance to take this course under Johnathan, I would suggest you register early, since it is a popular course that most people probably wouldn't drop.

Jan 2005

Johnathan is big on having people attend this class, even though it's a popular lecture, and he's right. He discusses a more analytical and stylistic side to the music in class while the book focuses more on just sociological aspects of the music. Having said that, he's a really fun teacher, and you can tell he's excited about teaching this course. Even though it's a big lecture, he really likes getting to know his students, so definitely go to office hours if you can, especially to discuss your paper. There's only one, so go to him with an idea in mind so that he can help you structure it in the way he wants. As fun as the class material is, he still demands academic content from everyone. Go to class, especially since it's fun (I only remember one class being boring--the one on heavy metal, ironically), and it will help you a lot on the midterm and final. He doesn't want you to memorize each group and each song; he only wants you to be able to recognize a musical style and be able to back that up with specific elements of the music (i.e. blues has a 12-bar pattern, the vocals and guitar have a call-and- response aspect, very minimalist instrumentation, etc). Going to class will solidify that into your head, and give you the easy A that this class is. Johnathan's a great guy, with a good sense of humor, and really wants his students to have fun and be as excited about his material as he is.

Jan 2005

I was fairly dissapointed with this class. One would think that with a whole semester, you would learn more than you would from watching a few hours of VH1. If you've led a sheltered life and weren't allowed to listen to rock music as a kid, then I guess this stuff will all be news to you. Otherwise, you'll probably be pretty bored. Lee, although a friendly and likeable guy, takes forever to make simple points and consequently gets remarkably little accomplished in the 1:15 class time. I think it might be that he's uncomfortable with such a large audience (over 100 people) because when approached after class, he is much more coherent and seems to know a hell of a lot more. If you're looking for an easy, stress free class, this is perfect. However, it will leave true music fans thirsty for more.